There will be seasons where students are extremely motivation to practise and learn, spending up to an hour a day practising. But more often than not, there are seasons where practise feels like a chore and you have to drag yourself to the piano.
Here are some realistic SMART methods to keep a steady long-term motivation...
Make specific goals that have a YES or NO answer within a time frame
e.g. take an exam this year, learn and perform specific pieces by 6 months time, be fluent in graded scales within 3 months.
Perform in recitals
Performing can be stressful, but it's ultimately rewarding to develop confidence and performance skills. Partake in performances at least every 3 months.
Set achievable goals
Understand your different zones. Comfort zone is where you can play the piece very fluently, and are being bored. Remaining in this stage will not advance not motivate you. Fear zone is where you begin to be exposed to new concepts and it makes you feel uncertain. Learning zone is where find solutions to deal with this challenges. The playing difficulty has slightly increased: perhaps the piece has a little more variety in rhythm, notes in different octaves, accidentals. This is where the teacher is key to guide you, and this is the stage where your motivation picks up.
Write down your personal intrinsic motivators for these goals
Why do you want to learn piano? Perhaps it's a stress-reliever, you aspire to be a performer, it brings you fulfilment. Write these down somewhere clear in view, and this will remind you each time your motivation is low.
Think what inspires you
Is it a particular performer, composer or music genre? It is a particular family or friend? Is it the desire to achieve something or better yourself?
Look back at your progress
Take time to reflect on your journey so far. Remind yourself of where you where in playing, technique and other skills just 1 months, 3 months, 6 months and a year ago.
Make your practise space welcoming
You need to have a warm, inviting and comfortable space where you practise. Somewhere that encourages you to enter and practise on a daily basis. Have ample natural light, plants, in low-traffic/ quiet area.
Keep a practise notebook
For each practise sessions, write down your key thoughts, learnings and practise structure. Whether it's particular bars that were difficult and need review, improvements made since last session, practise duration. Be clear on what you need to practise and how your practise session is to be structured. Having a notebook helps you pick up patterns.
Go attend a live concert
The energy and anticipation of live performances never fails to bring back your love of music. So whether it's classical, ballet, opera or jazz... book one now!
Make a ritual around practise
Practise at the same time everyday, and have it scheduled as an activity that ties in with your routine. E.g. practise before dinner, practise once workout completed, practise straight after work/ school.
Have a piano road map
Draw up a timeline and think about where you want to be in 1 months, 3 months, 6 months and 1 year time. Pin this up next to your piano to keep your eyes on your personal goals.
Take lessons with a piano teacher
Having weekly lessons builds a social relationship and opens access to their studio community. It creates accountability against your learning, and having a direct source of inspiration.
Meet other like-minded motivating people
Interesting and positive thinking people can lift your mood, and inject energy back into your goals. Good people will seek to lift others around them to a higher level, so it inspires you to aspire for better for yourself.
Review your goals and roadmap on a quarterly basis
People change, and so should your goals. They should not be fixed and immobile. Goals may need readjusting, perhaps you over or under-estimated, or have a new strong interest in another music genre.
Play in a band, ensemble or orchestra
Playing in a duo, trio, band, ensemble or orchestra is extremely socially motivating. You're surrounded by music making individuals and in an environmental where playing is fun and thrilling. It creates a sense of community, purpose and accountability. Even informal improvisation or jamming sessions are great.
Do the '40 pieces in a year' challenge. Under each of these questions, list the relevant pieces (work with your teacher to make these realistic and achievable)
What pieces do I want to learn this year?
What pieces do I need to learn this year?
What's a genre I haven't much explored?
What's my biggest weakness and what can I do to address it?
Am I performing or taking exams this year?
Take a short break
These applies for those who have been taking exams on every 6-9 month for at least 5 years. If taking exams on an intense fashion is tiring, consider taking a short break from exams. Whilst taking each exam in order can be useful and a great motivator, it's not for everyone. If you're feeling burnt out, then it's time to take a small step back away from exams and explore other repertoire. It's fine to skip grade levels, just as long as there is a plan for how the larger progress gap is crossed.