I'm a beginner pianist trying to figure out how to play more efficiently and effectively . I hired a piano teacher to teach me how to play better but all she does is just gives me simple randoms sheets to play which is not that fun to play .

What I can do so far is identify the notes on the music sheets but I'm not that fast . I don't know how to play any song on the right beat. At this stage , Would it be efficient if I just jump into a pop song ? and if I have any issues , I would just ask the teacher ? My teacher disagrees with this practice methodology because she said , it will be too difficult to me .

6 Answers 6


One really good way to practice is to play only two or four bars at a time and master them in progression instead of stumbling through the whole song repeatedly.

Even though it is much less interesting when practicing, this method gives you opportunity to learn what mistakes you are making and correct them before muscle memory takes place and becomes much harder to correct. You are free to try the whole piece one in a while but short chunks are usually more efficient for learning.


You probably don't mean playing more efficiently or effectively. You mean practising more effectively. That has a more rigorous meaning: learning skills faster, without learning anti-skills (bad habits: "practice makes perfect" is not as true as "practice makes permanent").

The number of skills is enormous: steady tempo, accurate leaping to a note, consistent loudness, accurate rhythmic patterns,... one could go on for pages.

Improving one skill at a time, a little bit each day, is the best general advice. Only 20 notes per ten-minute session, like the first few seconds of a complicated Super Mario Bros. level. One hand at a time. Rhythm without pitch. Pitch without rhythm or loudness. Combine these skills slowly as the weeks go by.

Don't expect to play as well as someone with a ten thousand hour head start. But do expect to enjoy your journey of gradual mastery, a week or a month at a time.


Assuming that your teacher isn't terrible, she probably isn't giving you 'randoms' - she's probably trying to go through a progression of work that builds up your technique, and she's naturally reluctant for you to jump ahead and learn bad habits.

Having said that, there's everything to gain in music by not having just one perspective, so if you are itching to jump into a pop song, I would say do it - either by getting the sheet music or even just finding the chords on the internet and working it out for yourself.

  • 1
    What kind of bad habits are you referring too?
    – Richard
    Feb 19, 2015 at 9:22
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    Just physical ones to do with playing technique. A good piano teacher should be teaching you to play in a way that doesn't stress the hands and makes it easy to play a wider range of material, so they will want to teach you certain ways to position your hands and use your fingers. They'll probably also want to teach you to play without looking at the keyboard! Do a google for 'piano bad habits'... Feb 19, 2015 at 10:14

I think our colleagues gave you really good answers and I wanted to add a little bit to them, even if it sounds a little exoteric or too outside the box. All this comes from my personal experience while learning to play the piano.

At some point of my journey I understood that the most important thing is the music. The piano is just an instrument through which we will make music happen. This being said, it is also important to understand the difference between what you play to improve your mechanical technique and what you play because you love. It is like sports. If you wanna be good at it, only practicing the sport itself will not make you a pro. There's all sorts of exercises to improve your abilities and help you becoming a pro. But to me it always has to start and finish on the most important point, the love for the sport. To play it because you love it.

In other words: it is absolutely a must to play the songs you like. Of course, if they are too difficult to your level (I liked Chopin etudes...), you may either find simplified versions that may help you building your technique while maintaining your motivation or find other songs that you also like but are not that difficult. Your teacher should be able to present you these simplified versions.

The reason why I insist on loving what you are doing is because it is too easy to loose motivation and if that happens, you will not make progress and frustration will knock your door. Maybe you will even give up on learning the instrument.

Also on the subject of the piano as an instrument/medium to make music: realizing this may help you understand that there are a lot of musical knowledge that we can acquire away from the musical instrument. The basics of music theory are not a lot nor difficult to learn. The secret that a lot of people miss is while learning music theory, to link it to ear training. Why? After you learn about scales and chord progressions, if you can identify them by ear, you can understand what is going on on a lot of pop songs just by hearing them. Sounds like a super power right? But is quite doable and it is very cool. Imagine you can learn a song just by hearing it. Then the other part of the problem would be how to play that song. That is a mechanical problem, between your hands and the piano.

Long story short. If you disassemble the meaning of what is to learn the piano, you may learn it faster than other people, by making sense of what you are doing, instead of just doing what someone is telling you to do. Ballsy, I know. That's me, that's how I learned after having lessons with many classical and jazz teachers. And I don't regret it.

Addendum: on the mechanical side, I think our colleagues covered it. I would just add - no matter what part of the music you are trying assimilate, the rhythm, the notes, always keep in mind 'making music'. If you play a 5 notes melody and it sounds pleasant to listen to, then you are on the right track. Oh, how to know that? record yourself playing. Compare to the original recording. Perceiving those nuances is part of being a musician.


There are many paths to the mountain, but it the first steps you take can be very important.

Keep in mind, there are many different kinds of piano players. I happen to admire Memphis Slim (see my user name.) I also admire any number of classical players. I love Dr. John, as well. These are just three reference points, but to get to any one of them, you should probably take a different path.

From ages 8 to 12, my brother and I took piano lessons from a very nice lady. We learned to read, and to play scales and arpeggios, but got no theory at all. She had no use for the popular music of the day, and while I loved the Chopin and Victorian ballads she was teaching us, this was a point of frustration. Everything ground to a halt right about the time I fell in love with rock an roll and playing the guitar.

Strangely, the guitar sent me back to the keyboard, and set me on a path of learning a great deal about theory, and even got me playing piano in a way that I now am rather proud of. There were a few lessons involved, but for the most part, I learned from other players, and trial and error. The right teacher likely would have sped me on my path.

My point is not all teachers will get you where you want to go. Find out if your present teacher has an appreciation for the kinds of music you like, if he/she admires the same players you do. If not, you could do better to find such a person, because as the others point out, this start is important.

Your eagerness to get at it, to do actual tunes, is energy that the right teacher will see as positive, something to take advantage of. Patience and persistence are an unbeatable combination, but be sure you are getting instruction and advice from someone who is sympathetic to your personal musical goals.


Piano is like math-- before you get to do the fun things like Calculus, you need to learn your basic operations and algebra. Foundation is very important, especially since you seem to be a first-time musician. You also need to build up finger dexterity and strength; sure, you may be able to "read" the music you want to play, but your technique is probably a separate issue. Everyone needs to get over this hump before even playing the relatively simple songs they want to play.

As for practicing more efficiently, I'd emphasize the piecewise method, where you focus on a few bars at a time and make sure you master them and then move on. Once you master a few groups, string all the bars together and practice them. Also, it may help to have a pencil ready to scribble in directions that you need. However, be careful about writing down excessive directions-- you want to eventually learn how to read music without having to read written directions! You need not practice more than 30 minutes every day, but you need to be focused when practicing. Good luck. Don't be discouraged-- practice regularly and efficiently and make sure to communicate to your teacher about what you'd like to learn.

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