6 Life Lessons You Learned From Your Piano Teacher

Don't rush to the end of your life. Stay on tempo.

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1. Always start out slowly.

No matter what it is–when you start something new, you should start slowly, touching the keys lightly, getting to know the music on an intimate level. In the same way, you must start everything else slowly–be it in your professional or personal life, careful not to learn anything incorrectly or reveal too much too soon.

2. Underline and circle to ensure you don’t make the same mistakes twice.

Making the same mistakes many times, lesson-after-lesson, is frustrating for your teacher–and a complete waste of time. You learn to remind yourself to pay closer attention to those parts, to avoid repetitive errors. And in the same way, you learn not to fumble your way through life, making the same messes over and over again.

3. Work on individual sections before putting everything together.

Right hand first, then left hand. The first page, then the second page. Everything is structured on an individual level before being put together–and it’s for the better. In the same way, you learn to concentrate on one area of your life at a time; to have the patience to clean thoroughly, to get to the root of every conversation, to complete things wholly before moving on.

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4. Don’t rush. Stay on tempo.

The metronome sits beside the page for a reason—ready to keep you in-line. You’re meant to keep to that tempo at all costs (unless a ritardando slows you down). And much in the same way, life keeps moving—and you have to keep up with it, meeting the milestones, not rushing toward the finish line, and appreciating every step of the way.

5. Don’t stop when you make a mistake.

You memorize long pieces, sometimes seven- or eight-pagers, and then you sit in front of countless (or just five) people and perform. And it’s terrifying, and you often make mistakes. But you have to keep going–pushing to the end. Often, people don’t recognize your mistakes. And in the same way: Your life mistakes often go unnoticed by others who are too absorbed with their own problems (as we all are). You can continue with your life without shame.

6. Always look ahead.

When sight-reading a piece for the first time, you’re told to look a few measures ahead—to prepare for a change in key, a strange fingering, or a sudden pianissimo. When you look ahead, the piece—and life itself—doesn’t catch you off-guard (not as often, at least). It’s important to keep your eyes wide for what’s to come.

Piano teachers–thank you for all you’ve taught us. Students: What else did you learn? Share in the comments below!