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5 Piano Myths - DEBUNKED

Are you looking to start learning the piano?

Perhaps - but if so you may have been put off by some chilling horror stories worthy of a place in some penny dreadful or other similar media.

But fear not. In all my superhero capacity I am here to put your mind to rest and assure you that learning the piano is not as terrifying as it may seem, and some of the biggest myths that all beginners probably hear or contemplate at some point are, in fact, just that - myths.

So, let's waste no time in getting you a greater understanding in this:


5 Piano Myths - Debunked

1 - "I'm too old to start learning..."

We've all thought it. What if I'm just a touch too old?

We watch international piano competitions and these tiny little prodigies in single figures of age come along, take a seat and just blow you away with their sheer talent.

True. And surely they will only get better. So, here's you - 20 years old. 30. 40. 50. 100! And you surely couldn't compete with that because they've got the advantage - experience and a young mind's approach.

TRUTH: As with learning anything, you have a course of learning that is perfect for you. This course of learning changes - sometimes dramatically - as you get older, meaning the approach has to be very different. Yes, things that would 'sink in' naturally at a younger age may take more practice or concentration, but that's OK. Even the youngest of starters don't go straight in without that very seem intimidating feeling, so don't beat yourself up on that one.

2 - "I don't have long enough fingers..."

I get this one rather a lot. And not least because when people watch me play they are usually either astounded, impressed by or frankly nauseated by my TEN-tacle collection. So I feel very unjust in trying to voice an opinion against this, but it's true.

It is highly unlikely, as a beginner, that you will be required to do much stretching. There are plenty of exercises which are quite nice to start early on (although I'm not going to lie - they're rather tedious but RESULTS!) such as the preparatory exercises as laid out by Schmitt and Hanon which focus on both finger independence, but also gradually stretching fingers, however it is fair to say that with the best will in the world - these will only make the stretch comfortable rather than encouraging further stretching.

So how DO these short fingered pianists work around it?

Well, when the time comes for you to stretch beyond your capacity, you will have enough of a technical knowledge to be able to work out each obstacle as they come. Sometimes you quickly splay a chord rather than playing each note at the exact same time. Sometimes you incorporate both hands. Sometimes you slightly rethink the rhythm of a piece so that you can pause between certain notes, without disrupting the flow.

TRUTH: Anybody's fingers can play piano. Remember what I said earlier about these single figure aged prodigies playing the most complex music you've ever heard? Well, they've still got young hands so that should be proof enough that your hands can work to any problem they may need to overcome.

3 - "Piano lessons are expensive..."

This depends more on how seriously you're willing to take your piano playing.

What do you hope to achieve by the end of it?

Are you hoping to be able to play 'Für Elise' by the end of the year and that is your goal and then you're happy because you've got a party piece?

Bad news, then. Piano lessons are expensive.

Learning the piano with a professional, private tutor is the most rewarding thing that you can do and whilst it's true that doing this - whether you work through grades or not - will expand your repertoire, it is actually more a case of your improvement across a handful of other things:

  • Technique - any good piano tutor will pick up on bad habit and correct or improve, or at least point you in the right direction,

  • Musical Instinct - you won't just learn how to play a piece. Good piano tutors will question you about things, ask what things mean, how you interpret them and more to encourage your understanding of the keyboard and how music sounds.

  • Music Theory - yes, yes, we're all groaning at the thought of this academic sounding snore fest, but music theory is quite literally the fundamentals on which all your favourite music is based. Even those that we jokingly say 'throw the rulebook out' - such as jazz - have a strong grounding in a theory that you can learn, and having a good understanding of theory will shape you as a great all round musician - a good ear for music, good pianist and performer - perhaps even a great composer if that's where you wish to go.

So, if two people had the same number of piano lessons and at the end one could play 'Für Elise' parrot fashion by the end and the other could play a couple of pieces - maybe even simpler pieces - but be able to see down the line how they have improved and how their fingers are strengthening and their musical ear is developing, I would argue that the second one is not 'paying too much' for their lessons, at least.

TRUTH: Are you serious about learning the piano and reaching the best of your potential? Are you willing to put in the effort and the hours to help achieve this? If you answered 'yes', then no - they're not too expensive. If 'no', then yes they are. Start with a beginner's book, see how far you get and if, by the end of it and any subsequent editions of its series you feel more compelled to take and develop your skill further - it may well no longer be too expensive for you.

4 - "My hands can't do two different things at the same time..."

One of my favourites, in fact, because they definitely can.

Virtually every single thing you do requires you to use your hands in different capacities.

Think on these:

  • Driving

  • Tying a Shoelace

  • Buttoning a Shirt

  • Typing

  • Video Games

And so many more.

And before anybody tries to hit me with that 'second nature' thing because you've been doing it for ages, just think back to how hard it was first time you sat in the driver's seat of a car on your first lesson, or how long it took you to learn to tie a shoelace etc. etc.

TRUTH: Your hands are more than capable. Granted, some people may find it a touch easier to slip into different rhythms in each, but as you learn you will find out what needs attention. There are plenty of exercises to help you achieve better syncopation between the two when they are doing different things, and a good tutor if you do go down the lessons road will be able to assist. Don't let it be a reason you quit before you've started.

5 - "I'll never be as good as..."

And finally, my surprise guest......Imposter Syndrome!

If you're giving up before you've started because you don't think you'll be as good as whoever you already admire, stop!

I do have some terrible, terrible news for you;

You'll never be as good :(

But that's not me telling you that, of course. That's you! You'll be able to appreciate that you're good, that you're improving and maybe one day that you're an excellent pianist. But whoever you most admire will always be better.

If you're learning a piece, most YouTube renditions will naturally sound better to you.

It's a perfectly human instinct. A cruel one, but human. Just know that you can do this and you will do this if you give yourself the chance.

TRUTH: If you're at the beginner's stage, chances are you want to learn for you anyway. You don't see yourself signing up to any of these competitions at any time soon - least if you do it will be one appropriate to your current standard as and when you get there. Therefore, continue with the attitude of doing it for you and you will be rewarded with the most immense satisfaction of learning on of life's most beautiful arts - music - and this is something that you can then share with others when you are ready and you can be the focus of their admiration, no matter how advanced you get on your instrument.

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