How to Handle Failures in Piano Playing? 16 Perspective-Changing Steps

yellowing leaf on a branch in September - Copyright PianoCareer.comWe’ve all been there – beginners and intermediates, professionals and amateurs. We’ve all struggled, at least once in our musical experience, with the devastating emotional effects of a piano failure.

It took me many years (and many mistakes and failures of all types) to understand that there is always a choice, that suffering can be avoided and that everything is a question of perspective.

Why are failures so painful and so difficult to handle? Because we empower them by giving them importance.

Let’s take it one step at a time:

1. ENJOY what you’re doing!

Let me ask you a very simple question: Do you enjoy playing piano? Be honest! If you don’t like it, don’t do it – it is totally ok! Don’t be afraid and don’t worry about what others will say – your life is yours alone and only you can discover where your talents reside. If you don’t enjoy being a pianist, you don’t have to read articles about overcoming piano failures – you simply need to find your true passion!

On the other hand, if you enjoy what you do, then you will easily learn how to handle failures – you just need to add 3 ingredients to your passion-based recipe: correct information, awareness and a change of attitude. The next steps will help you get there ;).

2. Face your fear.

overcoming the fear of failure in piano playingThe fear of failing is often more traumatizing than the failure itself. Besides being painful, it is also paralyzing, not allowing us to act and develop our unique potential.

Instead of avoiding the thing you’re afraid of, be brave and face your fear. Look it in the eyes and ask it: What is the worst thing that might happen? The fact that you’ll fail the exam? The fact that everyone will see and hear you making mistakes? So what? You’ll pass the exam next time. And let me tell you a secret – 10 seconds after making a mistake, nobody will remember it (except for you, of course!).

With such a brave mindset, you’ll not only pass the exam the first time – you’ll also have a brilliant performance! 😉

As R.W. Emerson said, doing the thing you fear will make your fear go away. It’s easier to be brave when we know that this universal law is backing us up!

Another fear-combating tip: When you’re practicing, be in the moment. Don’t think about failure or success – simply enjoy the process! This way, there will be no space for fear. Instead of losing time being afraid, you’ll use your practice hours for improving your skills – thus minimizing the chances of failing.

3. What is a failure?

Have you ever asked yourself what is the difference between a failure and a mistake? Give it some thought! What have you noticed? I’m sure that the first thing that came to your mind was the fact that the difference between mistakes and failures resides only in our mind, in the importance we give to certain things.

If you play several wrong notes during an exam, is it a failure or a mistake? How about the fact that your finger slipped and you played C instead of C# during that important concert? Is it a failure or a mistake to forget the text and stop playing during a stage performance? How about catching a cold after working hard for several months and not being able to play at all?

If something affects you negatively on the long run, is it a failure? It is, if you allow it to be. It is, if you forget that only YOU can decide how a certain event will affect your future. We have the power of building our lives the way we want – but most people don’t even know about it!

Things are relative. An incorrect note may be a tragedy for someone, while another person will not even notice it. The way you look at things will determine the way things look at you! 🙂

4. Mistakes (and even big failures) are normal.

It’s impossible NOT to fail. Failing or making a mistake is part of being human and learning. How many times did you have to fall in order to learn to ride your bike? If you practice yoga, how many times did you fall in order to master a balance posture? The same can be said about piano playing!

We can’t avoid making mistakes. We can’t avoid failing big time occasionally ;-). But we can certainly change our perspective, smile, accept that failing is normal and move on.

5. Lower the importance of the upcoming exam or concert.

The more importance we give a certain event, the stronger are the chances that we’ll fail. Philosophers say that this way the Universe is balancing the scales.

As a pianist, I have a simpler explanation: if you give too much importance to your next exam, your rational mind tells you: “Failure is unacceptable!” This way, you’re welcoming stress. When you’re tensed (mentally and physically) you’re not only affecting your health – you’re also increasing the chances of forgetting the text or missing the notes during the performance.

A stress-related failure doesn’t happen because you did something wrong. It is NOT a punishment and it is NOT personal. Your only mistake is called ‘lack of information’. Not knowing the laws of existence, you cannot use them to your benefit.

So – less importance equals less stress, less tension, more relaxation, more concentration – better results!

Now a little more philosophy: Things are ALWAYS less important than we think. Nature does not give ‘importance’ to its phenomena. The rain falls without importance. The change of seasons happens naturally, without emphasis. Things in themselves are not good or bad, important or not important. Things simply ARE. Only our attitude makes them seem good or bad, important or unimportant.

Let things BE. Don’t project your feelings and your opinions on them.

You are the only one who can decide what’s important and what’s not important. If you think that this particular failure will destroy your career, guess what will happen? Your thoughts will shape your reality and your future. On the other hand, if you think that this failure is not important, that it’s only a lesson you had to learn and that your career will only benefit from your mistake, then guess what will happen? Yes, it will be just like you imagined!

Don’t put emotional attachment to failure. Don’t think too much about it. Don’t make an event out of it. Let it be, learn what you have to learn and move on. And remember that things can cause emotional suffering only when we allow them to affect us by giving them importance.

6. Do your best today.

Instead of worrying about tomorrow’s exam, enjoy your practice today! Relax, concentrate, be in the present moment and do your best NOW… and beware: fantastic results will follow! 😉

7. Shake off that seriousness!

Generally, people make things too difficult and take them too seriously.

Most pianists are too serious as well – it’s a scientific fact! By the time a piano student reaches adolescence, he or she is already overwhelmed by the difficulty and importance of their musical activity. Sometimes we are so blinded by our seriousness and our grave attitude that we fail to notice the beauty of the surroundings or the fact that life is much easier than we think.

Learn to shake off your seriousness, day after day! Smile and take it easy! Your piano results will not get worse as a result, don’t worry. They will only improve! The more relaxed and casual we are about something, the better our results will be!

8. Be mindful.

Practice awareness. Don’t let your emotions guide you. Pianists and musicians are very sensitive people. However, you should know that sensitivity itself does not cause suffering – it can only increase it. The real cause of suffering is the way we look at things – our attitude.

Emotions are an inherent part of human life. You can’t make them disappear. But you can certainly be aware of them, understand them and let them go.

9. Be relaxed and confident. Think like a winner. Never give up!

The world around us always reflects our state of mind. If you think like a winner, you’ll be a winner. If you’re a whiner and you pay too much attention to failure… you get the point! Be confident, no matter what you do – in time, the ‘fake’ confidence will become real, trust me! Breathe and be relaxed even if your knees are shaking – in time, they will adapt to the fact that they belong to a strong, confident person.

Never give up – no matter how many times you fail! Success is not about how hard you fall – it’s about getting up and trying one more time! Doing nothing is the easiest way of avoiding failure.

10. Don’t pay attention to criticism.

Of course, you should listen to constructive criticism – especially the advice of your piano teacher. At the same time, learn to make the distinction between constructive criticism and the negative remarks of those who envy you and want to ruin your day.

When someone criticizes you, don’t react. Don’t get angry or defensive and don’t try to justify yourself.

People don’t care about your failures. 99% of the time, people think only about themselves. Criticism comes from a low self-esteem. When people criticize you, they do it only to feel better about themselves or to justify their weaknesses.

11. Eradicate the feeling of guilt.

People like to manipulate others. Duty, fear and guilt are the most powerful triggers when it comes to manipulation. In school, students are forced to feel guilty for not doing their ‘duty’ – their homework or their daily practice. Does it ring a bell?

First of all, understand that you don’t have any ‘duties’ – you simply have the RIGHT to live a fulfilled, free, happy life.

Second, understand that feeling guilty after a certain failure will not accomplish anything – it will only make it harder to go on and resume your practice. Toss the guilt out of the window! It’s only an illusion! Analyze your failure instead and see what improvements you can make. Learn your lesson, smile and move on! Tomorrow will definitely be a better day!

You might ask: “Ok, and what should I do if the failure was indeed my fault, if I failed the exam because I didn’t practice enough?” Good question!

In this case, instead of feeling guilty…

12. Assume responsibility for your actions.

Your choices have consequences. If you don’t practice enough, your playing will get worse. If you don’t study a certain subject, you’ll not pass the exam. It has nothing to do with guilt – it’s only a question of choice. Set your priorities and your goals and act accordingly!

One more thing – don’t blame others for your failures. Failures are not about blaming (yourself or the others) – they’re about learning.

13. Don’t waste time on regrets.

“What if…?” This is probably one of the most useless and time-consuming questions in the world! You cannot change the past. Don’t lose your precious present obsessing about your past mistakes and regretting your choices. Make a better choice NOW instead and create a better future!

14. Get enough sleep and rest!

Yes, I’m serious! Lack of sleep and exhaustion can make you see everything in negative colors. When your body and your mind are tired your immunity will decrease, you’ll get sick more often, you’ll feel depressed and irritated… can we talk about productivity, enthusiasm and fulfillment in such circumstances?

15. Everything is a choice.

Our attitude is a choice. Our perspective on things is a choice. The way we react to failure is a choice. Remember that every moment, you have the POWER and the RIGHT to choose: you can choose to smile or to scowl; to be positive or to worry; to react to criticism or to mind your own business; to despair or to seek inspiration; to blame or to understand.

We can’t control everything. Yes, there are no limits to perfection and we can constantly improve our playing, but it’s not possible to control, up to millimeters, how each finger will ‘land’ on the keyboard. Making mistakes is human. Failing is human. Sometimes you cannot avoid failure. But you can certainly choose to change your attitude towards failure.

16. Widen your horizons, learn, diversify!

If you’re a little frog living in a small pond, the fish next door may seem really frightening and a passing duck – the end of the world. If you’re a dolphin swimming in the ocean, you’ll not even notice that fish or that duck.

Everything is a question of perspective.

Music is not the center of the universe. Yes, you read that right. Of course, music is an amazing art, it is inspiring, life-changing (even life-saving), fascinating, mysterious, jaw-dropping and overwhelmingly beautiful – but it is only ONE aspect of this amazing miracle we call life.

If you play piano all day without learning other things, without spending time outdoors, without communicating with interesting people, you risk ending up like that frog – your first failure will simply destroy you because you cannot see the bigger perspective.

If you want to have success in your piano playing, you need to have an open mind. You may be a good musician, but unfortunately this does not automatically make you a wise person. Don’t be afraid to learn – and don’t listen to those who tell you that ‘there is no way of explaining certain things – they simply happen’. This ‘fatalism’ arises from laziness and lack of information. Of course, you cannot ‘cancel’ an upcoming storm, but the way you react to this storm makes all the difference!

Diversify your activities. Learn all the time. Study how life works. Learn from wise and successful people. Read Tao Te Ching, study Zen, read books like Creative Visualization and Living in the Light by Shakti Gawain, Reality Transurfing by Vadim Zeland, The Power of Less by Leo Babauta, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill etc. If for some reason you don’t like my recommendations, there are hundreds of other great books that can help you become wiser, stronger and happier. Allow yourself to be curios and study other aspects of life besides music – reading a book about meditation, financial success or personal development can be a true revelation in a time of struggle.

Maybe we are not capable of having absolute knowledge. But we are certainly able to understand the laws of our human life.

Maybe we cannot avoid certain failures. But the way we handle them determines our success in music and life.

The world is your mirror. What will it reflect today?

P.S. What was your biggest ‘failure’? How did you handle it? Now, after several months/years, does it seem as frightening as when it happened? Share your experience in the comments below! 😉

If you enjoyed this piano tutorial, here are some other piano learning and practice topics you’ll like:

How to Use the Sustain Pedal Correctly: The Bio-Mechanics of a Healthy Piano Pedaling Technique

No Time to Practice? 5 Powerful Solutions for Lack of Time

The life-changing benefits of learning classical music

How to avoid piano injuries | Get rid of tension and pain in your hands, wrists, arms and shoulders


61 Responses to “How to Handle Failures in Piano Playing? 16 Perspective-Changing Steps”

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  1. Rodney James says:

    My “failure” was during my junior recital. Which happened to be my first full length program in public. I started with 2 Schubert pieces, op 90 # 2 and 3. They came off pretty well. Then I moved on to Bach. Two preludes and fugues from. WTC book one. #2 in c minor and #5 in d major. I made it through the c minor prelude, but my mind went blank in the middle of, the fugue. I couldn’t find my way out. I had to just get up and bow, and walk away! I didn’t even attempt the d major! I did block it out enough where I could finish the program, but I failed because I have never attempted Bach after that episode. I still read through Bach, but never attempted to learn the pieces (which I truly love by the way ). I really think I have a mental block about Bach.after this episode. What should I do about this, and is there any hope?

    • Ilinca says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Rodney!

      By the way, I have played Schubert’s Impromptus as well during my lyceum years, but in my case it was op. 90 No. 3 and No. 4. Amazing pieces! 🙂 In Impromptu No. 3, it was challenging to achieve an expressive, flowing melodic line and at the same time to keep the accompaniment as soft as possible – all with the right hand!

      That’s why I love Bach – besides being spiritually enlightening, his pieces also teach us to multitask and to skillfully coordinate 3-4-5 independent voices in one organic musical flow.

      Blockages like the one you described happen to musicians all the time. You were brave to get up and bow – there are cases when the pianist is too overwhelmed by the sudden ‘memory loss’ and doesn’t remember how to walk away LOL.

      Here is why such things happen: The discomfort of a new environment (the stress of playing on a stage, for many unknown people) makes our mind leave its comfort zone and thus it ‘stumbles’ in unexpected places. A piece by Bach, being extremely complex and much more challenging from a ‘multitasking’ point of view than a romantic piece (for example), makes it easier for our mind to ‘stumble’. The c-minor Fugue from the 1st Volume of WTC is not easy – it has a cleverly ‘woven’ pattern that requires lots of practice to master, especially for a junior pianist!

      Most of the time, without even being aware of it, we do things automatically. Practicing at home and playing in front of our teacher, we feel comfortable and we think that we have learned the pieces very well. The discomfort of a new environment makes us look at familiar passages from a different angle. Suddenly, while performing on stage, we become acutely aware of the text we’re playing – and we realize that we’ve lost our ‘motoric memory’ all of a sudden! If this ‘perspective shift’ happens during Bach, then we cannot rely only on our hearing for going on with the performance – we need the solid ‘foundation’ of our mind guiding our fingers.

      So, this is definitely not a failure – it’s simply a lesson meant to teach us to practice with awareness! 😉 Bach simply requires more mindful practice and more time for the piece to really ‘sink in’!

      My answer is: there is always hope! You just need to start small.

      First, take a piece by Bach that you really like and practice it just 10 minutes per day! Do it without goals, without fear of failure or hopes of success. Do it simply because the piece is beautiful and enriching (I still practice Bach almost every day – simply because I love the pieces, not because I have to play them on stage).

      Don’t hurry. Play the piece slowly, paying attention to all the elements of the text, to the way how each voice appears and develops. Be careful to notice the correct fingering, all the articulation marks, all the dynamics. Identify and analyze all the phrases – where they begin, where they lead and where they end. Don’t forget that the Theme needs special treatment 🙂 – it should always sound deeper and more expressive than the other voices. Create a mental ‘picture’ of the piece and make sure that you study carefully and without hurry all its fascinating elements.

      If you feel comfortable by doing such a ‘microscopic’ and peaceful work, you can gradually increase your practice time – play Bach for 30 minutes each day. Notice how your understanding of the piece deepens and, at the same time, your fingers are accommodating to the new ‘landscape’. Be aware of what you play and don’t allow your fingers to ‘take over’ – they should always be subordinate to your mind.

      Don’t ‘perform’ the piece yet – simply practice it and enjoy the fact that you’re free to play Bach and that nobody will criticize you for it!

      When you feel more comfortable and confident, you can ‘perform’ the piece – but play it only for yourself. When you see that you can play it smoothly from the beginning until the end, you can ‘allow it to rest’ for a day or to.

      The musical text (and our understanding of a certain piece) needs time to really ‘sink in’. After a while, resume practicing your Bach piece – again, without hurry or stress.

      When you feel really confident, you can play the piece for a family member or a friend. Notice how the presence of another person ‘shifts’ your perspective and creates a certain discomfort. Become accustomed to this discomfort – in time, it will become comfortable.

      You can gradually increase the number of friendly listeners. In time, and only if you feel comfortable playing in front of them, you can play the Bach piece in front of a real audience.

      One more thing – playing Bach is extremely useful for our sound, our technique, our coordination, our mind, our imagination etc. You can practice his pieces no matter if you intend to play them on stage or not. One way or the other, the benefits these pieces bring are priceless!

      Good luck in your “Bach journey”, I’m sure it will be a great one!
      Ilinca 😉

  2. Alexandra says:

    Thank you, Rodney James and Ilinca, for this interesting post. Rodney’s “failure” is exactly as my own private nightmare, when, someday (next year’s recital?), I play in front of a larger audience. For now, even playing in front of my teacher (a tremendous musician and very well trained, though kind and patient), makes me get the heebie-jeebies! Playing alone, no problemo! I play beautifully (haha, cough, cough)…
    So, I appreciate the honest posting and for Illinca’s insightful advice, especially on Bach! (I just presented two Bach inventions to my teacher for her advice, which I felt I had finally mastered and got all the places where the theme comes out nicely AT HOME, ALONE, but could barely get through the first 4 measures without stumbling and losing tempo, etc.)
    First, as Ilinca says, attitude is key, and this is something I need to rethink…and the COURAGE to succeed. (if that makes sense).
    Also, balance. You are so right, Ilinca, about the importance of balance (especially your post about Harmony). I’d forgotten…the piano just draws me in and the hours fly by.
    Well, for now, I’ll rethink my practice time and my life with the piano.
    Thank you, as always.

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi Alexandra!

      It’s good to see you again and thanks for sharing! 😉

      You made me curious – which Inventions are you currently practicing? If there are some details you need help with – don’t hesitate to ask! I love Bach’s Inventions very much as well!

      You’re right – courage, a positive attitude, confidence and balance are all extremely necessary for helping us to be less stressed and play better in front of an audience (even if it consist only of our teacher).

      It’s great to develop these qualities – they are life changing! However, don’t forget that you have another amazing quality – you really LOVE to play piano! 😉 I admire passionate people who enjoy so much what they’re doing that, as you write, “the piano just draws you in and the hours fly by”.

      This is a fantastic mindset – and all the rest are just details (necessary, but secondary LOL).

      Here is want I want to share:

      Passion is a wonderful antidote to fear and anxiety. When you’re ‘adjusting’ your attitude, telling yourself to be braver, calmer, more balanced, remember to make this mental ‘switch’ as well:

      Instead of thinking about “how you will play”, think about “how beautiful this piece is”;

      Instead of focusing on “what the audience will think”, think about how eager you are to share this amazing piece that you love so much!

      This change of focus is extremely powerful!

      Focus on your passion, the beauty of the piece and its message! It’s a very good ‘fear-melting’ formula! 🙂

      Have an inspired practice and many enjoyable and brave performances!

      • Ilinca says:

        Hello again Alexandra!

        I just moved your last (fantastic!) comment to the “Ask Me a Piano Question” page (since it doesn’t touch piano failures, being focused on Bach and Schumann). Click here to see your comment in its new location!

        My answer is coming soon! 😉

  3. Ming says:

    Very lifting, glad I came across this. Thanks! 🙂

  4. Hoa says:

    I understand these things and I no longer worry about playing in front of people. But after playing awhile (maybe the middle of the piece), my hand started to shake, although nothing is negative in my head, and I can’t control it. Could you tell me how to deal with this situation 🙁 Thank you !

    • Ilinca says:

      Hello Hoa!

      Happy New Year!!! 😉

      Now let’s analyze your problem:

      Is your hand shaking only when you play in front of other people? Do you experience such symptoms when you practice alone?

      If your hands are shaking only in front of an audience – it’s a sign of anxiety-induced physical tension. Even if you don’t have negative thoughts, you’re still afraid of making mistakes – and fear always creates mental and physical tension.

      When your arms are tensed, they get tired very fast. When the tension exceeds a certain limit, it can cause your hands to shake.

      Recommendations: When you practice, always make sure that you have a correct posture and your arms, wrists and hands are extremely relaxed. In time, this relaxation will become your second nature – you simply won’t be able to play otherwise. Then, when you’ll play before an audience, this relaxed playing habit will save you from unwanted shaking.

      Also, don’t forget that if you want to do something well, you have to do it many many times. So, if you want to play well before an audience, you have to play for other people as often as possible! Slowly, your confidence will increase, your fear will decrease and your performance will get better and better! 😉

      One more tip: passion is the best antidote to anxiety! This secret ingredient (the fact that you love to play piano) will always accelerate your progress!

      Good luck! 😉

  5. Hoa says:

    I performed last Sunday and it’s the second time I play before audience. There was less hand shaking, although more people there. I made mistakes but I don’t even remember where I got stuck after the performance 😛 . I’m so happy now, thank you for these tips 😀 Ah when I practice alone, I see my 5 finger shake (there is a mirror next to the piano), is that normal or I did something wrong ?

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi Hoa!

      I’m very glad to hear that you felt better during your second public performance! 😉

      Now image how confident and relaxed you’ll be after 10 performances! Or 20! Or 200!

      As I already said – everything comes with practice. You simply have to be patient, to practice regularly and correctly and to play before an audience as often as possible!

      If your 5th finger is shaking, it may be a symptom of tension or an incorrect hand position. It can also happen during an uncomfortable passage. However, usually tension is the main cause of any ‘shaking’. Practice in a relaxed manner, by using the entire weight of your arms behind each note – and don’t forget that your joints (shoulders, elbows and wrists) have to be flexible and relaxed as well!

      You can watch one more time my video tutorials The 5 Basic Elements of a Correct Piano Posture and The Secrets of a Correct Piano Key Attack – and make sure you’re practicing correctly! After a while, all the unpleasant symptoms (tension, shaking, discomfort) will gradually disappear! 😉

  6. Noel says:

    Thanks Ilinca. Very informative.
    As much as I love the piano, I often lose interest of playing the piano the moment I finish playing the song and will not get back to playing for days! Does that indicate lack of passion? Or maybe I’m not playing the songs that suit me? Can you recommend any website to get music score?

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi Noel!

      Welcome to and thank you for your comment! 😉

      Losing your interest of playing the piano can have several causes.

      The most obvious one is, of course, the fact that you’re not passionate about playing this instrument. However, piano playing is a wonderful, captivating, exciting activity – and lack of passion can usually have deeper causes.

      One of these causes may be the fact that your teacher was not able to ‘trigger’ your curiosity and to show you how amazing the piano can sound. Another cause (just as you suggest) may be the fact that you’re not playing appropriate pieces. Playing beautiful music is very important both for ‘cultivating’ our passion and for improving our skills.

      A third cause may be the fact that you’re not familiar with the masterpieces of the pianistic repertoire – and consequently you don’t have any interesting goals to reach! For example, what is your favorite composer? Do you like Chopin’s music? How about Bach? How about Rachmaninoff – did you listen to his 2nd Concerto for piano and orchestra?

      Before recommending you several appropriate pieces, I need to know a few things about yourself first: how advanced are you and what are you usually playing? Also, how many years/months of experience do you have? When did you start to play piano? Do you have a teacher or maybe you’re learning to play by yourself? Can you sight-read musical scores?

      After analyzing your particular situation, I’ll recommend you some pieces (and I’ll send you several scores myself in case they are not available for download online ;)).

      In the meantime, feel free to explore this website – there are many interesting articles and video tutorials on many useful piano subjects (go to Archives to see the full list of articles)!

      If you want, you can also read my last article – it’s about a very exciting project that I launched yesterday!

      You can also subscribe to my email newsletter and get a complimentary copy of my report “A New Perspective on Piano Phrasing“.

      Talk to you soon! 😉

  7. Eustacia says:

    Thanks for your article, it helped a little.

    I just found out that I failed my ABRSM grade 8 exam for the third time. And every time I take the exam, my marks keep getting lower and lower. Now that I’m leaving for university overseas, it seems like I’ll never be able to continue piano or even retake (and pass) the exam.

  8. MissJ says:

    Thank u for the article. I’m going to take ABRSM Grade 8 next month for the second time next month. I failed the exam last year. I really want to pass this exam because i want to be a piano teacher.

    I don’t think I’m ready to take the exam. I’m in my final year of university. So, I have been busy with my university life (is it an excuse??). I’m out/lack of practise I guess… and i think i need my piano passion/adrenaline back…

    What makes matter worst is that my bf broke up with me last month… 🙁
    I really need a big help, my exam is so near!!!

    • Ilinca says:


      First of all, take a deep breath and relax – this is the most important thing when it comes to exams! 😉 Everything will be good – you have to believe in yourself, to keep calm – and you’ll be surprised how much of a difference a positive attitude can make!

      Then – have you read my article Studying Piano – How to Cope With Exams? 7 Basic Steps? I hope you’ll find it useful!

      I don’t think that lack of time is an excuse in your case: it’s certainly a reality – considering the fact that you’re studying at the university and that you’ve been through such a painful experience recently. Plus, there are only 24 hours in a day, and so many things to do!

      It would be very difficult for me to describe in one written reply the entire process of getting ready for an exam, especially when you’re so busy and there’s so little time left.

      But you could certainly join my Piano Coaching Program at – you’ll find there lots of written and video tutorials on this subject! It’s an exclusive project where I share the unique secrets of the Russian piano school, also giving detailed, personalized, professional answers to each piano question!

      Let me know how it goes – and talk to you soon! 😉

      Good luck,

  9. Lew says:

    Illinca, thanks for your very helpful tips. i have a related but somewhat different issue. i am 57 years old, had early lessons on piano, went 35 years without any lessons, and have started back about a year ago. i love it! At my age i cant be Van Cliburn but i can and have learned a ton of chords that i play along to various music, and i have a good ear. i certainly have improved and i practice about every day. Here is my dilemma: My daughter is a very good singer, she is 13. two months from now, she will sing in a competiton, singing Adele’s “Make you Feel My Love” and i am accompanying her. I have never played in front of a crowd. I know the piece, it is beautiful, and i can play it with the music. Last night we were practicing and i just screwed it up. I have 2 months before the event to get this sorted out and get prepared. What should i do to best prepare myself for this, and do my best so i dont mess it up for my daughter? And i understand the stress issue, but since this is my first so-called performance, and it is accompanying my daughter, i dont quite know how to avoid it. Thanks so much, Lew

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi Lew!

      It’s very nice to meet you! 😉

      First, I recommend reading this tutorial:
      Studying Piano – How to Cope With Exams? 7 Basic Steps

      Even if it’s about exams (and not simple concert performances) you’ll learn many useful tips :).

      Also, you have to be aware that getting ready for a performance and managing performance anxiety is a complex art – and it’s very difficult to describe all its aspects in a short reply.

      But I have good news: you can find detailed tutorials on this topic on my Piano Coaching Program at! Feel free to register anytime! 😉 As a member of our Private Members Forum, you’ll also have instant access to hundreds of other tutorials on important piano topics where I share the secrets of the Russian piano school via my holistic approach to piano playing, music and lifestyle.

      In the meantime, a little tip: practice makes perfect! We become good only at those things that we do repeatedly :).

      Practicing alone is different than playing in front of other people. Whenever we play for an audience, we experience a sudden ‘shift’ of mental perspective – this is the main reason why inexperienced performers play worse in public than alone. Add the stress to the equation – and the mystery is solved!

      That’s why, besides practicing alone on a regular basis (in a slow, mindful manner, without any arm or wrist tension, making sure you analyze and understand the structure and the meaning of the musical text), you also have to play in public as often as possible! This doesn’t mean playing in open concerts all the time, though. Even playing for a friend, for your spouse or for a couple of relatives is a wonderful experience!

      Also, don’t forget about relaxation – mental and physical. Focus without being tensed – this is called the ‘relaxed concentration’ technique, and it allows you to be calm yet extremely focused and aware when you perform.

      More information on the Private Members Forum at!

      By the way, this is the Complete List of Tutorials available for the members of my Piano Coaching Program :).

      Enjoy your practice and good luck with your performance!

  10. teleonardphway says:

    Thanks for your encouragement,,,I am a medical student , I am a starter in plaing the piano,,,,though i practise it regularly,,,i am failed to do so when the exam is very near…at the same time….i am under the stress of my exam as well as on my poor social skills….now your words raise me up again

  11. Golara says:

    Hi,thanks for this beautiful article.I am always afraid of not becoming a pianist.I started playing piano at the age 5-6 and now i’m 15.What always makes me anxious is i’m afraid of hurting myself.The other thing that always makes me angry is that i don’t practice enough in summer(when i have enough time and don’t go to school:) ) .
    I love playing piano but after an hour i stop playing!!!!What’s your idea?Is it normal?
    I really want to be a pianist but in a good summer day i practice maximum 3-4 hours!
    i know it’s not enough but i’m so lazy!!!!

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi Golara!

      Here are a few ‘remedies’ for the problems you have described above:

      1. You cannot hurt yourself if you practice correctly :). You can learn more about correct practice from my other videos/articles – and also on my Piano Coaching Program at! 😉

      2. Passion and discipline are the most efficient ‘weapons’ against summer laziness! LOL As long as you LOVE to play piano and you practice beautiful, inspiring pieces – it will be easier to find the required motivation to practice 2-4 hours per day.

      3. Set a daily practice schedule – and stick to it! The results that will appear (only after a couple of days!) will skyrocket your motivation to practice even more!

      Enjoy your practice and have a fabulous summer! 😉

  12. Lester says:

    hi, i am a self thought keyboard player its been 6 years i am playing keyboard i love to play piano, whenever i start playing keyboard i start with piano play for some time,i have a good ear playing skill which god has given me through my practice , i have not done any grade i just started to do my piano grades because it help in my future, i lose my interest while playing the sheet music and i start playing my own music which i love, i really want to improve in sheet music, i start start playing sheet music within few minutes i lose interest please suggest me to improve sheet music.

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi Lester!

      The best way of learning musical notation (and improving your sight-reading skills) is to follow an enjoyable, interesting, well-structured method! 😉

      I recommend following my step-by-step Video Practice Guide for Beginners based on the famous method book The Russian School of Piano Playing by Nikolaev.

      Lesson No. 1 is free – while all the other lessons are available only for the members of my Piano Coaching Program at

      Besides learning musical notation (sheet music) from scratch, in an enjoyable step-by-step manner, you’ll also be able to study in depth all the professional secrets of the Russian piano school – again, in a gradual, harmonious, progressive manner, discovering all the principles of correct practice.

      Good luck,

  13. SounDuke says:

    Hi Ilinca,

    I recently suffered a strong delusion which tore me apart like thousands of rusty knives, some blunted some not.

    This article feels like a panacea to my soul right now. Thanks for publishing it!

    Have a wonderful day.

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi SounDuke,

      I’m really happy that my article helped you through the difficult situation you were experiencing!

      Thank you for your comment and have an awesome day ;),

  14. 77Helen says:

    Hi Ilinca,

    In March I took my grade 7 exam and then in July my grade 8. I received a distinction in my grade 7 but failed my grade 8 (originally). As it turns out, my centers results had to be re-examined because the examiner had given “suspiciously low results” to almost every candidate. To begin with I received 63% when it’s 64% to achieve a pass. I’m livid that the examiner intended to fail me by only 1% when so much time and money has been spent on the exam.

    Explanation aside, although technically I have passed, it’s still an extremely disappointing result and I’m about to start a music degree in September. Due to failing this exam I feel like I’ve been led up the garden path by previous teachers into believing I can play well. The examiners comments were extremely critical and very upsetting for me considering the great feedback I had from my grade 7 and from other music teachers. The examiner did not leave a single positive comment. I have never felt less like playing the piano in my life and I’m currently supposed to be preparing for an audition. I have also chosen to do a performance module at university, and I’m no longer sure if I want to do this – the thought of more critical teachers is making me dread starting university.
    There’s just a little voice in my head telling me that if I was a good enough player I would have achieved a good result, harsh examiner or not.
    I know I should suck it up and get over it, but it’s killed my desire to play.
    Have you ever felt like this?

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi Helen!

      I know very well how you feel!

      My advice (taken from my own experience) is the following: instead of worrying about what different teachers will say, concentrate on enriching your knowledge and improving your skills!

      Maybe the teacher that critiqued you follows a different system than your own teacher? Maybe you’re playing in an old-school finger-only manner, and the examiner was a follower of the Russian piano school (therefore focusing on expression and whole-arm action)? Or maybe it’s the opposite – the examining teacher doesn’t approve of your teacher’s progressive methods?

      Piano playing is an art – and art is relative (what is awesome for someone, may be inappropriate for others). However, if you truly want to become a good musician, you have to realize that everything depends on you – and first of all, on your access to correct information about ergonomic and expressive piano playing. If you know how to ‘tame’ the piano – you’ll be able to express anything you want!

      You can find more information in my other articles and videos! You can also join my Piano Coaching Program at – and get instant access to hundreds of exclusive tutorials where I share the professional principles of the Russian piano school via my holistic approach to piano playing and lifestyle.

      Good luck, keep positive and never give up! 😉

  15. Athanassia says:

    Hi Ilinca,

    I liked you article very much and you had some interesting ideas. I think though that stopping one’s feelings, especially you own is way more difficult than talk! I tried using most of those things before but I still remember my failures some times after many years and think “GOD what have I done!”. Like, one time at my music school’s concert I was supposed to perform a really easy Liszt song that I knew really well. The people watching me were mostly parents and people I knew, about 50 persons and I got on stage telling myself to relax and everything’s gonna be fine. Then I started playing and the disaster happened! The piano had stiff keys, awful sound and was anything but tunned! I was really socked and my relaxing state left me easily. I couldn’t concentrate on the piece. I really quickened the tempo and at the middle I stopped! All the notes left my head and there I was with trembling fingers, trying to remember and hitting random notes for about 4 minutes! I finished the song at the end but the song’s duration was about the pause’s duration and it made me feel REALLY awkward! I’ve never gone through a piano exam yet but I feel really afraid after that one time that if I screwd up at such an easy moment, passing the exam will be impossible!
    Please tell me your opinion about my situation!

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi Athanassia!

      You’re right – controlling our emotions and ‘taming’ our mind is the most difficult thing a human being can accomplish! It cannot happen overnight, and it requires lots of perseverance. Do a research on meditation – you will find lots of interesting things! 🙂

      The situation you described is entirely normal – and it is a direct result of not rehearsing on the exam piano!!! In our country, this is unacceptable – all our students have the right to rehearse on the exam piano AT LEAST 2-3 times before the performance – this way they get acquainted with the ‘feel’ of the piano, the weight of its keys, its sound intensity, the acoustics of the hall etc.

      Preparation is the key to success – anxiety control is only the cherry on the cake in this case! 🙂

      Good luck,

  16. faith says:

    My mistake(s) were horrible, I was onstage and it felt like the whole song was a mistake! everything was a disaster. I was playing Fur Elise I remembered the song perfectly but my fingers just like stumbled and could’nt get up i burst into tears afterwards

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi Faith!

      Thank you for sharing your experience! Situations like the one you described are actually pretty normal – and the good news is that our performing skills can be improved with practice and experience. More information on this topic on! 😉


  17. John says:

    I prepared like mad for grade 6 AMEB classical piano. As the exam approached a difficult rapid trill in a Mozart Sonata deserted me no matter what I did short of playing very slowly. Tension I suppose. I went blank and stopped halfway through in my exam. It was a pretty stressful disappointing experience. Anyway all that preparation must have paid off. The examiner known to be a hard marker gave me good comments and A overall. I’m doing grade 7 now with my exam due. I think learning to handle inevitable mistakes is lacking in piano training. Love you site and comments above. Very helpful.

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi John!

      Thank you for your appreciation – and for sharing your experience! 🙂

      Yes, mistakes are inevitable in any learning experience – and perceiving them as lessons (not failures) is the most productive approach! 😉

      Enjoy your practice – and LOTS of good luck with your upcoming exam!!!

  18. Robert says:

    Greetings Ilinca,
    I have written before and just want to make another comment. 55 years ago at the age of 20 I was a skater and pretty good but took many falls before I could say that. Seems to me falling is what happens before we fly and that was how I felt on my skates after the thousand and one failures. Now the piano, after four years, brings back to mind all those failures of long ago but I just pick myself up and begin over for I know I will fly once more through the love of making the music I use to dance to. Thank you for your words of encouragement. Robert

  19. Alexis says:

    I end up here when I tried to find someone with similar experience like I do. I have been trying for dipABRSM for like god know how many years, like at least 6 years. I dragged out the exam in 3 years to attempt for failing parts. I got a clear pass for recital, passed viva voce the first time, and failed the quick study. Piano saw me from high school to almost finishing college, and I still found it hard to accept, after 6 years of preparing one exam and failed. Probably its not for me but.. everytime I look at the piano, I just couldn’t. I have great parents and teacher who support me fully and I just. urgh. Thanks for your advices though, but I think I have already passed the time to try again. Maybe I just need to accept this and move on. Failures are always easier when you’re younger.

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi Alexis!

      Indeed, piano doesn’t have to be everyone’s passion 🙂 – so if you feel that this particular journey is not for you, this is totally ok! 😉 The important thing is to be completely honest with yourself and do what is right for YOU (not for your parents or teachers LOL).

      Lots of good luck,

  20. Emily Crews-Montès says:


    Following on from Alexis’ comment above – a young guy who, with some regret, looked like deciding to move on from attempts to pass his ABRSM Diploma, I have the opposite problem.

    I am 42. I live in a country other than my own, one where I can’t get a job. Family commitments mean I can’t move back to my own country. I have played the piano all my life. I turned back to it in earnest, making the most of having more time (due to not being able to work). I have some pupils (beginners or near beginners).

    I have just failed my ABRSM Grade 8 on the second attempt. I got 96 points the first time, and 97 points the second time (the pass mark is 100 out of 150). I haven’t yet seen the comment sheet for my second attempt, but the examiner clearly loathed my playing in the first exam, whereas I thought the second examiner had liked it. I performed one of the pieces in front of an audience several days before the exam, and the audience had loved it.

    I am not young – life is NOT full of possibilities. I spend more hours than I care to admit at the piano. I’m enrolled in the local Conservatoire – I work on accompaniments for songs at shows, and I’m taking their Cycle 2 assessment in June. I have recently taken on a highly successful local businessman as a (beginner) pupil. He is the same age as me, and we are bravely embarking on an ambitious plan to have him playing his target piece sooner than we should.

    I had started choosing my pieces for the ABRSM Diploma. I could have drawn great comfort from knowing that should I suddenly find myself able to return to the UK, I would be (for some) qualified to teach (having ABRSM Grade 8).

    Now my little-person small-time dreams – modest as they were, are shattered. As a young person I succeeded in everything. Now it seems that the more effort I make, the worse it is.

    I read with interest your section on not making piano one’s life. I had thought that engaging with what I was doing was the right thing to do. I would like more balance to my life, but I need to achieve something. As an adult, and a mother, I don’t feel I have the right to devote all this time to piano any more, because I have failed.

  21. priscilla says:

    Hello. I`m currently studying music in college now. My major is classical piano. I chose piano because i want to become a teacher. Even though i like pop music more than classic, i chose this so i can have a good basic , later for graduate degree I want to learn church music. So alot of people say it`s better to take classical piano for my bachelor degree. And the probpem is i do not like performing classical music. If I play the piano in church in sunday service, I am not nervous at all, but when it comes to my college exam every year, I`m very afraid of forgetting my song, in the middle of playing it. The first happened in my first concert when i was a little girl. I forgot the text, then i start again from the beginning it ended well the second time. But that makes me afraid of making the same mistake again. When my teacher asked me if i want to join the annual concert , i never wanted to join again. Then my first exam last year, i tried not to think that i will forget. Never passed in my mind that i will make the same mistake again. BUT it did happen…. I forgot what note to press just on the second page(from total 9), then I can`t continue again. so it makes me re think if this is my nature, when I`m nervous I will forget. So my exam is coming 2 weeks from now. And I am afraid again. I will try your tips above. Do you have anything to add? Thankyou so much for the advice.

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi Priscilla!

      This is Natalia, Ilinca Vartic’s assistant at

      You can also read Ilinca’s free article Studying Piano – How to Cope With Exams? 7 Basic Steps. Then, you can find more information on these topics – how to memorize a piece correctly, how to get ready for a performance, how to focus during a concert/exam, how to minimize performance anxiety etc. etc. – in the Members Area of Ilinca’s Piano Coaching Program at

      You can find out more about this program by reading our super-detailed FAQs (, especially Ilinca’s answers to questions No. 1 and 2.

      If you have other questions about the functionality of (that are not covered in the FAQs), don’t hesitate to ask!

      Customer Support

  22. Gosia says:


    This is a great article. Thank you very much for it. I am going to ‘defend’ my PhD soon and it is going to be a disaster. I have been working as a madman in the lab, because I had a lot of problems and nobody to help. I was so obssessed with collecting data (which I desperately needed) so I was working 12-14h a day, also during weekends, sometimes only making a day off to analyse briefly what I had so far, maybe do some lundry. Eventually I ended up having only 1.5 month to write the thesis, which is not very well thought through, hastily written and as my reviewers sad: had a lot of mistakes. Now one week ahead I have to correct a lot, don’t have time to dig into literature, which I neglected due to lab duties, and going to be massacred by already angry comittee during the public defence (yes, we defend in public in fromt of all my colleagues, the only which will fail I guess from as far as I remember). I am looking back and I do not see any way I could do better, or improve my outcome and I know my boss will going to be telling me over and over how dissapointed he is with me. And all this in public.

    I was really in pieces, up untill I found your article and I think that now I am starting to pull myself together a bit. I am still going to fail (God knows, that despite my hard work it is not worth a PhD diploma: and I could do nothig about it), but I think that at least in front of public I think will keep myself together and will not burst in the tears (crying in public: my worse proffessional nightmare).
    Thank you very, very much for it.

  23. Masood says:

    Hello Dear Ilinca. Thank you for your great lessons and tutorials. I personally learned a lot of brilliant things from your lessons. Thank you very much!

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi Masood!

      You’re very welcome!!! I’m really happy that you enjoy my tutorials! 😉

      Thank you for your comment and have a wonderful day!

  24. Timo says:

    Hi Ilinca, WOW thank you for your words of wisdom. So uplighting. I’m confuse, I study piano in youtube I just copy everything and I can play it. But I suck playing by ear. How can I start learning by playing by ear? Do I need a teacher?

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi Timo!

      This is Natalia, Ilinca Vartic’s assistant at

      Playing by ear (or by simply copying those YouTube tutorials that simply show you what notes to press) is an amateur approach to piano playing, and it can never lead to good results or a feeling of fulfillment.

      It is much better (and so much more enjoyable!) to learn how to play correctly, in a professional manner – simultaneously studying musical notation (which is not difficult at all, but so rewarding!).

      You will be able to learn how to play piano from scratch, in an enjoyable progressive manner, by following Ilinca’s step-by-step Video Course for Beginners. Find out more about this Course (and about the functionality of our PianoCareerAcademy) by reading our super-detailed FAQs ( Please pay special attention to questions No. 17, 18 (where Ilinca explains why you should study musical notation), 1 and 2.

      If you have other questions about the functionality of (that are not covered in the FAQs), don’t hesitate to ask!

      I hope that my answer was helpful – and we’re looking forward to welcoming you to our community! 😉

      Customer Support

  25. Lucia says:

    Hello. And what a wonderful website I found, it really helps alot! But the truth is, I get extremely nervous when it comes to piano, even in front of my own piano teacher. I love playing the piano, but I always end up getting stressed about it, but I really DO love it. I just can’t get rid of my nervousness, which leads to my anxiety 🙁 Do you have any recommendations? It’s just I try to be “in the moment” but it doesn’t work… and then I just start getting fustrated at myself and at my piano teacher(my mum btw).. What should I do? Thanks xx

  26. Luna says:

    Hello Ilinca,

    Thank you so much for your post, it makes me feel somewhat better, but I’m still a little stressed.

    My case is a bit different – I’ve just completed my Grade 10 exam (this morning!) and I’m really disappointed in myself. I’ve been working really hard, and last night I played for my teacher super well. It’s her last week teaching and she’s been waiting for me to finish my exam, we were both expecting good results.

    However, after what just happened, I can’t get my mind off it. I started out okay, but then I made a mistake on my fugue which threw me off completely. I remember having to restart a couple of my pieces, but I can’t quite remember how the rest of my exam went. I just know I did not do well.

    I’m thirteen this year, and it’s been really hard for me. I can’t control my emotions, and I’ve been crying for hours now. I have final school exams coming up in 3 days, and I really need to study, but I can not focus! Any strategies on forgetting about a failure? I tried changing my attitude but it only stays for a while before I go negative again. Thank you xx

  27. Hristina says:

    You can’t be more right ! I’m determinated of meditating on it from now on each and every day..sometimes it all comes from the things we know but don’t put in action
    Today was one of my worst piano exams because of my total finger and mind blocking and paralyzing while playing Chopin op.10 n.5 (the one on the black keys ) . Trying to play “ambitious” in front of so many teachers made me lose control and I barely did 5 % while minute before in the warming up I was brilliant …
    Reading through these life laws made me stand on my feet again and feel I’m not alone…

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi Hristina!

      Thank you for sharing your experience!

      You are certainly not alone! We all ‘freeze’ sometimes during exams – it’s only human :). Keep practicing and keep taking little steps on a daily basis – and the results will naturally follow! 😉

  28. Hio Ni says:

    So, today was supposedly my first piano recital. I’ve practiced day and nights, rain or shine, and for so long. And after bowing, I start my song smoothly and in the right tempo and correct dynamics but it gets to the part where I forgot a few notes and I start slowing down and my eyes widen, my feet jtters, my heart races so hard. I was scared of failing, in front of people even! My piano teacher saw the look on my face and told me to just.. simply restart. So I did. But even though I played the notes very right this time, my tempo went super fast, obviously giving the clue I wanted all of this to just end. My eyes felt super watery and after I finished, I felt so disappointed. There was a huge applause but that only made me feel like the crowd was doing it just to be nice. People everywhere told me I did “GREAT!” or “Amazing, simply amazing.” but I knew the truth, and I hated being lied to. My brother saw me looking down, he said something I never thought he’d have the heart to say. “Your playing sucked. Try harder.”
    Suddenly, I actually calmed down. My mind was confused, and I dont know why but I actually felt a whole lot better! Like, I was being lied to, as if the truth was actually filling me. Later on, more fake comments of my playing being decent bombarded me, so I ran out to the parking lot and cried my tears out. What. Is. Wrong. With. Me.

    • Ilinca says:

      Thank you for sharing this experience, Hio Ni!

      Please don’t worry – there is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with you! 🙂

      You simply need more performing practice, that’s all!

      The thing is that no matter how well we practice at home, on stage things always feel different, and we experience an inevitable ‘quality loss’ because of that (that’s why I tell my students that they have to be 300% prepared in order to play 100% well).

      Besides taking your pre-recital preparation to a new level, you also need to play in public more often, this way developing your performing skills (which cannot appear out of the blue – but only as a result of experience).

      Most students’ very first performances are not very successful – but if they keep at it and play in public at least 3-5 times per year, they get better and better each time! 😉

      This was obviously a very short answer – and you can find more detailed information on this topic (how to prepare for a recital, how to deal with performance anxiety, why this anxiety appears in the first place and how it affects our playing etc.) in the Members Area of my Piano Coaching Program at

      So cheer up – we’ve all been there! Your first recital was only one page of a volume comprising hundreds of chapters, so simply keep moving forward! Perseverance (and the ability to get up more times than you fall) is the only way to achieve mastery in a certain field :).

      Warmest wishes,

  29. Masami de Toulouose-Lafaille says:

    According to my piano teacher, I’m one of his few students who are naturally gifted musician. I’d never studied music in my life (I’m in my late 60 years old).
    I’m not able to play well in front of my teacher. What is the best way to over come
    this fear? Whould you please “HELP ME!”. Thank you.

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi Masami!

      You will find detailed information on this topic (how to overcome the fear of performing in front of other people, including your teacher) in the Members Area of my Piano Coaching Program at :).

      You can learn more about this program (and its functionality) by taking a look at our super-detailed FAQs – as follows:
      No. 1-3: discover what PianoCareerAcademy is, how it works, what is included (and what is not included) in the membership – and also the List of Tutorials currently available for our members.
      No. 4-6: learn more about our membership options (monthly and yearly) – and how they work.
      No. 9: tells you where to find sample tutorials.
      No. 17: a detailed description of our Video Course for Beginners (in case you’re a beginner, or you wish to re-learn the fundamentals correctly).
      No. 19: a detailed description of the Scale & Arpeggio Course.


  30. Erik says:

    I love your inspiring and uplifting wisdom on approaching the piano with mindfulness, joy and fun. I have had this article saved for a few years and just revisited it after quite a long dry spell where I haven’t played my keyboard. Just yesterday I was inspired to study and really learn jazz which has also been a dream of mine. Also, big shoutout to your recommendations about Shakti Gawain’s booked – just last month I picked those two up and have absolutely loved them and her style. I am learning to follow those deep dreams and desires and see where they take me, music is such an adventure for me, and it’s always fun to have confirmation about that. Thanks for your inspiring musical spirit and encouragement!

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi Erik!

      Thank you so much! I’m really happy to hear that this article (and my recommendations) are helpful for you! 😉

  31. Winnie says:

    Hi Ilinca,

    Your article is very encouraging. I am an adult learner (close to 50 years old) and started learning piano 5 years ago. Failed my grade 7 ABRSM exam recently … ha ha. Sad to say my mind went blank 1/4 through the first piece and hands were shaking so badly when playing the scales although I have no problem when practicing at home …(alone)…. my nerves got the best of me on that “IMPORTANT” day. Although I am quite comfortable playing on my piano at home, I felt uncomfortable playing on the piano at the exam venue. It feels unfamiliar. The make and model of the pianos are the same but I just feel a lack of control. I am not sure how to overcome this mental (?) hurdle since this will happen again in future exams … if I decide to take them again. My friends were joking with me the other day saying “Why even bother taking the exams at this age, just play for enjoyment. Why subject yourself to the stress and disappointment?”. I took the exams in order to have an independent assessment of my piano playing other than my piano teacher (of course there are other supporting components in the exam other than the 3 pieces). Maybe you can advise me if I should still continue taking the exams at this age. (By the way, I prefer to play romantic era slower and expressive pieces such as Chopin Nocturne C# minor as compared to baroque period pieces but exams require pieces from different periods). Thanks !

  32. Masami de Toulouose-Lafaille says:

    I’ve taken your advices but I’m still “very shy and difficult to play a piano in front of my piano teacher. According to him, your are the most gifted musician. Well, I’m still shy. I don’t know how to over come this “challenge”. I don’t know what to do.

    • Ilinca says:

      Hi! The best way of conquering ‘shyness’ is to keep doing what you feel uncomfortable with. The more you will play for your teacher (and other people) – the better you will become at it! 😉

      This is obviously a very short (and incomplete) reply – and you will find several in-depth tutorials on this topic in the Members Area of my Piano Coaching Program at

      Good luck! 😉

  33. Masami de Toulouose-Lafaille says:

    I’ll try your suggestions and let you konw my results.
    Thank you.

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