Consistency is key. You might have heard or read this sentence several times. You surely understand its meaning and you surely agree with it. You might or might not apply it in your daily life but did you know that these essential principles which are discipline and consistency apply to piano playing too?
Throughout my career as a piano teacher, I have met several men and women who were extremely disciplined in some aspects of their life. I did not specifically discuss the subject with them but I could see that they were successful and that a good amount of effort was made at some stage for them to have become who they become. Unfortunately, they seem to treat piano playing differently without any specific reason.
They seem to think that becoming a lawyer, a banker or an architect was more difficult than becoming a proficient pianist and it is where they got it all wrong! Piano playing is a high skill that requires time and effort, consistency and discipline.
Consistency and discipline work together as you cannot have one without the other. You need a lot of discipline to be consistent!
So why do you need to be so disciplined and consistent to perform an art? Because mastering an art requires a lot of work that must be done with a high level of consistency.
When learning how to play the piano, you will be required to use both your body and mind in a way that is very different to any other activity. You will then have to teach both how to operate in a unique manner. You will learn how to read music, which can be similar to learn a new language, ask your hands and fingers to perform various tasks and synchronise it all.
Piano playing is much more complicated than this. I am summarizing to make it easy for you to understand.
Let’s talk about reading music. As I said earlier, it is very similar to learning a new language. Actually, as a pianist, you must learn two new languages at once, since your right and left hands will read in different clefs. Your right hand will be playing notes written in the treble clef and your left hand will be playing notes written in the bass clef.
Congratulations if you think of any other way to master these two new languages but I have, myself, spent countless hours reading notes on a daily basis! It is essential to read music fluently when playing the piano as you will be playing at the same time and most of your brain will be occupy by hitting the right notes at the right time using the right tone. So much to think about that note reading must be done instantly. If you are preoccupied by the notes written on the score, you cannot express yourself fully and playing becomes almost impossible.
I have often seen adult learners trying to skip this step to avoid having to spend time daily studying note reading. They think that memorizing the sheet music will do the trick – sadly it doesn’t. You can get away with it at the very beginning of your piano studies but this trick will not work when the piano pieces become more complex.
The same issue occurs with the development of your piano technique. Some adult learners do not see the point of developing their muscles and flexibility through technical exercises. They think that they will be OK and that practicing the difficult passages will suffice. Once again, this way of operations won’t take you very far…
I have only given you two examples but I am sure that you can already understand that all aspects of piano playing must be studied daily for you to become a successful pianist.
You must train your mind and body daily to be proficient at piano playing and it is why discipline and consistency are necessary. If you want to become a complete pianist, you must study these various aspects daily (or at least 6 days a week).
Let me give you an example that could help you understand better. Paul visits London once a week for an hour. Peter lives in London. Which one will know the city better?
Before starting your piano studies, it is important to understand that your piano teacher whom you see weekly will guide you and show you the appropriate technique. However, it is not during your piano lessons but outside of your piano lessons that most of the work will be done. You will make most of your progress during your personal practice sessions.
I have often heard the following argument: “I don’t have any time during the week, but I can do more during the weekend”. What a mistake and misunderstanding of what it is all about!
I was comparing Paul and Peter for this reason. Adult learners must understand that allocating some piano practice time daily is key to their success.
I know that it can be difficult to sit at the piano after a long day at work or wake up earlier to practice before your busy day start but without this discipline and consistency, you will not achieve your goals and you will either stop it all or think that something is wrong with you.
However, if you approach piano playing with the right understanding and decide that you will treat it as any other high skill, you will surely become a successful pianist and you will enjoy your piano studies immensely!
Do not fall into the trap in which so many adult learners fell into. Do not skip anything. Do not avoid practicing your technical exercises or sight-reading. I mention these two subjects as I have been teaching adults for more than twenty years and I have rarely met someone who did not make the mistake to dedicate their full practice sessions to piano pieces. I know that it is extremely tempting but, trust me, balancing your studies equally between each aspect will be extremely rewarding over time.
I think that you have got the message. Piano playing is a wonderful and beautiful art which is extremely enjoyable but it requires you to add discipline and consistency to the mix to be successful at it!