Three key characteristics of the successful piano student

What makes for a successful piano student? Are there any characteristics that set apart the successful piano students from the quitters?

I am 100% convinced everyone is musical and everyone COULD learn how to play the piano very well. But it takes commitment to learn to play and a lot of people are simply not willing (or able!) to make that commitment.

Here are three key characteristics of successful piano students that ‘make it’ past the early beginner stages:


It is a prerequisite that you love the piano. You love the sound it makes, its harmonic capacities. You enjoy the dynamic and stylistic ranges that this instrument is capable of.

For me, the piano is the mothership of all instruments. I love the sound a violin, adore the richness of the oboe and the quirkiness of the sax. But the piano… it is my favourite.

And I think you need to really love the piano too. Maybe not to the exclusion of other instruments (in fact many great musicians are multi-instrumentalists) but if piano is nothing but a ‘gateway’ instrument for you (as misguided as I believe that to be) you will probably never get very good at it.

Why? Because excellence is built on passion.

Seriously, look at any successful person in the world. They are successful because they are passionate about what they do. If you’re just lukewarm about something, you simply won‘t have the drive required to get really good. You need a bit of passion to keep you motivated even during the time you’re not improving. And there will be bumps and plateaus, I can promise you that!

Of course, I must also point out that passion comes in many forms. It is too easy to equate passion to obsession. Passion simply means that you derive a deep-rooted pleasure from playing the piano or listening to it. It means having intrinsic motivation to play yourself, wanting to practice and improving without external stimulus.


This is a bit of a sore point for many adults. Once you decide to learn to play the piano, you must make it a priority. Not necessarily THE priority in life -you can still prioritise feeding your kids, don’t worry- but you must understand that unless you practice regularly you will NOT make good progress.

If you’re serious about learning to play piano, you will sit down and plan out when, where and how long you can practice. You will find contingency plans for the times you know practice time will be limited.

Missing a day of practice is not going to ruin your progress, but consistently practicing only once or twice a week is not going to cut it either. And please, do not think you can ‘cram’ piano practice. If you cannot practice but on the weekend, be very conscious of the fact that progress will be very slow.

A serious piano student simply decides that from now on piano becomes a part of their life. They will carve out a little time each day to practice. 20 minutes a day typically suffices for beginners.


A successful piano student doesn’t care about the outcome, they care about the process. The fun is in the learning, the journey. If you can’t find pleasure in playing beautiful ‘beginner’ pieces, and consider anything less than advanced virtuosic pieces ‘fodder’, you will really struggle to stay motivated.

It is a typical issue for all students that are not small children. They want to go faster than is physically possible. Yes, I said physically, because just like you cannot go from not being able to run a km to running a marathon in two weeks, you cannot go from hardly knowing how to keep a correct hand-shape to Chopin Nocturnes in a few months.

Fine motor skills take time to be perfected, a LOT of time.  Years, not weeks.

On top of that, there is SO much else to learn at the piano – musicianship, theory, reading, improvisation etc.

The ones that want to skip the fundamentals are usually the quitters in the long run. What a shame!

If you start your journey with these three elements firmly in mind, I believe you are on the road to success. All you need is a passionate teacher to help along the way and help you develop the musician that lives in all of us!

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