Learning to play the piano takes many skills all rolled into one musician. Oftentimes we don’t realize just what it takes until we take lessons ourselves. Even then, a good teacher only hands out the information as the student is ready. Too much too soon can be overwhelming. Likewise, not enough information creates boredom.
How do we know when it’s too much or not enough? That is the magic question, and one that I encourage students to begin to recognize the answer to within themselves as they grow up.
Many times students will do what a teacher asks simply because the teacher said it. While I’m all for respecting teachers, I’m more interested in a collaborative relationship with a student, where if I suggest something that is overwhelming to them, they feel comfortable saying so.
However, sometimes students don’t know how to articulate what they feel in their body, nor what it means.
I once suggested to a student to learn “x” for next week. I saw his body language change ever so slightly, and so I asked, “Does that feel do-able to you?” At a loss for words, he didn’t know. I asked, “What do you feel in your body? Are there knots?” Sure enough, there were. So I told him, “This means that what I’ve asked you to do is too much.”
So I broke the task down into smaller tasks, one for each day of the week. Suddenly that big task didn’t look so daunting after all. Then I asked, “How does that feel?” With a smile on his face he replied, “Yes, I can do that.”
Learning to play the piano from a place of curiosity without fear, nor anxiety, can be a lot of fun. Each time knots appear in our stomach, no matter how small, we can acknowledge them and let them give us information about what we are doing. Does our body want us to go slower? Does it want the task broken down into smaller tasks over several days?
The answers are endless, and they are found within us. How do we know we’re on the right track? The knots will transform into curiosity and enthusiasm, and even a smile on your face. You’ll feel like you can do it, and you can’t wait to try. How fun is that?!