Frustration and Inattention: What to Do About Them During Your First 3 Months of Piano Lessons

The first 3 months or so of piano lessons often prove crucial in determining if you'll have long-term success with the instrument. During this time period, you begin developing all of the fundamental playing motions and musical skills that will serve throughout a lifetime of playing.

Frustration and Inattention create unrealistic expectations of what you should be able to accomplish during the early months of piano playing. Left unchecked, these two issues can derail you from finding the joy in playing the piano.


Frustration manifests itself on the piano anytime that you cannot do something that your piano teacher does effortlessly. They play a passage very fluidly and easily during a lesson, taking the time to show you exactly how they're doing it. Then, when you try to master the passage in practice, the result is a flub.

That feeling of frustration stems from having flawed goals, which in turn result from failing to account for the time you've actually spent playing the piano versus the teacher.

The Solution

Thus, the antidote to frustration is to adjust your goals. In any given practice session, don't set out to play the material exactly as your piano teacher performed it. Aim for only a small improvement from where you were before you started that practice session.

Maybe the goal is to play 1 or 2 more notes today than you could the day before. Or, maybe it's to keep the beat throughout the entire passage, not trying to play every note. Whatever the goal is, it should be proportional to the amount of cumulative time you've spent playing the piano.


Many people make the mistake of allowing distractions when they're practicing. They have their phone nearby and not on airplane mode. Or, they attempt to practice when there are other people around, talking. Worse yet, they practice while the TV is on or while playing music other than what they are practicing.

New players allow these distractions in because they believe it will alleviate the tedium of practice. They'll therefore be able to practice longer and get better at the piano faster. They are wrong.

Playing the piano with anything less than your undivided attention only results in sloppy playing that puts a ceiling on your ability to play. There is a reason it's called "paying" attention.

The Solution

You must focus completely on what you're doing when you practice. That's the price you must pay in order to learn to play.

And because of that price, you shouldn't expect to practice for hours at a time in the beginning — it's illogical, especially in the modern world. The ability to focus for any length of time must be trained along with your playing skills.

During your first 3 months of piano lessons, aim for 10-20 solid minutes of practice per day. During this time, endeavor to maintain focus on the 3 big areas of playing the piano: correct fingering, rhythm, and breathing.