1. Playing Only In C
Playing all your music on only the white keys of the piano, in the “key of C” is a common crutch for many beginning pianists, especially younger kids who start to advance on the piano.
Why is this the case?
Well, it has a lot to do with how the piano is taught. There is an incorrect notion that you should stick with C for a while and that black keys (and keys other than C) are saved only for advanced pianists.
This thinking is dangerously inhibiting your progress and obscuring the reality of piano and all music. In reality, piano music usually uses (as it should) many of its black keys as well as keys other than C.
Black Keys Are Not “Harder”
While a few have been breaking the trend, for decades it was common to have “C-centric” method books containing the lessons and most music contained within it in C for far too long (See #6 on my thoughts regarding method books).
While it’s ok to learn your first piece or two in C, you should immediately play in other keys and music containing several black key notes. This will train you to see that black keys are not any “harder” or “scarier” than white keys. Just different, and with practice it will all seem just as easy as C!
If you want to jump-start being able to play in different keys and make it subconscious, the best thing to do is to do the following:
- Force yourself to learn music using different keys and white vs. black notes.
- Become very familiar with music theory.
- Practice the art of transposing music into a variety of keys on the piano
In this way no matter what notes or key is involved, you can be fully comfortable!
2. Neglecting Technique Practice
This is a very extremely powerful part of piano development that is commonly undermined by many beginning students! I know because I myself had to learn the hard way as a young piano player.
Piano technique is your physical capability of playing the piano.
Do you feel like you lack control over the notes you play? Are you constantly making mistakes? Is your playing messy, rough, and lacking precise and clean playing? This is because you are lacking in your technique.
How do you improve?
Well, you have to specifically do technique practice, either through pieces that challenge it or exercise specifically designed to improve it. Another good option is to have someone experienced to examine your playing and give you feedback on your specific technique.
Sometimes, technique involves specific motions, form, and thought processes that you might not be aware of, especially in the early stages of learning piano. It’s all too easy to develop bad habits that will come back to bite you!
Feel free to contact me regarding any questions or concerns when it comes to this topic of technique at the bottom of the page.
3. Using Incorrect Fingering
Anyone who ever took piano lessons has heard this a million times. The infamous “that’s not the correct fingering,” critique.
But why do we need to use a recommended fingering, especially when we feel that a different one is easier?
It’s true that in the advanced level of piano, fingering becomes more flexible, and can be subjective from person to person. Yet in the beginning, in the basics of piano, we have pretty universally agreed upon fingerings for certain situations.
It’s important because these fingerings were created over hundreds of years of keyboard history to accomplish a few things:
- Ease of playing
- Incorporating the natural balance of our hand
- Using all our fingers
- Minimizing hand/wrist movement.
Learning the correct fingerings allows us to accomplish the above in all musical situations, and maximizes efficiency and accuracy while minimizing mistakes and tiredness.
You might not realize how a “bad” fingering affects your playing at slow speeds, but once you attempt to play faster and better you’ll discover how hindering it is. It’s only harder once you have developed a habit of “bad fingering” and now have to convert it to “good fingerings.”
This is one of the main reasons why having a teacher (or someone experienced) guiding your fingering choices from the very beginning will be very beneficial. This will help you avoid the common pitfalls many beginning pianists fall into. They can also give insight as to the common principles of fingerings so you yourself can always discover the “right” fingering for any musical situation you come across.
4. Overlooking Reading Music And Theory
Some people want to focus on just playing songs they love, which is something you certainly should do. After all, music is about enjoyment and emotional communication.
You ever want to learn more than just a couple of songs without it being a slow and frustrating process? Then you’ll want to learn how to read music, learn some music theory, and do some ear training.
Music Theory = Musical Freedom
Many people view reading and music theory as this boring, or difficult aspect they want to skip.
But it should be the opposite. You should love and value these skills, as this is the key to unlocking the building blocks of the music you love to learn.
It gives you musical freedom that will assist you in all musical endeavors, whether learning more music, playing the ones you know better, and even creating music if you wish.
Reading Music Doesn’t Have To Be Boring Or Abstract
It’s helpful if you learn it the right way.
There are effective and quick methods to learning how to read all notes and rhythms, and practice them until they are instantaneous skills. Then you can progress to learning the coveted skill of sight-reading.
As far as theory, there is a step by step process to getting it right, with intervals, scales, and chords being the starting building blocks to all music. Many people who know some theory have many gaps. These gaps are what’s inhibiting their understanding and making it more difficult for them to progress.
With the right approach you can have an understanding to where theory is easy. And when you see it applied to real music you love, it becomes more practical and useful, and seems far less abstract.
Contact me if you have any questions and if you’d like to know more about how I can incorporate music theory into my private piano lessons.
5. Bad Piano Practice Habits
There are several bad practice habits and pitfalls that nearly every student is in danger of falling into. For example, many times people practice at speeds too quickly.
Sometimes they practice with mistakes, which unknowingly is causing them to repeat those same mistakes over and over (even during performances). Then there are things like how to combine the two hands together in the most effective way, and much more.
Again, the best way to alleviate this, especially in the early stages, is to get someone who knows what they’re doing to look at your practice habits and fine-tune your practice routine and methods.
This way you are improving efficiently and correctly, without ever needing to regress backward in the future.
6. Using “Traditional” Method Books
This is the most unique one on the list. After all, the most common way to teach is using a method book. So why am I saying to avoid using them?
Methods books have their place, they’re great for kids and their learning needs. They’re also great for a classroom setting to have everyone on the same curriculum. They are not, however, best suited for the individual, adult lessons.
Here are some reasons:
- They’re usually slow-paced, and not tailored to the needs of each person. This means you will be stuck in these lesson books for a long time without progressing as quickly as you should.
- The method’s quality is hit and miss, and may not be best for your learning efficiency and long term ease of playing.
- They generally make lessons less fun, and less like a unique musical journey as it should be for every person.
Most method books are somewhat designed to hold you back, usually for monetary reasons, for both the bookmakers and teachers. That’s where I decided to change things up. The majority of students I teach can progress at rates far greater than any books can let you.
I Teach You What You Need To Know Effectively And As Quickly As You Can Take It
Using my own methods I have seen far better results than when I used method books. I want you to learn the basics quickly to progress you toward the more advanced music pieces and topics, where much of the fun lies. Lessons are customized to your needs and the music you love, whether classical, jazz, or pop.
I will make sure you know any skills necessary when you need to know them. And since everyone’s goals may be different, you can decide which skills you want to hone in on.
So those are my 6 big piano tips, and hopefully, they help you avoid common piano pitfalls. Did you find any helpful? Were any surprising to you? Is there any more you can think of? Let me know your thoughts.
Thanks for reading. Until next time,