The Top 5 Piano Lesson Fails

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Welcome to, I’m Robert Estrin. Today I’m going to tell you the top five piano lesson fails. Now I just want to say right from the get-go that I love teaching and I appreciate the hard work all my students put in. I have students all around the world. I counted it up on my schedule yesterday. I have students in 12 different countries! It’s mind-boggling, the world we live in, that such a thing is even possible! I appreciate the time everybody makes to practice and diligently attend lessons. So with all due respect, I’m going to give the top five piano lesson fails.

1. Stopping to ask if you should take a repeat

You’re playing a piece and as soon as you get to a repeat sign, you turn and say, “Do you want me to go on? Or do you want me to repeat it?” I always kind of chuckle inside. It’s better to just make a decision. I’m happy with either one, frankly. But it’s better to go on when you get to the repeat sign or take the repeat so that you have the continuity of the repeat or the continuity of going to the next section. But that’s a heck of a time to ask whether you should go on or not. Make a decision and go with it, or ask beforehand if you’re really not sure.

2. Waiting until the lesson is over to ask questions

You go through an entire lesson and you’re getting some good things done. Then later in the day when checking my email, there’s an email with a bunch of questions from the student. We just got done with this whole piano lesson and now after the lesson, when there’s not going to be another lesson for a week, all of these questions come in. Now I am always happy to answer questions by email. I’m always available for that. I encourage it! But obviously, during the course of the lesson, these questions could be answered much more thoroughly with a back and forth communication that emails don’t allow for. So if you have questions during the course of a lesson, ask your teacher. That’s what they’re there for, to answer all your questions. So make sure that you take the opportunity to ask your teacher at the lesson anything at all that is important to you.

3. Cramming in all your practice just before a lesson

This is something that students are sometimes guilty of. You get busy during the course of the week and you only have a few days left before your lesson. So you just start cramming through everything, trying to get as far as you can. Then you come into the lesson and right from the beginning, nothing is solid. From the very first phrase, everything is muddy and sloppy. This is a real problem for you as a student. Why? Because now you’ve just spent all this time solidifying sloppy playing. Undoing the damage of bad practice is much harder than just learning a smaller part really well. Your teacher will appreciate the thorough work you do, even if it’s a small section, rather than have a whole bunch of music that isn’t on a high level. So don’t worry. Your teacher understands! Believe me, my life gets so busy, it’s hard for me to find time to practice! So I understand. I get it. I’m sure your teachers are understanding in that respect also. Cramming doesn’t work on the piano.

4. Starting a piece at a tempo you can’t maintain

You’re starting to play a piece for your teacher, and you’re gung ho. So you start at a nice fast tempo. But almost immediately you start slowing down. You get a little further and slow down more and more. This isn’t very helpful for you. You must find a tempo that you can maintain throughout the piece. If you can’t play measure 12 at the tempo that you’re starting, you’re in trouble. Now, if it’s a long piece and there’s a section you don’t know as well, you might want to stop at a certain point and say, “I don’t know this part as well, so I’m going to take it slower”. That’s perfectly understandable. You don’t want to necessarily take the whole piece drastically under tempo if you have a large chunk of it at a good clip. But if you’re going to keep slowing down the whole time, this does not really help you. You want to get used to playing at one tempo.

5. Stopping after a couple of measures when your teacher asks you to play from a specific section

Your teacher asks you to start on measure 47, so you start at measure 47. You get one or two measures in and you stop and say, “Do you want me to go on?” This is similar to the repeat thing, but in this case, there’s no repeat or anything. It’s just that they asked you to start at a certain place. For some reason, you think they didn’t want you to play more than that one measure or two. Now, often I will have students play one specific section. I will say, “Only play up to the first note of measure 50 and that’s it.” Then of course, it’s very hard for students to stop on that note because they’re not necessarily aware of where that note is in the score. But sometimes it’s really important to stop on a specific note to gain security with it. But if your teacher asks you to start at a certain place, you can assume they want you to keep playing unless they stop you or instruct you to play a smaller section.

If you avoid these piano lesson fails, you’ll have more productive lessons. I promise you!

So take it to heart. It’s meant in a positive spirit! I hope I’m not hurting anybody’s feelings with these. That’s not my intention. Hopefully, you find it helpful. Anybody who knows of other lesson fails, share them in the comments here on or YouTube. Thanks to all you subscribers and Patreon subscribers! You are what keep me motivated! I’m Robert Estrin here at, Your Online Piano Resource.

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