Learning the piano is not all rainbows and unicorns.
There are days, even weeks, where you feel like you’re chasing your own tail, not going anywhere.
In fact, this seems like a popular topic in forums for music students:
I’m stuck on a plateau and can’t push through, and it sucks. Help!
If this is you, I get how frustrating it can be.
But this ends now:
With a few tweaks here and there, every piano plateau can be broken.
Today I’m giving you simple, backed-by-science, applicable things to do to get you out of the rut.
Are you ready?
Free Download: Click here to download The 7 Easy Ways to Stay Motivated With Piano, which covers the best ways to improve on the piano and make practicing fun again!
First of All: Stop Doing the Same Pattern of Practice
The majority of piano students practice the same way day in and out, then wonder why they can't improve.
Practicing is great.
But if you haven't improved, you must admit that you may need to start doing things differently. Or in some cases: stop doing some things altogether.
This is the mindset I'd like you to be in to grow out of your plateau:
- Be ready to analyze your practice honestly
- Get out of your comfort zone in term of practice
But that's a vague advice, isn't it?
Hold on! Let me show you concrete ways to do this.
7 Things You Can Do Over the Next 7 Days to Improve
1. Brush Up Your Basics
Before you roll your eyes, hear me out:
Don't think of the basics as chores. Think of it as a solid foundation on top of which you can put each skill one at a time.
Not mastering a basic technique can cost you many hours of trying to push through a block. Don't let a minor flaw become a handicap in your progress!
Ask yourself: in what basic techniques are you lacking confidence?
If it's sight reading, take more time to memorize the rhythms and key signatures, and get to know the scales. Check out our Ultimate Guide to Piano Sight Reading here.
This will require you to review your music theory foundation. Do you know what all the symbols mean?
Also, practice playing without looking at your hands all the time.
I suggest you put in extra time to revisit your basics in these 7 days. If need be, you can focus the first half of your practice just to cover the basic techniques.
You'll be surprised to see how much you can gain!
2. Teach Someone Else to Play
I know what you're thinking:
I want to improve my skill, not waste my time by trying to teach somebody else!
Did you know studies prove that humans learn better when they're expected to teach someone else?
When you're teaching the same skill you're learning, something great happens:
Your brain is "forced" to organize what you already know in a better way and find a shorter path to access the memory of it.
Also, it'll shed light on your weaknesses - even if you've been trying to avoid them.
I'm not saying you should become a professional tutor nor spend 10 hours doing this.
Even if you do half an hour for 2 - 3 days with your little sister, you'll be surprised to see the effect.
Don't be alarmed if you find out you're in dire need of relearning all the basics (see my point above).
3. Think About Why You Started to Reboot Your Motivation
Look, I get it:
It's tough and sometimes even painful. You may not notice it, but a drop in excitement may be the reason you're not making any progress.
This is where you should rekindle your initial passion. Why did you want to learn the piano?
You must have plenty of good reasons, right?
Are you where you wanted to be yet? If not, it's reason enough to push through the blocks. We have posted some awesome tips on keeping the motivation strong before.
You can also download my 7 Easy Ways to Stay Motivated with the Piano guide, so you'll always have it handy. It's FREE!
4. Use Visualization Technique to Master the Hard Parts
We all have those parts in a sheet music that seem easy, and some that look as if they came straight out of piano-learning hell.
One common mistake a student makes is focusing on the easier parts and half-heartedly practicing the hard ones.
Stop doing this!
What you can do is go through the sheet music - don't play it just yet - and visualize yourself playing it beautifully.
See in your head the placement of your fingers, and imagine how every note would sound.
Take your time and go as much as possible in details - especially in the tough parts.
Although this sounds like a huge hocus-pocus technique, many studies have shown it works for athletes, musicians, or chess players.
But the best thing about this is that you can do it anytime and anywhere.
5. Practice One Hand at a Time – But Don't Over Do It
You must have heard the advice of playing a sheet music one hand at a time.
This is a great tip, but one that can easily be your pitfall.
You see, many students take it as "practice each hand until the end of the sheet music and then change side."
This is a mistake.
The point is not to make you proficient in playing each hand's part:
It's getting your right and left hands playing harmoniously in terms of melody and rhythm!
So play only some parts with each hand before redoing them with both hands. Go as many times as needed.
This should hit both targets: understanding what each hand should do, and tie everything together.
6. Practice Different Kinds of Music
Have you only been practicing a specific genre of music lately?
If yes, it's time to tackle new challenges.
Download a sheet music for a different kind of music. Have you been practicing classic? Let's play jazz. Or vice versa.
This technique is great to "shock" your brain and push it to improve in ways it couldn't before.
It's totally okay if you have to start with an easy song. After all, this is not your territory. When you're happy with one song, try a harder one.
Don't stop just there, try another genre!
You will see there are so many things you can learn by mixing things up.
Remember, however, to practice with perfect techniques every time.
7. Use All the Help and Tools You Can Get
If nothing works, don't hesitate to get help. Talk about it with your teacher or tutor.
In some cases, you may need to consider changing teachers (please don't feel bad).
Are you learning on your own and/or in need of an extra boost?
Try an online lesson!
You see, not only is it practical and affordable, but an online lesson can also offer you better and challenging ways to improve your techniques.
You'll never be stuck in one place.
Please don't be discouraged to see there are thousands of lessons out there. Granted, some will only waste your time and money.
That's why I've compiled the best, tried and tested online piano lessons. These lessons are excellent and will give your practice that extra secret sauce!
But if I had to pick one from the cream of the crop I would say it's Playground Sessions.
This is a well-thought, user-friendly online lesson with complete features (training videos, Bootcamp sessions, free songs, and much more).
That's why Playground Sessions is perfect for students of all levels:
Even advanced students will get great benefits from it!
Check out my complete review of Playground Sessions here, or visit their website directly to learn more about all the features this piano software offers.
Drum Roll Please: My Take Away Lesson
There's only one thing that can help you break through your plateau: change.
You don't have to change your practice routines completely, but you sure do need some twists here and there.
The best advice I can give you is not to be afraid to venture into the unknown.
In fact: that's where growth lies.
When you push yourself hard to become better and know more - even if you're scared of changes - you'll improve.