Yesterday I had the worst piano lesson I have ever had since I started learning as a 56 year old adult student just over 3 years ago. I struggled to remember and play the right notes. My teacher is amazing and has the patience of a saint. I knew it was going to be difficult when my practice before the lesson was not going well.

I love playing the piano and have been doing well according to my teacher. I don't want to give up. Can anyone offer any advice.

Regards and blessings to you

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    How much time do you spend practicing? – phoog Mar 1 at 22:40
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    I vote to close this question, because there is no clear question here. Please try to rephrase your general feeling about the lesson into a question that can be answered. – Ian Mar 2 at 8:42
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  • What was the actual issue? A particular technique, musical passage, transition to a new piece, what? I think you need to also keep in mind, it isn't a problem that you hit an obstacle, actually that should happen, but what matters is what you do to overcome it. You might get some good advice here, if you explain the actual problem. – Michael Curtis Mar 2 at 14:15

Not sure what you want to hear. Keep going? Give up?

What are you goals with this? Did you always want to play and you have the time or it's just a hobby you thought you'd try, one among many.

My advice would depend on you answers to these questions.

You are lucky your teacher is a saint. Some are not and turn students off. It takes a lot of effort to train your body and brain to work together to play a musical instrument. Sometimes professionals forget what a struggle it was. I teach guitar, have for more than 30 years. On an instrument like that it can take a year just to get the fingers to not fly all over the place and stay where you want them to. That is a big commitment, a year just to get control over your body. And after that each new exercise reveals a new level of control that you don't have. So it's a life long process of getting better. Add to that learning to read, ear training, etc. It is a lot to digest. Your teacher knows this. You shouldn't have to worry about feeling judged as you are there to learn. That being said, phoog asks an important question. You stated that "I knew it was going to be difficult when my practice before the lesson was not going well". Was that your only practice in the week or two between lessons? Or is it just that on that day you were off? This is important for self evaluation. The fact is you can't learn a musical the same way we learn other subjects. You can read about something and recall it days or weeks later, comprehend it, mull it over and think about it. Learning an instrument is about transforming new body movements into muscle memory. This requires a little bit of repetition every single day to see results. Not sure if your teacher has mentioned this but that is the reality. Those of us who do it for a living do this every day to maintain as it is perishable. I'd imagine that it's a hobby, something fun and new to do. And no one like feeling that a n=hobby has to consume their life. Your progress will be proportional to practice. Practice twice a week and you may see a little progress here and there. Practice every day and I'd you see more progress faster.

You have to balance (1) the desire to continue with (2) willingness to commit with (3) you expectations of progress. If you are having fun and want to learn more I'd say stick with it. Do what you on your time scale and be happy with the progress you do make. If you are not having fun that's a different story. If your expectations are too high then adjust them accordingly.

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Make a Goal

When I was taking piano lessons, I was always the most motivated when I had a goal in place. It may have been that my teacher wanted me to play a piece for a recital, or a music competition, or I just wanted to learn how to play some difficult song that I really liked. The best experience of my "career" was learning a challenging song over 3 months that I played in a competition. It initially seemed well beyond my abilities, but my teacher understood my potential, and I was quite satisfied with the results.

You could pick a song that you always wanted to learn how to play, and ask your teacher for advice on how to learn it, or possibly help you arrange it a bit past your skill level. Or you could ask your teacher to pick a challenging song that can give you something to shoot for.

Overall, I'd say your challenge is motivation. You know you enjoy playing, but this is a more abstract feeling. Having a concrete goal to work towards makes it much easier and more fun to put in practice hours.

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Everyone has a bad day now and then. If you had troubles when practicing, maybe it's because you're working on something you haven't mastered. Maybe you're distracted by something in your non-music life. It doesn't matter. If you enjoy the process, that's all that's important.

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I suspect this is the same for any student of music - or indeed any student of anything, actually. You try to cram in as much as possible, and it just slides off, like water off a duck.

I have never learned the piano - my instrument is the renaissance lute - and my biggest problem has always been motivation: the typical teacher will try to start with very simple material, just to give you a feel for the instrument, the musical scale etc - and it is horrendously dull, in my opinion. I spent months trying to learn even the simplest exercises; then we tried something a bit more challenging: learning Greensleeves, and that was like a revelation. For me, at least, there must be a context that motivates me strongly. Could your problem be something along the same lines?

Another thing that I have observed, is that often, when you seem to have unsurmountable trouble learning, what you actually need is to relax and stop trying for a while. I tend to have bursts of playing often, until I can't progress any further, or get too busy with other things; and the surprising thing is that when I start again, suddenly things seem to be easier, as if I have worked on the difficulties in the back of my mind. I suggest that you might try that out on yourself to see if it works for you.

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In my experience of learning anything, lessons are generally not where you enjoy yourself! Lessons are where your teacher pushes you to do better, to refine your technique, or to develop new skills. This is always going to be relatively hard work, and sometimes you're just going to be less able to process this.

Remember too that playing a musical instrument has a mental focus component and a muscular component. Sometimes you'll have sharp mental focus, and sometimes you simply don't - perhaps you didn't get a good night's sleep, or whatever. And sometimes your body will be on your side, and sometimes it won't - perhaps you spent the weekend digging in the garden and now your hands and arms ache. Or maybe there's no discernable reason, and your mind or body are just having a bad day! These things just happen.

When you're on form mentally and physically, then you're working at peak performance. If one fails, then you might find you know what notes you want to play but you can't quite get them down right, or your hands might be working but your mind goes blank. And if both elements aren't on form, then everything tends to go wrong. If this happens during the week then it's just a blip, but if it happens to coincide with a lesson then of course it's more prominent.

This is the realisation I had a few years ago when I started getting more serious with guitar. Some players were clearly so far above me - but some players on the folk music scene were no better than I was but were still getting regular paying gigs. What became clear was that whilst they weren't better players than I was, they were more consistent players than I was. With the level of practise they did, they simply had fewer "off" days, and their "off" days were less intense.

You've only been doing this three years. You've probably got reasonably good by now, but you're still going to have "off" days, and you don't yet have the ingrained muscle memory to carry you through them.

My best advice if you're having a really bad time of it is simply to stop. If you're getting frustrated, you aren't learning. Your technique is probably suffering too so what little you're learning is most likely wrong. Worse though, getting frustrated on an "off" day can ruin your enjoyment of playing. If you can take that step back, realise you're just not on form, and pick up again tomorrow, you'll quite likely find it'll all be better tomorrow - and that you still love your instrument.

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have been doing well according to my teacher. I don't want to give up.

It's normal to have some days where you just can't get anything right. It happens to every student. Things you thought you couldn't get wrong anymore, suddenly become a new challenge. It may last a few days. After that, you'll reach a new level of mastery of the instrument.

All this has been told to me by my teacher when I faced a similar situation: she's had a ton of students trough her life and told me it's really normal.

So, don't give up. Get through the dip, and enjoy the level up!

Hope this helps!

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