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Today I'm struggling with the simplest things at the piano and feeling very frustrated and hard on myself. When this happens do you walk away or just work on something even easier like playing some scales? I know it's up to me I'm wondering what others typically do if they experience this. It's one of those self pity days where I feel like I'm the worse, slowest and that simple things are so hard.

Do even advanced pianist have these days where simple things are a struggle (simple being relative to the person)?

Do you just keep at it and try to focus?

I do try to remind myself of the days where I feel like I'm a rock star too but those are rare laugh

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I’m at beginner status.
3 steps forward, 1 step back.
Hopefully means my brain is doing something necessary.
Some days I just mess about on the keys.
Sometimes I have days when I seem to have gone backwards or not progressed.
Give it a few days and something falls in to place.
Ask your piano teacher to advise on your practice schedule and set some goals.
Your teacher should notice if you are progressing on not between lessons and should be able to help.
Look at the long term, not the immediate.

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When it doesn’t work, I don’t keep playing and try to make it work—- I walk away. A phrase I learned from one of my past teachers is it some days you just have mitten hands. I’ve learned to accept the mitten hands and return later. ... generally not the same day.

And yes, it’s one thing that will always rear it’s ugly head.


"Music, rich, full of feeling, not soulless, is like a crystal on which the sun falls and brings forth from it a whole rainbow" - F. Chopin
"I never dreamt with my own two hands I could touch the sky" - Sappho

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Originally Posted by FennerMachine
I’m at beginner status.
3 steps forward, 1 step back.
Hopefully means my brain is doing something necessary.
Some days I just mess about on the keys.
Sometimes I have days when I seem to have gone backwards or not progressed.
Give it a few days and something falls in to place.
Ask your piano teacher to advise on your practice schedule and set some goals.
Your teacher should notice if you are progressing on not between lessons and should be able to help.
Look at the long term, not the immediate.

I'm a beginner too and yes I'm progressing.... just seeing how others deal with these types of days.

Originally Posted by dogperson
When it doesn’t work, I don’t keep playing and try to make it work—- I walk away. A phrase I learned from one of my past teachers is it some days you just have mitten hands. I’ve learned to accept the mitten hands and return later. ... generally not the same day.

And yes, it’s one thing that will always rear it’s ugly head.

Ok if a teacher had a phrase for it sounds like many also have this. I decided step away and relax. I'll do some forum reading and listen to music plenty fun music things to do away from piano too.

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I am lucky in the fact that I never get frustrated at the piano. It’s probably my age.

Some days I walk away from the piano saying "that wasn’t very good" and other days I’m saying "My hands are finally free. I’m getting there".

Either way, I feel that my body has learnt something even if it’s how not to do something.

I think of it a bit like share dealing. I may lose a bit one week but for me it’s a long term investment and hopefully things will recover.


Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until you can’t get it wrong.
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Originally Posted by treefrog
I am lucky in the fact that I never get frustrated at the piano. It’s probably my age.

Some days I walk away from the piano saying "that wasn’t very good" and other days I’m saying "My hands are finally free. I’m getting there".

Either way, I feel that my body has learnt something even if it’s how not to do something.

I think of it a bit like share dealing. I may lose a bit one week but for me it’s a long term investment and hopefully things will recover.

That's great! I too should never be frustrated at the piano. It's very rare that it happens but instead I should be grateful I get to sit at a piano and learn it. I need to work on reshaping my attitude and never think "why am I slow, why am I not that good" but rather I need to think "what I can accomplish today and look how I've come"

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Four choices:
1. Start practicing a different piece.
2. Take a short break.
3. Take the day off.
4. Try and solve the problem. Figure out what's causing the difficulty. You can't just practice something over and over with the hope that it will eventually improve or the problem will disappear.

Any of the above are reasonable.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Four choices:
1. Start practicing a different piece.
2. Take a short break.
3. Take the day off.
4. Try and solve the problem. Figure out what's causing the difficulty. You can't just practice something over and over with the hope that it will eventually improve or the problem will disappear.

Any of the above are reasonable.

Great. These were things I was thinking too ad mostly wanting to figure out the why. I was going to to do #3 but then I think even if I get 20 minutes in of something simple even just HS practice it's still good and moving forward.

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What you should know is that everyday of practice brings you something. Even when you are not in great shape. Just do something usefull that does not require you to be at your best. Those days happens whatever is the activity. When i am running, some days i am not in shape also. Same with climbing or swimming.

Sight read, study music, listen music, do simple exercises. Tomorrow will be better and learning piano is a long journey. One day does not make any difference. I rarely get frustrated, as i can always do something that makes me satisfied. Just enjoy what you are doing.

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Originally Posted by Sidokar
What you should know is that everyday of practice brings you something. Even when you are not in great shape. Just do something usefull that does not require you to be at your best. Those days happens whatever is the activity. When i am running, some days i am not in shape also. Same with climbing or swimming.

Sight read, study music, listen music, do simple exercises. Tomorrow will be better and learning piano is a long journey. One day does not make any difference. I rarely get frustrated, as i can always do something that makes me satisfied. Just enjoy what you are doing.

Good point. What causes the frustration is when i keep trying at the items that are just not going well. Take away is don't get frustrated just set those items aside move on to something else.

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Originally Posted by Sebs
Do even advanced pianist have these days where simple things are a struggle (simple being relative to the person)?
Of course!

When I was a student at high school (therefore, unadvanced) and felt like I couldn't practise properly because nothing worked, I used to just goof around on the keyboard playing tunes by ear, bits of whatever I felt like (often just tunes I'd heard on someone's radio recently - meaning 'Top of the Pops') or just making some rubbish up (i.e. 'improv' - there are no wrong notes in improv) and throwing everything, including the kitchen sink into it. Fast and often very loud. As badly as I liked.

I just treated my practice time as playtime instead, and I certainly wasn't going to give up my seat at the piano, because I'd rushed to get that practice room after school finished. (It was first come first served - there were two rooms that every piano student was eager to bag because they had the biggest and best-sounding uprights.) If I had sheet music of stuff I wasn't learning with my teacher (i.e. cheap stuff I'd bought indiscriminately from the sales box at the local music shop), or volumes of music I'd borrowed from the school music library, I'd bang my way through it, sight-reading whatever I could manage. Sometimes, a fellow student (pianist or violinist) would pop in and join me in the cacophony.

These days, of course, I have my own piano and don't need to fear losing my chance to tickle the ivories for the day if I just leave the room and do something more boring instead (like snacking on choc). But I also have a lot of appealing memorized music that I can play with little effort (which I didn't have when I was a kid), as well as a whole lot more sight-reading and improvising skills, so I'm never at a loss for something to play if I'm not up to practicing properly.

The thing is, even if I wasn't practicing properly and just playing for fun (like a professional soccer player might kick a ball around with his kids and their friends on his days off), I was still getting something from playing something - anything - on the piano. For instance I might be improvising in the key of C, say something based on the tune from Saint-Saëns's Organ Symphony, once used as a pop song:



....and then, via rippling arpeggios (similar to S-S's original), I might try to modulate to the relative minor, changing the tune itself into A minor, maybe turning the tune upside-down (à la Rach-Pag), via a series of runs and arpeggios.
Thus, even though I'm just having fun at the piano, I'm still practicing arpeggios and scales. I don't need to beat myself up just because I wasn't up to 'practicing the piano'......


"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Originally Posted by Sebs
Do even advanced pianist have these days where simple things are a struggle (simple being relative to the person)?
Of course!

When I was a student at high school (therefore, unadvanced) and felt like I couldn't practise properly because nothing worked, I used to just goof around on the keyboard playing tunes by ear, bits of whatever I felt like (often just tunes I'd heard on someone's radio recently - meaning 'Top of the Pops') or just making some rubbish up (i.e. 'improv' - there are no wrong notes in improv) and throwing everything, including the kitchen sink into it. Fast and often very loud. As badly as I liked.

I just treated my practice time as playtime instead, and I certainly wasn't going to give up my seat at the piano, because I'd rushed to get that practice room after school finished. (It was first come first served - there were two rooms that every piano student was eager to bag because they had the biggest and best-sounding uprights.) If I had sheet music of stuff I wasn't learning with my teacher (i.e. cheap stuff I'd bought indiscriminately from the sales box at the local music shop), or volumes of music I'd borrowed from the school music library, I'd bang my way through it, sight-reading whatever I could manage. Sometimes, a fellow student (pianist or violinist) would pop in and join me in the cacophony.

These days, of course, I have my own piano and don't need to fear losing my chance to tickle the ivories for the day if I just leave the room and do something more boring instead (like snacking on choc). But I also have a lot of appealing memorized music that I can play with little effort (which I didn't have when I was a kid), as well as a whole lot more sight-reading and improvising skills, so I'm never at a loss for something to play if I'm not up to practicing properly.

The thing is, even if I wasn't practicing properly and just playing for fun (like a professional soccer player might kick a ball around with his kids and their friends on his days off), I was still getting something from playing something - anything - on the piano. For instance I might be improvising in the key of C, say something based on the tune from Saint-Saëns's Organ Symphony, once used as a pop song:



....and then, via rippling arpeggios (similar to S-S's original), I might try to modulate to the relative minor, changing the tune itself into A minor, maybe turning the tune upside-down (à la Rach-Pag), via a series of runs and arpeggios.
Thus, even though I'm just having fun at the piano, I'm still practicing arpeggios and scales. I don't need to beat myself up just because I wasn't up to 'practicing the piano'......


Excellent to hear. I love scales so I'm thinking I can always play a new scales or work on some dynamics with scales. I have no idea why but I love playing them!

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I usually just take a nap.

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I hit days like this quite often. Right now I am off the piano for a bit due to an elbow injury. Actually I could probably play, my doc said playing the piano shouldn’t be affecting it, but I’m going to give my hands at least a week on the meds before I’m back.

Anyway, I’m so GLAD you posted this question, because I know the first time I sit down I’ll feel like I’m soooo bad and can’t do anything! ARGH!!! hehe smile

These are the things I try:

1) SLOW the tempo WAY down to like 60 or even 40, especially if it is a new piece. Also, maybe skip the metronome, and play a few bars at a time to get the notes under my fingers first, before being concerned about exact timing.

2) As others have suggested - Pull out some super easy sheet music, and play that until it feels fun again. I figure at least I’m working on sight reading.

3) I’ll go through the circle of 5th doing just the triad chords C to G to D to A to E to B to F#, Bb etc, then go around again, and add Dominant 7th or Maj 7th, then try the scales.

Lastly, and sometimes I do this first since it almost always ends up being fun, even if I “screw up” a few chords. I’ll try to improv using the blues scale or some simple chord progressions and just play around with different ways of playing the chords. Josef @ Creative Piano Academy, Bill Hilton and Bradley Sowash (who is on PianoWorld), all have good tutorials on YouTube or their websites for easy chord progressions, or simple improv of just a few notes against either just a few chords or even just a few root/bass notes, no chords in the left.

If you must walk away, then I hit musictheory.net website and do some exercises. I like the note recognition the best. Hit the little gear icon and you can set only treble, bass, or both and how many notes above or blow the staff lines.
https://www.musictheory.net/exercises

Most importantly, remember to have fun again. We can’t all be Ben Folds, Thelonious Monk, or Marian McPartland all the time. HAh! grin

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Originally Posted by EinLudov
I usually just take a nap.
LOL I’ve done this more than once.

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Sometimes the gains you make today do not appear until tomorrow. Or later.

Even on days that my playing does not show that I have learned the target skill, that skill might appear tomorrow or the day after. Once I accepted this fact, the frustration of trying, but failing to perform something, has become greatly mitigated by the confidence that my brain will have the new knowledge sorted, organized, and ready to be accessed in the very near future. Life is now better!


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I have different kinds of bad days.

Some days, the mind just won't relax, and I can't focus on the music. I start thinking about something else, or even the next piece I need to work on, rather than what is right in front of me - basically can't get in the moment. Those are the worst days, and I typically just abandon practice. Doesn't happen that often.

Other days, nice and relaxed, focused, but fingers are just clumsy. Usually on these days, tempo and dynamics are good, just flub some notes. These days are still productive - key characteristic of this type of day is to hit a wrong note, but it not to cause me to pause or hesitate, I just go on like I am performing. This is when I know I'm comfortable with the piece I'm working on.

Other days, my back or shoulders are tired, and I have to recognize it early, force myself to relax the muscles, or I will not be able to do a long session.

It's pretty helpful for me to recognize what type of bad day I'm having.

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I'm working on an advanced piece that has a few LH & RH chords. Despite the slow tempo, getting comfortable with the fingerings is a struggle.

Some days I can work on 1 - 2 lines of the hard piece. Today I did just 2 measures. Yesterday got the first C-19 vaccine shot and still recovering from a sore arm. Slow practice definitely. Even on days my energy level is down, I'd work on a line from the difficult piece and easier pieces.

The difficulty level is relative. An unfamiliar piece can be difficulty. After you played it through a few times, it's more approachable. A while back I worked on a Waltz with a lot of LH jumps. After getting used to the notes, the piece isn't so bad that I can practice it half asleep.

Definitely avoid learning new pieces. Reduce the time you spend on a difficult piece you already worked on but not avoid it completely.

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Thanks for posting this, Sebs. At some point I was going to ask the same question.

I started in early February and encountered my first really frustrating day today. I've had a few tough days already, which most of us can expect for any demanding activity. Today was the first time that I got mad at myself. This week's lesson with my teacher is playing an arranged version of a Musette from the Anna Magdalena Bach Notebook in Faber's Adult book. It's first time that I've played staccato in my left hand and legato in my right. On Tuesday she told me to be patient and that I might not nail this one by next weeks' lesson. I made decent progress the past two days, and this morning I played through it pretty well a few times. I worked on a couple of other pieces from another book and took quick break. When I got back to the piano, I couldn't play that Musette worth a damn. Slowed everything down. Counted out loud through it. Worked on each little section. Played along with the book's audio. Worked on the other pieces again and came back to it a third time. Then a fourth. Nada. I can be stubborn at times to the point of losing perspective of things -- the whole thing put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day.

I have to remind myself that this isn't like learning to ride a bike or skate backwards on ice skates. The learning curve isn't necessarily linear and can be quite fragile.

Again, thanks for posting this, you've gotten some great replies that will help more people than just you.

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What exactly are you worried about: slow progress or no progress at all? Create an archive of your periodic records, say every 3 weeks. Get started today if you didn't start 2 years ago! When you have four such records, start comparing the first and the last, and then you will get the real proportions of progress. The first record will always serve as a benchmark.

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