This series of posts features framed “sayings” that are posted on the wall of my local piano instruction studio. They give mental insight and reminders to my students. These sayings address common “mental” mistakes that I have seen over and over throughout my years of teaching. These predictable mental “rabbit trails” can sidetrack students, breed frustration, and choke out their confidence. These signs are also influenced by two of my favorite books on Music Psychology: “The Inner game of Music” by Barry Green, and “The Perfect Wrong Note” by William Westney.

SIGN #1: “SMOOTH, SLOW, AND IN CONTROL” My Unique Skill: I can watch your hands as you start your piano lessons, and accurately predict your level of success on the piano. Really, I can! You hands tell me a lot. They tell what’s going on in your mind, whether your thoughts are positive or negative.
Your hands and body language tell me your level of confidence and control. And I can dial down your fear and dial up your confidence…like the knobs on a radio. Is that bragging? Not really! After you catch on to what I’m doing, you will start doing it yourself. Let’s go deeper.

IS FEAR HEATHY? As humans we have an inborn, normal, healthy sense of caution about things unknown. In a dangerous environment, your sense of fear can help you avoid the danger by heightening your sensitivity, reflexes, and adrenaline. It can even save your life. But in a safe environment, that same mood and mindset can be totally counterproductive. How does fear factor in at the free throw line in basketball? How does it work in social settings? Get my point?

One of the most powerful ways of accelerating your learning process on the piano is to…””dial down your fear and dial up your confidence”. But first, you must be “aware” of it. You must learn to detect it, even on the most subtle levels. We are going to show you various ways to dial down anxiety. For starters, just keep whispering, “SMOOTH, SLOW, AND IN CONTROL”.

Here’s an experiment to show the power of these principles.

Put a sign on or in plain sight of your keyboard that says, “Watch your hands”. It will remind you to occasionally observe whether your hands are jerking or whether they are moving smoothly ( like a slo-mo movie) when you practice. Notice the difference in the quality of the sound of your playing. Your ears will tell you all you need to know. If this helps you, visit our Music Psychology section at