As anyone who has ever taken piano lessons knows, when you learn piano you encounter challenges from time to time. It might be a piece you can’t quite seem to master, or maybe it’s just one short section within a piece that keeps tripping you up.
Whatever the challenge, it’s interesting to observe your own reaction to the challenge. Do you get frustrated? Or annoyed? Or are you instead having fun?
If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right
It’s an interesting concept, but just at the moment when you’re in the throes of a challenge, if you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right (“it” being the process of learning and growing).
For a moment let’s consider a challenge in a different setting – video games. Most people (if they enjoy playing video games) will quite happily try and try and try again until they eventually succeed in killing the bad guy(s), saving the world, etc.
In a computer games setting, the repeated failures that must necessarily occur until success is achieved don’t bother most people at all.
Part of the psychology of computer game design is that repeated (failed) attempts at trying to achieve a goal that is just out of reach is actually addictive — and therefore enjoyable. In a computer game setting, the individual player generally enjoys the challenge. They seldom (if ever) beat themselves up for not being able to achieve it straight away.
So why does the same dynamic not necessarily apply when facing a challenge within the context of learning a piece of music?
The answer lies in your viewpoint and how you think about the learning process.
It seems that some of us tend to place unrealistic expectations on ourselves. We expect to be able to play the piece now, and if we can’t we don’t feel good about ourselves, and so we become frustrated, impatient and negative.
But focusing impatiently on the destination (being able to play the piece perfectly) not only removes the enjoyment and fun from where we are now on our journey (the learning process), it also makes us take longer to achieve our goal, which leads to more frustration and even less enjoyment.
How do you have fun in the face of a challenge?
This is actually surprisingly easy. You simply make a conscious decision before you start practicing that you are going to have fun in the way you respond to each little challenge. Whether things go right or wrong is not the part that matters. What matters is your reaction to the challenges.
Make the decision to smile inwardly and joke to yourself in your own private thoughts. Don’t take either yourself or the outcome too seriously.
On a practice level, the technique required to overcome any learning challenge is perfectly simple and fundamentally the same for all challenges – just patiently break it down into smaller components that you can more easily manage and build up from there.
To do this effectively, it helps to embrace and accept where you currently are on your journey. So take the time to be aware and appreciative of the wonderful learning and growth that is taking place right now as you face the current challenge. This is where the greatest fun and enjoyment lie.
In my opinion, destinations are overrated… After all, anyone can play a piece they already know. But you are special, you are learning something new. You are discovering and developing new abilities. Observing and appreciating this (with good humor) is truly rewarding and enjoyable.
More broadly, the same is true of life itself.
The real art of fun
As the old John Denver song says, “some days are diamonds, some days are stones”. As it happens, at the start of this week, I had one of those days that Denver would definitely have categorized as a ‘stone’. Absolutely everything that could possibly have gone wrong went wrong — and then some. By the end of the day, I was mentally and emotionally wrung out.
And as I contemplated how I was going to face the next day (fearing it might bring more of the same), I decided to use the same strategy I use in my piano practice — I made a conscious decision that I was going to have fun as much as I possibly could at each and every moment throughout the day and as I faced each challenge the day would bring.
Interestingly, the next day did bring one or two challenges, but this time, because of the conscious choice I had made the day before, I really was able to have fun in the way I responded to people and challenges throughout the day. And as it turned out, a number of very positive things happened that day.
So no matter what happens either throughout your day or when you’re working on learning a particular piano piece, make the decision to have fun each and every moment and let the outcomes (be they good or bad) take care of themselves.
This is the real art of fun and a great way to accelerate your learning ability, particularly within the context of piano lessons.
I hope these thoughts are helpful whether in relation to piano lessons or in life generally.
And of course, if you (dear reader) would like to experience real fun and learn how to play piano with Musiah — the world’s first and only A.I. virtual piano teacher, I warmly invite you to take our Online Piano Lessons 14 Day Free Trial.
As always, if you have any questions about Musiah’s piano lessons, please feel free to contact me HERE.
Thanks for reading, and please feel free to comment below.
Til next time,
Brendan Hogan L.Mus.A, A.Mus.A.
Piano Teacher & Musiah Inventor