Your success in teaching yourself to play the piano will depend on 3 important factors:

Motivation

You need to be in this for the right reasons. Learning a musical instrument is not easy, and it will take time.

The Right Exercises

You must train yourself in the correct way. It is always better to be working on the right thing than to be working hard on the wrong thing.

Sustained Effort

If you put in the right kind of effort, over time you will succeed. Don't make the mistake of quitting too early.

Take Yourself Seriously

A handbook for amateur pianists who need some encouragement and who enjoy rethinking conventional wisdom.

It is rare to see something written for serious adult amateurs, and by someone who went that route. I had it on as an audiobook while doing chores – the first chapter on various aspects regarding teachers, I was saying “right” and “certainly” out loud a few times. 😀 A lot of the things, I wished I’d heard this when I first started my first ever lessons some time ago; it took me years to at least partly find my way out of holes due to some of those things.

Inge

Amateur Pianist

Frequently Asked Questions about Learning Piano

Can anyone learn to play the piano?

If you're asking if you're talented enough, the answer is "yes." Provided you are physically capable of playing the piano, you will learn if you do the right things. Yes, of course, some people will learn faster than others.

Am I too old to learn piano?

Does it matter? You are whatever age you are, and you're not getting any younger. If you enjoy playing the piano, then play. It doesn't matter how much time you have "wasted". That time is gone, and you will never get it back. What matters is the present moment, because this is the only moment you have to make decisions about how you want to spend your time.

Is it hard to play the piano?

This depends on what you are trying to achieve. Rather than think of things in terms of "hard" or "easy", think instead in terms of specific results. You should understand that anything is possible, if you put in whatever work is necessary.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What kind of music do I want to play?
  • How well do I want to play it?
  • How much time am I able to dedicate to piano practice?
  • How much frustration can I handle?
  • How long do I expect it will take to achieve my goals?

How long will it take to learn the piano?

It depends on many things. I know people who have spent years in piano lessons, and are still beginners. And, I know people who have been able to play at a professional level after only a few years. How long it takes will depend on (just to name a few factors):

  • What you mean by "learn the piano"
  • How much time you spend on piano practice
  • What specifically you do during that practice time
  • Any habits you have which might get in the way of good practicing
  • Any habits you have which might help good practicing

How should I start learning the piano?

Do what you're interested in. Follow your curiosity.

Also, check out my course.

That doesn't seem very specific. Can't you offer something more concrete?

If you're looking for book recommendations or a step-by-step plan, that's hard for me to give. I would have to know more about you, to know what you need.

Also, you should understand that I am only going to teach what I know. That may or may not be what you need, and it is biased toward my own interests. This is true of all teachers, and you should keep that in mind when talking to teachers.

How should I learn to read music?

Learning to read music is like learning to read a language. It will take you a while to master it. If you expect that you are supposed to understand everything all at once, you will only get frustrated.

The basic rules of music notation are simple. But, you will need to read many pieces of music before they really start to make sense. So, make that your priority. 

What do I need to learn in order to be able to play the piano?

It depends on what you want to do, exactly. Are you interested in:

  • Learning a few popular songs to impress your friends?
  • Filling in for the organist at church?
  • Giving a solo classical recital from memory?
  • Composing your own music?
  • Playing chamber music?
  • Exploring as much of the vast solo classical repertoire as you can?
  • Improvising jazz?
  • Applying to a degree program in piano?
  • Teaching piano?

Each of these goals requires you to learn a large set of skills. It is worth getting very specific on what you want to accomplish. Then, you can work backwards from there, and figure out what you don't know.

Do I need a piano teacher?

Many pianists attest to the fact that they could not have gotten where they are without a teacher. Likewise, many pianists are happy learning on their own. Consider the following questions:

  • What exactly are you expecting a piano teacher to help you with?
  • Do you enjoy teaching yourself new things?
  • Thinking about teachers you've had in other subjects, what did you like/dislike about them?
  • If you've taken piano lessons in the past, what has worked? What hasn't worked?
  • If you've tried teaching yourself piano, what has worked? What hasn't worked?

There are many different ways of teaching piano. Different styles of teaching are better suited for some types of students than others. So, there are a lot of variables here.

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