Why Am I Finding My Old Piano Music Hard To Play? The Dunning-Kruger Effect

Why Am I Finding My Old Piano Music Hard To Play? The Dunning-Kruger Effect

The Dunning-Kruger Effect is an incredibly fascinating phenomenon that occurs when people with a limited knowledge of a pursuit sometimes overestimate their own knowledge or abilities, which when either revisited later or tested against others, makes one aware of their own deficiencies (Source).

The Dunning-Kruger effect is commonplace across daily life and something that almost all hobbies, be it cooking, gardening or running can face, but when it comes to piano which is primarily a solitary pursuit, we encounter a particularly interesting situation.  

Namely, this is where a pianist may revisit previous works that they believed they had mastered, only to discover that they find it harder than they did before. Generally speaking this is a good thing, this article aims to explore this further and why, if anything, being aware of the Dunning-Kruger effect will help make you a better pianist overall!

How To Spot The Dunning-Kruger Effect

Let’s take this example, when you first began your piano journey, you decided to learn a rendition of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. As you begin learning, you may notice that there are certain passages that you can’t quite understand or perhaps you misunderstand a piece of subtle notation so ignore it or decide to make it simpler for yourself. The piece still sounds great and you’re incredibly happy with your results.

Fast forward a year or two and you decide to revisit the Moonlight Sonata only to discover that now, because your musical theory knowledge is more fulfilled and your skills have improved, you now understand the skipped passage or notation. When trying to relearn the piece, it then becomes increasingly difficult and even though you are a more seasoned pianist, because of the habits you have already built when playing the piece, you essentially have to relearn the piece from scratch as you reintroduce the skipped notes or subtle pieces of notation.


More Piano Tips & Tricks

This is a classic example of Dunning-Kruger and as mentioned, it is generally a good thing because it shows development in your own understanding. As piano is a lifetime pursuit and a skill that takes a lifetime to master, there is always something new to learn and something new to explore. Some may however see the Dunning-Kruger effect as a frustrating point in their piano journey and lose motivation to keep playing, if this is you,
read our top tips to reigniting your piano passions here.

If you have noticed your own case of Dunning-Kruger, then it may be time to try some more difficult pieces and take that next step in your piano journey as you will likely undergo the same exercise on a more sophisticated level, each time improving your knowledge and understanding of both music theory and practical piano playing technique. 

It is also worth noting here that on occasion, particularly at the higher levels of piano playing, it may in fact be your instrument that is not able to keep up with you. In this case, it may be worth upgrading or considering other options for pianos out there, learn more about this in our guide to spot the signs that your piano may be holding you back. 

The Most Important Rule

What is crucial when it comes to overcoming Dunning-Kruger is to not get frustrated with yourself. Relearning a piece of music that you think you already know can seem counterintuitive at first, however when done correctly gives an immense level of reward and satisfaction.

It is incredibly easy to lose motivation, however it is important to always have in your mind that this is a fantastic learning experience and that your skills are constantly developing with each revisited piece. 

This is also a great opportunity to utilise the piano diary technique as when you revisit pieces that you learned a year or two ago, you may notice yourself undergoing the Dunning-Kruger effect without even realising it!

We hope you enjoyed this short piece about understanding your own piano knowledge and how you can use your own deficiencies in playing as strengths and motivations to help you become a better pianist overall!

If you would like to learn more about piano playing, explore our blog further here, or if you are looking to upgrade or step into the world of piano for the first time, our showroom experts would be happy to help. Book your piano demonstration in our stunning Cambridge showroom today!

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