3 Reasons Why Making Mistakes When Practicing Piano Is Perfect
Did you ever play piano or any other musical instrument when you were little?
Did you hate music practice and did you give up playing the musical instrument you loved, simply because you hated practicing?
Well if you did, then I know your pain, I’ve been there, and I’ve done that.
Yes, as a child I hated practicing the piano. As you know, my mom and aunt were both music teachers, so every time I made a mistake while practicing they always made it a point to yell at me from whatever part of the house they were in, when I was practicing.
Most often than not, and I would venture to say that at least 99% of the time, when I made a mistake, I would instantly realize that I made a mistake and would correct it.
But in that second where I went from making a mistake to self correcting, my mom no matter which part of the house she was in at that time, and no matter what she was doing, would yell – ‘WRONG, WRONG, WRONG’ in the loudest voice possible.
Don’t get me wrong I love my mom very much and she is a really good music teacher, but she and my aunt are extremely ‘old school’. While I do understand that the old ways of teaching have much merit in them, its not always the best way.
I gave up playing piano many times during my childhood simply for that one reason.
As I grew up and became more keen with teaching piano, one thing that I avoided doing was correct my students the moment they made a mistake. This doesn’t mean that I ignored their mistakes during their piano lessons, but rather I wanted to give my young students the opportunity to self-correct their mistakes first.
As in my own case, I found that 99% of my students often realized their mistakes instantly and corrected themselves. However, I did see that making mistakes still continued to frustrate them and they either looked forlorn or would say something like ‘Oh, I’m no good at this’ or something similar.
So, I decided to take a different approach. I decided to cheer on the mistakes.
Now you may think that, that is silly and that we should reward and recognise perfect practice not imperfect practice, but please read on with an open mind.
Here are three reasons why I decided to celebrate the fact that kids make mistakes at their piano lessons or while practicing piano and why I think it is ‘perfect’.
Reason No – 1
When a child makes a mistake and knows that they made a mistake in that area, they tend to have a heightened awareness of the difficult or challenging part. This then makes them focus more. This in turn makes it easier for them to get it right the next time around or after a few tries. Not only does making a mistake then help them to develop their ear (because they recognise that a certain note is missing or a wrong note was played etc.), but they also become more focused.
Reason No – 2
Making mistakes helps teach children to persevere and continue to work hard in the face of challenges and frustrations. I know that many kids can get disheartened by the fact that they make mistakes and may not want to continue, but as parents it is our job, isn’t it, to encourage them, inspire them and support them through their struggles? I always tell my children and my students that making mistakes is a part of the learning and creating process. I continuously reiterate that we should not be afraid to make mistakes because if we become afraid of making mistakes then we will just stop trying to do things that are hard and will stunt our own growth prospects. Last but not least I also continuously remind my own children and my students that those who haven’t made mistakes have most likely not made anything. I have found that sharing the story of Thomas Edison (who tested something like 3000 designs of the light bulb before finally creating the design that actually worked) with the kids and asking them what they think would have happened if he just gave up after one or two tries to be very inspiring.
Reason No 3
This I think is the most important reason why you should celebrate the fact that your child is making mistakes while playing piano and is willing to keep going. It means your child is developing a ‘growth mindset’ and that is a very valuable trait. Research has shown that individuals with a growth mindset are open to learning, are not afraid of making mistakes, are extremely persevering and in the long run turn out to be more successful in their chosen line of work. A growth mindset is very important to develop if you want your child to succeed in any area of their life but when it comes to playing an instrument and mastering it, we all know it can be fraught with much difficulty and a growth mindset is what will ultimately ensure long-term success. If you want to learn more about the concept of a ‘growth mindset’ please click this link and watch this amazing TED Talk given by Carol Dweck (but first finish reading this article because I tell you what and how to handle mistakes during homeschool piano lessons and practice sessions).
Now that you know what my reasoning is for celebrating mistakes, what do you think? Am I crazy? Or do you agree with me?
Before I stop, let me also take this opportunity to give you a few tips so you know what to do when your child makes mistakes during his or her homeschool piano lessons or homeschool piano practice sessions.
- I think you know this just from the experience that I shared with you – don’t shout at your child.
- Give your child time to self-correct his mistakes and you will see that he or she will do so.
- If she doesn’t self correct wait till the end of the piece or the end of the bar line at least, and ask your child “Are you sure you played the entire piece correctly?’ If she says yes, then say ‘I’m not sure I heard this part correctly (point out the part) do you mind playing it one more time please? If she says ‘I know I did make a mistake’ or something similar, praise your child for being able to recognise the mistake and gently ask her to repeat that line correctly.
- If your child seems very frustrated with himself, tell him that you understand the frustration, but making mistakes is a part of learning. Also tell him that what is important is not that he doesn’t make any mistakes but rather that he doesn’t give up – because as long as we don’t give up, we are NOT ‘failures’. We only become ‘failures’ when we actually give up. Use some of my other tactics, which I have shared in this post, like relating the story of Thomas Edison etc.
If you are looking for a comprehensive homeschool piano curriculum that not only teaches your child how to play piano, but also supports and guides you as a parent and gives you all the tools and tips and tricks needed to learn alongside your child and help him/her develop strong musicianship skills, then please check out my 1 year homeschool Piano Curriculum – Teach Your Child Piano – Level 1.