Melody4Community

Matrix Center for Music, Youth & Community Events,

& Melody4Community & Craig LiaBraaten Present:

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 face.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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 ever do.

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.

The Insider

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