Piano Lessons: Dealing with Anxiety

I am sure that most piano teachers will be alert to the fact that some pupils coming to lessons are anxious. This post will look at some reasons for that, and offer some suggestions that might help normalise lessons.

The article is written for any player who has ever said – and any teacher who has ever heard – the words:

“It was perfect when I practised it at home this morning…”

Clearly, in order for student and teacher to make the most of any piano lesson we all want to move beyond this point!

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The Pianist’s Emotions

The Pianist’s Reflections

Emotions are an essential aspect of our basic humanity. But when they are out of balance they can become dangerous, with the potential to leave us feeling shipwrecked and adrift.

The Problem for Pianists

Of course this is true for everyone – but for piano players (and for musicians and performers in general) there can be some additional challenges, and the swing from over-excitement to terrible disappointment and back can become our daily emotional currency:

  • We are exposed – even for hours on end – to powerful and profound emotions, communicated wordlessly by some of the most creative people in history
  • To play well we must engage with our own emotions, those of the composer, and in performance with those of our audiences
  • We work often in solitude, with few alternative emotional outlets other than our musical expression
  • The touring of the concert pianist, and the long (often antisocial) hours of the piano teacher can put additional strain on our physical and social wellbeing
  • The piano world is a hyper-competitive one (often in my view, destructively so) leaving many players with low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy and a crippling sense of failure

We contend with all these issues as an added factor on our journey through life, which of course includes the same emotional challenges in our personal lives, family, security, and health that everyone else has to cope with.

It is little wonder that so many pianists sustain significant emotional damage and suffer from mental health problems.

A recent survey by The Stage reported 7 out of 10 musicians report mental health problems, while a study conducted in Australia by Entertainment Assist found that musicians are up to ten times more likely to have mental health problems than the general population.

What we need is “emotional wisdom” – the self-awareness that helps us keep our emotions in check, balanced and healthy.

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The Pianist’s Solitude

The Pianist’s Reflections

Guest Post by Frances Wilson.

“The loneliness doesn’t worry me …
I spend most of my life alone, even backstage …
I’m there completely alone. I like the time alone …”

British pianist Stephen Hough, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs programme

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The Pianist’s Anonymity

The Pianist’s Reflections

The Pianist’s Reflections is a new series on Pianodao, written in response to my commitment for the site to relate ideas from Daoism to the Way of Piano.

Tabloid News

It’s been another eventful week in celebrity land, with tabloid headlines screaming the latest sordid news about Angelina, Brad, Jennifer, Jonny and others.

There’s a common theme here: celebrity can be both a magnet for narcissism and unhappiness and a force that knocks lives off balance.

So should we basically pursue anonymity?

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It’s a New Day, and a New Week

An inspirational quote to start the new week –

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3 Basic Lifestyle Questions

Lifestyle Reflection

My battered copy of Deng Ming-Dao’s classic ‘365 Tao Daily Mediations’ has been a remarkable gift over the years, but even now I find myself reading passages as if they are brand new.

I was recently struck by the personal relevance of its very simple, practical advice in the following passage, which deals with the reasons we sometimes feel “out of sorts”.

From a Daoist (Taoist) perspective this has to do with being disconnected from “Dao” – which we might take in this instance to mean our basic path, or the substance of our lives.

I thought it worth sharing, so here’s the passage:

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