How to play the piano with confidence

If you are an adult learner, regardless of whether you are a beginner or a more advanced pianist, one deeply held wish will be that you can play the piano with confidence.

What does that mean, to play with confidence?

I’ll define it as being able to sit down and trust yourself that what is about to unfold is your best. The music will sound right. You will feel ‘at home’ at the keys.

For many piano students, that feeling is confidence is not an easy thing to obtain.

Sitting down to play can bring out all sorts of feelings of anxiety and self-doubt.

But there are some tactics to help you overcome the negative emotion and help you move forward to a place of comfort.

Here’s how!

Stop comparing yourself

We are all on our own journey in our musical life, and we are all at different stages. Comparing yourself to someone else (anyone else!) is fraught with danger.

Your situation and learning path will undoubtedly look different from that of someone else, and that is even more true for adults.

There is a huge variety of factors that can change the course of your musical life.

The amount of practice time, the level and quality instruction you receive, all the way to the support and encouragement you find at home.

Since all these factors will differ in our lives, it is impossible to compare your progress with that of your neighbour.

Comparing our abilities to the abilities of others is an exercise in futility. Instead, we should aim to take pride in our achievements and celebrate our wins in their own right.

Connect with your musical voice

Learn to connect with your innate musicality.

That means getting your head around what you like and don’t like in music. It is absolutely fine to love an artist even if your friend or partner doesn’t.

Keep the music police at arm’s length. Acknowledge that music is often a matter of taste, and not – as some will have you believe – of ‘complexity’. Some of the most beautiful music ever written is deceptively simple!

Once you know what you like and don’t like, you can hone in on what makes that music so special to you. And you can then take that learning and apply it to your own playing and practice.

If you know what you like and don’t like, you can give your music some personality. Hate how some pianists play a piece very fast when you feel it should be slower? Then pay it slower! Dislike how some musicians remain stoic while playing? Then play with lots of dynamics and feeling yourself. Or perhaps you dislike the show of emotions while playing – then don’t!

Learn to understand how you connect to music, it will allow you to take ownership of your playing style. Ownership will breed confidence – “I’ve got this”.

Adopt a growth mentality

There is a bad mentality out there in the big wide world that links musical ability with talent.

We reason that the 10-year-old who can play an advanced piano concerto can do so because they possess a magical gene that enables them to be extraordinary.

The reality is that most extraordinary people are born like you and me. What makes them remarkable is their passion, the perseverance and their commitment!

And that should be a comfort because it means that with work and practice and diligence, we can all aspire to high levels of competence.

Key to adopting a growth mentality is throwing out the old-fashioned idea that talent is real. I am not more talented than you.

The sooner you see the person you admire not as ‘one of the lucky few’, but as someone who worked their butt off to be there, your entire world starts to change. Gone is the “I wish I could do that”, say hello to “that’s going to be me one day!”

In a growth mentality, we don’t accept that failure is a bad thing. Failing to do something means you haven’t quite grasped it yet. You need more practice, more work. Having a growth mentality means understanding that falling down is not a sign to give up, but a sign to keep going!

A growth mentality propels you forward; a fixed talent mindset holds you back.

Practice, do the work

There is only one way to improve. That is to do the work. To show up.

And by improving you boost confidence!

Now keep in mind that improvement does not happen linearly. You will find that one day you can play something well, and the next it appears a monster task.

Don’t fret. This is completely normal!

Our days are never the same. Today we might feel a lot of energy and our focus is outstanding, but tomorrow we’ve awoken from a terrible night’s sleep, and our energy levels aren’t high.

However, over time, you WILL improve.

Sometimes it’s a good idea to reflect once and a while, thumb through your pieces you’ve played over the last few months and remind yourself how far you’ve come. I can guarantee it’s going to boost your confidence!

Be proud of yourself

My final tip is a simple one. Be proud of yourself. Allow yourself to be proud of yourself.

It’s not an easy thing for an adult to start something like learning to play the piano. I’m always so full of admiration for my adults who start from scratch, or who come back after decades of not playing. It takes guts to commit to learning a skill that is incredibly hard.

Because yes, music and learning an instrument is hard work! It takes commitment and focus, and most people give up before even trying!

But you didn’t. You went for it and continue to do so. And I think that’s something to be darn proud of!

Finally, no matter where you are in your technical abilities, chances are you can do MORE than 99% of people out there. Keep that in mind next time you sit down to play: you are already better than most people!

I hope these five tips help you in becoming more confident at the piano. It comes down to mindset and practice, develop both, and you will succeed.

If you’re looking for fun, creative piano lessons with an adult-specialised teacher, check out what I have to offer. My lessons are 100% online, yet personal and personalised! Find out more

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