I'm an adult, and I play piano. I took lessons as a child, but it seems
I forgot a lot. I want to learn to play again and I don't really have
the time. I can read music very slowly. Should I take lessons, or can I
learn with a self-help book? How should I practice if my time is
limited? Are there any secrets to succes in my case, or is it too late?
Signed, No Time to Practice
Often after playing a concert, while signing programs I'm frequently
asked some of these very same questions. Plus, I do have a number of
adult beginners and adult "refresher students" of all ages, from
college level up to senior citizens (my oldest student currently is
eighty-two). Among these adults are professionals and home-makers who
struggle with the same time issues you encounter, so I feel I can
respond with some level of experience to your questions.
First of all, let me commend you for your interest in refreshing your
skills at the piano. What an absolutely fun and fascinating time it can
be, especially with a teacher who can answer your questions face to
It certainly would be convenient if we could use some sort of self-help
book to guide us. But the reality of it is that WE ALL NEED A TEACHER,
and here are just a handful of reasons why:
- WEEKLY LESSONS KEEP US ON TRACK, even with a busy schedule.
Regular lessons provide us short-and medium-range goals to achieve and
a sure way to evaluate our progress. Without weekly lessons from a
qualified teacher (and I recommend weekly lessons instead of bi-weekly
or monthly), even the most self-motivated students tend to lose
interest quickly. Weekly lessons can be, therefore, a great motivator.
- WITHOUT PRIVATE LESSONS, WE LEARN BAD HABITS. Our teacher can see
what we are doing more objectively and more accurately, because they
observe our playing from a vantage point OUTSIDE OURSELVES. Many times
we are unable to adequately assess our problem areas ~ for example,
PROPER TECHNIQUE ~ and because we are too easily distracted by the
mundane and rudimentary aspects of playing ~ for example, note reading.
An objective observer can always shed light on our deficiencies BEFORE
they become engrained as bad habits. Remember that BAD HABITS ARE HARD
TO BREAK, AND GOOD HABITS NEED TIME AND PROPER GUIDANCE TO DEVELOP.
- PIANO PLAYING IS A SKILL, NOT A THEORY OR CONCEPT. I remember in
junior high school when I fell in love with, of all things, bowling,
and joined a league. I wanted to be a good bowler, so I checked out all
the books on bowling from the library. One day a teacher of mine
noticed me reading these "self-help" bowling books, and he taught me
something I'll never forget. What I really needed to do to learn to
bowl was not to read about it, but to GET OUT AND
DO IT. Bowling, like piano playing, is not a theory, idea, or concept,
it is a PHYSICAL SKILL THAT REQUIRES PRACTICE. I needed to EXPERIENCE
bowling, not just think about it. And so it is with piano. To
successfully learn the skill of piano playing, it is not enough to
THINK IT, we must DO IT. What you need is not a self-help book with
ideas, but a personal trainer with exercises. That personal trainer is
your mentor---your private piano teacher.
- TO LEARN EFFICIENTLY, YOU MUST LEARN HOW TO PRACTICE. Too many
students of all ages ~ especially adults ~ WASTE TIME PRACTICING.
Considering you have, as you and so many others complain, so little
time to spare, then it would be prudent to use your practice time
wisely, and to achieve the maximum results in the minimum amount of
time. Competent teachers not only show their students WHAT to practice,
but also HOW to practice to maximize your effort. Well-meaning students
spend hours when they could spend minutes getting results. Your
personal trainer ~ your private piano teacher ~ can help personalize
your practice regimen to achieve the most efficient progress possible.
- SKILLED TEACHERS RECOMMEND ASSIGNMENTS THAT FIT YOUR SKILL LEVEL.
Again, precious time is lost if the assignments are either too
difficult or too easy for you. And too often time is not expendable in
today's lifestyles and vocations. Without a mentor, assignments often
fail to reinforce one another, or fail to achieve a meaningful
progression from one to the other. With no rhyme or reason, a student
without a teacher is destined for frustration and,
sad to say, failure.
In short, SUCCESSFUL PIANO PLAYING WILL ALWAYS BE LEARNED THE
"OLD-FASHIONED" WAY, SITTING ONE-ON-ONE WITH THE MENTOR TO GUIDE AND
LEAD FACE TO FACE AND BY EXAMPLE, something no "self-help" book can
So good luck in your search for a qualified, competent teacher. Let
me know how things turn out for you.
If you readers need help finding a qualified mentor / music teacher
in your area, feel free to E-mail me anytime at contact insider and I
will do all I can to assist your search.
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