Learning Piano as an Adult

Learning new skills as an adult can be a real challenge. After all, kids have greater brain plasticity, meaning their brains can grow and adapt to more skills and information more quickly.

The adult brain certainly has the advantage when it comes to life experience. But when it comes to learning an instrument, kids certainly have an easier time. But in this list, we’ll offer some help on learning piano as an adult.

Learning Piano As An Adult: A Guide

1. Be Patient

As we mentioned above, children learn music a lot faster than adults. Even someone in their teenage years might have a leg up over a person of older age.

But don’t be discouraged — adult absolute beginners can and do master the piano. It just might take a little more time than it does for kids. You obviously can’t expect to become a

concert pianist overnight, and if you learn to read sheet music at the very beginning, learning may take even longer.

On the flip side, if you’re someone whose natural cognitive ability leans toward music, you might learn a bit faster. The bottom line is to do your best to not get frustrated with yourself. 

If you have a dedicated practice routine and make a conscious effort to be an active learner, you can make impressive progress. If you find yourself getting intimidated by the idea of learning piano as an adult, this TEDx talk might be helpful. It offers clear, in-depth guidance on how to approach a musical instrument you’re learning for the first time.

2. Find A Good Teacher

However, they aren’t as individualized as one-on-one instruction. Neither of these options is necessarily better or worse than the other — it just depends on your budget, time constraints, and learning goals. To hear one musician’s take on online lessons vs in-person lessons, check out this helpful video. For many adult beginners, much of the challenge in navigating the learning process lies in the planning factor — they simply don’t know where to start (or what to learn next).

Of course, there are a few ways to go about learning to play the piano. You can take online lessons (we describe these in more detail below). Or if you prefer to learn the old-fashioned way, you may be able to take lessons at a music school.

Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages. For instance, a big advantage of in-person lessons is that a teacher can get a feel for your learning style and personalize a program for you based on that. The downside is that learning in person tends to be more expensive. In many cases, you need to commute to a music school, but some piano tutors will come to your house.

Online lessons have the advantage of being considerably less expensive (while still offering a lot of knowledge).

However, they aren’t as individualized as one-on-one instruction. Neither of these options is necessarily better or worse than the other — it just depends on your budget, time constraints, and learning goals. To hear one musician’s take on online lessons vs in-person lessons, check out this helpful video.

3. Set A Practice Schedule

When learning music, children often have a practice schedule set for them by their parents. But as an adult learner, you’ll need to be disciplined enough to create your own schedule. It can be tough to fit in practice with work, family obligations, and having a social life.

Ideally, you’ll block out some time on your calendar each day. If you treat playing the piano just like any other commitment, you’ll be more likely to honor it. And on very busy days, remember that even 10 minutes is a whole lot better than none.

It’s also good to plan out some time each practice session to work on drills, scales, and similar exercises. Children and adult learners alike often cringe at the idea of practicing scales or exercises over and over. But remember that it’s important to include things like scales and exercises in your practice routine– they will help make technique and speed on the keys second nature. 

If you particularly dread scales and related activities, it might be a good idea to include something fun right after. So for example, you might practice scales for 30 minutes and then spend the rest of the session learning to play your favorite song. If you’d like some tips on creating a piano practice routine at home, check out this helpful video!

4. Start Simple

You already know that as an adult learner, you’ll generally need to start slowly when learning a new skill. But if you’ve ever spent some time perusing the available sheet music for kids, you probably saw that most “easy song” books include songs designed for little kids.

If you’re like most adult beginners, you might get a little bored with practicing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and similar songs.

The good news is that there are practice songs with sheet music out there for adults. YouTube is also great when it comes to video tutorials. Some content creators upload “easy piano” tutorials that simplify modern songs so even beginners can start playing them right away. For an example, check out this video tutorial of “Someone Like You” by Adele.

Of course, if you intend to start learning with the guidance of an online course, pay attention to the song library. This is a collection of all the songs the site teaches you to play. As you’ll find, some sites lean more toward classical pieces, oldies, or songs for children. Others focus more on contemporary styles of music.

5. Learn Some Theory

Neither children nor adults often think music theory is fun. And while it’s possible to learn piano without any background in music theory, that can lead to a very shaky foundation. As you move forward and learn new things, you may find that they are hard to grasp or remember.

Music theory essentially tells you why the piano (and music as a whole) works the way it does. As you’re learning to play, the best way to incorporate theory is to blend it in with your current routine. Depending on your learning style, you may find one method or the other works the best for learning theory. 

If you prefer learning from something written down, a book on music theory may well be for you. If you need demonstrations as you’re learning to play, there are lots of YouTube videos out there (like this one) that cover music theory. These videos range from cursory to very, very in-depth.

Of course, music teachers and music courses will also generally be able to integrate music theory into your learning. Online music courses sometimes offer courses in theory alone. They also sometimes will integrate a concept from theory into a lesson. This method is especially helpful, as you’re applying a concept as soon as you learn it.

6. Learn Some Songs You Like

Plenty of self-taught musicians (both those who play piano and those who don’t) end up giving up because they lose motivation, get frustrated, or have other time commitments. Thus, it’s important to stay motivated if you want to succeed with this instrument.

One of the best ways to stay motivated is to make your practice fun. This is a technique used by some music courses — though they do ask you to focus somewhat considerably on exercises and drills, they let you learn pop songs like those from John Legend and other contemporary artists.

Of course, if your favorite song is a highly complex classical piece, you might want to hold off on learning that one until you have a little more experience. But for many popular songs, you can find a fairly easy tutorial online.

So why choose to work on your favorite song? For one, you’re likely to be motivated to practice in the first place. You also are more likely to stick with the piano even through difficult skills like learning to play with both hands. 

Of course, don’t let learning a song take over all of your practice time! The idea is to learn new concepts on your piano journey and then apply them to your playing style in a fun, low-pressure way. If you’ve never taught yourself to play a song, you might appreciate this beginner’s guide to learning to play piano songs.

7. Track Your Progress

As you’re learning to play piano, it can be easy to get caught up in all the new things you’re learning. But as you expand your repertoire and hone your technique, you might start to forget about where your playing was when you first started.

That might sound inconsequential. But if you’ve ever gotten into a rut where you feel like you’re bad at your instrument and want to quit, it can really help to look back over a practice journal and see how far you’ve come.

So what’s the best way to track your progress? There’s no single right way, but there are a few you can try:

Online – If you’re learning to play the piano via an app or piano learning website, chances are that the site has some kind of progress tracking options. Some sites give you virtual badges or trophies, others show you graphs, and still, others assign you a level.

DIY – If you don’t have a good digital practice journal option or just prefer one on paper, this is a good option. Get a blank journal or notebook and jot down the day/time and any notes about a practice session that you may need later.

Practice book – 

If you’re having trouble thinking of what to write in your practice journal, a commercially made practice journal can be a great alternative. These books have templates for each day to fill out what you practiced, how much time you practiced, any notes you have, etc. If you want some more guidance, check out this useful video on how to keep a music practice journal!

Want Some Guidance?

If you want to try to learn piano as fast as kids do, a course of online piano lessons might be especially helpful. Sites geared to teaching piano usually have a truly impressive mixture of courses — they cover everything from beginner theory to guides on playing challenging pieces of music. Some can even receive data from a connected digital piano and offer feedback on your playing. And as a bonus, these lessons tend to be significantly less expensive than private lessons!

Final Thoughts

As you’ve likely already discovered if you’ve started learning to play piano, learning piano as an adult is a real challenge! Unfortunately, many adults learning to play piano give up because they’re busy with other commitments or find it too challenging. But as long as you keep making progress, you’re moving in the right direction!

But what do you think? Do you have any more tips for the adult beginner? Let us know in the comments below, and please don’t forget to like and share if you found it useful!

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