Overcome These Common Traps & Stay MOTIVATED At The Piano

HOW TO STAY MOTIVATED AT THE PIANO

Struggling to stay motivated in your practice sessions? Well you’re not alone! We all have times when we don’t feel like practicing or we don’t have much time to practice. Today, I’d like to talk about the most common motivation killers and tips that will keep you motivated and inspired on your musical journey. These are tried and true strategies that work really well for myself AND my students!

MOTIVATION KILLER #1 Lack of Passion

Make sure you’re always working on at least one piece that you’re passionate about. Make a list of dream songs for yourself. I created a spotify playlist of pieces that I really want to learn. If I hear a piece that I love, I simply add it to my “piano love playlist” so I can refer to it later when I’m in a slump.

So what can you do if there’s a piece that you really want to learn but it’s too difficult?

Well, there’s a lot of great simplified arrangements available online. Musicnotes.com has simplified arrangements for almost any song you can think of (both popular and classical). Piano marvel also has great options for simplified and creative arrangements.

MOTIVATION KILLER #2 Playing Too Many Difficult Pieces

Make sure that you are primarily working on pieces that you can master fairly quickly. It can be very demotivating if you see little or no improvement when you practice. If you find yourself in this position, you might be working on pieces that are too difficult for you at this point in your life.

MOTIVATION KILLER #3 Lack of Time

Lack of time is a very common problem. And unfortunately, many people think that if they don’t have 30 minutes or more to practice every day, they shouldn’t even bother. Well, I’m here to tell you that there’s nothing further from the truth! You’ll be really surprised about what you can accomplish in 10-15 minutes a day IF you practice efficiently and practice regularly. Here’s a few quick tips for practicing efficiently: START on the trouble spots each day and spend most of your time on those. Practice slow and careful and don’t allow yourself to make mistakes. If you DO make a mistake, be sure to go back and practice that section perfectly 3 times in a row before moving on.

It’s tough for me to find time to practice in this season of my life. I’ve been using an A day B day practice schedule for quite a while. So I practice half of my repertoire & technique on A day and the other half on B Day.

MOTIVATION KILLER #4 Boredom

How can you stay motivated to practice a piece when you’re bored of it? I’m a big believer in sticking with pieces until you’ve mastered the details because this is what takes your playing to the next level. That being said, I DO think it’s ok to let go of a piece if you aren’t passionate about it or you aren’t seeing any progress. I usually can reignite my passion for a piece if I listen to some professional recordings of it. I get fresh ideas about dynamics and phrasing and the inspiration to keep practicing.

MOTIVATION KILLER #5 No Structure

I highly recommend working with a piano teacher. A good piano teacher will be able to assign the right materials to help you overcome your weaknesses. AND if you know you have a lesson coming up, you’ll be motivated to practice because you’re paying money for the lesson and you don’t want to show up unprepared.

If you don’t have the money or time to work with a teacher, there’s some incredible apps and software available now that make practicing fun like Simply Piano and Skoove. I personally love Piano Marvel because it gradually progresses and pianists have to pass off certain elements in order to get to the next level. It gives students a well rounded classical music education with ear training, sight reading, technique, repertoire and chord practice elements. It has fun background music to play along with and a huge expanding library of classical and popular music of all levels. The coolest thing is that it gives you instant feedback if you miss a note or the rhythm.

MOTIVATION KILLER #6 No Drive

It’s important to realize that people don’t FEEL like practicing most of the time. This is very normal! Practicing is a bit like exercise. It’s tough to get started but you’ll feel great AFTER if you put some effort in. You may even enjoy the process of practicing once you get started.

What really helps me is getting creative in my practice sessions.

I try to do something different each day. For example I’ve been practicing Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude lately. So one day I will focus on rhythm practice, the next day I will work on hands separate practice with the metronome. The next day I will only practice slow and focus on the dynamics and details, etc.

MOTIVATION KILLER #7 No Schedule

Make a practice action plan & put it in your schedule. (Oh! And make sure its realistic ;) I schedule my practice time on my phone calendar as a recurring event with an alarm (so every M-Th I practice at 10:00 am for 30-60 minutes after the kids have gone to school). This routine practice time is sacred to me and I try not to schedule anything else during that time slot because it’s really important to me to keep refining my skills.

MOTIVATION KILLER #8 Lack of Goals

I highly recommend that you write down the WHY you want to improve at the piano and put it in a place where you will see it frequently. Maybe one of your goals is to perform for your friends or family. Or maybe you have a list of specific pieces you hope to play someday. Maybe you want to teach piano. Whatever your goals are, it’s important to see them often so that you’re motivated to keep your practicing a priority. I personally find it helpful to set goals with each piece that I learn and a target finish date.

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by Heather Thompson Smits, NCTM

May 4, 2024

 

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