5 Common Myths that Stop People From Learning to Play the Piano
Ever wanted to learn to play the piano, but got frustrated?
Maybe had trouble playing both hands at the same time?
Reading music just took way too long, and was way too difficult?
Let me tell ya, anyone can learn to play the piano with enough practice, and so can you, however, there are some things that most people tend to believe about learning to play an instrument that hold them back. These beliefs have stopped many people from achieving their instrumental goals. (See what I did there?)
Full Disclosure: I’m coming out with my own piano course very soon. Click here for updates! More information at the end of this post.
If you have ever wanted to learn to play any musical instrument, make sure to not fall for any of these pitfalls which will zap you of your motivation and and passion. In order to accomplish your dreams and play your favorite songs, not falling for these mental traps will help you tremendously.
This is probably the worst myth of all, this notion of talent, the belief that you were born with the ability to do something or not at all. This is particularly prevalent in music.
I can’t tell you how many times after a good performance that I hear people tell me “Oh! You’re so talented!” The dictionary defines talent as natural aptitude or skill. That being said, I wouldn’t say I’m very talented. I had some natural ability, sure, as much as anybody else, but I practiced and perfected that ability into what you see today. I didn’t just wake up a virtuoso.
In most fields, this particular adjective is not used. There is a sense of training, especially when it comes to athletics. No one tells professional athletes, gymnasts, and others how “talented” they are. Rather, they admire how good they are. It is the same with virtuoso musicians. They have trained for many years, much like an athlete, but instead of sports training, it’s musical training. Natural ability helps, but that’s not what gave Michael Phelps & Simone Biles Olympic gold medals.
Learning to play the piano isn’t nearly as difficult as becoming a professional athlete. There was a study a few years back that said that you can become proficient in just about anything with 30–60 days of steady practice, whether it be playing basketball, tennis, soccer, or the piano. We must abolish this notion of talent once and for all in order to really appreciate the training and practice musicians put into their craft each and everyday.
2. Reading Music
This is probably the most common myth that stops most beginning pianists: the idea that we must learn to read all the music we want to play. This is simply not true.
Let’s compare music to language. When learning any language, reading is the last thing you do when it comes to learning. You learn to speak, and you learn to listen. Playing music is more important than reading it. When it comes to learning any popular song, there is no reason you should EVER have to learn that song from sheet music.
(Not to mention, usually the sheet music sucks and doubles the melody, which is only good for solo performance, not for when accompanying a singer)
Once you learn the chords, that’s all you really need. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who think that it takes weeks to learn a song from reading the music, when in reality, if you just learned how to understand chords and bass lines, then you’d learn songs in a matter of hours, rather than days.
When you learn to play by ear, you learn to play everything you hear, that’s much more useful. We all know so many songs in our heads that we’d recognize with our ears. Imagine if you could perform any song you recognize. Now that’s cool.
Not to mention, if you want to know more, here’s a list of 4 reasons why only reading music is sabotaging your musical abilities.
3. My Brain Hurts
Ever try to learn a particularly difficult passage of music, and after trying many times, just giving up? I’ve been there. It can be frustrating, but here’s the secret.
When you try to do new rhythmic ideas in your piano playing, (like 2 against 3), you have to make new neurons and connections in your brain that previously weren’t there, and when you do, your brain is going to get in your way.
It’s like learning to juggle. For a while, you won’t be able to do 3, but you have to just keep trying. It’s the keep trying that really makes your brain learn new things.
People get impatient and think that failure means that they’ll never get it, when in reality, the more you fail, the more likely you’re getting closer to your objective, you just have to push through, and really concentrate.
Odd thing is, when most people practice they rarely enter this state. Why? Because it’s difficult and frustrating. We want to practice what feels comfortable, and what we know, so we only spend 5–10 minutes on the stuff that’s really tough, since it hurts our brains so much, when if you just really focused an entire practice session on that difficult passage, it would have already been learned, and that blockage gone. That’s how you learn songs much faster.
Don’t fall for this trap next time you learn something new, promise yourself you’ll keep focusing until you get, and you’ll probably have it sooner than you think.
4. Lack of Time
Ever take a class, and pull an all nighter, and get a big A? Good for you. Now here’s the real question. When it was over, how much of the knowledge did you actually retain?
I’m willing to bet it was very little.
When it comes to learning the piano, better to practice 5 minutes everyday, than practice an hour every 3 days. Almost like brushing your teeth.
If you have time to shower every morning, then you have time to practice the piano every night, it’s just a matter of committing to yourself that you’ll put the time in.
And if you don’t fall for myth 3, that time will be very well spent! :-)
Like when you begin to learn a language, it is only through repeated use that you can truly become fluent in speaking it. Much like when someone is learning Spanish and visits a Spanish-speaking country,that person usually comes back much more proficient at speaking Spanish than when they left.
Same applies to music. You must utilize it everyday.
Here’s something very simple you can do.
Next time you hear a song, try to recognize the melody, and really listen for what the pitches are, and where they are in relation to one another.
Try to figure out the intervals.
Start with 1, and then another, and then if you’re ready, maybe a whole melody.
It’s consistency that will you get you ready to play any songs you hear, as well as able to read any song you like.
5. This will take Years!
Odds are when you were little, you took piano for a few years, learned to play a few simple songs, but nothing too complex, all of which was classical music, and then quit when it got boring.
Perhaps you really wanted to learn the songs on the radio (or these days, might I guess “All of Me” or “See You Again”?)
But within a few years, so little learned, and with reading music so difficult, you realized it would take years to even come close to the ability you so desired, thus you figured it wasn’t worth the pursuit.
This thinking couldn’t be more wrong!
In my honest opinion, most teachers for young kids focus on the wrong things 90% of the time (see point 2). The fact of the matter is, once you learn what the building blocks of most music are, you don’t even need to read anything to be able to just sit down and play.
With the right knowledge, in just 30 days you can…
- Improvise beautiful melodies off the top of your head
- Play any song you heard on the radio within a few hours
- Read music, but in ways that don’t have you struggling from note to note
Method books are so concerned with your ability to read, that they don’t address the fundamentals like chords and arpeggios. Plus reading is tough, ever see 1st graders do it? It’s challenging! Now imagine that process at 40, you need a lot of patience.
With these concerns in mind, I’m creating a course that will help you achieve your piano playing goals. I call it “Play Any Pop Song”.
I’m still building it and would love your feedback on any sticking points that have been holding you back in your own piano playing journey.
I’ve also compiled a list of 4 Secrets classically trained pianists wish they knew about how to play popular music.
Just sign up for more piano playing tips, and I’ll send it your way. Thanks!