I once read where a millionaire summed up his thinking about money in two words. Delayed Gratification. This is how I think about being millionaire musician. Only instead of money, I accumulate musical wealth. I’ll do a separate blog post on finances one day. The good news is that it is entirely possible to get the finances right too. But I want to talk about piano today.
As human beings, we want quick results. I can’t even tell you how many people have told me they took some piano lessons as youngsters but then quit. I think the main reason people quit trying to get good on the piano is they lose patients with their slow progress. That is probably why most people quit most things. There are a lot of businesses selling the idea (with great success) that you can learn to play the piano in just a few days. At least well enough to play something you’d enjoy. And maybe that is possible. But if you are already looking for a shortcut, that is a red flag that you are afraid you will lose motivation before you learn how to play anything good. You know down deep, that you do not have the motivation to get where you want to go. I think a lot of us put some money down to help with that motivation. We think, “I’ll know I paid good money for this so that’ll keep me going.” But it doesn’t. It just allows us to blame the poor program we bought. So what is the answer here?
To me the answer is two-fold:
The second part is to practice to your weaknesses. What fun is that? Why would I want to practice something that just confirms I am not good enough? Believe me, I get it. We all want to sound as good as possible and we want to sound that way right now! I remember hearing a person play a Bach Invention. He started the piece very fast and fumbled it somewhere along the way and started over. He said he could only play it right if he started at the beginning. He’d take another swing at it and miss again. Over and over. He said he used to take lessons but he quit. I thought that was a shame because the first page sounded pretty good. But I suspect he always practiced that piece from the beginning. Because it sounded good. Everything was humming along great and then it all fell apart…. That spot where it fell apart and everything after that, in his mind, was just a misunderstanding. He was lying to himself and he knew it. I could tell from the sheepish look on his face. This is just human nature. I’ve been there. And I do believe there is some “fake it till you make it” involved in progress. But real confidence is better than faking it.
What I do might work for you. I spend about 20 percent of my practice time playing things I think sound good. I spread it out and do a little at a time. In between there I spend the other 80 percent of my time on my weaknesses. Blues in Gb is one of my weaknesses. I’ll play blues in Gb for 20 minutes and then I’ll slip into G for 2 or 3 minutes. Not only does it scratch that itch of sounding better, the blues in G is also better BECAUSE I had done all that work in Gb. Practicing to your weaknesses also lifts up all of your playing to another level. That works for beginners too. If you are stumbling on a piece on bar 25, spend most of your time working on bar 24, 25, 26, and 27. Then go back and play the part you are more comfortable with. It might be better too. Starting in the middle is harder, I know. So set your small goal, get excited about it, and practice to your weaknesses. And then have a little fun. Repeat. And remember, you are building musical wealth a little at a time. It’s worth being excited about.
Obviously, we don't know everything. But we do tend to think differently. Here are some of my thoughts on piano and maybe some on life. I play piano for Tracy Lawrence, produce new artists, write and practice piano.