Piano Q&A: Getting Bored with Method Books and Exercises

Today’s Q&A segment is about getting bored with method books and piano exercises. It’s about being understimulated by these pieces, which means less motivation, which means less practice, which means practice becomes a grind.

Thanks for your awesome feedback from the last Q&A segment. It seems that most of you are into the idea of shorter and more frequent Q&A videos, so we’ll keep making them and see how it goes.

As always, if you have a question of your own, please leave it in the comments below. I’ll generally put more weight toward questions that are more “liked”, since that’s a sign to me that there are multiple people interested in a topic. That being said, if I find an interesting question that slips through the cracks, I’ll bring it up here as well.

Question

Bored with method books

I’m not personally familiar with the Piano Time books, so I can’t speak to that. But I’m a big fan of working through method books! They generally offer clear stepping stones, gradual progression, and a coherent framework for learning piano.

The method books I tend to use with adults are the Piano Adventures for Adults, 1 and 2. After that, we generally veer out of method book territory. But if you were self-studying without a teacher, it would be an excellent idea to keep progressing through the series.

With the Piano Adventures Adult books, they jump into the regular series after book 2. So once you finish the Adult Book 2, you could get into 3a/3b, and so on. I think they go up to level 5.

Again, especially if you don’t have a teacher to provide a progressive learning path for you, these method books are invaluable.

Use multiple books

But your issue is with flagging motivation working through these exercises and short pieces. I hear you, and I’ve seen it happen in my studio, especially if someone’s been playing for over a year. Usually by that point in time, the piano honeymoon period is over. People start itching for greater challenges and more impressive-sounding repertoire.

I think the biggest thing you can do to resolve this is to not use the method book as your one-and-only book. Having three piano books on the go is a good general baseline. You can use your method book for basic lessons and exercises, but use additional books for more exciting and inspiring piano material.

Bored of method books: Are they too easy?

It could also be that you’ve simply grown out of your method books. Are they too easy? A good rule of thumb is that it should take a minimum of 1-2 weeks to master a piece in a method book. If you find you’re mastering them after a few play-throughs, it’s probably too easy, and it’s probably time to look for some new books.

Explore a music syllabus

It’s challenging to choose music for yourself without a teacher, and without a method book to walk you through it. Regular viewers of my channel will be sick of this suggestion, but it bears repeating: Explore a music syllabus for ideas on books and pieces to learn next.

You mentioned learning Beethoven’s Sonata in F. Was this piece well within your capabilities, or did you really have to stretch yourself to accomplish it?

The RCM syllabus puts it around a grade 5 level. So if you found it a relatively comfortable project, check out some other compositions at a similar level. If you found it very challenging, maybe scale back a level or two.

(RCM syllabus: PDF)

Finding inspiration in specific genres

The reality is that a lot of really awesome piano repertoire is very difficult, written for advanced players. A lot of those amazing pieces that inspire us to play piano are simply out of reach for years.

That being said, there’s plenty of early-level and intermediate-level material that sounds great – you just have to find it. Personal preference definitely comes into play as well. Some people love learning more contemporary jazz pieces, while others prefer the big sounds of the Romantic era. I urge you to explore the syllabus and beyond.

Maybe you’ll choose some music that’s too tough, or too easy. That’s okay! It gives you more information. The more you explore piano music, the more you’ll get a feel for what’s doable and what’s out of reach.

xo,

Allysia

Allysia has been teaching piano in Canada for nearly a decade, and has her Grade 10 RCM certificate. She especially enjoys nerding out to music history and theory. When she’s not making videos or teaching, she’s reading, writing, and jamming in a rock band.