At a piano lesson this week, I observed my student grow increasingly frustrated with herself whenever she made a mistake. She would “growl” at herself and start back at the beginning of the phrase.
After observing this continue for a few moments, I decided to stop her and address the issue.
There were three reasons why I decided to address this issue:
- She was growing increasingly frustrated with herself. And frustration doesn’t usually yield positive results.
- I could tell this was becoming a habitual response. When she is practicing at home, she is obviously doing the same thing there.
- We were sight-reading. She had never seen this piece before, and there was no reason that she should expect to play it perfectly upon first try. She is only 7, and hasn’t had much experience with sight-reading yet anyway.
Now, I am a fan of students who play well, with no mistakes. But I am also a fan of having fun. My fear was that this little 7-year-old would lose her motivation for piano because she’s frustrated with herself for making mistakes. I don’t want that to happen, so we had a little chit chat about making mistakes.
I believe that learning is all about messing up and making mistakes. I mean, it’s impossible to be learning anything new if you can already do it perfectly. And isn’t that what practice is for anyway? To figure out how to improve and get rid of mistakes? Sometimes, you have to accept the fact that you are going to make mistakes. It’s only through accepting those mistakes that you can allow yourself to improve. It’s all part of the process.
It’s hard to be “okay” with mistakes. I think it’s even harder for us as adults. Personally, I feel that this is one of the hardest things about teaching piano to adult students: they are SO hard on themselves.
But I digress.
My overall message to my 7-year-old student? Don’t be so hard on yourself. Mistakes are not necessarily a bad thing. This is not what piano is all about anyway. Piano is about having fun, learning how to play the instrument, and learning how to play exciting pieces in an exciting way. So, keep it fun!