Adult Piano Frustration

Why learning the piano as an adult can be frustrating

If you are an adult learning how to play the piano, you may have been frustrated with your progress at times. As a teacher of adult students, I see this happen time and time again.

It is often a misunderstanding on the student’s side, as I consider them to be improving nicely with skills being built progressively.

Ultimately, this frustration arises out of a fundamental misunderstanding of the learning required to play the piano.

There are 2 types of learning when you take piano lessons:

  1. Cognitive learning
  2. Motor or kinesthetic learning

Cognitive learning involves your declarative memory: the ability to process and understand concepts and ideas. Adults, unlike small children, have fully developed this ability and use their declarative memory in full force.

This means that things like music theory or technique concepts can be understood on an intellectual level rather quickly.

If I explain to my adult students what a major scale is, they understand that almost immediately.

But ask them to play it, and things start to unravel.

This is because the ability to play is not just a cognitive function.

It requires motor skill, which follows the rules of procedural memory: you cannot store things in your long-term memory unless you have systematically attempted to store that information.

Similarly, for training motor skills such as the control of muscles, you need to systematically train those muscles to act in a certain way for it to become second nature.

While you can understand the concept of a major scale without much effort, the playing of the scale will require consistent and focused training. You must play it over and over again until your muscles have deeply learned the pattern.

This type of procedural learning takes time. A LOT of time. And this is where adults trip themselves up. They do not give themselves or the process enough time. They get impatient and ultimately, frustrated with themselves.

So how to deal with this?

Knowledge is power. Acknowledging the different learning required is a necessary first step in eliminating frustration.

The next step is to actually practice and be patient with yourself. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a pianist. Consistent and persistent practice will get you to your goals, all you have to do is stick with it.

Most importantly though, enjoy the process. Give yourself permission to learn at your own pace and celebrate the small wins.

If you would like to find out more about our online lessons and how they can help you become a piano star, contact us for a free meet & greet to discuss your goals.


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