mistakes Archives - Heidi Bender

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November 11, 2018

The Benefits of Weekly Piano Lessons

The Benefits of Weekly Piano Lessons

I will share some of the benefits of weekly piano lessons. First, I will give some background on how I got to this point.

When Michael let me know last summer that he could no longer give me organ lessons, one of his final recommendations was for me to find a teacher that could provide weekly lessons. I had a choice to make.

  • I could stop lessons altogether. After almost nine years of lessons, was I going to be able to improve?
  • Find a new teacher, but with lessons spaced more than a week apart.
  • Find a new teacher that could do weekly lessons.

Once again, I decided not to give up. And I started weekly lessons with Marijim in August. I decided to do whatever she asked since I wasn’t exactly a successful organist. She suggested that we start with the basics and that I would benefit from learning the piano.

So I bought a piano and beginner piano books. Accepting that I was still at a beginner level was difficult. I had to admit that the results just were not there. Even though I managed to play the organ for a church service once, I was still taking a very long time to learn new hymns and other pieces and couldn’t sight read well.

I have wondered how I ended up in this situation. Eventually (sometimes that was a year or more), I would be able to play a hymn or other pieces successfully. I don’t know what the word for this is, perhaps by rote, but I would sit down at the organ and attempt to play a piece over and over again. And, then I would be making mistakes and not being self-aware to know until Michael would tell me at a lesson. And I know there were time periods where I wasn’t practicing much.

Now that I’ve been taking weekly lessons for three months, I will share some of the benefits I’ve experienced.

The Benefits of Weekly Piano Lessons

The Benefits of Weekly Piano Lessons


As I learned in November 2017 from reading The Four Tendencies, I am an obliger. I will get more done when someone else is expecting me to deliver. Marijim is my accountability since she is expecting me to make improvements each week.

Marijim is also expecting me to learn music theory as it will help me understand the music better and help with my sight reading. I had attempted music theory in the past (I have this book!), but without the accountability, I gave up when it felt hard.

Michael had made it clear at one of the first lessons that I could learn music theory on my own. So we didn’t talk about much after that. I felt like I was off the hook! Michael would say that a chord was in D minor (or whatever key) and I pretended to be able to follow along. Only now, I understand that knowing the theory will be beneficial. And Marijim spends a few minutes on music theory at each lesson.

Practice is a priority.

As an adult taking lessons, it can be easy for me to skip practicing the piano or organ for other priorities. And pushing off practice when I was meeting with Michael, was much easier to do knowing that my next lesson might not be for another month. It’s harder to skip practicing for a day when I only have seven days in between lessons. When I can only squeeze in 15 minutes, now I do it!

Faster Feedback.

Each week I get feedback on what still needs work. This is reducing the amount of time I spend thinking I have something, okay, only to find out it isn’t. And then having to spend even more time correcting the muscle memory.

More frequent interaction with my teacher makes it harder to hide my struggles. When Marijim gives me advice, she’s going to know if I did what she said. Much of her advice for improvement is similar to Michael’s: use the metronome, count out loud, record myself, write in fingerings, etc. However, now I’m trying harder to follow the suggestions consistently. When my lessons were a month or longer apart, it was easier to try for a week or two and than relapse back into old habits.

Increased Confidence.

I have talked about confidence in many posts. It’s been a struggle for years! Because of the feedback at lessons and increased practice time, I feel that my confidence is going up!  Ordering the Alfred d’Auberge books 1 and 2 was hard as I had to agree to start over from the beginning.

They were helpful to learn piano technique as playing the piano is somewhat different than the organ. And, being able to quickly learn the simpler pieces boosted my confidence. Yes, they were easy and straightforward, but I could play them correctly!

In the the third piano book, several of the pieces are to be played allegro (fast). I’m still working on this, but feel like I am on the verge of conquering this, thanks to Marijim’s instructions and encouragement.

Also, I am feeling less nervous playing in front of Marijim because I see her every week! At home, usually The Cats of Organist Heidimy cats are my only audience.

The piano hasn’t been a magic fix

I still have many of the same issues on the piano as I did with the organ. This isn’t a total surprise. I still struggle with subdividing, syncopation, dissonance, and tempo. Going through the easier pieces should help me get on track faster. The weekly lessons are forcing me to make corrections faster. I still need to use the metro.

How long will I need weekly piano/organ lessons?

How long is hard to answer. I will stick with weekly lessons until Marijim recommends less frequent meetings. Until the time comes when I am confident enough in my abilities I will stick with weekly lessons (or whatever lesson scheudle the Marijim proposes).

I hope this post as helped you understand some of the potential benefits: Accountability, Practicing more, Faster feedback, and increased confidence.

Share in a comment any other benefits of taking weekly lessons.

November 24, 2012

A corrected mistake is evidence of progress!

As described in my last post, my November lesson was a bit tough. However, I did show some improvement. While playing “Like a River Glorious”, I played a wrong note in the pedal line. I immediately corrected and Michael noticed. This was a big deal. In the past, when playing a wrong note (especially at a lesson), I would freeze, or stop playing, or continue playing with each subsequent note being wrong. Organists will make mistakes. It is likely no one will remember a wrong note (unless it is the first or the last!). This mistake and the correction the followed was a sign of progress!

We all make mistakes. How we handle them can often be more important than the actual mistake. When I play a wrong note [make a mistake] the best option is to quickly correct it and move on. Dwelling on it (freezing until corrected), stopping (giving up completely), and continuing but not fixing it (one mistake leads to another) emphasize the mistake instead of the solution.

What are the best ways you have find to handle mistakes?

November 19, 2012

Why to practice as recommended – November 2012 Lesson

Lessons go better when the advice of the teacher is followed!

Last Saturday, I had an organ lesson with Michael. I was very optimistic going into the lesson. I was confident that Michael would be impressed with my improvement since my last lesson. But that is not how most of my lesson turned out. You see, I had become over confident during my practice time. And I made excuses. I was often tired when practicing so I didn’t turn on the metronome. I wanted to avoid it’s persistent and never ending clicks. I didn’t want to take the time to record myself and play it back. It’s much easier to deny my errors when I didn’t hear them. I didn’t sing along with the hymns to given the words the attention they deserve. 

I felt a little crushed after the lesson. I wanted to be better but I wasn’t. It was my fault. I hadn’t put in the proper effort. I didn’t follow the advice that I’m paying for. I sulked a bit, but that wasn’t going to help me improve. I made a  list to remind myself of some of Michael’s suggestions (paraphrased) has given me multiple times. These should lead to me showing improvement at my lessons:

  • Pay attention to details when practicing – READ THE WORDS in hymns
  • Listen to recordings of other organists playing the pieces I am learning. 
  • Make friends with the metronome. Don’t just turn it on, listen to it while playing!
  • Record myself and playback the recordings 
This lesson was tough as it’s hard to hear “its not good enough”. But this may turn out to be a very pivotal lesson as I confronted my issues. Now I will be more diligent when practicing and more likely to think about all the instructions and guidance Michael has provided. I will be sharing more about this lesson soon.

You are probably not taking organ lessons (if you are let me know!). But all of us can learn from this situation. if you are any type of student working with a teacher, take your teacher’s advice! (assuming it is sound advice, of course).