Learning the piano is an exciting journey you are bound to enjoy, no matter what age you begin learning the instrument. The adventure that comes along with every challenge you give yourself is something to look forward to.

While all this is true, it is also very easy to see little or no progress in your piano learning, and this can be quite frustrating. So why the failure?

side view of a piano
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Many piano students find themselves stuck in a rut and end up getting discouraged, often resigning the learning of the instrument to “other talented people”. In this post, we will dig into some of the often overlooked areas that hinder progress in learning the piano and what you need to do instead.

The tactic of thinking first

More often than not, piano learners do not consider this as something of primary importance. It is common to see a piano player just hit notes and hope they got it right. This really doesn’t help you master the notes. It ends up as more of a trial and error experiment. It is like leaping before you look. What do you think will happen? Here are insights from Albert Frantz:

How many times have we all heard “Think before you speak!” while growing up? This rule holds equally for piano playing: Think before you play. Thinking before playing is about achieving clarity. It means creating mental certainty before so much as moving a finger. It involves anticipating the next notes by hearing them in your mind first. Only then, at the very moment you play them, should you touch the keys, always shaping the hands first. Via Key Notes

The discipline of ear training

Ear training is very important in learning any instrument since it will help you know the correct sound of the piece you’re playing. Failure to do this will end up in quite some unpleasing music. Ear training is priceless and should guide your playing so that you don’t end up learning mistakes instead.

a piano
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One of the essentials of ear training is that we should play because we hear, not hear because we play. This means hearing in our mind’s ear first, and only then playing. Our knowledge of right or wrong notes should not come after we’ve already made a mistake—it should be decided with absolute certainty in advance of touching the keys. Via Key Notes

“Slow but sure” during practice

Another common pitfall that piano students fall into, is playing really fast. It is understood that there is always the desire to play a song in its original time and that is a great achievement. However, during practice, there is no need to rush. Take your time. If you are going to think before playing, you need to take your time and master what you’re playing instead of competing with time.

The only solution is slow, highly focused practice. The value of slow practice is that it gives us time to think each note in advance of playing it. I find that even when I tell students to play slowly, they still play at nearly performance tempo. I have to insist multiple times that they slow down, and they almost never slow down enough. It is only when they play with the metronome that they realize just how fast they have been playing. Via Key Notes


Closely related to taking time during practice is to understand that mastering the piano will require that you keep at it over a period of time. It isn’t an “instant” achievement. It is easy to want to get everything “super-fast” and become a pro. The truth, however, is that it takes time.

part of a piano
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Most prominent musicians will tell you that they started in their childhood, or have been mastering their instrument for years. Be patient with yourself and let yourself go through the process.

Underlying this tendency is impatience. While every music student understands that learning music is inherently a long-term task, the vast majority only lengthen the time they need to learn a piece through their very effort to reduce it. Via Key Notes


It is a common thing to see inventions coming up to reduce the amount of effort that is required in doing any activity. That’s what machines are for. However, you cannot afford to miss out on exercising your mental faculties when learning the piano. You need to ensure that you fully concentrate whenever you are mastering any piece.

At the heart of all learning is concentration. Most music students try to avoid mental exertion at all costs, yet this is precisely what is needed most! I see piano students move their fingers without first thinking of each note, each corresponding key and each hand movement. There are no arbitrary movements in proper piano playing. Every movement is properly the result of a conscious decision made for a musical purpose. Via Key Notes


Take these insights into consideration and you will be on your way to the much-needed progress that you’ve been looking forward to!

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