Music is NOT Frustrating

April 24, 2019

There’s no such thing as a difficult piece. Come on. Where does this idea even come from?

OK, I know this sounds crazy, so let me try to put it into a little bit more context.

When you say “this is piece is so difficult!”, what are you trying to say? Do you mean “if I want to play it exactly as the composer wrote it, it is probably not going to happen”?

Or, do you mean, “I get really frustrated when I try to play it”?

Is it the piece that’s frustrating you?

I don’t believe that this is even possible.

You will say that yes, of course it’s the piece that is frustrating you. After all, you get very frustrated when you try to play the piece. Right?


This is nonsense. The task does not cause the feeling.

Imagine you are trying to climb a set of icy steps to get to the front door of someone’s house. Every time you get halfway up, you slip and fall all the way back down. Bloody and bruised, you pick yourself up and try again. And again…

After a while, you might draw the following conclusions:

  • Climbing these stairs is super-painful.
  • I’m in pain because you left ice on your steps.
  • I’m in pain because I kept trying to climb the stairs and didn’t know when to quit.


You’re in pain because you kept falling on the ground.

So, back to “frustration”. My guess is that it’s caused by a pattern like this:

  1. Start working on a task.
  2. Get into a “groove.”
  3. Notice that you’re not doing as well as you should be.
  4. Change tactics to try to make it “better.”
  5. Get into a new “groove.”
  6. As this continues, all the “groove-switching” creates agitation (frustration) in your mind.
  7. Notice this agitation, and make up a story about how “the task made me frustrated.”

So, what’s the solution?

Work towards staying in a groove.

Easier said than done, of course. But, here’s where you can start:

Recognize that what you’re doing causes the frustration.

Not “the task.”

About the author

Michael Korman has played the piano in opera productions and recitals, as well as directing music at a church and coaching classical singers. He draws upon his experiences with meditation and mindfulness to inform his views on music. In addition to music, Michael also holds degrees in computer science. When he's not playing the piano or meditating, he might be practicing drawing or calligraphy.

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