Learning a piano song – How to stay committed

Being all grown up most of us have tried to continue learning something after our schooling days are over. Pick up a foreign language, learn to play a piano song, bake the perfect bread and sculp a vase; simply because deep down in our hearts we know that there is more to life than a 9 to 5 job followed by laundry, cleaning and other chores afterwards. There is still much in the world to learn and experience. 

How many of us actually complete those things we set out to do?

I have been taking a form of latin dancing lessons for almost three years now. I see students come and go in our class, they usually last less than 3 lessons. Dancing is so much fun I find it strange that they did not want to continue. 

After lessons, we would go to a club where all the other dancers would come to spin, twirl, dip and hop themselves and their partners all night. What is there not to love about it? Yet, people quit somewhere in the middle. It is baffling.

Maybe it is the absence of passion. But if it was not there, why did they start, so there was passion initially. The question is; how to keep the passion alive and stay committed in learning something? Once you have managed to muster the courage to start learning the piano, are there ways to keep on learning a new piano song for years, continuously building your repertoire? 

Here are a few suggestions.

[1] - Peer support

While the music it creates is ravishingly beautiful to listen to, practising the piano to reach that level of competency takes a long time and admittedly a lonely process. A piano student will spend hours on the piano sharpening her technique by herself. It is not a choice - that is what it takes to be a great pianist.  

When we do things alone for ourselves we answer to no one, which makes it a lot easier to quit. Who cares anyway? …Goes the thinking. 

Escape from the bubble of solitude by engaging people whom you trust and respect to provide support. Those whose opinion you care about and eager to impress. You may not be able to drag them along with you to take piano lessons together, but you can schedule a mini recital for them to see how you are doing and give honest positive opinions, even negative ones (given in a loving and supportive way) that can help you improve should be welcomed. 

Besides wanting to be able to make music on the piano, another reason that made me go for lessons was my need for human interactions with people outside my regular circles. I wanted to socialize with people who are more artistic. If you engage them, a whole new world will be unveiled to you like has to me. 

 [2] – Use numbers to keep track of progress

Most of us know that Christopher Columber sailed across the Atlantic to find America. Did you know that before he first set sail his proposal of the voyage was repeatedly rejected by the Queen of Spain 6 times over the course of 8 years? Talk about persistence.

Not being able to see the progress we are making is another contributing factor for giving up. Keep track of your progress with tangible numbers. You can do this when learning a piano song too.

How many hours practised, how many bars rendered smoothly in a day, was the trill executed perfectly this time. Using hard data to monitor your progress is a sure way to keep your spirits high in achieving your goals. Progress may still be slow but as long as you can see that you are moving forward you know you are doing fine.

 [3] – Overcome the first obstacle

Once I have a piano song mastered I get addicted to it for while. It makes me feel so proud to be able to play it so well, I indulge myself for days with it. 

Moving on to a new song is such a hassle. It feels like having to start from the ground up again, with its unfamiliar phrases, different fingering combinations and technical challenges. I end up procrastinating.

Unfortunately, my weekly piano lesson does not share my indulgence. The tutor will start the new piano song whether I like it or not. To keep up with her, I will have to force myself to start practising at least the first line of the new song.

As it turned out, that was all I needed to do to get the ball rolling. Once I had the momentum, there was nothing that could stop me. I would realize the song is a joy to play and enjoy it so much, practising it is something I look forward to everyday. Sometimes you just have to get over the first obstacle – get started! 

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