Piano Practice Discipline

Question: I have a 7-year-old son who is talented and who has got a good teacher, but is not methodical or disciplined. How do I instill discipline in him?

– Tejas

Albert’s reply: In the arts, there’s a dichotomy between giving free reign to one’s whims and careful, methodical work. The former is often mistaken for creativity – mistaken because true creativity depends on mastery of a craft, which in turn is a function of discipline.

Mastering piano is only possible given enormous self-discipline and time, in addition to talent.

Everyone needs time to develop their capacity for concentration, and in today’s world full of technological distractions there are many things competing for our attention at any given time. Studying piano is one of the best vehicles for developing one’s capacity for concentration since it demands so much of it.

That said, your son is only seven. If he likes sports, you might make the analogy to his favorite sport, or perhaps a martial art. Each aspect of playing will take careful practice before he becomes a piano black belt!

Encourage your son to practice one element of music at a time. This might be tapping the rhythm of his piece, playing only the left hand or right hand, or learning a scale. Challenge him to do it better every time.

Your child should be encouraged to explore the piano by applying what he learns in his lessons, though no piano student should ever be allowed to get sloppy with the music practiced. You might tell your son that the brain is a perfect digital recorder that records everything we do at the piano. Then show him the value of slow, careful practice!

One strategy might be to pick a brand-new piece, and challenge him to play every note perfectly every single time he touches it. Tell him he can play his old pieces how he likes, but he has to promise never to make a mistake in this new piece. Make it music he really loves! This way, he’ll automatically develop his concentration and after a short while he’ll experience for himself the positive results of piano practice discipline.

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