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5 Common Frustrations Faced By Self-taught Pianists and How To Overcome Them

Apple, in Music lessons
Sep 27, 2021 | 3 min read

The internet is a great place to teach yourself piano. You can watch YouTube videos, download chords, basic music theory, or even sheet music, to get started right away. While you’re at it, we thought you might find these common frustration faced by well other self-taught pianists…relatable. Good news is we’ve also included ways to overcome these perils, which could be handy for your learning journey. 

If you want to progress to more complicated pieces however, we highly recommend finding a teacher to help you along the way!

1. Too much forearm tension

Playing the piano is a highly complex task. You have to get 10 fingers hitting the right notes, make sure you’re playing at the right tempo, check that you’re not hitting the notes too heavily or too lightly…A lot is going on at the same time.

Inevitably, many self-taught pianists may find themselves playing with very tense arms as they try to focus on so many different things. This causes the music to sound rigid instead of flowing easily.  If not corrected early, poor hand positioning can become a habit that is really hard to change later on. To avoid this, begin paying attention to these small improvements that would make a huge difference in the long run:

  • Play with slightly curved fingers
  • Lower your wrists
  • Keep your fingers as close to the keyboard as possible. (Try not to lift your thumb up when you’re playing!)

Self-taught Pianist - Soundbrenner

2. Poor rhythm

As self-taught pianists rarely get feedback on their playing (such as that from a teacher), it comes as no surprise that some may end up playing pieces out of beat, without even realizing it! A teacher with adequate listening experience will spot right away what you’re not even aware of. There may be parts of a piece that you play faster or slower, and this could easily become your habitual way of playing if not corrected early.

To help yourself stay on beat, a metronome is always a good idea. There are traditional wooden metronomes, electronic ones, or even a watch like the Soundbrenner Core! Practicing with a metronome is a fantastic way to maintain your pace and develop better preciseness while playing.

Most metronomes allow you to follow its tick audibly or visually. The Soundbrenner Core offers a different sensory cue – vibrations on your wrist. Musicians who prefer not to be distracted by clicks or lights, the Core might just be the perfect tool for you.

Self-taught Pianists - Soundbrenner

3. Inability to sight reading

Instead of learning to read sheet music, self-taught pianists may rely on playing by ear or synthesia. While there is nothing wrong with these approaches, there are many reasons why we think learning to read sheet music is highly beneficial!

Being able to read music can open up the doors for you to learn a wider variety of musical styles, from classical to jazz, as you’ll be familiar with the playing styles and techniques notated. It also gives you the ability to play with other musicians, as sheet music helps keep everyone in time. What’s more, you can even compose your own music too.

Learning to read sheet music may seem daunting at first, but set a small goal to start reading for 5 minutes a day, and you’ll start picking it up in no time!

Self-taught pianist Soundbrenner

4. Poor fingering

For self-taught pianists, fingering is often a process of trial and error to find which fingerings work best. The problem is, with poor fingering technique, you may not be able to reach your full potential in playing a piece smoothly.

With proper fingering instructions, you can use your hands as efficiently as possible and learn a smarter way of using your hands. Our advice is to get piano scores with fingerings and follow them strictly. Over time, you’ll learn how to play in a smarter way! 

5. Ineffective practicing method

Better way to practice, to save time

Practice in smaller sections and repeat seven times. Repeat until you don’t have to think about it, and it feels like you can do it on autopilot.

Self-taught pianist- Soundbrenner

Instead of trying to master the entire piece at once, try compartmentalising them into smaller sections. Focus on learning and repeating one section at a time, until you feel like you can play on autopilot. Chunking is very helpful for building your muscle memory and accelerating the learning process. 

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