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The Quickest Way To Learn To Play Piano

27 September 2012

Brendan Hogan Musiah Inventor 185A long time ago, a wise man (my piano teacher, Professor Anthony Glavin at the Royal Irish Academy of Music where I learned piano as a young lad) told me something profoundly simple that has helped me greatly  over the years not only in my piano practice but in other areas of my life as well.


He said: “The slower you practice, the quicker you learn”.


Think about that for a moment. What a great lesson that is. Now more than ever, in this fast-paced life where everything has to be done as quickly as possible, these wise words have more relevance than ever.


These days everyone wants everything done instantly. Not only do we expect others to do things instantly, we also expect that we ourselves should be able to do things straight away. And this not only puts unrealistic pressure on ourselves, it leads to lower quality outcomes and lower levels of success in all aspects of our lives – not just our piano practice.


I myself have always been impatient by nature, and I have always had to make a conscious effort to slow down.


As the old joke goes… “God grant me patience — but I want it NOW!”


One of the great lessons I have learned through the process of creating Musiah — a 4 year process (i.e. about 3 years longer than I would perhaps unrealistically have liked) — is that some things just take time.


Perhaps not only was Rome not built in a day, perhaps it was also built with love and care — and in the now, just like Musiah.


Not everything is about the finish-line. It’s also about the journey, about the step we’re taking right now.


While I do reflect on this quite a lot, one of the things that inspired me to write about it today was an email I recently received from a mother who is learning how to play piano through the Musiah online piano lesson course along with her two sons.


She wrote:


The lesson I am doing now is 4 x 4, level 1. It is so fast and quite difficult to do.
Usually, I do one lesson in one or two days most. But this one I've tried for the whole week, still can't make it. Can you give me a tip on how to do it?

When I looked at her progress, I saw that she had completed the module prior to the audition in which she had to play the whole piece in time with the beat. By default, in Musiah’s piano lessons, modules like this are done at a slow tempo (though this is adjustable), but in an audition at the end of a lesson (where the student has to play the piece with a full backing track and get a score of at least 80%), you can only choose either the medium or the full tempo.


It was interesting to me that on each occasion she attempted the audition, she did it on the full tempo (even though she was struggling to pass). At no stage had she ever tried the audition at the medium tempo (which is 25% slower).


As I’m sure you can guess, my suggestion was:

 

"Try the audition a few times at the medium tempo and see if you can pass the audition at that tempo. Then when you are ready, you can try it at the full tempo to get some extra stars.

Another approach is to go into the practice area and try playing it with the click track at different tempos, i.e. gradually increase from slow to medium, then from medium to full tempo and then re-try the audition."


It seems obvious — I know, especially when we’re looking at someone else, but so many of us (myself included) do tend to try to do everything as quickly as possible. And sometimes this leads to shortcuts that (surprise, surprise) are counter-productive.


Recently, on the Australian TV show ‘Can Of Worms’, the question “Is it OK to tell our kids they can be and do anything?” was discussed.

 

I think the answer — not just for our kids but for ourselves — is yes, as long as you give it the necessary time (remember it takes 10,000 hours to master something), and put every foundation stone in place with love and care. There are no short-cuts to quality. And if you find yourself trying to race ahead, just remember: “The slower you practice, the quicker you learn”.


Thanks for reading, and please feel free to comment.

 

And of course, if you (or someone you know) would like to experience piano lessons that are full of this sort of wisdom, you know what to do — take our FREE Online Piano Lessons 14 Day Trial.


Til next time,

Brendan Hogan
Musiah Inventor

 

 

 

 

 

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