Piano Lesson 38: Piano Perseverance and Aging Well

Welcome to Lesson 38, where we talk about persevering with our piano practice.

[NOTE: If you are just joining us for the first time, you can find my previous Sixty and Me Free Piano Lessons on my Author pages. You can join our lessons any time and move at your own pace!]

38.1 When You’re Feeling Discouraged

I take French lessons remotely with a French teacher. Sometimes when I am practicing my French, I start to hear voices in my mind saying, “I’m never going to get this, why am I even trying?” Perhaps you have had a similar experience while learning your music.

Suddenly, the page in front of you seems so difficult, and it seems like it is taking so long – too long – to get where you want to be on your keyboard. When that self-doubt sets in, you might want to leave your keyboard and do something else for a bit.

I find that doing something physical, like taking a walk or dancing to a favorite song, or doing something replenishing, like taking a drink, or calling a beloved person in my life, can help snap me out of my funk and feelings of hopelessness.

When you return to your bench, look back at some of the old songs and exercises you have played that used to seem so difficult, and notice that you can play them and understand them much better now. When you go back to play a song you played a while ago, you might not play it perfectly the first time. But, after a few times through, you will realize that the pieces you played before are now easier for you, and you have progressed beyond them. Celebrate your progress! Then get on with moving forward in your current studies.

It’s true, you probably won’t make your public musical debut at Carnegie Hall if you didn’t start playing until you were an adult. And I will never be a truly fluent French speaker, the way I heard little 7-year-olds chatting to each other in Paris. But last time I was in France, I was able to make myself understood to a few shop owners. I understood much of what they said to me. And that was thrilling! And so fun.

Similarly, you will be able to play an increasing number of songs and pieces smoothly as you keep studying the piano. Let yourself be thrilled and delighted by your growing ability to make beautiful music! If you pause to notice and acknowledge how far you have progressed, you will be encouraged to continue.

And of course, while we are enjoying (and sometimes struggling with) our piano studies, we are doing the very best thing for our brains; we are improving our memory, mood and thinking skills. Research shows that learning to play the piano is like “fireworks” for the brain, increasing brain cells and maintaining robust brain function as we study and learn new, challenging things. Cognitive scientists know that exercising our brains as well as our bodies gives us the very best chance of aging well – with beauty, grace, wisdom, a sharp mind, and a song in our heart.

38.2 Santa Lucia p.93

Notice that in my Santa Lucia demonstration video below, I did not repeat the first section (to keep it short), but you definitely should! I did repeat the second section playing the 1st ending, then repeating back to the repeat sign in the second line, fourth measure. I then continued, skipping the 1st ending to play the 2nd ending.

Passion Practice

Exercise #3 – Review in B, F#, D-flat, A-flat, E-flat, B-flat and F with your hands together. Remember to play the notes 2x forte, and 1x piano, before playing the major, minor and diminished chords at the end.

p.93 – Practice the chords in Santa Lucia with your left hand alone, then practice the right-hand melody. You might think that the A# in line 2, measure 3 sounds funny, but it is supposed to sound a little dissonant, until the A# resolves to the B. Note that your RH 2-finger slides from the A# to the B. When you feel ready, put your hands together. Listen to Elvis Presley sing Santa Lucia here!

Review the Note Reading Drill on p.81, and Simple Gifts p.85-86. You can play the written bass notes in your left hand, or you can use the chord symbols to play left hand triads.

Chord Calisthenics #5 – Play the minor and diminished triads in the second line, E, B, F# and D-flat, and review the first line. See how many of these chords you can remember without looking at the letters.

Let’s Have a Conversation!

Do you ever feel like learning to play the piano is just too difficult? What do you do when you feel like quitting something that you know you’ve really wanted to do? Do you power through the self-doubt? Or do you take breaks? If you take breaks, what do you do to replenish your spirit and restore your desire to persevere? Journaling? Exercise? Eating, drinking or cooking? Reading? Reaching out to friends? Leave us a comment and tell us how you keep sight of your goals and get your groove back!

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