Are you stuck in a rut with your piano playing? Does it feel like your progress has slowed or plateaued when you really want to be playing harder or more complex music? Or maybe your playing just sounds clunky, despite all the effort you’ve put into practicing.
In the early stages, it’s usually pretty easy to see immediate progress at the piano. It can be frustrating not to see a steady return on all the time your putting into practicing.
Related: 15 Piano Practice Tips
Guess what? This happenes to most piano players sooner or later.
Learning the piano is not only difficult, but it progression does not always follow a linear path. You will always experience ups and downs in your playing and you might not always notice your progress. Sometimes, it may even feel like your moving backwards!
Piano players do not always immediately reap the benefits of the consistent time, dedication and hard work they put in at the piano. However, there things to look out for that may help you get out of a rut, or avoid them in the future.
Here are six issues that may be slowing your progress at the piano.
1. Too Many Distractions
Your time at the piano will be so much more effective if you play mindfully. By mindful, I mean fully attentive and present to to what you are doing.
Try to clear your mind of other activities and stress points in your life, focusing solely on your music. For some, it might help to take a few deep breaths at the beginning of your session. If your phone is nearby, consider leaving it in another room or turning the ringer off.
Looking at the bigger picture, is there anything going on in your life that is distracting you from making progress at the piano? Stress at work, demanding family obligations, surviving a global pandemic… These are a few things that could take away from your piano progress.
If you still have the time to carve out some piano practice each week, see if you can turn the situation around and make your time at the piano become a distraction from the challenges of life.
Also Read: Peeling Away The Piano Practice Layers
2. Not enough practice time
It’s hard to say what just the right amount of practice time is. Your level, ability, repertoire, attention span, and many other factors should be considered.
There is no universal standard for the “correct” amount of practice time. Most pianists agree that practicing for small and consistent blocks is more beneficial than longer, irregular sessions.
For example, practicing the piano six days a week for 10 minutes will be more fruitful that practicing for a one hour session each week. Dividing up your practice time into smaller blocks will give you time to absorb and process what you’re learning. In addition, daily doses of practice will allow you to approach difficult areas of the music with a fresh perspective each time.
If you try to cram your practice time onto one longer session each week, some of your time will be wasted on re-learning what you practiced a weeke ago.
Daily practice can be a difficult habit to develop, but it will pay off. Some days, it will seem like a chore, and you will only want to be at the piano for you minimum alloted time. On other days, you may find yourself swept up into the music and the joy of playing and find yourself staying much longer than you intended.
Try to get to the point where your daily practice seems as natural as brushing your teeth.
3. Taking The Wrong Approach
There are a lot of ways to go about learning the piano. You might have a private teacher. Or, you could be taking an online course. Maybe you’re using an app. Or, you might even just be working on your own.
(Looking for an online piano course? Try my course, Beginning Piano For Adults)
While those are all effective ways of learning the piano, make sure that you’re following the best approach for your unique situation.
If you have a teacher, make sure your teacher’s teaching style suits your learning style. If you’re trying to learn on your own, maybe you need some accountability.
Re-evaluate your learning plan and consider trying something else.
4. Playing Above Your Skill Level
All pianists have that bucket list of pieces they would love to be able to play someday. Some of these pieces, however, may be more technically advanced than we realize.
While it is important to play music that will challenge you to grow, it is also possible that you could be reaching a little too far, too soon. Learning difficult pieces too soon can lead to frustration and burnout.
If you’re struggling to play the music with continuity and good technique, this could be a sign that you might be in over your head. If this is the case, play some easier music to make sure your technical foundation is appropriate to the demands of the piece.
Then, after you’ve spent more time honing in your skills, you may be able to revisit that piece with more confidence and see results from your practice.
5. Learning The Wrong Repertoire
Sometimes, you just need to move on to another piece of music. As noted above, you may be trying to learn a piece that is beyond your current technical abilities.
Or, you just might not have a connection to the music. If you don’t like what your playing, you’ll find it difficult to find the “spark” needed to master the piece.
I often see students try to learn their favorite music that they enjoy listening to on the piano. Unfortunately, sometimes favorite music doesn’t always translate well on the piano. It can be hard to realize that music that you’re usually excited about might not be a good fit for learning on the piano.
On the other hand, music that seems unappealing at first can become really satisfying to learn and play.
Every pianist is different: some need to build a strong foundation before taking on challenging music. Others may get bored easiliy if they aren’t presented with a challenge. Figure out where you are on that spectrum, but be sure to always have a realistic plan for reaching your goals.
6. Mindless repEtition
Repetition is a necessary part of learning piano, as you are training your body and memory to respond to the music. But there is a big difference between smart and mindless repetition.
Slipping into the habit of mindlessly repeating the music over and over can hinder your progress and create bad habits. The way to avoid this is to start each practice session with a plan.
Before you begin playing, think through the difficult parts of your music and how you will improve on them. Instead of playing straight through your music every time, consider breaking your music apart into smaller pieces, and master each part before you tie it in all together.