Four years have passed since I started piano lessons – it is hard to believe that time flies so fast. My classes with Stefan Joubert at S & C Music have been excellent and life-changing really. He is a great teacher with the right blend of enthusiasm, standards and experience to help you grow as a player. The thing I love about S & C is that the lessons are designed for adult learners, and the teachers understand how adults learn and are sympathetic to the realities of learning as an older human. After four years, I now consider Stefan a friend as well as a tutor.
Learning piano has taught me many things, not least the discipline to practice with full intention every day. I have tried practising when I have been distracted and not quite “in the zone”, and 20 minutes of pure deliberate focus is better than 1 hour of haphazard playing. It reminds me of a quote from Jocko Willink: “Discipline equals freedom” – meaning that if you maintain the discipline to practice the hard things, your reward is the freedom to play beautifully. There is nothing quite like the feeling of successfully playing a delightful piece of music and the emotions it brings you when you finally “get it”.
As I have written about before, it’s not about being motivated in the practice session; it’s about having the discipline to practice even when you don’t feel like it by focusing on a meaningful goal ahead of you. (See my article on the rule of three) The further you go into practice and climb the grades… the greater the improvement steps can feel. This is where, more than ever, it’s vital to make daily efforts to improve.
When you are climbing the mountain and only focusing on the top, it can feel like a long way. Instead, focus on one step at a time, ensure the step is the best you can do, and progress will come.
When you look back on your progress and see how far you have come, it’s a great feeling and a timely reminder of your success. This method helps me stay calm when facing new challenges and allows me to go into them with the same zeal I had initially.
I have come so far, but there is still much to learn. The biggest thing now is the work taken to make smaller increments.
I am currently going for grade 6, and the nuances in the playing are more complex, so it takes a lengthier time and greater focus to improve- but it’s so worth it.
One evening, I performed in an online concert with S & C and around ten other students of varying experience, and It was fantastic. I was very nervous beforehand, and even though the audience was not in the room with me, I still felt their presence and the nervous tension around me!
I had a quick practice run of my piece just before I performed, and I couldn’t remember any of it! Fortunately, my hands (and brain) got their mojo back, and I finished unscathed. If you ever have the opportunity to play in public, take it; it is a lesson in how to control the inner voice in your head and just like public speaking, the only way to get better at it – is to do it!
Over the years, life has thrown a few challenges at me, and sometimes, I had to pause my practice. It can be challenging to get back on the piano after this because you can feel how much your playing quality has reduced, which can be de-motivating to restart. It’s a bit like when you stop doing fitness because of injury – and when you restart, you hesitate to return to the gym because you know it will be hard and gasping! I advise focusing on the present and being better than the player you were yesterday (not six months ago or two years ago).
If you get frustrated with your playing or feel you need to be better, I suggest this: It is estimated that around 25 million people play the piano globally. That means, even if you are a beginner, you are better at the piano than 99.7% of the world. That makes you pretty unique.