24 Oct See The Top 4 Piano Playing Myths (A.K.A. Excuses) Busted
Myths and wives tales have been around since the dawn of time and while no one knows how they started, it’s important to separate fact from fiction. Especially when it comes to playing the piano because often times, myths can prevent people from learning the piano.
Myths about piano playing can discourage beginners from starting to learn to play the piano. I’m going to dispel some of those myths in this post. Read along if you’ve ever been nervous about playing the piano or heard some of the following and want to know the truth…
Myth 1: You’ll never be a great pianist if you don’t have long fingers or large hands.
I cannot tell you the number of times someone has walked up to me after a workshop with an open palm wanting me to do a “size test” with my hand against theirs.
They are sure that their hands and fingers are sooo much smaller than mine and they will never be able to learn to play. Too funny! Invariably there is no meaningful difference.
There have been, and always will be, GREAT piano players with little stubby “cocktail weiner” looking fingers (e.g. Elton John). Inversely, there are plenty of very “well endowed” long fingered piano players that are positively mediocre. Now, can longer fingers come in handy in a few advanced situations? Sure. But believe me when I say it is not a prerequisite in any way to have larger than normal hands to be able to have a ton of fun playing piano for the rest of your life.
No more finger length anxiety please … 🙂
Myth 2: You can never learn to play the piano without being a good note reader.
I’ve found pretty empirically that it’s not the “hands on piano” part of teaching someone to play that ever stops them from succeeding (at least in traditional, classical lessons.) What stops everyone from progressing is the incredibly difficult job of trying to become a good piano notation reader. Even worse, no matter how long you continue to take lessons, that continues to be the “leash” that holds you back.
In classical piano, there is an unbreakable link between your reading ability and your playing ability. You can’t get to be a better player without a corresponding increase in your note reading skills. As I see it (and I know I’m an outlier compared to traditional teachers), the cart got before the horse somewhere along the line in classical music education. It seems reading piano music became a higher priority than actually playing the instrument! In my mind, music reading skills are nothing more than a means towards the end game of playing tunes you love, not the end in itself.
I (and I assume you too …) want to be known as a great piano player, not a great piano music reader. Do you ever go up to a piano player you’ve enjoyed listening to and say, “Boy, you were just reading up a storm tonight!” Of course not …
The way I deal with that in my teaching is, I truly believe, one of the main reasons for our fantastic success in getting people playing and having fun in such a short amount of time. By focusing exclusively on only non-classical piano styles, I am able to completely alleviate that “deal breaker” of a roadblock that is–needing to spend years trying to become a great notation reader.
You: “You mean I can play without becoming a great note reader?”
You: “How? “
By letting me teach you to read the style of notation that is musically correct for non-classical genres of music, and is what professional musicians use when out playing gigs or working in recording sessions. It’s not any gimmick I invented like “play by numbers” or “play by color” or anything else hokey like that … It’s the way pro musicians have been learning tunes for years and years. It’s just that almost no traditional private teachers will teach you this way because it will not help you progress playing classical music, and they likely are not comfortable playing from Lead Sheets themselves.
Now in the interest of being fully transparent, if you ask me,”Scott, is there any notation reading we will need to learn?” I’ll say, “Yes, absolutely. There is a bare minimum amount of note reading I’ll need to teach you to read a Lead Sheet correctly.”
But, it is the same thing they get kids in band or choir doing in junior high within a few weeks. All I can say is … No one fails to learn to have fun playing piano using my instruction due to an issue with note reading. No one. It’s just not that big of a mountain to climb the way we do it …
Myth 3: You need to practice scales and études daily to become a good piano player.
The other way, which I feel is by far the superior way, is to learn chords and such through playing them in tunes. It’s kind of like on-the-job training. I have proven to myself through the people I have taught in this style, that learning, memorizing, and getting new chords “under hand” is greatly simplified when you learn them in the context of a tune that you are excited about.
Myth 4: It’s easier to learn to play piano as a child. As an adult, you’ve already “missed the boat.”
Cute… but no competition against you in the piano realm!
Well the very fact that you know the tune in your head already, and are super motivated to learn to play it makes all the difference in the world as far as giving an adult an advantage over a child student.
Now go have some fun learning piano!