Musical Growth at the Piano is a Process That Requires Daily Attention

When a person begins a new project there are usually goals associated with that project. A timeline. A desired course of action. A completion date. An expected result.

When a person makes the decision to learn to play the piano it is more than a project with a fixed goal in mind. It is a developmental process. For the beginning pianist who simply wants to play the Moonlight Sonata or Bad, Bad Leroy Brown or Joy to the World the project suddenly becomes something bigger, something more time consuming, something more challenging than they could have imagined.

When the beginner finally realizes that playing the piano is a developmental process that is replete with innumerable challenges leading to small successes the process of playing the piano suddenly becomes a joy instead of a frustration.

Noah Adams in his book, Piano Lessons, describes exactly the pain and frustration of realizing his goal to play a specific Schubert piece by a specified time was more than a project. His project involved months of preparation from actually purchasing a piano to finding a piano course, to studying with various teachers, to attending a piano camp, to the hours and hours of practice associated with his goal.

It was for Noah Adams as it is for all persons who decide to learn to play the piano, a developmental process. It is a process which requires daily attention and nurture. It is a process that is not always easy especially for an adult with a specific piece in mind and a specific sound to that piece.

This developmental process requires patience and diligence. Patience with oneself as physical technical challenges are overcome. Who thought moving one’s fingers in a specific pattern could be so challenging? The eye-hand coordination must be developed carefully and meticulously over many weeks and months with daily practice. The physical challenges presented in learning to play the piano are much like learning to walk. Small tiny steps over a long period of time lead to the pianist being able to run.

The developmental process not only refers to the physical aspects of playing, but also the mental aspects. The beauty of a written piece of music is lovely to look at but for the beginning pianist it is a new language. Each black dot, line, and mark on a page of music translate to something specific for the hand to accomplish. A beginner with only a project goal in mind sees the manuscript and determines the goal which is reading and playing their desired piece.

The developmental process required to read a piece of music is like starting any new language using a group of symbols and signs unlike any other in the world. For an English speaking person it would be like learning what the symbols of the Chinese script indicate. Music notation is a language unto itself.

The reading of music is developed again in small steps building pattern upon pattern to create a whole. Eventually the entire language is readable and translates into the music heard in one’s head.

Daily nurture and daily diligence to the development process of the physical and mental skills required to play the piano lead to musical growth.