Whenever I hop on YouTube to listen to the piano I’m always amazed by what I see. I especially enjoy it anytime I come across a child prodigy playing some ridiculously hard piece to perfection. Not all pianists are like that but it’s always fun to find new talent doing remarkable things.
As an adult pianist now I was fortunate to study from the age of 6. While I wasn’t a prodigy nor had any kind of conservatory training as a child, I was still pretty darn good. I ended up turning out okay and became a professional concert pianist myself! Sometimes it makes me wonder though where I would be had I started much later in life; like as an adult.
Am I Too Old?
Learning the piano as an adult can be a scary thing. Especially when you see some of that amazing talent online it can really throw you for a loop. You look down at your fingers wondering how in the world they can do something like that.
It’s in my experience working with other adult pianists that the common question of “Am I Too Old?” is hogwash.
You can learn the piano at any age you want. Whether you’re a child or adult the same sort of mechanisms and approaches apply to the instrument. It really comes down to your work ethic, commitment to not giving up and of course your access to a good quality piano.
Helpful Tips For Learning Piano As An Adult
If you’ve been learning the piano for some time but gave up, then I hope this post encourages you to come back to the instrument! Here’s a couple of tips to help you get going if you’re an adult who wants to learn piano.
Watch Less YouTube
This might sound funny but I mean this in the most authentic way. I myself am a professional concert pianist, so watching amazing talent on YouTube doesn’t scare me at all.
In fact, I get inspired by the videos and look for ways to improve on what I already do.
I suppose it already helps that I can play well and have been to amazing places in the process to perform.
As a beginner adult pianist, these videos can discourage you though. In the back of mind, you’ll probably end up worrying if you can ever get to that level. I suggest you stop watching videos and instead place your time into practicing and developing your own sound.
Once you’ve got some skin in the game then you can go back to YouTube for some inspiration. The key is to not get psyched out by the other talent you see!
Play Something You Enjoy
I’ve ventured into this topic before, but it kind of carries to every area of the piano. It’s important that you play music that you truly enjoy. There’s nothing worse than sitting down at the piano and fighting your way through music you dislike.
Now I’m not talking about the scales and technique exercises because those are things you kind of have to do to develop. I’m talking about the repertoire. Even if you don’t love the music you’re playing, if you can find a place to connect with it then that works.
Try Different Genre’s
Classical is the most popular genre for the piano at least from what I’ve seen. 90% of the piano teachers you encounter will be classically trained, so you can expect a good dose of the hits. See if you can work on some other music genre’s though to diversify your playing.
I personally think adding in some Jazz and Pop to your repertoire will greatly aid you. It’ll keep you interested longer and it’s something you can hop into whenever your Classical repertoire gets a little dull.
Consider getting some sheet music for songs you hear on the radio too to keep things even more modern.
As you develop as an adult pianist you will need to start challenging yourself. Sometimes people will give up playing because they’re a little bored with what they’re doing.
What I mean by this is that they’ll stick to one or two difficulty levels and then refuse to go beyond that. The main reason for this is the fear of what’s out there beyond their reach.
You should periodically challenge yourself to avoid getting bored with the instrument. Try a new set of scales, maybe hop into a composer that you don’t know and so forth. All of those will help keep your mind stimulated and help you improve as a pianist.
Detailed practice really is the way to go. It’s hard to do this if you don’t set some real goals for yourself. As a beginning adult pianist, you should set some short term goals for each practice session and then build that into long term goals as you progress.
I would suggest short 25-minute practice sessions where you work on just a couple of key measures. Work on getting your rhythms cleaner, your memory solid and then any other musical details you want to accomplish there.
This is something I still do as a professional concert pianist so it’s not like this only applies to a beginner.
By checking off very specific goals this allows you to meet your expectations for the majority of your practice sessions. This builds confidence and it’s something you can build on over the course of several practice sessions.
Use A Quality Instrument
Don’t play just any kind of piano if you can help it. Basic keyboards are okay to start with but from a technical development, those won’t last you long. You should invest in a solid piano, whether that’s an upright or a grand piano.
Please don’t go spend all of your money on an expensive Steinway just to learn. I’m not suggesting you do that. Even a digital keyboard like some of the ones I mention here will suffice for an adult piano student.
Gab an instrument that has good action, is responsive to your touch and that can play very musically. A good instrument will speed up your development process and that will also build plenty of confidence along the way.
Play Games Instead Of Practicing
It’s important to practice as often as you can. Practice is where we develop our muscles and work out all the kinks!
However, sometimes it’s good to get away from the monotony of that and to mix things up a bit. Just because you’re not physically playing the instrument doesn’t mean you can’t still develop your musical mind.
I like to play games with some of my students whenever I can. We’ll do things like guess the rhythm, memory, and music theory based games. Here are some great piano games to get started with.
There’s even an opportunity to throw in some ear training exercises here too. Surely you can also find some excellent piano games on your smartphone too; there’s an app for everything these days.
Schedule Your Practice Time
Consistency is key to development. My general rule is that every time I miss a day of practice I have to go make it up with 2 days worth of effort to catch up. To help you avoid that though consider scheduling your practice times.
Pull out a calendar and try to set aside some time every single day for practice. Also set in some time for rest too.
Even I take off 1 day per week to allow my muscles to heal and give my fingers a break. However once Monday rolls back around I’m back onto my same 5-hour practice schedule.
By scheduling your piano practice you won’t be so scattered in your approach. Rather than scrambling to meet certain time requirements you’ll be just fine knowing that you have it all settled.
Of course, if something happens and you can’t practice you should have a free day set aside that you can use for additional makeup time.
Hire A Good Teacher
Learning piano as an adult is greatly enhanced when you have a teacher to help guide you. Piano teachers are the missing link between being average and being the best you can be.
I wouldn’t cheap out on this either. Just because you’re a beginner doesn’t mean you should invest any less into a teacher!
I would advise you to really look around for a good teacher in your area. Choose one that has experience working with both children and adults so you can feel comfortable.
If time is a big concern for you, then you may want to invest in a quality piano course like this one. Taking a piano course offers you a more flexible schedule, and it’s relatively inexpensive too.
Check out this entire guide on how to find a good piano teacher, it will help you find the perfect fit.
Play For People
Hopefully, by now we’ve established that you’re not too old to learn the piano. You’re also not too old to play for people either! I encourage you as an adult pianist to take on public performances. These don’t have to be big elaborate showcases in concert halls.
In fact, you could simply invite someone into your living room to hear you play a C major scale if you wanted to.
Performing is one of the great joys of playing any musical instrument. Sure you might get nervous, experience some shaking and such, but that’s completely normal. The more you do it the more confident you’ll become to overcome that stage fright.
Performing is the ultimate confidence booster, especially for new pianists. You’ll be surprised how kind people are and how appreciative they’ll be of your talent!
Slow practice is key for any pianist, not just adults. All of those fantastic prodigies I mentioned earlier on YouTube had to start somewhere. The process of building up a piano piece from nothing to something is best done through slow and meticulous practice habits.
Start off by learning each hand individually at a slow pace. Gradually put them together and then slowly work through a few measures each day.
As you build on that you’ll start to develop your technique and memory of those passages. Before you know it you’ll have your piece up to that crazy fast tempo that you once thought was impossible.
That’s basically how it works! It’s all in the mind, and the speed too.
Stretch Your Fingers
Stretching your fingers is something you ought to be doing on a daily basis. Especially for older adult pianists with joint issues and lesser finger strength.
There are some simple finger exercises you can do and it only takes about 5 to 10 minutes to do this before you practice. In addition to stretching make sure to get plenty of rest for your fingers too.
Piano isn’t a race, but it’s a marathon. It can be really tempting to try to get everything perfect and in order on the first try and quickly. I can tell you right now from experience that it doesn’t work that way.
As an adult pianist, it can be hard to not want to see results right away. No matter what age you are there’s a process of development you have to go through. If you can be patient, make time for practice and stay confident you’ll be just fine!
You can definitely learn piano as an adult and no you’re not too old! Get started today and I think you’ll be surprised just how well it’s going to go for you!