Guitar Lessons in Tulsa | How to Make Mistakes at the Piano

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Hi, this is Andrea with Curtis Music Academy, and I would like to talk to you today about how to make mistakes on the piano. This can also apply to guitar lessons. So maybe some people are laughing at that because they’re like, oh, that’s not something you have to teach people how to make mistakes on the piano. But actually, I have found that there are ways to make mistakes that are better than that other ways. So first of all, I have been playing the piano since I was eight years old. And to this day, every time I sit down at the piano, I make mistakes every single time. And it’s something I’ve gotten used to and it’s something that I’ve just learned to keep on going. 

And I actually have learned that by keeping on going, I might correct myself sometimes. Other times I might just keep on going. It really just depends on the instance, but it really doesn’t faze me anymore. Now, I’m really talking about in the context of playing at my house if I was performing, I understand it’s a little bit more of a positive pressure to perform, but I actually still think this applies during that instance as well. So I have students who come in sometimes more more than newer students, and when they make a mistake on the piano, they get really embarrassed and they even apologize. And honestly, I try to try to reassure them that there is no need to apologize. This can apply to any instrumental lesson, even guitar lessons.

When you signed up for playing the piano or guitar, you signed up to make a million mistakes. And it’s just normal. It’s natural. And from my perspective as a piano teacher, it’s just the most normal thing ever. It doesn’t faze me at all that when people make mistakes now, obviously there’s a difference between playing a song for the first time ever, sight reading through it and then playing after you’ve practiced it a week. And so sometimes my students get frustrated with themselves because they’ll say I practiced it this week so much and at my house it was perfect. And then when I come in and play in front of somebody else, I find myself making a mistake during piano lessons or guitar lessons. 


And to that I just say it just becomes more and more normal. And I remember feeling that way as a student to like when you go to piano lessons or guitar lessons, it is a little bit more like you’re playing in front of somebody. But that’s one of the best ways to build your skills, is to play play in front of the the pressure. And I don’t say pressure in a negative context. I say in a positive context, like when you’re playing in front of somebody and they’re listening, that is positive pressure. So there’s never any pressure to be perfect. But by over time, as you’re practicing in front of people and by yourself, you’ll notice that you don’t make mistakes quite as often. 


But when you do, there’s no need to be upset with yourself. There’s no need to feel embarrassed. It’s just part of playing the piano. So I probably made thousands and thousands and thousands of mistakes on the piano. So it really does not faze me at all. Another thing is, if you’re playing in front of somebody who’s not an expert musician, they probably will not even know that you made a mistake. So I kind of consider it POIs when you’re sitting at the piano, you’re playing and you make a mistake and you just keep going as if it never happened. There’s that poise. There’s that confidence that is needed for piano or guitar lessons. 


And that is something that I have noticed grows as people continue on in the piano as well. When you start off as a beginner, it’s new. It’s different in everything. But as people continue to grow and master the piano, there just comes a sense of confidence and almost like the music is an extension of who they are. And as they’re playing, it’s just very natural. And so that’s not to say they don’t make mistakes. They make mistakes often. And I make mistakes often. But it’s just when you make a mistake, it’s never a huge deal. It’s like you don’t even realize you made a mistake during piano lessons or guitar lessons.


You just keep going. So when I’m at home and I’m practicing my scales, for example, I just keep on going. If I make a mistake, I just keep on going. Now, of course, I make sure that I am playing properly and applying the right techniques and I’m playing at a proper speed. But when all those things are going and if I make a mistake, I just collect myself and just keep on going. So that is something that I do tell all of my students during piano or guitar lessons.  Another thing, too, that is really helpful is learning the difference between the types of piano that you’re playing. Are you cite reading a song? If you’re reading a song, it’s going. 


To be messy, it’s like you’re taking the bulldozer out, you’re working through new ground and it’s going to be not pretty, but that’s what sight reading is all about. So whenever I’m reading, there is zero expectation for me personally, and it’s just it’s going to be not very polished. OK, are you sight reading? Are you sitting down at home trying to work through and master the song for next week’s piano? There’s a difference there. So if I’m reading, I’m kind of working through and just learning what the song is sounding like and things like that, if I’m practicing the song in order to master it, I don’t want to just blow past mistakes. 


I want to work through them. And I’ve told my students oftentimes there is like literally one or two measures of the song that are difficult, that I need to stop and laser focus on those hard parts. And if I just play the song from start to finish, I’ll never really work through those hard mistakes. So when you’re sitting at home and you’re practicing for the purpose of mastering a song, I take the song apart. I just take I might just take the right hand only I make sure my fingering is correct and I might run through it five times. Five times is always my number. I don’t know why. Whenever I was a teenager, I always practice three things five times during piano lessons and guitar lessons. Three times might be enough for you, but I’m just letting you know what I do. 


OK, so let’s just say I took apart the right hand. I played it through five times. I do the same thing with the left hand and I take it apart, play it five times. I might put that together and play it five times through. That’s going to really help you through those mistakes. So if you’re playing through a song and you’re playing mistakes, don’t think, oh, well, Andrea said that I don’t have to worry about mistakes in the context. When you’re trying to master a song, you should notice a mistake and you should pause and work through it, taking it apart, taking it slowly, of course. And that’s going to help you master the song in a really great way for piano or guitar lessons. Another thing that I’ve touched on in another podcast is taking the song apart. 


It’s actually not to your benefit, like when you’re working through a song throughout the week. Let’s say you came in and I assigned the song Clair de Lune to work on. If you just go home and say, I’m going to practice this song five times a day and you just start to finish five times a day, that’s actually not strategizing and using your time as best as it could be. I would take the song in little tiny segments and work. You measure one through four and do that five times. Same thing with the next four measures, etc., especially if there’s a hard part throughout the song. So that’s how I tackle a song. That’s how I attack it and really take hold of it. You’ll notice that if you do that, that even after one day of practicing, it’s going to sound more confident, it’s going to sound more polished. 


This can also apply to guitar lessons.

It’s because you’re internalizing it. It’s because you’re allowing your brain to put muscle memory into it. And I know I’ve read a lot of books about it. This is kind of an unrelated topic, but about neural pathways and how to learn and how to succeed. And so when you’re doing that by repetition, you’re actually creating neural pathways, you’re creating muscle memory so it becomes easier for you for piano or guitar lessons. So I definitely recommend that for when you’re learning a new song, when you’re trying to unpack it. Now, if you are performing, whether it’s at a relative’s house or at a concert hall, if you’re performing, there’s a couple of things and everybody says this, but it’s true. Just do your best. 


And, you know, you might have jitters in your stomach, but use them to your advantage to say, OK, this is anticipation for something good that’s going to happen. It’s not dread for, you know, some people might think, oh, no, I’m going to make a mistake. Actually, that’s just negative thinking. Don’t think that way. Turn it positive thinking. It’s exciting. It’s anticipation. If you make a mistake on that concert hall or in the recital or in front of your family and friends, it’s no big deal at that point. You’re poised. You’re confident, you’re a true pianist. You can think this way for guitar lessons as well. Just keep going. So that is what I would recommend for the different practicing mistakes happen all the time. Embrace that I make a mistake every single day. So it’s not it’s not something that’s uncommon. So I hope you have a great rest of your day. I’ll look forward to seeing you at the next podcast.