This post is one of the most viewed ever on this blog, indicating the urgency and importance of this question for many. It’s a difficult one to answer and it’s one that most prospective students 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. Therefore 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 commitments.
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 couple of years. Adults are, generally, not so flexible and often suffering from physical, as well as mental, tension and this could potentially impede their development and progress.
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, but many students choose to have fortnightly lessons.
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 swiftly. Remember learning music is like learning a new language, therefore, be kind to yourself and be patient. Adults can be very impatient!
5. Develop a passion for playing and you will make progress. 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. Whilst it’s true that some students posses more aptitude than others, 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, or similar to grades 2/3 of the ABRSM exam system. Crucially, however long it takes to accomplish basic skills, hopefully you will enjoy the musical journey, which will inspire continuation.
Melanie Spanswick has written and published a wide range of courses, anthologies, examination syllabuses, and text books, including Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). This best-selling graded, progressive piano course contains a large selection of repertoire featuring a huge array of styles and genres, with copious practice tips and suggestions for every piece.
For more information, please visit the publications page, here.
42 Comments Add yours
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!”
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and for your personal views and comments 🙂
Thanks for your great advices dior lady 😀
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)
Thanks for reading Ahura, but I don’t know what you mean? Ready for what? 🙂
Delicious Article!! I reposted on my FB Page today.
Thank you so much 🙂 Really glad you enjoyed it.
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..
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 🙂
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!
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.
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?
Hi Austin, It’s great that you enjoy playing the piano so much. Progress beyond a certain level depends on a good teacher and ability. If you don’t already, perhaps take some lessons so you can get some help with your playing, then progress may be quicker.
Ok, thanks (: I do take lessons but not as much as I should, so ill just have to go more
Good luck with it Austin 🙂
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 🙂
I’m so glad you have found some of my tips useful. Thank you for reading and good luck with your teaching, Mel 🙂
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.
Really? It’s exactly the opposite with me. I learn much more when I’m breaking my practice into several short (30 min to 1 h) parts. Not counting mental play though 😉
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 🙂
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.
Hi Joey, Really glad you like my blog and thank you for the kind comments. You can try learning via online methods to start with. I am just reviewing this one: http://portland.hoffmanacademy.com/HoffmanMethod.html – however, after a short time, you will need a teacher because there are so many elements that can’t really be addressed via online courses. I wouldn’t try to learn how to read music before buying an instrument either – you need to learn where the notes are on the keyboard at the same time as reading them on the score. Good luck 🙂
I appreciate your reply and your advice is well taken.
try dlp music books Joey – it’s a great way to prep for basic music knowledge – get the 1st book free here: http://www.dlpmusicprogram.com/amember/signup/rLD027N0S – enjoy the process!
I started playing the keyboard 5 years ago, 100% self taught and I can now play Jazz, Blues, R&B etc. Check out my site too for piano loops chords with tutorials. The only things is, I can’t actually read music. But I know the chord names.
I learned organ and keyboards and always wanted to play piano, I have started to do this now, started by doing simple classical music and rock n roll. I know its two totally different types, but also a challenge, since I have the advantage of already understand of what notes are in chords and scales its easier then starting right from begin. It took me about seven weeks to be able to play quite a few rock n rolls pieces at 2hr practise a day. When you play various music you realise some use same patterns, its just putting both hands together with to conflicting beats yet they are held in same timing.
I am 70 yrs old. Any hope for me to learn to play?
You’re never too old to learn Ron! Get stuck in and enjoy it 🙂
I’m right behind you and going to start at 67. “We’re not done yet.”
I would love to play Stairway to heaven, Still Loving You, Dust in the wind etc… Is there a different route for a beginner to take or a grade to shoot for? This for an adult wanting to play in a bar band/hobbyist.
Hi Rob, all routes are essentially the same to begin with, as you need to read notes, or at least know where they are on the keyboard. Best way for an adult is to have a look at some of the all-in-one adult piano methods by Alfred or Hal Leonard. Also find a good teacher, then you will be all set. Good luck! 🙂
Am Eric. I have never played a piano in my life and have no clue about anything to do with it. However, I have realised that it is something I will need in the long run. I want to start piano lessons soon. How long do you think it will take me to be able to pick up the basics, like to be able to play a pop song? The article you wrote is very inspiring and informative. However, for adults, I could not understand like for how long it would take me as an adult to pick the basics and understand them. I will be happy to hear from you.
Hi, You might want to consider buying my book! It has all the info you ever need for anyone starting to learn to play: https://melaniespanswick.com/2015/12/01/so-you-want-to-play-the-piano/
Hi Melanie, Thank you for the reassurance, I’m 65 and starting back at piano. I took piano in 3rd grade, and still can read music. I’ve been just working 1/2 hour a day, but think I’ll try to increase it, as I don’t feel like I’m learning as fast I’d like to. I’m looking at a good teacher, but since she’s an hour a way and fairly full, am thinking of just once a month lessons.
Hi Ann Marie, good luck with your studies – you’re never too old to learn to play and I hope you enjoy the experience. You could always explore the possibility of skype lessons if your teacher is too far away. Melanie 🙂
Hi Melanie I’m 80years of age and have just started piano lesson,and after reading your blog fascinated and encouraged by what I’ve read ,I’m just a beginner and can read notes and now started on left hand but find two hands slow also timing of notes but encouraged by what I have just read so I’m happy it will come together eventually ,even though my hearing is not as good my love of music is with me. Thank you
A pleasure Pam – and I hope you enjoy your piano adventure! Melanie 🙂
This has been always a concern that how long it will take ? The way you have tried to make it easy, is appreciable. Thanks for this
You shouldn’t be so focused on learning to play piano for others. That’s an ego thing. You should want to learn how to play the piano for your own sake, because you love music. Don’t dream too much about what you might be able to play in several years of practising. You might just never get there, and then you have been practising all in vain. Find the fine pieces you can play now and tomorrow and enjoy those. There are plenty of fine piano pieces at an easy level out there. Just enjoy the journey and see where it takes you. Cheers!
I appreciate your blog and I’m 41…used to play the clarinet and trumpet. I’m looking forward to looking at a beginning piano and beginning this musical journey.