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Don’t have time to practice? Sheet music and chord inversions make you dizzy? In this post, we’ll troubleshoot 10 common piano playing problems. This lesson comes with sheet music, exercises, and inspiring resources to un-stick you and make you the best piano player you can be.

Download the lesson resources here!

Problem #1: I can’t read music! 😓

Sheet music can look more like code a computer spat out than a song written by a human being!

But here’s a sight-reading secret: you don’t need to read every single note. For example, Lisa picks what she calls “landmark notes;” everything else is just in relation to these notes.

Also, look for patterns like the directions of notes. Are we stepping up? Stepping down? Rocking between the same handful of notes?

To practice sight-reading, start slightly below your skill level and go from there. And while you should practice sight-reading every day to build this skill, you only have to spend a little time on it if you practice smart.

If you’re not sure where to start, download our free sight-reading resources.

Problem #2: I don’t know what to practice! 🥺

With so many resources out there telling you to do this or do that, what’s the best way to practice piano?

This is not an uncommon problem! To help you get organized, Lisa lists five things that you should always include in your practice routine:

  1. Warm up. Play the five-finger scale up and down, hands apart and hands together.
  2. Practice technique. Play your scales, arpeggios, and triads a little bit every day.
  3. Learn something new. Whether it’s a new concept or a new song, push yourself to learn something new.
  4. Play songs. After all, this is the reason we play piano!
  5. Free time! Improvise. Play a random chord progression. Goof off and just see what happens.

Prioritize these five tasks and you will get better at piano!

Problem #3: My hands won’t cooperate! 😭

Sheet music, scales, and chords make sense in your head, but when you sit down to make it all happen, your hands just. won’t. co-operate!!!

Hand independence is one of the most common beginner piano problems. Lisa has a few tips to tackle it:

  • Sink into each key as you play—really commit.
  • Practice the five-finger scale up and down, hands together and hands apart.
  • Try a hand independence exercise. For example, play the five-finger scale slowly on one hand while the other hand plays double the speed.

Messing up is normal and okay. In fact, if something feels too easy for you, you’re not practicing the right thing. Keep challenging yourself and you will progress.

Problem #4: My left hand sucks! 😵

Your left hand may feel sluggish because the melody and all the “action” is in the right hand, which makes focusing on it easier. To catch your left hand up, try a pattern-based dexterity exercise:

  • Play our left-hand five-finger scale pattern (download it here).
  • Target different fingers, such as rocking between fingers 5 and 4 or fingers 3 and 4.

You can even practice this on a desk without a piano!

Problem #5: I have terrible rhythm! 😔

Like Lisa, I have frustrating memories of my childhood metronome. Rhythm is a struggle for many of us!

But metronomes do help. If you don’t have one, Google has a metronome (just search “metronome”).

Take your time to feel the beat. Start at a slow rhythm and target each note to the tick; you can even use your left hand or foot to tap along with the beat.

If you hate metronomes, try playing along with your favorite track. You can also download a free drum loop if the metronome feels too bland.

Problem #6: I just can’t stay motivated :/

Feeling unmotivated happens. Practicing piano is work, and wouldn’t you rather kick back with The Office than do work?

If you feel unmotivated, reconnect with your why. Why do you want to play the piano? To jam with friends? Learn your favorite songs? Serenade a significant other? Write it down.

Next, pay attention to how you feel at the piano. Sometimes, the hardest part is getting started and once you begin, things start to feel fun. So, train yourself to see practicing as a treat, not work.

Problem #7: Chord inversions stress me out! 😩

This is one of the top problems we see at Pianote. Chord inversions can be confusing.

First, remember that when it comes to triads, any inversion of a chord uses the same three notes. Inverting just means mixing up these notes in different orders.

When you invert a chord from one position to another, pay attention to the shape this creates. Inversion chord shapes stay the same no matter what key you’re in.

If you need more support, check out our free chord resources. Inversions are the key to improvising cool stuff on the piano, so trust us, they’re worth the effort!

Problem #8: I don’t know how to make beautiful chord progressions! 😳

Making chord progressions may seem like a super-advanced, mysterious skill that only the best musicians can pull off. But it’s actually pretty simple. If you can play a scale, you can make a beautiful chord progression.

Try this with G major. See if you can build a triad on every note of the G major scale. It’s as simple as playing a triad shape on each note. Just remember to sharp any F that comes your way.

Any sequence of these chords should sound good. But to make things even easier, you can use this tried-and-true chord progression that appears in many pop songs: I – V – vi – IV – I (Note: “I” just means a chord built on the first note of the scale.)

Then, mix and match your chords. Experiment!

Problem #9: I want to memorize songs and play by ear but I really struggle… 😪

Wouldn’t it be awesome to hear a song once and re-create it perfectly? Legend has it that Mozart had this gift.

Memorizing and playing by ear will come easier to some people than others, but these are skills you can develop.

To practice, pick a song that you know really, really well (like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”) and try to find it on the piano. Be prepared to make mistakes!

It may feel slow at first, but over time, you’ll memorize how certain intervals sound and you’ll develop musical instincts.

Problem #10: I don’t have time to practice. (Yes, you do!) 😁

Working late, screaming kids, burning food…sometimes, piano takes a back seat.

But everyone has at least five minutes a day to practice!

Again, starting is often the hardest part. So, make a plan to practice just five minutes and commit to it. Once you start, you may find that time passes quickly because you’re having fun!

Most piano problems have solutions. If you have a question, drop us a comment on YouTube. If you’d like more structure and guidance, consider joining Pianote and learn with a supportive community.

You can download the lesson resources here!

Charmaine Li

Charmaine Li is a Vancouver-based freelance writer and classically trained pianist with previous experience teaching piano and music theory. She loves thinking and writing about the ways in which music—and music learning—affects the human experience.