I have been playing piano for just over 2 years. My piano teacher is excellent and has really helped me to improve my playing. I already had 7 lessons with him.

One day, I had a really bad piano lesson. I struggled to read or play notes even though my practice apeared to go well all week.

Why was I so bad on that day? Any advice?

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    when I was a child, I once said to my piano teacher: Yesterday I was playing much better, at home I did quite well. He said: "At home you may play as Mozart did. This won't help you when you cannot do it outside." I misunderstood him and thought he meant to say that at home I was playing really like Mozart! I was very proud of myself! This idea and my new self concept gave me a big push of motivation :) But I still can't manage it. Feb 3 '19 at 11:20
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    @AlbrechtHügli I hit a similar issue with my guitar playing when I was doing that more seriously in folk clubs. I became aware that the difference between me and most of the professional musicians was not that they could play better than me, but that they could play more consistently than me. I might have one good gig where I did well, but they could hit that standard at every gig.
    – Graham
    Feb 4 '19 at 14:04

Could be almost anything. You were tired, hungry, distracted, etc. maybe your teacher was tired, hungry, or distracted.

Maybe the weather had you in a funk. Maybe you were thinking about some other thing. These things happen. Sometimes you play great when you think your going to play horribly. Sometimes it's the other way around. It's just like almost anything else in life, it is fluid. And will ebb and flow like your mood. Sometimes you'll be excited to play and sometimes you'll want to quit and never play again.

Shake it off as best you can and tomorrow will be another day. Keeping a practice log can be very helpful. Write down when you practice and what you practice but also your mood and other things such as how you felt it went.

2/1/19: didn't sleep well and woke up with a headache. Practiced scales and tune x and exercise y. Went to lesson but it went poorly. Didn't play nearly as well as it went during practice. Etc...

You may find that keeping this type of log will help you find patterns to why you feel lessons/practice/gig didn't go well.

Another thing about lessons vs practice: unless you are recording yourself and listen/watching back your practice you may not have a good sense of how well you are playing while alone but then the teacher may give you feedback about what wrong notes you played, etc. try filming or recording yourself during practice and then seeing if practice is as much better than your lesson as you thought. This will be eye opening at best, depressing at worst but is by far one of the best tools to help you strip away any biases you may have about your practice sessions or playing ability. It will really show you things you need to work on that you didn't think you needed to. Also if possible ask your teacher if you can video the lesson. Then you can also compare lesson to practice and see if it really went as poorly as you think. Sometimes these feelings are all in our head.

One last note: the teacher is there to show you what you are doing wrong and help you break bad habits and establish good ones. If you are not being shown what you are doing wrong in lessons you won't really learn much. Don't take it hard. It's part of the process.


Weather and nutriture have been mentioned...

A few points I‘d like to emphasize:

Snow, water, sugar, preparation

Let it flow, let it flow, let it flow!

As a teacher I could always have been telling you when it will start snowing or when it was full moon.

If you are dependent or influenced by such variables you can really find out by a log book.

Also your biorhythm may play a role. You can have a look at it but don‘t exagerate it.

However the three most important points I didn‘t know or didn't care about at all before are:


Our body is like a plant. If a plant didn‘t get enough water it becomes dehydrated: your brain feels like dryed out, your body becomes sloppy, your fingers get stiff. A glass or 5 dl of water can prevent this state. Mind that water is not only important for the fluency and the blood circulation but also for the energy and electricity of the body and the neural system. I had 50 years to find that my „tinitus“ and my fatigue were often caused by lack of water.

Blood sugar level

Sometimes it is just a lack of sugar. When you‘re undersugared, you don‘t need speed, coffee or a coke! an apple will fit.


One thing I‘ve found out quite soon: the preparation. we call it „einspielen“, that‘s what orchestra musician use to do before the concert! You could say the readiness or the setting. There are lots of warm-ups for the mind, the hands and fingers.

What I didn't know for a long time is the benefit of mental training: you can practice it almost every where. this works in the bus, in the train but don’t do it in the car when you are driving: Imagine the chords, the fingersetting, the tune in solfege, visualizing the keys.

Otherwise you are like a booting computer or a hanging system lacking a software update. If a shut down won't help ... try a de-fragmentation of the hard disk.


Why? Who can say. But it happens, to all of us. Your piano teacher didn't make a big deal of it, did he? Keep practicing. You'll be fine at the next lesson.

Don't waste time over-thinking this. Use the time for practice. Or something eles that's fun!


There could be any number of physical, emotional or psychological reasons why. Piano playing is like acting. When an actor takes to the stage, no matter what baggage they have been carrying around for the day, many of them can just shut out the baggage and turn on the character.

Psychological, physical and emotional baggage can quickly turn into a downward spiral. That is why it is imperative to know your skill, craft, score, audience and self. Just like an actor who doesn't know his lines, either the performance will be really bad because he doesn't know what he is doing or it will be really great because despite not being prepared, he knows what he is doing. He fakes it.

I used to get nervous performing until I viewed my playing as acting. When you do that you can turn on your performance chops like a light switch and overcome issues that don't belong there.

I watched a guy walk across an icy parking lot. Each step was precise and slow as he didn't want to fall. There were some slips and little grace but he managed to make his way across. Then came a kid who got a running start and just slid across the whole thing. Attitude is everything. Your lesson is another opportunity to sell yourself. Don't let anything get in your way. Leave it at the door.


Piano lessons aren't particularly cheap so you want to make the most of them.

Sometimes, I failed playing some part over and over again, then tried and tried, and nothing good was coming out of it (except frustration)

Then my teacher said: "take a break". I just stopped playing during one minute and relaxed. Then I resumed playing and it was better already.

So when it's getting bad, take your time. You'll waste some minutes, but maybe you'll be able to save the rest of the lesson.


I think everyone knows the feeling you're describing but it's hard or maybe even impossible to identify the true cause since there are so many factors that can play into it.

Others have already mentioned food or weather related factors that can all influence your mood greatly. Pay attention to your physical and mental state.

I always found that during lessons I was a lot more stressed than when practicing. When practicing for yourself nobody will judge your playing but when you do it in front of your teacher he will have to criticize your play and while this is very helpful it can still be discouraging in a way. Especially when you had a very good practice session the other day you may have high expectations of your playing the next day and since you want to impress your teacher with what you've learned you put a lot of pressure onto yourself. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but you risk crumbling under that pressure. And when it happens you feel bad because you know you can do better but it just doesn't work the way you want it to work right now.

What's important is that you don't let yourself get dragged down from such an experience. Don't take it to heart and just give it your best the next time. Whenever you feel that something like this starts happening again just close your eyes for a second, get into a relaxed and comfortable position and take some deep breaths. Also when you are really feeling bad, physically or mentally, don't be scared to ask your teacher to take a break.

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