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How fast can I learn?

 

•   You can learn to read music in a few hours.  Playing the piano takes practice!

•   There are no overnight piano players.  Just getting your fingers to do what your brain is telling them takes practice because you

     have to gain muscle control.  But don't be discouraged.  Playing the piano is rewarding, whether you are doing it for yourself

     or have the goal of playing for others to enjoy

 

Can anyone learn to play the piano? 

 

•   Anyone with enough moveable fingers can learn to play the piano.  You can't play the piano yet because you don't know how. Doing

    different things simultaneously is something you learn to do and will get better at if you practise

•   The solution: get a teacher and practise regularly.  It takes two years to go from an absolute beginner to being an intermediate

    player

 

Practising for 2 hours, 4 hours, 8 hours: how much is enough?  

 

•   Is there such a thing as practising too much?  Is there an optimal number of hours that one should practise?

•   Practising too much is a waste of time. Why?  For one, very little productive learning takes place when we practise this way. This is

    why we can practise a piece for hours, days or weeks, and still not feel that we've improved all that much

•   Even worse, you are digging yourself a hole by practising this way because what this model of practising does is strengthen

    undesirable habits and errors literaly making it more likely that you will make mistakes more consistently in the future.  This makes it

    more difficult to correct these habits in the future - so you are actually adding to the amount of future practice time you will need in

    order to eliminate these bad habits and tendencies

 

Practice doesn't make perfect, practice makes permanent

 

•   It makes you less confident.  In addition, practising too much this way actually hurts your confidence as there is a part of you that

    realises you don't really know how to consistently produce the results you are looking for.  Even if you establish a fairly high success

    rate in the most difficult passages via mindless practice, and find that you can nail it three or four out of every five attempts, your

    confidence won't grow much from this

•   After all, it doesn't really matter how much time we spend practising something - only that we know how to produce the results we

    want, and can do so consistently, on demand

 

How many hours a day should I practise? 

 

•   You will find that deliberate practice is very draining, given the tremendous amount of energy required to keep one's full attentional

    resources on the task at hand.  Practising more than one hour at a time is likely to be unproductive and in all honesty probably not

    even mentally or emotional possible.  Even the most dedicated individuals will find it difficult to practise more than four hours a day

•   Keep practice sessions limited to a duration that allows you to stay focused.  This may be as short as 10-20 minutes for younger

    students, and as long as 45-60 minutes for older individuals  

 

Timing 

 

•   Keep track of times during the day when you tend to have the most energy.  This may be first thing in the morning, or just before

    lunch, etc

•   Try to do your practising during these naturally productive periods as these are the times at which you will be able to focus and think

    most clearly.  Try using a practice notebook.  Keep track of your practice goals and what you discover during your practice

    sessions 

 

Problem-solving model 

 

•   Consider the 3-step general problem-solving model summarised below:

              1. Define the problem (what do you want this note/phrase to sound like?)

              2. Analyse the problem (what is causing it to sound like it does?)

              3. Identify potential solutions 

 

Reality 

 

•    Most teachers enjoy teaching and are inspired when they see someone who really tries and is diligent with their practice.  In fact,

     good teachers prefer to witness your mistakes so they can help you not only fix the problem, but also learn how to avoid the

     problem in the future.  This could be in the realms of practising suggestions, fingering, hand position, eye movements and more.

     If you have latent mistakes that you somehow are able to hide for the lesson, the teacher may not be able to help you fix these

     hidden problems, which means that they may appear later when you are performing 

•    Also, fear of making mistakes tends to distract you from the music and will actually cause the very mistakes you were trying to

     avoid

•    So never be afraid to make mistakes for your teacher! 

 

Do I have to study classical music before I can play pop or jazz? 

 

•   The idea that you must study classical music first is incorrect.  In fact, even if one's goal is to focus strictly on classical music there

     is great value in studying popular chord technique and improvisation 

•   The best way to study music theory is through popular music!  This is because chords are presented in a straightforward manner as

     chord symbols without even having to read music!  Theory knowledge can make you a better performer, a better sight-reader, a

     better memoriser, a better interpreter and a better overall musician, and this, of course applies equally to classical music.

•   The easiest way to start a path towards music theory is to study jazz or popular music with a teacher who knows how to explain

     chord-reading.  So, one could study classical first and then popular, but remember that these are different skills that take time to

     master.

 

Children learn faster than adults 

 

•   Reality: there is no difference.  In my personal experience of teaching both children and adults, the idea that a child's brain is more

    receptive is incorrect.  It's just a illusion that the child may be able to absorb new material faster than the adult.

•   However, what the child often doesn't have is desire.  The adult really wants to study piano and this great desire creates  the type

    of focus that is needed for quick learning.  In fact, adults who have this intention, often from wanting to make up for "lost time" often

    learn faster than children! 

 

Since I didn't begin studying piano as a child, I'll never be able to play well as an adult. 

 

•   It's never too late.  Early neural stimulation as a child does help with musical intelligence as an adult, but it need not be from the

    piano.  For example, kids who are great at sports, gymnastics or dance are often the best at piano when they eventually try it

•   An adult who has been athletic as a child will find it easier to learn piano as an adult because the advanced neurological stimulation

    lasts one's whole life.  If you had a nurturing, stimulating environment as a child, you will definitelyhave an advantage when you

    begin piano studies as an adult.  If you had limited exposure to physical experiences as a child, this would tend to make it more

    difficult to learn the piano whether you are a child or an adult

 

Should I study finger technique before playing actual music?

 

•   Is phsical technique and accuracy more important than interpretation and expression?  Does physical technique and accuracy

    take more time to master than interpretation and expression?

•   No, it's like comparing apples and oranges, but both require a lot of time.  The best way to develop interpretation and expression is

    through the repertoire.  In some countries, it's common to have a student just doing drills for five years before they are allowed to

    play any music.  Then the student is allowed to play the repertoire.  It's no surprise that these performers play accurately and fast

    with very little expression

•  The best thing to do is to study music along with finger technique.  Ideally, the difficulty of the technique level should always be

    slightly ahead of the requirements of the repertoire

 

Do I have to practise every day? 

 

•   Taking two or three guilt-free days off from practising each week will help you progress faster than if you practised every day

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