How to avoid feeling overwhelmed by all the things you’re being told you need to practice on piano

Do you know those headlines that say something like “Studies show that eating tomatoes can help prevent disease?” I’ll occasionally read these, and after citing the medical and nutritional studies at hand, they’ll often end with “Of course, scientists say you’ll have to eat 20 tomatoes per day to get the desired effect.”

When I first began reading these articles, I used to become discouraged. After all, I reasoned, no human can possibly eat that many tomatoes. And what’s more, the article I read yesterday told me that I’d have to drink 10 cups of green tea in order to lesson the chances of another disease, and I also need to exercise for 90 minutes per day to reap more benefits, and so on and so on.

Wow! No one can possibly do all this every day!

But then my perspective shifted.

(By the way, I’m neither a medical doctor nor a nutritionist so just take this from the perspective of piano practicing, not as medical advice. I may be completely wrong about all this from a medical viewpoint.)

I realized that I would become healthier if I ate some tomatoes when I could, and also drank some green tea, and also increased the amount of time I spent exercising.

In other words, it’s about combining them all and increasing the general amount of healthy food and exercise I get on a daily basis. (I don’t have to gulp a gallon of green tea at midnight in order to fulfill my daily quota!!!)

It’s the same with practicing the piano, since we can easily become overwhelmed by all the things we’re told me “should” be doing every day.

Play scales for 45 minutes. Practice chord voicings in all 12 keys. Memorize a jazz standard every day. Learn the transcription of Keith Emerson’s “Hoedown,” and then play the Aaron Copland’s original from the full score. Jam with other musicians for 2 hours. And also learn all the Bach fugues and Chopin Etudes.

Unless you’re a fulltime student in a music conservatory, no one can do this and sustain it over time.

But what if we look at it as a way to immerse ourselves in music?

What if we practice our scales one day, and jam with our friends the next day? What if we listen to the jazz standard we’re memorizing in the car each day, to get the sound in our ears? What if we drill “Hoedown” one month and Chopin’s “Revolutionary Etude” the next?

Yes, you’ll improve with this method – trust me. Best of all, you’ll have fun without feeling overwhelmed by the tidal wave of stuff you’re being told you need to practice.

Have fun, enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”

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