Common Myths

In my limited experience, these are some obvious myths I have recognized.

You can get better with 30 minutes of practice a day.

Okay, maybe (over decades), but most likely not. I find it utterly ridiculous that anyone would believe such nonsense. When someone says they want to learn to play the piano, they mean play it well sometime this century. It’s a joke to think 30 minutes a day is going to get you there. Start off with an hour, and begin working your way towards the 2 hour mark, minimum. 30 minutes is okay for a single piece of music, at beginner level. BUT…there is so much more you should be practicing, like theory, sight-reading, aural training, scales and arpeggios. Arguably, you should be spending 30 minutes on each. There you have it. I don’t know who started the 30 minute myth, but my advice is to set aside more time.

I can play by ear, so I don’t need to learn to read notes, or learn music theory.

I run across these people all the time online. Don’t get me wrong, they play well for lower level music. It always takes them longer to learn a piece, and they have no idea how any of the music actually fits together (nearly 100% of the time, some or all of the dynamics are completely missing). And, the greatest obstacle they’re going to face is advanced music. A good ear will only get them so far. They will eventually hit the wall, and that’s where their progress will end.

I have great rhythm, so I don’t need to train with a metronome.

Sure you do. Eye roll. That’s all I’ll say.

When I practice, I don’t need to play completely through pieces. I need to practice bars, scales, and arpeggios.

Huh? I believe this comes from the differences between practicing and playing, and there are distinctive characteristics of both. I think, if you have limited piano time, you’re going to need to blend both practice and play. Reasoning? When it comes time for you to play for someone, no one wants to hear scales; no one wants to hear 2-3 bars of a piece. You need to have go to pieces you have mastered, and you need to maintain those pieces by playing them every day.

I have small hands, so I can’t play piano.

I have seen toddlers play piano. I have seen children play advanced pieces. Your hand size does not matter.

I tried playing for piano for a few months, but I didn’t improve…so I should quit.

This is very common and wrong. Other than in rare circumstances, progress will take years, not weeks, not months. Keep practicing. Don’t think in terms of months, but in years (1 year, 3 years, 5 years). That is the advice from an online piano teacher.

I can’t afford a piano teacher, so I can’t learn to play piano.

A good piano teacher is essential to many people’s piano progress, however….however, if you have discipline and a critical ear, you can definitely learn on your own. The trick is creating a piano syllabus based on industry standards (like ABRSM or RCM), and leveraging online resources (YouTube is a good one). #1 Be honest with your progress. #2 Be strict, but kind with yourself. #3 Be patient. As a beginner, myself, rhythm and dynamics are the difficult parts, and are easy to mess up. Pay attention to what the sheet music is trying to tell you. Something I’m just learning, is that the magic of music is in the nuance. What does that mean? Study dynamics. Aggressively.

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