Learning to Play the Piano as an Adult
It’s never too late to start learning piano. Whether you’re a returning player or brand new to piano, here’s what you need to know about learning as an adult.
by Dorothea Herrmann
Why It Is Never Too Late to Start
“I wish I had started earlier…” said my sister-in-law sitting at her keyboard.
“Well, you've still got about fifty years to go.” I replied with a smile. She nodded and proudly told me about her recent progress. I was really surprised - if not to say shocked - when she told me which song she picked to start playing the piano.
But first, let me introduce my sister-in-law to you. She's in her thirties, a loving mom of two kids, and has never played an instrument in her life. If you placed sheet music in front of her, she wouldn't know where to start. What kind of song would you expect to be her first one? “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, or maybe “Happy Birthday”?
At least that’s what I thought would be appropriate. But my sister-in-law threw all traditional learning advice overboard. Her first song was “Comptine d’une autre été” by Yann Tiersen. To me, this is everything but a beginner song! Oh, and did I mention that she is teaching herself? She doesn't have the support of private lessons or a music school. Nope, the Internet is her teacher.
But, against all odds: she’s making excellent progress. I asked her why she chose such an advanced piece. She said, “I just LOVE this song! And I’d love to play it someday. Doesn’t matter how long it will take. I don’t want to play different songs anyway.” That’s what I call dedication! Just goes to show how much a great song can motivate you.
Starting early isn’t always an advantage
I was lucky enough to have parents who sent me to a piano teacher when I was a kid. Unfortunately, the pieces I had to learn during the first years weren’t all that nice. Because of this, I rarely felt motivated. Practicing was a struggle. I often just sat grumpily at my keyboard, sulking like a toddler.
This all changed a few years later, when I began to play pop songs and a few classical pieces that I thought were cool. But soon enough, puberty and other interests began to compete for my attention. Over my teenage years, I didn't improve much at all. Today, I'm still not that good at playing the piano! Sure, I’m grateful I had the chance to learn an instrument as a kid. I'm sure I benefitted from it in many different ways. But I'm not sure if I'd have managed to play “Comptine d’une autre été” even during the best of times! That's my piano learning story in a nutshell: First I wasn't motivated, then I got distracted.
As they say: all roads lead to Rome. Starting early isn't the only path to mastering an instrument.
Your brain can do it!
Of course, if you aspire to a career as a star pianist, you have to start early. If you want to play the piano because you want to play songs you've always loved, you can start anytime. There's no rush, no competition to win, no expectations to meet. It’s just you and your piano. Trust me, instruments are patient companions and enjoy every minute you spend with them! :)
I've met too many people who consider themselves too old to start learning an instrument. But this just isn't true. After all, our brain capable of learning new things at any point in our entire lives (it’s called "brain plasticity", if you want to dig deeper).
New brain connections may not develop as rapidly in adults as they do in children. But this doesn't mean that our brains retire once we hit 18! Plus, as an adult, it’s much easier for you to grasp abstract concepts like notation and translate them into hand movements. So when it comes to comprehending music, it's an advantage to be older and wiser. You learn much faster by understanding, not by relying on trial and error.
All it takes is you, a piano, and a song you love
If you really want to learn how to play piano, it's definitely not your age that is holding you back.
So, here are a few thing to keep in mind:
- Free your mind! There is NO “too old!”
- Start with a great song.
- Don’t rush yourself! It’s about fun, not about speed.
Just to get it straight: I really admire my sister-in-law and her perseverance. She has been practicing “Comptine d’une autre été” for over five months now. A great song that you truly and deeply love is your best motivator. But sometimes, a song that takes too long to learn will only leave you frustrated. This is why flowkey also offers simpler versions of songs to practice. Try to find an arrangement that meets your skills so you can get learning today.
If you've just started out on your piano journey or would like some more practice advice, I recommend reading 4 Tips to Master Any Song. Want to find out how playing the piano benefits your brain? Have a look at How Playing Piano Makes You Successful in Life.
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