The Reason Your Piano Progress May Be Slow

Wish you could progress faster? Do you wish you had more motivation to practise? Does it take you forever to learn a piece? Then read on.


slow progress


In this article, I’m going to show why you might not be progressing as fast as you want and what you can do about it. You’ll see that it’s a lot simpler than you might think.


Do you ever feel like you’re not progressing fast enough, like it takes you forever to learn a piece of music? Do you wish you had more motivation to practise?


Have you ever considered that the level of difficulty of the pieces you’re learning could be the problem? Have you ever considered that it might not be you that is progressing slowly, but it’s that the pieces you’re learning are just too difficult for you right now?


If you’re a beginner or an intermediate player and it takes you more than a month to learn one piece, then it may be that the piece is technically too difficult for you.


That’s good news! That means simply switching to pieces that are technically easier for you can speed up your progress. By doing this simple shift, you could learn a new piece in a month rather than several months.


Many piano players make the mistake of working on pieces that are way too hard for them. And because they are way too hard for them, it takes them way longer than it normally would someone more advanced. It takes them months or even years to master these pieces. The problem with that is that by spending so much time on just one piece for months or years, you’re not giving yourself the chance of developing all the areas that need to be developed for you to play such pieces, like sight-reading, technique, musicianship, and so on. You’re actually putting the cart before the horse.


I get it. We hear these wonderful pieces played by all these piano players on Youtube or on Instagram and we just want to play them too. We get swayed by the thought “if I could just play like that” and we start dreaming. And so with that vision in mind, we set out to learn the piece, not actually knowing all the obstacles we’re about to encounter, not having a clue at what technique is required. We may even develop the wrong technique and develop symptoms if we’re not careful.


Learning pieces that are too hard for us is like a foreigner trying to learn English by reading Shakespeare or Jane Austen. They would have to look up every second word! There’s not much joy in that. Why not start with children’s books? Yes, they might think it’s little childish but they would be able to understand most of the words and they’d feel much more motivated to keep going because they’d feel like they are progressing.


If you want to feel like you are progressing, you have to go at your own pace, at your level and learn easier pieces. You have to read the children’s books before reading Shakespeare and Jane Austen. Or play simple Mozart minuets before playing Chopin etudes and the likes!


By “easier” pieces, I mean pieces that you can master in 1 to 4 weeks. If you can play it immediately without having to practise, then that’s too easy. You should be able to sight-read through it at a very slow tempo but have a few places that need some practice. Those are the pieces I’m referring to. It’s fairly easy to play through it but it requires some practice to make it sound good. It presents a few challenges that you can overcome in a few weeks.


Benefits to learning easier pieces

You’re constantly learning new material which means it keeps things interesting. We all love novelty. When you’re travelling to a new country, what do you notice first? The things you’ve never seen before, right? We all crave novelty. Learning new material on a constant basis helps you stay engaged because you’re constantly hearing new sounds, new melodies, new rhythms. It becomes like an addiction.


You expose yourself to a wide variety of rhythmic and melodic patterns. It’s like you’re feeding your brain data that you can then retrieve later when it comes up again in future pieces.


You learn a wide variety of music styles, composers – the more styles and composers you are familiar with, the easier it gets to learn new pieces in these styles or by the same composers.


By regularly learning new pieces, you learn to problem-solve because each piece presents its own challenges. Sometimes it’s an awkward fingering, or a tricky rhythm, or something you’ve never encountered before. Like a puzzle, you need to work out the best way to solve it. You learn to use your imagination. You learn the art of learning a piece from beginning to end and you get better at it which means you learn to practise more efficiently. Instead of practising the same way each and every time, you start coming up with new ways of practising. You don’t just play through it from start to end over and over.


Learning easier pieces gives you more sight-reading opportunities because when learning a new piece, you should always treat it like sight-reading material. First, you should try playing through the piece slowly hands together, that way you get a feel for it, you get an idea of how it will sound and how the hands fit. And most importantly, you’ll be able to see whether the piece is appropriate for your level. If you’re really struggling to sight-read it, then it’s probably an indication that the piece is too difficult for you now and you should put it aside for later.


And learning easier pieces keeps you motivated because you get a sense of achievement every time you finish learning a new piece. With easier pieces, you would get to feel this sense of achievement much more often since it would take you less time to finish learning the pieces. Hence you would stay motivated to keep learning pieces.


But now you may be wondering. “Where do I find easier pieces?”


There are many collections of short easy pieces out there. Look at Youtube channels like Julian Zalla’s channel Gamma1734 or and Phillip Sear’s channel PSearPianist where they play pieces that are usually pretty short and fairly easy. Most of the pieces are available for free on IMSLP.


You could also look at the Sight-Reading Resource Guide that I’ve made. It contains a list of resources I recommend, including the links to the sheet music.


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Final words

In the end, the choice is yours. You can either keep progressing slowly through your pieces or you can switch to easier pieces that you can master in a matter of weeks, instead of months. I guarantee you that you will feel more motivated and you’ll feel more enjoyment in your practice.


At the end of the day, what you want is to enjoy the process, right? If you’re practising away and you’re frustrated and it’s taking you months and months, stop it! Find something easier, something that will actually give you enjoyment as you’re practising it.


Remember that if you keep practising, you WILL get to the stage where you can play those harder pieces and when you get to those pieces, you will have developed all of the areas you need to develop to get to those pieces. and so it won’t be as hard as it is for you now and you will find more enjoyment in learning those pieces.


READ MORE >> 7 Signs You’re Making Progress in Sight-Reading



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    Emmanuelle Fonsny

    Emmanuelle Fonsny

    Emmanuelle Fonsny, or Manu, is a piano and violin teacher, composer and accompanist based in Sydney, Australia. She is passionate about sharing her love of music and her sight-reading and practice tips to help other pianists become more confident sight-readers.



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