Setting SMART Goals for Piano

Goals for Piano


Do you have a goal to learn to play the piano or to improve your piano skills? Remember, the more specific you make your goal, the more likely you are to meet your goal.

Creating More Effective Goals

Last week a friend of mine said their goal was to learn to play the piano. I thought to myself how many times I have heard that one and how many times I have seen that goal go unrealized year after year. What if the problem could be solved simply by being more specific?

Be careful of open ended goals such as “I want to learn to play the piano” or “I want to improve my sight reading”. While those are great goals, they are not very specific, which can lead to frustration and make it difficult to lay out an effective plan to accomplish your goal.

Consider the difference between four versions of the following goal and notice how much easier it is to create a plan around the most specific version.

  1. I want to learn to play the piano.
  2. I want to learn to play a song on the piano.
  3. I want to learn to play Fur Elise.
  4. I want to learn to play Fur Elise by March 15th.

You can use SMART goals to help you create effective goals. Just ask yourself the following questions.

Specific: Is your goal specific enough to create a plan that will allow you the best chance of attaining your goal? 

Measurable: Is there a way to measure whether you reached your goal? Is there a way to measure progress toward reaching your larger goals? For example (learn Part A by week 2 and Part B by week 4)

Achievable: Is your goal achievable yet difficult enough to challenge you?

Realistic: Is this goal realistic or attainable? You should challenge yourself, but it's also important to make sure it is in the realm of possibility. It is important that your goal be something you really want as well. Your reasons are your own and everybody is different, but “desire” is an important key to learning because it will give you the resolve to work when it gets hard.

Timely: Can you place a time frame on when you want to accomplish your goal? Your goals should be divided into smaller time frames in order to stay motivated and pace yourself.

Below are some examples of specific goals related to learning the piano that you can use as you are setting your goals:

  1. I want to improve my sight reading by 100 points this year. 
  2. I want to learn a specific song and play it for my girlfriend on her birthday.
  3. I want to complete level 4 in the piano method by February 1st.
  4. I want to get a 90 day practice streak by March 30th.
  5. I want to get into the 50 Club for the Hymns Challenge by the end of the year.
  6. I want to learn part 7 of Liszt’s “La Campanella” by the end of the month.

Creating the Plan

You have heard the saying, “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. While that is true, not all plans are created equal. The better your plan is, the more effective you can be in meeting your goal. 

Take a look at the examples below and see if you can determine which plans are better. 

Goal #1: I want to get a 96% on Part 7 of Liszt’s “La Campanella” in 30 days

 

Plan 1 (Focus on each section)


  1. Week 1 - Complete A & B with an 80% or higher
  2. Week 2 - Complete C & D with an 80% or higher
  3. Week 3 - Complete A & B with a gold star
  4. Week 4 - Complete C & D with a gold star

Plan 2 (Focus on percentage completion)

Percentage of completion

  1. Week 1 - 25% Complete
  2. Week 2 - 50% Complete
  3. Week 3 - 75% Complete
  4. Week 4 - 100% Complete

Which plan is more effective, Plan 1 or Plan 2? This is a tricky one and sometimes the only way to learn is to experiment and learn by trying both methods and learning first hand what works best. 

Goal #2: I want to improve my sight reading by 100 points by the end of the year.

Plan 1

  1. Sight Read a little everyday
  2. Work on learning all the notes
  3. Read a book on sight reading and try one of the suggestions
  4. Play duets with a friend

Plan 2

  1. Take the SASR (Standard Assessment of Sight Reading) every week for one year
  2. Designate 1 month to take the SASR daily
  3. Accompany someone or a group of people singing once every month
  4. Complete one level from the method and technique

Which plan is more effective, Plan 1 or Plan 2? Plan 1 is open ended and not very specific. Plan 1 is also more difficult to measure and when performance is measured, performance improves. Notice that Plan 2 is specific and measurable, simple and achievable, and easy to set in a time frame.

Tips To Remember

  1. Try to create some urgency in your plan. This will engage the mind and help you focus.
  2. Find someone to hold you accountable throughout your goal progress. Remember the quote, "When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates" -Thomas S. Monson
  3. Setting effective goals is an art and is a lifetime pursuit.