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12 Of The Most Common Mistakes Novice Piano Players Make

Last Updated: October 27, 2021 / by Julie Adams

As a novice piano player, you want to make sure you are setting a solid learning foundation to get the most out of your music. It's important to avoid common novice mistakes that can make it more difficult for you in the long run. Here are the top 12 most common mistakes novice piano players make and how you can avoid them. 

1. Skipping The Basics

No one wants to spend hours learning boring scales or children's songs like 'Mary had a little lamb' or 'Hotcross Buns'. But these steps are an intrinsic part of learning how to play the piano skillfully, so trying to skip them will be a massive mistake. These scales, and other simplistic practice pieces, are the fundamental building blocks on which everything else is depending on. Once you've gotten a grip on the basics of playing, you're well on your way to tackling the more difficult techniques. 

2. Confusing Placement of Sharps and Flats

It can sometimes be confusing for beginners to understand the difference between sharp and flat keys and where they are located. All black keys are sharps and flats, but not all sharps and flats are black keys. A sharp or flat simply means to play the next higher or lower key. This could mean a black or white key, for example, E-sharp and C-flat are both white keys. 

3. Thinking Treble Clef is Only for the Right Hand

This is a common mistake among novice players. The clefs merely refer to the pitch range, not an indicator of what hand to use. While treble clef is a higher range than bass clef, either hand can be used to play anywhere on the keyboard regardless of what clef you are using. 

4. Starting Too Fast

Most novice piano players want to start off playing a piece of music by the final tempo, but this can lead to frustration. During the early stages of learning you should always slow the tempo of a piece down so that you can pay attention to the notes and subtle nuances within the music. Working your way up to the final tempo will allow you to refine your technique, properly learn the notes and finer details, and ultimately make you a better piano player. 

5. Playing without Practicing

It's important to understand the difference between playing music and practicing music. While practicing isn't as fun as playing, it's essential to your overall success. Practice means working on what you don't know yet, paying attention to small sections of your piece and trying to understand what the music is asking you to do. Practice perfects your technique and allows you to play beautifully. 

6. Failing to Feel The Music

Playing the piano isn't just moving your fingers to different keys. In order to be successful, you have to really feel the music. Body movement is an integral part of learning to play the piano successfully. By allowing the rest of your body to get involved while you play, you can understand more of what the music is trying to do. 

7. Not Getting It On Record

As a novice, you may find it hard to really listen to yourself as you practice. Of course you can hear yourself, but it's important to really listen as well. This is why it's so important to record yourself while practicing and playing. Playing back what you've done allows you to really listen to what's going and lets you know where the mistakes are. 

8. Relying Only on a Metronome

Yes, using a metronome is extremely important to novice piano players. BUT, it's also important to count to yourself as you practice and play. This will help you set an internal rhythm, even when you're playing a piece you already know. Don't worry, you won't have to count forever, but it's a good idea to do so when you start learning a new technique or piece of music for the first few days. Counting will help your music sound better, and perfect your muscle memory skills. 

9. Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

As with most things in life, the phrase "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" can apply to learning piano as well. It doesn't matter if you're learning with a full-size piano or a smaller keyboard, placement is key. Make sure your piano or keyboard is placed in a well-used space instead of in the corner of a room no one uses. This will help you remain consistent with practicing and playing, which is essential to retaining what you know and building on that. 

10. Not Asking The Right Questions

As a novice, you want to make sure you have the proper mindset while you learn. Instead of asking yourself: "When am I going to be able to learn to play this song at the right tempo?" or "When am I going to be able to memorize this?", try a different approach. Ask 'How' not 'When'. Try questions like: "How can I reach my goal?" and "How can I get better with my technique". This will help you consistently find better ways to reach your piano playing goals and improve your skills. 

11. Failing to Set Smaller Goals

As you learn to play the piano, it's important to set small goals for yourself. By trying to do too much, too fast, you are only setting yourself up for disappointment and frustration. Eventually you'll get the hang of things, so don't rush your progress. Learning the basics like scales, proper fingering techniques, and being consistant with everyday practice will help you meet these smaller goals. Before you know it, you're further along than you thought and well on your way to becoming a piano pro. 

12. Sticking with What You Already Know

It's easy for novice players to get stuck in a rut and only play what they know all the time. This will keep you from progressing into a better player. It's important to find a healthy balance between what you are comfortable with playing and new pieces that actually challenge your skill and technique. When you challenge yourself with more difficult music pieces outside of your comfort zone, you can fine tune your skills and technique, thus making you a more proficient and well-rounded player.

About the Author: Julie Adams

I am a mom, a music lover and teacher from Tampa, FL. After completing a Bachelor of Music in Performance Arts, I traveled for several years before returning home where I started offering private piano and singing lessons as extra income. I met my husband in 2009 and 2 years later moved to Dallas where we settled down and I started focusing on vocal training to aspiring singers and performance artists of all age groups. I still enjoy playing the piano very much, and in my spare time you will catch doing some horse riding, drawing, doing some light reading, or just spending quality time with my family.

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