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FEATURED POST FROM THE BEST BLOGGERS IN MUSIC: 5 Things To Know About Learning Piano Again As An Adult
When you were 6, 7, or 8 or a little older, your parent(s) wanted you to learn piano. You tried for one year or maybe two or three and found it so boring or so difficult or such a low priority on a kid’s scale of importance. You wanted to play outside – not sit on a piano bench playing stupid songs.
Well, now you are 20, 30, 40, or maybe 70 or somewhere in-between, and guess what? You want to play the piano again. You berate yourself, “Why didn’t my parents force me to keep taking lessons?” Then, you announce to yourself and/or to your family, “I am going to learn piano if that is the last thing I do!” What should you do next?
First, You Do Need a Piano or Keyboard
Even if your childhood piano is just sitting in your house or your family’s house sadly neglected, think twice before choosing the instrument to learn on.
If it is in good condition, that’s a great idea. If not, think again. It may have to be tuned multiple times, keys may have to be fixed, parts replaced; this could add up to a small fortune – maybe 500 dollars or even a thousand! If you just need it tuned, we are talking about $170 to $200 per tuning, but it might need at least two tunings if it has just been sitting around.
You can still consider getting a keyboard instead if your “free” piano will require too much work. Only consider a keyboard with a minimum of 76 keys. A Casio or a Yamaha will typically serve you well. You can get a Yamaha PSR-EW300 76-Key Portable Keyboard for about $300.
An even better choice would be a full-fledged digital piano such as the ever so popular Casio PX-160 or Yamaha P-45 that have fully-weighted keys mimicking the feel of a real piano.
Second, How Do You Find the Right Instructor?
Try to figure out your level. Go to your local music store (when it becomes possible) or browse online. Most online sites allow you to open up the book and see the first few pages of a book. You can start by looking at a series such as Piano Adventures. Once you have some idea of your level, it will help you to figure out what to do next. You can start with certain sites such as Thumbtack or Wyzant or Lessons in Your Home.
You could also post on your NextDoor or Facebook page asking if anyone knows a good piano teacher. In any event, be sure to ask if the instructor specializes in both beginners and adults. It is very possible that your first instructor may not be the right one. Don’t be afraid to switch! I am often the third teacher for many of my students, and they have studied with me for over 6 years!
Third, How Regularly Should You Practice?
The important thing is not how many minutes you practice but how often. You can even break it up into different sets. However, make sure that you can practice at least 5 out of 7 days of the week and at least 20 minutes a day. Don’t be afraid to write in your book. As you notice you are repeating certain mistakes, mark that sharp or flat instead of trying to remember absolutely everything about each song. Since you did take before, your instructor may move quickly.
If you become frustrated, your studies need to slow down until you catch up! Make sure you let your instructor know that you are having a hard time practicing because the music is just out of reach.
Fourth, Be Proud of All that You Do Remember
Although you may tell your teacher that you don’t remember anything, this is not true at all! You probably remember how to sit at the piano, how to curl your fingers, how to play legato (smooth) or staccato (short like the keys are hot). You probably remember what a quarter note is as well as a half note and what they look like. You may remember dynamics – that “f” is loud, and “p” is soft.
It is only after I taught new beginners and those with childhood experience that I started hoping for the students who learned when they were young. It is so much easier to teach someone with that experience – even if it were only for a year or two. They also struggle less and enjoy the piano more due to the ease of learning
Fifth, Prepare to Be Frustrated
The strange thing about relearning piano is that you may still remember how to play several fairly complicated pieces by heart, but you can’t sight read even fairly simple pieces. This is the sticking point for repeat learners. It will take a very long time for you to genuinely reach the same point you were at before if you were at a more advanced intermediate or intermediate level.
One minute you can play Beethoven, and the next minute you are lucky if you can play Michael Row Your Boat. Who wouldn’t be frustrated?
As you move closer to where you used to be, you will find a way to be at peace with yourself. After taking over 10 years off from playing piano except for sporadic play, I took 5 years of continuous lessons. Even after those lessons, I felt that I was at 80% of what I was when I was younger when I had taken 8 years with a concert pianist. Should I accept this and still strive to improve? Yes. Will I ever be at 100? Does it really matter? Accept your current level and move on from there.
From my own teaching experience, it is the students who are realistic and enthusiastic that have succeeded. Every completion of a level book or a new favorite piece of music is a victory that must be celebrated. You are playing for your own enjoyment. So, don’t judge yourself harshly and listen to the music.
About Laurie Borman
Laurie is a professional editor/proofreader, piano teacher, a writing tutor, a career counselor, and a college essay and application reviewer. Laurie has over 6 years of experience teaching piano and have taken lessons for over 20 years.