Yes, learning to play piano is a challenging process. It is definitely not easy, but is it really as hard as it seems?
Hard work is undoubtedly effective. At the same time, it is time consuming, frustrating and extremely tiring. It is most of the time blind and mechanical. It often affects our health and our emotional balance. The results it brings are rarely worth the effort.
Smart work, on the other hand, is based on correct information and it uses wisely the natural laws of our existence. When we work smart, we don’t waste our energy on useless things. We don’t take blind shots. We don’t lose time throwing ten or twenty stones and hoping that at least one of them will reach its destination. We replace superstition with knowledge. We focus, we throw one stone and it reaches the target.
What is smart work in piano playing?
Working smart means being focused and relaxed at the same time. It means practicing in a positive state of mind. It also means being mindful and aware of what you do – it’s very important to avoid mechanical playing (when your fingers are playing automatically and your mind is absent, thinking about something else).
Working smart also means having a correct posture – a straight back and relaxed, flexible arms – no matter what you play. It means taking good care of your wrist (which is the most important ‘breathing point’ in the pianist’s arms) – it should never be tensed and immobile. It means not forgetting to breathe when you play – with your mind, your abdomen and your arms!
It means being always aware of the quality of your sound – it should be expressive and beautiful – the result of pressing, not hitting the keys. It means playing from the entire weight of your relaxed arms (not from the separate movement of your fingers) and allowing this relaxed weight to flow into each note and dive freely into the keyboard. I already mentioned this principle a few times and I will keep emphasizing its importance – this technique is the key towards a quality sound which is soft and deep at the same time (and for which the Russian piano school is famous).
It means analyzing a piece and listening to several good recordings before beginning to learn it. It also means reading at least something (or asking your teacher) about the composer’s style and about the message of the piece – this method is another way of accelerating your productivity!
Smart work means understanding that technique should always be subordinate to meaning. It means warming up before your practice, but not forgetting that scales and Etudes deserve a quality sound and beautiful phrasing as well!
Working smart means taking a break when you’re tired and never forcing yourself.
It means being patient, calm, confident, and believing in your powers and your potential.
When you work smart, you never hurry. You simply know that there is time for everything. Hurry creates tension and tension is a productivity killer!
When you work smart, you don’t allow negative thoughts or doubts to ruin your day and your practice. Just like psychological and physical tension, negative thoughts are considerably slowing down your progress, at the same time affecting your health. Invest enthusiasm and positive energy in everything you do and you’ll be surprised by the results!
Smart work means taking care of your health. It means breathing deeply and spending time outdoors. It means paying attention to the birds and the squirrels and actually noticing (!!!) how each season slowly passes into the next one. It means eating healthy and working out at least 5 days per week.
When you work smart, you know that by investing in your well-being, you’re investing not only in your productivity, but also in your success and your happiness!
Working smart also means conquering your laziness and having the wisdom of knowing the difference between laziness and fatigue ;). It means being perseverant, keeping your goals and your passions in front of you, but not forgetting to live in the present and enjoy every step of the way!
It also means never, never, never giving up on doing what you love! If it is your true passion and your true purpose, you’ll always find time and enthusiasm for your practice.