The obvious answer is to practice – and the more you practice the better you will get! However, although this is easy to say, it’s not so easy to do. There is a lot more to learning the piano than the application of practice, and there are many effective ways to get better a lot quicker – and to keep your insanity at the same time…
First of all it’s important to set yourself realistic goals that you know you can achieve and follow. If you don’t do this right from the start and every single day you practice, then you will struggle to keep motivated and have the patience to keep going. One of the biggest problems when learning to play the piano is having the mental strength to keep going. There will be times when practicing becomes frustrating, and you may want to give up. This tends to be down to the unrealistic goals that you’ve set yourself and are struggling to achieve. We are all only human, and it’s in our nature to dream of what might be, but this is your first mistake.
Try not to plan or envisage 5 or 10 years down the line. Yes, if you practice hard for that amount of time you will be a very good player, but when we start to think that far ahead, it forces a loss of focus on the present. Taking each day at a time is by far the better way to learn.
Setting your goals really small is a much more rewarding way to learn and practice. For example, set yourself a goal of one scale for a few days, and don’t think about anything else. Your only target is to be able to play this scale in a few days time, and nothing else. Try not to worry about how simple or boring it is, otherwise you will not reap the rewards once you can play it. Once you can play it, try to remember a time when you couldn’t, and reflect on how well you’ve done and what you’ve achieved in such a short space of time. This also applies to a piece you are learning – take it one bar at a time if necessary.
Don’t cloud your mind with negative thoughts like, ‘I will never be able to play this’, or, ‘It’s too difficult to play and it’s taking me ages to learn’. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it’s not going to be possible to learn a difficult piece within a few hours. It doesn’t matter if it takes you a few weeks or months, as long as you focus on each bar at a time.
It’s also important to consider why you want to learn the piano in the first place. Do you want to learn just for fun, or do you want to play in a band (which is also fun lol)? Do you want to make a career out of it, teaching, composing, recording…?
No matter what you want to achieve, it’s vital you don’t fall into the trap that most people do, and that’s thinking about whether or not you are better than the rest of the world. Or whether your song is better than someone else’s, or what someone will think of your playing. I’ve done this myself many times, and it’s usually whilst I’m browsing YouTube that I come across someone much younger, and far better than myself. This type of thinking is extremely detrimental to learning any instrument.
There will always be someone out there that can technically play better than you, so don’t worry or think about it. Just enjoy what you play and what you write. They say that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ – replace the word ‘eye’ for ‘ear, and this is also true when it comes to music. As long you enjoy what you are playing or creating, then who cares what anyone else thinks! Sure, it’s great to share your music on YouTube and get lots of views and likes, but it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks as long as you enjoy it. Music is for everyone to enjoy, and opinions and comments are not important or relevant, unless they are constructive and are given with the intention to help.