Starting Over Again

I haven’t touched the piano for six months. I have a beautiful early 20th-century Bechstein model A grand piano which has been sitting, untouched, in my piano room/office. There is music open on the stand – Schubert’s Piano Sonata in A, D664 – suggesting intent, but I have not played it in months.

Franz Schubert: Piano Sonata No. 13 in A Major, Op. 120 D. 664 – I. Allegro moderato (Mitsuko Uchida, piano)

Why? Lack of motivation, lack of time, yes. But also something which I think is particular to the amateur musician – the knowledge that, unlike the professional musician who must practice regularly to maintain their skill and artistry, one can come back to the instrument at any time and pick up where one left off.

starting over again

But it can be hard and the first line of that wise saying of violinist Jascha Heifertz – “If I don’t practice one day, I know it…” holds true as much for the amateur as for the professional musician. The more time passes, the harder it becomes to start over again.

But it’s not impossible.

Sergei Rachmaninoff: 14 Songs, Op. 34: No. 14. Vocalise (arr. M. Press for violin and piano) (Jascha Heifetz, violin; Emanuel Bay, piano)

Rekindling the habit of practicing and playing the piano after a pause, however long, can be both challenging and rewarding. The key to a successful return lies in setting realistic goals, cultivating patience, and reviving your passion for music. Here’s a guide to help you navigate this journey back to the piano:

Set Realistic Goals

One of the first steps in returning to piano practice is setting achievable goals. Begin by assessing your current skill level and recognising that you may not be able to play at the same proficiency as before. Setting short-term goals that focus on gradual improvement such as playing music that is already well-learnt or attempting a short piece or study, help you reacquaint yourself with the instrument, build confidence, and provide a clear sense of progress.

Establish a Routine

Consistency is crucial in developing any skill, and piano playing is no exception. Create a practice schedule that fits comfortably into your daily routine. Practice “little and often”: even 15 to 30 minutes a day can make a significant difference over time. Ensure your practice sessions are regular, but also be flexible and kind to yourself if the demands of daily life/work interrupt your schedule.

Revisit Familiar Pieces

Playing pieces you were once comfortable with can be immensely satisfying and a great confidence booster. It allows you to gauge how much you remember and where you need to focus your practice. These familiar pieces can act as a bridge, easing you back into more challenging repertoire while providing a sense of accomplishment.

Explore New Repertoire

While revisiting old favourites is comforting, exploring new music can really reignite your interest. Choose pieces that inspire you and reflect your musical tastes. Don’t feel you have to learn certain pieces because they are good for you; play the music that interests you. Learning new repertoire not only keeps practice sessions interesting but also broadens your musical horizons and challenges your skills in different ways.

Seek Guidance and Support

If you have taken a long break from the instrument, consider taking lessons, even if only temporarily. A teacher can provide personalised guidance, help you set realistic goals, and correct any bad habits that may have formed during your hiatus. Additionally, joining a music meetup group can offer support, motivation, and opportunities to share your progress with others.

Be Patient and Positive

Returning to your instrument after a break requires patience and a positive mindset. Progress may be slow at first, and you might feel frustrated by the gap between your past abilities and your current performance. Set realistic goals and celebrate small victories – and, above all, remind yourself of the joy that playing the piano brings. With time and persistence, your skills will improve, and the music will flow more naturally.

Enjoy the Process

Ultimately, the journey back to the piano should be enjoyable. Embrace the process of relearning and rediscovering your love for the instrument. Allow yourself to experiment, make mistakes, and have fun. Remember, the ultimate goal is the joy and fulfilment that comes from making music.

Happy practicing!

For more of the best in classical music, sign up for our E-Newsletter

Camille Saint-Saëns: Carnival of the Animals – XI. Pianists (Louis Lortie, piano; Hélène Mercier, piano; Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra; Neeme Järvi, cond.)

More Blogs

Leave a Comment

All fields are required. Your email address will not be published.