How long will it take to learn to play the piano?

How long will it take to learn the piano? This is a very difficult question to answer and it’s the one question that most prospective students always ask! Here are 5 key points to remember:

1. How much time do you have to dedicate to studying the piano? A child who is just starting to learn may only be able to concentrate for 10 minutes per day especially if they are only 5 or 6 years old. So progress may take time for youngsters; it can take a couple of years for them to grasp the basics.  An adult on the other hand, will understand  more swiftly and will be able to focus for at least 30 or 40 minutes a day. That is if they have the time; adults usually have many other distractions.

2. Children are more flexible physically than adults and, if they have an aptitude for playing, they can make progress very quickly. They may find it possible to achieve a competent standard in a year or two. Adults are not so flexible (generally), often suffering from physical (as well as mental) tension and this could potentially impede their development.

3. Anyone can make significant progress with their playing if they have an inspiring teacher. This is probably the most important point; it is vital to find a good teacher who will keep you sufficiently motivated to return for lessons week after week. Weekly lessons are the most beneficial (many students choose to go fortnightly).

4. It’s important to set aside time for regular practice sessions; this will allow you to focus completely on this new and exciting but challenging task. However, with regular practice you will definitely progress more quickly. Remember learning music is like learning a new language. So be kind to yourself and be patient! Adults especially can be very impatient.

5. You will progress quickly if you develop a passion for playing. This is true for any activity; if you love it, you will focus on it and then it may become an obsession. It’s at this point that a student’s playing really starts taking off!

Everyone is capable of playing the piano to some extent.  It’s true that some students are much quicker mentally than others, but you won’t know how much talent you possess until you apply yourself. In my experience, it normally takes 2 to 3 years to play to a competent level (approximately grades 2/3 of the ABRSM exam system).

My new book, So You Want To Play The Piano? has lots of useful information for the beginner and it is published by Indepenpress. You can buy your copy from my book website; www.soyouwanttoplaythepiano.com

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About Melanie Spanswick

Classical pianist and writer. I love to Tweet and Blog and I love to play the piano too.
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28 Responses to How long will it take to learn to play the piano?

  1. Reblogged this on SE22 Piano School and commented:
    A question that I am often asked is: “How long will it take to learn to play the piano?” Piano teacher, performer and author Melanie Spanswick answers this question!

  2. Very interesting and helpful post, Mel. I often quote this chart to parents who asked me how much practising students should do to achieve noticeable results:

    1 60-minute Practice per Week = 2 Months Progress in 12 Months
    1 30-minute Practice per Day = 6 Months Progress in 12 Months
    1 45-minute Practice per Day = 12 Months Progress in 12 Months
    1 60-minute Practice per Day = 15 Months Progress in 12 Months
    1 90-minute Practice per Day = 24 Months Progress in 12 Months
    2 Hours Practice per Day = 36 Months Progress in 12 Months
    (source: http://vahlpiano.blogspot.com/)

    • Seems quite logical, as if u actually collected real data and analyzed it. I have observed for myself that by increasing the practice time per session the progress is really exponential. The break even time for me is 1 hr. Any thing less appears just useless. Anything more leads to more profound results. I believe practicing for more than an hour specially 2 hours plus lasts much longer in thoughts and in brain and supports mental playing. It is that lasting feeling and mental play that probably increases effectiveness of practice.
      That is true for other learning as well, e.g. Mathematics.

  3. Thanks for that Fran – its great advice. I may use it in a further post – if thats ok with you?

  4. So you are interested in piano? Great…welcome to the club. Be sure to focus on the PROCESS and not the end result. It’s a lifetime endeavor like crossword-ing or golf, and the more you do it the better you’ll get. Have realistic goals, but near the very top of the list should be “enjoy your time learning the instrument!”

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  6. Ahura says:

    Thanks for your great advices dior lady :D

    Here I’ve got a question!
    I have recently finished my education
    & I dont have a heavy job to do & I can totaly devote myself in music & I can Practice nearly 2 houres a day how long does it take for me to become ready with a very good mentor? (I am an electronic music producer & I dont need to be so high cause in our job we’ve got lots of different functions like quantize)

  7. Paul says:

    Thank you for a very interesting site, it has certainly helped me to decide whether to start learning to play the piano.

    I am 35 years old, play some guitar, but have always had a fascination for the piano. There are certain pieces, usually classical, that I find more interesting than others.

    I wonder, as a 35 year old with about 30-45 minutes to devote to the piano everyday. Would it be feasible to play pieces such as the Moonlight sonata or Sonata K87 (Scarlatti) with average skill in 2-3 years’ time? I do have an ear for music, but I cannot read notes..

  8. Thank you – I’m so glad you find my blog useful……
    You have picked fairly advanced pieces and might find that to play those could maybe take up to 5 years. But it does depend on the teacher and how quickly you pick it up etc…..Good luck :-)

  9. piano shops says:

    Don’t worry about talent. The ability to stick with something, to keep going against the odds is far more important than talent. There are plenty of people out there with talent, but what have they done with it? Nothing. If you are prepared to work hard, and practice, practice, practice. You will get huge enjoyment from your improvement.

    Just make sure you increase the practice slowly or you will knot your fingers up. Start with ten minutes a day, or three sessions of ten minutes a day and gradually increase to half an hour a day. Remember there is no question of your getting to the Julliard – this is strictly for pleasure. It makes it easier to work through difficulties without frustration, keeping the hobby fun!

  10. Loren says:

    The more passion for playing the faster you will learn. I’ve been playing for 5 months about 2-3 hours a week now but about 1-4 hours a day for the first month. I’m age 45. So for adults… you can do it. After a month and a half I made this piece for 2 pianos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QSQAT77GWKE Everything I create is improvised, which makes it much more progressive getting started. Now I give lessons on improvisation.

  11. Austin Cannon says:

    I started playing the piano at 14 yrs old, but I had experience reading music. From thefirst day I started playing in september 2012 I’ve been obsessed with it, since the I practice everyday for at least 2 hours, but usually 4+ (depending on if im busy) but I dont feel like im as good as I should be, (I’vebeen playing for almost 10 months) and the hardest peice I can play is traumerei, and the hardest song I can play without flaw is canon in D. Should I be playing harder pieces?

  12. Valerie says:

    Hi Mel, Thanks for sharing your tips on piano playing. I’m a piano teacher myself, and I’m reading up on some practice methods for my students, and I found yours. Thanks :)

  13. Thanks Mel,
    Based on my experience and some piano blogs where ppl share their experience, finding a Teacher who can teach really well is a daunting task. Many a students complain that the teacher him/her self is a wonderful player, but is not a good teacher. Observing, finding mistakes, correcting hand position and above all modifying and improvising practices to enhance learning is usually difficult to find attributes.
    This is again true for other subjects. I taught many intricate topics in sciences to students and had to face similar criticism, even walk outs :)

    • Hi, You are absolutely right…..many great pianists don’t teach particularly well, usually because they are so gifted and play so ‘naturally’ that they often don’t know how to explain technique. Then there’s the other end of the scale….where the so-called teachers can’t play or teach!! It is difficult to find someone good :-)

  14. JoeyG says:

    Hello Melanie,
    Nice article and great blog.
    I would like your advice. I have always had the desire to to learn piano and would now like to take action. Hearing a classical version of my country’s music was the last straw :).
    I was so moved by this piece: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyI7IWtb-NI

    I would like to go as far as I can, on my own, before hiring a teacher. Do you think it’s possible to get the basics from some online courses, purchase a small digital piano and get my foundation that way? And should I learn how to read music before purchasing the piano?
    I am now able to dedicate an hour or two per day and would like to take advantage of it.
    Any guidance will be appreciated.
    Thanks,
    -Joey

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