How to Study-Practice: Managing Your Expectations


It’s crucial to realize that failure is an essential part of any successful musical journey…

Here are a few of those expectations

Expect to make mistakes… LOTS of mistakes.

Nobody’s perfect, no matter now good they are… and neither are you or me. Imperfection will always be an integral part of the learning process.

Expect to have off days.

You will have days when it seems that you have gone backwards. Everybody has them. Your body won’t do what you want it to do. You can’t concentrate. You are preoccupied with other things. Your timing is off. You feel tired. You are in a low mood. These aren’t “bad” days… just “off” days. It’s OK to give the piano a rest, OK to do something else you care about, OK to just take a break and relax.

Expect to make massive breakthroughs.

If you study-practice the right way, do not expect to make slow progress over many years of toil. If you study-practice the right way, you will make monumental breakthroughs in a heartbeat… quantum leaps in knowledge, insight, and skill… often when you least expect it… that will take your playing to the next level!

Expect to go through many cycles of despair and self-doubt.

Self-awareness, the essential first step in the self-improvement process, is about exposing weaknesses, bad habits, blindnesses even. This blossoming self-awareness is a very vulnerable time for two reasons:

  • You have to admit your imperfections and weaknesses. You have to admit that you have imperfections and weaknesses.
  • Learning exposes you to higher standards than you had before. Rising standards increase the gap between your present state and your potential.

These realizations can be very humbling indeed and may be accompanied by the feeling that you just don’t “have what it takes”. But don’t despair. Every great accomplisher must go through these trials of self-doubt again and again. That said, the real test of “having what it takes” is to keep trying when things seem impossible. This is where success is not about talent. It’s about HEART. It’s about GUTS. So, don’t give up, ever, and you will be richly rewarded with a deep satisfaction that most people never experience.

Expect your perspectives about music to change.

When you study-practice the right way, your standards of performance continue to rise higher and higher. As you grow in knowledge and skill, a curious thing happens: The distinctions between “easy” and “hard” seem to become arbitrary and pointless.

  • Pieces that you thought were “hard” now seem “easier” than you imagined.
  • Pieces that you thought were “easy” now seem “harder” than you imagined.

Why? Because you are going to be solving the same basic problems over and over and over again. As your knowledge and skills expand, you will realize that you never really learned the “easy” pieces in the first place. You also will realize that you do not need “more” technique for the harder pieces.

learn more… The 80-20 Principle

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