9 Tips To Stay Motivated Learning The Piano
Whilst playing the piano is one of life’s greatest joys, it can be incredibly challenging. A tricky piece, complicated scale, difficult arpeggio or apparent lack of progress are all obstacles that face every pianist as they learn and develop their skills.
These obstacles can be demotivating, frustrating, annoying and tempt you to stop practising. Sooner or later, you find that you’ve given up the piano. It doesn’t have to be that way!
When you have the right tricks in place, you will be incredibly motivated. Not only that, you will be excited to practice and realise certain obstacles can be overcome or are simply part of the fun piano journey.
Without further ado, here are 9 tips to stay motivated learning the piano
1. Have a powerful reason for learning the piano
In life, we rarely do things without having a reason. If you’ve ever been told to do something, like clean your room or take on a load of work, without a reason why then it’s likely you felt tempted to rebel. Without a compelling, justification for doing something, there’s little chance you will do it.
However, when there is a compelling reason in place it’s highly likely you will act. Think about it. You study relentlessly for exams, so you can get a high grade. Maybe you work in a job to learn new skills and earn money. You go to the gym because your physical fitness will improve, and you’ll stay a healthy weight. Everything we do can be attributed to having a strong reason in place.
Have a powerful reason for learning the piano. Think, why do you want to learn the piano?
Is it because you aspire to be like a piano playing role model? Is it because you want to reduce stress, and bring some relaxation into your life? Do you enjoy classical music and dream of playing a certain piece by Mozart? Are you learning to get good enough to join a band, and perform regularly? Are you learning the piano for the sheer love and enjoyment of music?
It doesn’t matter what your reason for playing the piano is. The most important thing is that you have a strong reason that is powerful and special to you. Once you attach significance and emotional importance to the reason, you will be hugely motivated to practice and keep playing. Even through difficult spells of seemingly little progress.
Tip: get a piece of paper and brainstorm every possible reason for playing the piano. Once you have some meaning behind practising the instrument, learning will no longer be a chore and there will be more passion in your playing.
2. Enjoy the music you’re learning with
There’s a reason examiner give you so much choice when selecting the pieces for your piano exam. Everyone has a different taste in music, and some find certain styles more exciting and enjoyable than others. Therefore, you have some freedom in what music you learn the piano with. What a luxury.
If you’re learning with a piece or style of music you just don’t enjoy, the chances of you practising regularly and effectively and very low. Instead, take control of your learning and choose music to practice with that you love.
When you enjoy the music within your practice sessions, learning won’t be a chore. It’ll be exciting, fun and you’ll jump at the chance to get back onto your piano stool.
Learn the piano with music that you love, to stay motivated.
3. Set regular deadlines
Without a specific, fixed deadline for mastering a piece or a series of exercises, there won’t be any urgency to your practice and it’s likely you’ll be tempted to fall off the practice wagon. Before you know it, the piano was a phase and it’s time to find another hobby to interest you. Setting regular deadlines means you never have to experience this.
Decide what it is you want to achieve, set a deadline, then make it happen. Simple. It could be anything, as long as it has a deadline and it’s something you enjoy playing.
The deadline could be to learn a popular Christmas song by December 1st, it could be to learn a Beethoven piece within a month, or it could be a series of smaller deadlines like learning an exam piece a month to accomplish a larger target of acing your piano exam.
Don’t have a foggy or vague idea of when you want to accomplish a certain piece by or when you want to achieve a milestone. Decide what you want to achieve, set a deadline, achieve it, then move on. Set another deadline.
Set regular deadlines to stay motivated by learning the piano.
4. Publicly commit to learning the piano
When we tell others within our inner circle, friends and family, that we intend to learn the piano, this is hugely motivating and encourages us to practice more. This is known as public commitment.
When you make an internal promise with yourself to practice the piano, it’s easy to skip practice once every now and then or even let yourself down and give up the piano entirely. No harm is done to yourself, reputation or character.
However, publicly committing to playing the piano creates an expectation in other people’s minds that you will practice the piano and become a better player over time.
Suddenly, there’s added pressure to practice regularly and to a high standard. Failure to live up to the promises made publicly, to friends and family, can make you come across disgenuine and inconsistent with your words. Nobody likes being known as the person that’s all talk and no action.
Publicly committing to learning the piano will motivate you to practice so you can live up to the ‘piano student’ identity you have created for yourself.
5. Optimise your practice space for practice
Arrange the environment you practice the piano in so it’s convenient, well-laid out, and easy to just sit down and practice without having to think too much.
The more decisions and actions you must actively make before sitting down to practice, the less likely it is you will be motivated to start tinkling the ivories. If your piano is in the attic, in the dark and cold corner, you need to find a chair to sit down in, and you need to leave the heating on for 10 minutes before the room is finally warm enough to practice in, it’ll be easier not to practice altogether.
Instead, have your piano in a room you use often. Your kitchen, bedroom, a living room. Wherever you spend lots of time when you’re at home. Make sure the piano room is always well-lit and relatively warm and invest in a comfy piano stool. Suddenly, it’s an enjoyable treat to sit down and enjoy a piano practice session.
Once you’ve taken the necessary preparations to optimise your practice space, it’ll be easier for you to just sit down and practice. No thinking or actions required. No excuses required. Simple.
6. Discuss your progress with someone else
If you’re learning the piano on your own, it can be difficult to stay motivated without having someone to talk to. It could be a piano teacher, a fellow student, an accomplished pianist or even a musician of another instrument.
Having someone to discuss your success and setbacks whilst learning, can be helpful for getting your thoughts out of your head and reflecting on what’s going well and what isn’t going so well. Also, a benefit of discussing progress with someone else is you can be specific with your questions, and receive a tailored individual response.
You can also bounce ideas you’ve had off the other person to re-adjust the sails to your practice and refine your learning.
Perhaps you’re not enjoying a piece for a future exam and would like to substitute it for another (which piano teachers are usually fine with). Maybe, you’re not sure what jazz scales to learn and ask an accomplished jazz pianist for their advice on beginner jazz scales they had success with when learning. You could even ask a musician who plays another instrument for practical tips, which might be relevant to the piano.
7. Track your progress for motivation
Sometimes, playing the piano can be the most frustrating thing in the world. You practice two bars of a piece for what feels like a hundred times, and seemingly fail to make any progress whatsoever.
However, it’s incredibly likely you are making progress. It’s just difficult to see that you are. Tracking your progress will give you the positive burst of motivation and encouragement you need.
You can track progress via several methods:
- Record yourself playing a piece during your first session, then record yourself playing it two weeks later. Play each recording one after the other and compare the difference. You will often be shocked at how much progress you’ve made.
- If you have a teacher, ask for constant feedback each lesson on the practice you’ve put in since the last lesson and how this is impacting you’re playing. The presence of positive feedback from somebody else, a trained piano professional, will positively reinforce you to stay motivated and keep practising.
- Look through piano books you have been learning with over the past few months or years, depending on how long you’ve been playing. More than likely, you’ll see a huge progression from your old basic books to your now intermediate or advanced books. Even if the difference is incredibly small (one grade, for instance), it can be the motivating push you need to keep going.
8. Practice the piano at a time convenient for you
Make sure you’re playing the piano at a time most convenient for you. We all have our times of days when we work better. Maybe your time of day is in the evening after dinner, or in the morning with a cup of tea and a bowl of cereal. It might even be in the mid-afternoon after a short walk.
If you’re not a night person, yet you’re practising at night, try and fit a practice session in during the morning. Likewise, if mornings aren’t your thing then set aside a chunk of time for piano practice later in the evening.
Altering your piano practice schedule for a time of day most convenient for you will set you up for maximum motivation and success in your learning.
9. Keep things fresh with your learning
Don’t learn and master a piece, then play it repeatedly. Not only will this likely drive anyone (including you) insane, it means you won’t develop as a pianist.
Sure, it’s great to play and enjoy a piece you’ve worked hard to master. That’s fine. However, there comes a point – like lots of things in life – when you need to move on and try something else.
Sooner or later you will get bored with the piece or become anxious at the thought of learning something new after becoming incredibly comfortable with what you’ve learnt. Not an ideal situation for a piano student to be in.
Each piece has its individual nuances.
Some have certain finger techniques, some feature scales, whilst some contain difficult phrasings over specific bars. Mixing up you’re learning by practising a variety of pieces (that you enjoy) will keep you actively engaged, and motivated to practice the piano consistently.