Learning Piano (Day 89): “Haste Makes Waste”

I did in one month what most would take one day to do. I wanted to be a prodigy…what a step backward.

In March, I reflected on and refined my learning process. I identified and corrected mistakes, I threw out wastes of time, and I added learning techniques, tactics, and strategies used by the learning experts Scott H. Young, Josh Kaufman, and Tim Ferriss. This updated process was my recipe for becoming a prodigy of anything and everything.

When April began, I tested this process immediately.

I wanted to learn piano, so I set goals, I practiced, and I stayed disciplined. But I got nothing done. Clearly, I did not stay disciplined enough, nor did I practice properly. But I followed my process. What went wrong?

The learning process begins with identifying what you want to learn. I chose piano. The second step was to set goals, milestones, and deadlines. I set them. The third step was to create stakes. I created them. The fourth step was to deconstruct my chosen skill. It was the information-gathering phase, but I gathered nothing. Well, I broke piano down into a list of sub-skills: sight-reading, musical literacy, fingering technique, ear training, rhythm training, music theory, and Solfège. But that did nothing. I did not understand how these sub-skills would be trained or how they fit into piano play. All I could see was a tsunami of information about to swallow me whole, so I forgot the list.

Deconstructing piano was unnecessary. I was subscribed to two piano courses anyways: Hoffman Academy and Piano for All. Why deconstruct piano myself when the experts had done it already? I only needed to follow instructions, so that’s exactly what I did. Of the 2, Piano for All seemed like it was the best and fastest way to learn, so I followed Piano for All’s lessons and used Hoffman Academy to clarify anything I couldn’t understand.

3 weeks into April, I was 4 sections and 31 lessons deep. In my first week, I completed section 1. In my second week, I completed sections 2 and 3. I was moving quickly. In my third week of April, I was already on section 4. The week after that, I was still on section 4. I was slowing. Actually…no. I was stuck. I could not play the practice progressions. I often hit wrong notes, I had no sense of rhythm, and I was sluggish in moving from chord to chord. I had overlooked something crucial.

Section 1 and 2 taught basic beats and a few chords, section 3 went deeper into chords, and section 4 was all about advanced chords. Progressing from section to section should have been simple, but I was lazy and arrogant. I practiced the progressions in sections 1 and 2 until I could play each beat with ease. However, I cut corners in practicing chords, believing that knowing which notes were in each chord was enough. It wasn’t. When the practice progressions in section 3 came, I didn’t even bother to try and play on rhythm. As long as I could identify and play the chords in sequence, no matter how sluggishly, I moved on to the next lesson. I believed that the only reason I couldn’t play the chords rhythmically was because I had yet to learn proper hand positioning and fingering technique. Once I learned those, I would have no problem playing the practice progressions perfectly. I was wrong.

Section 4’s advanced chords exposed everything. In an attempt to “learn fast,” I failed to learn anything.

I was forced to restart the course in the last few days of April. I began from section 1 and practiced every progression until I could play each without flaw, only moving on if I reproduced the beat perfectly, flowed from chord to chord, and never touched a wrong note.

It took me most of April to realize my mistake and the rest of it to truly learn the beats and chords most would take one day to learn. I wasted an entire month. In wanting to be a prodigy, I became all haste with no heed.  It took me a long time to spot my mistakes and to learn this lesson. However, I would not have wanted to learn this lesson any faster. After all, in my experience and in the wise words of Benjamin Franklin, “haste makes waste.”


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