If you’ve ever wondered if you can learn piano in your 20s, or if it’s too late to learn piano at 30 (or even 40+), then this is the article for you.
I’ve been playing piano since the age of four. Maybe even earlier.
While I did not always appreciate the lessons when I was a kid, as an adult, I’m grateful my parents encouraged me to keep it up.
These days, playing piano is a big part of how I make a living.
Teaching piano is not a big part of my life.
But I casually teach friends and family – often in exchange for their services.
Lately, I’ve had more and more adult beginners coming to me looking for lessons.
People who have just started jamming with friends, or have come into possession of a piano, and want to know how to play it.
Teaching adult beginners is awesome.
If you’re wanting to learn, and are intimidated by the fact that you’re an adult who has never played, or not played very much – don’t be.
You can be a great student, learn quickly, and develop a beautiful hobby that you’ll have for the rest of your life.
I want to share a few tips for learning piano as an adult – don’t be intimidated, you've got this!
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Age Is An Advantage
The difference between adult learners and children is that if you’re learning piano as an adult, you want to learn.
Kids are often put in lessons by their parents – some kids love it, but others hate it. And then the teacher becomes a glorified babysitter.
As an adult, you have the unique opportunity to take lessons, learn online, self-motivate and decide to learn the keys.
Kids have to be assigned practice times, certain practice targets, and often have to be goaded into playing at all.
As an adult, you have the final say. You can:
- Commit to playing as much or as little as your life allows.
- Choose whatever songs you want to learn. Whether they're simpler, more beginner friendly piano songs, or harder ones.
- Choose a teacher and learning style that works for you.
- Choose the genre of piano you want to learn.
- Choose your own keyboard.
You have the final say in literally everything about your musical life.
Of course, this is a blessing and a curse – nobody is going to force you to practice. On the bright side, nobody is going to force you to practice.
Do not look at your age as a disadvantage.
You’ve taken lessons and learned new skills before; you can learn this one too.
Find A Teacher You Like & Relate To
The reason a lot of my friends have started taking lessons from me is because they already like me, respect my playing, relate to the music I make and the person I am.
If you have a friend or a local musician whose playing you admire, gather the courage to ask for a lesson. Offer to pay for their time, and explain what you want to learn, and see if they’ll teach you.
If it’s mutually enjoyable, they’ll probably be happy to do it again.
I think this is a great way to ease yourself into playing. Learning from someone you know, learning music you like, in a friendly creative environment.
If you eventually crave more structured lessons, seek out a professional teacher, and go take a few lessons from them.
Finding a relatable teacher is life changing. You’ll look forward to lessons and progress quickly.
Take Lessons & Teach Yourself
When you’re starting out, there is no better way to learn than from another human being. This is how music has been taught for millennia, and it’s still the best way to learn.
Take lessons from a good teacher, and allow them to structure some of your practice time for you. You’ll end up working on specific techniques and getting feedback when you go for your next lesson.
That said, there is a plethora of online resources at your disposal, and some of it is free.
Take advantage of this.
Learning on your own time and of your own volition is very rewarding.
Taking an online lesson, or teaching yourself how to play a song online will keep you excited about the piano – you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to learn most songs, and if you get into a habit of teaching yourself, you’ll stay motivated.
Mix Structured Practice With Playing For Fun
Practice should be something you look forward to, but the fact is – you may not always look forward to it.
You need to schedule structured practice into your week, or you’ll get busy and push it to the side in favor of work or social life.
Making structured practice a priority will make you a much better player.
That said, you should also leave room in your life for just playing.
Music is first and foremost a way to express yourself and be creative. Structured practice improves the quality of your expression and allows you to reach greater creative heights.
Playing for the sake of playing feeds your soul and inspires you to keep practicing.
Here are two ways you should incorporate playing for fun into your practice:
Within Your Structured Practice Time, Schedule Time To Have Fun
You need time within structured practice to put the things you are learning to the test.
Give yourself 15 minutes at the end of the session to play whatever you want. If you don’t want to play for 15 minutes, no problem. Often, I’ll end up playing for longer than 15 minutes anyways, and feel inspired!
Try improvising, or playing through songs you have learned. If you have the ability to record yourself, try recording something you just made up!
Music is fun, so give it space to be fun.
Keep Your Keyboard Somewhere You Can Easily Access It
I have a home studio in the basement of my house, which is where I spend a great deal of time.
However, I recently moved my keyboard to my bedroom, and I’ve been practicing way more.
Because I spend so much time in my studio working, I often don’t feel like going back down to practice.
My bedroom is bright and open. I look forward to practicing there because it’s such a nice change of scenery, and whenever I’m just hanging out there, my keyboard is always accessible.
I’ll often end up sitting at the keys at night instead of watching TV. I love it.
The easier you make it on yourself to practice, the more you will practice!
Make Active Listening A Part Of Your Practice Routine
When you talk to professional players, you’ll often notice how much music history and trivia they know.
This is because musicians spend a lot of time actively listening to music.
In fact, a lot of musicians I know (myself included) have trouble listening to music in the background, because it’s hard to turn off the active listening part of their brain.
Work at training your ear to recognize rhythmic patterns, harmonic patterns and melodies.
Imagine you’re at your instrument – do you have an idea of how the song is going? Can you tell which chord is the root chord? Does the song change keys? How does the melody work around the chords?
Work at recognizing these things – you’ll quickly develop a good ear.
Also work at recognizing intervals in melodies. Where are they jumping up a fifth? Is it mostly diatonic movement or chromatic?
As you get better at active listening, music just becomes more and more fascinating. How did they get that sound? What is that weird instrument?
Enjoy music, get obsessed, and savor it.
Keep A Practice Journal
Keeping a practice journal is a small habit that can have huge benefits for your practice.
People keep journals at the gym to measure their progress – you should be doing the same with your practice.
You don’t need to write great paragraphs.
I usually just summarize the day’s work. What went well, what didn’t, how much time I spent on it.
It’s particularly important to write down the techniques, exercises, scales, chords, arpeggios or anything else you have trouble with. That way, you can remember the problem spots, and come back to work on them.
It’s also fun to look back on old practice journals and see how far you’ve come!
Work On Your Problem Areas
All learners have trouble with fixing weak spots in their playing, including adults.
If you’re getting frustrated by a difficult passage, that’s perfectly fine – but don’t just move on to the next part.
It doesn’t matter that you can play the rest of the song perfectly. That’s not the point! The one spot that you can’t play perfectly is the spot that will give you the most growth.
Here’s how I recommend approaching trouble spots:
Stop, Assess The Situation, Slow Down & Spend 10 To 15 Minutes On Your Problem Area
You don’t want to burn yourself out on frustrating practice, but it’s important to dedicate time to the tough bits.
Set a timer for 10 to 15 minutes and run through the passage that's troubling you. Go slow.
Start working on the passage at half the normal speed with one hand at a time.
Then, put both hands together.
Then, increase the speed 5 to 10 bpm at a time, until you can play the passage full speed.
If your timer runs out, move on.
The brain is a funny thing. I can’t count how many times I’ve spent hours trying to play something, left frustrated, slept well, and then came back with the passage under my fingers.
Your brain needs focused time to learn the passage and get it under your fingers, and then it needs time to rest and incorporate what it’s learned into your musical language.
Keep A Practice Journal & Write Down Your Struggles
The worst thing you can do is run into a problem, ignore it, and then forget about it.
The single most important thing you can write down in your practice journal is your struggles.
The next day, you can come back to your journal, and you’ll be reminded of what you were working on.
From there, you can attack the problem with a clear head, fresh attitude, and maybe some different tactics.
Make note of your improvements.
It’s satisfying to read your journals and see how you've been improving.
Celebrate Your Improvements & Play For Others
One of the most valuable things music lessons force kids to do is recitals.
While you may not want to release recordings, or play big stages, music is still meant to be heard.
Ask your partner or friend if you can play what you’ve been working on. Get together with friends and jam. Sit down at a public piano and play.
You’ll be amazed by how different performing live feels from practicing. And if you're used to playing on a digital piano, it'll be nice to compare it to a more traditional one.
When you’re performing, you can’t stop when you make a mistake. You must recover and move on.
Performing is incredible practice.
You’ll see where your dynamics can be improved, whether you tend to rush or drag while playing and so on.
Celebrate your new skill and improvement by playing for others. It feels amazing.
Embrace Your Mistakes & Have Fun
Every professional was once a beginner.
Music is beautiful and fun. It’s a universal language, and speaking it is a joy and privilege.
When you make a mistake, it’s important to embrace your mistake and learn from it. Do not get discouraged. Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes mistakes are beautiful.
Most of all, have fun playing piano.
If you’re not having fun, you won’t want to practice.
Play music you love, work with a teacher you can relate to, and make a habit of practicing. It will quickly become a rewarding and fulfilling part of your life.
Learning Piano As An Adult Conclusion
Being an adult while learning piano isn't a disadvantage.
In fact, there can be many advantages of learning at an older age.
Let us know in the comments how you get along, and update us when your playing starts to improve.
I'm sure there will be many other aspiring piano players who will get inspiration from your achievements. 🙂