Before you start reading, there are a couple of important points to get out of the way:
- Everyone learns at different speeds!
- What works for one person might not work for you.
How Long Does It Take To Learn Piano?
Learning to play piano can take time. It takes dedication, practice, and drive to master. Depending on how you practice, what routine you follow, and what your overall goals are, you could be looking at quite a long road to mastery. If you’re just looking to learn some basics, you’ll probably have an easier time.
Either way, if you follow the practice tips and strategies outlined in this article, you can use your time effectively and practice in a way that nurtures your progress.
First of all, you need to set concrete goals. What does “learning the piano“ mean to you? Are you looking to learn “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, or are you looking for something a little more difficult?
Tips And Tricks
Here are some of the most common strategies and tips for learning the piano:
- Practice when you can, even if your session is short.
- Practice with purpose - try using exercises like the the Hanon Series.
- Start slow, then speed up. Consider using a metronome to help you keep time.
Listen to a piece before you try to play it.
Write down your problems and issues.
Work on proper technique first - it’s hard to unlearn a bad habit!
Start and end with something fun!
That being said, it’s important to understand that not everybody learns the same way. Some students may feel stifled by scales and feel like practice is a chore.
Fundamentals are important, but if you hate every minute of your practice routine, you aren’t likely to make it very far. The most effective piano practice techniques are useless if they don’t work for you. Some good general tips can be found in the video below.
Different Strategies For Learning Piano: Their Pros And Cons
By The Book
A wealth of books exist online and in music stores that promise an all-inclusive approach to learning the piano - (Some popular examples include Faber Piano Adventures and the Adult All-In-One Course).
- Easily available
- Clearly organized and planned.
- Can’t address specific needs
- Exercises can be tedious for some students
- Usually doesn’t cover more advanced material
Piano teachers vary in price, and can either come to your home, teach in a place of business, or invite you into theirs for lessons. They offer one-on-one teaching and personal experience. It’s a very good option, provided you’re willing to pay them for their expertise.
- Can address specific problems and goals
- Can tailor practice to the student’s needs
- Is usually experienced with teaching
- Can be costly
- May not teach in a way that works for you
The internet is full of tutorials on how to play specific songs, grasp fundamentals, and develop a general knowledge on playing the piano. Most of it is even free, and you can set your own pace. Some sites offer free tutorials with apps and guided videos, like Flowkey. Some offer premium content, like Hoffman Academy.
- More control over content
- Varied and engaging content
- There may not be material you’re looking for
- It can be hard to stick to practice
- There is no structure beyond what you set for yourself
There are a few things that you’ll have to address no matter how you decide to approach your learning. How long it takes to learn to play the piano can vary by student, but these things will not- they’re part of the deal, like it or not!
Perhaps the most common and most disliked aspect of music lessons since time began, scales are nonetheless crucial for an aspiring pianist of any skill level. There are a few good places to start, but no matter where you begin, it’s important to stick to practicing your scales, as they form a fundamental stepping stone for chords and music theory - you’ll thank me later.
Your parents always told you - “don’t slouch!” Turns out they were right, after all. Proper posture at the piano bench is more important than it seems at first glance. It may sound boring , but proper posture is important for playing over extended periods of time, and you want to develop these good habits right from the get-go if you plan to play. Poor posture can harm your playing and spine over time.
This is more of a concern for students who want to master the piano - finger position and exercises, pressure on finger pads, the kind of small details that separate a master from an amateur. A series of exercises and tips can be found on the website for the Fundamentals Of Piano Practice, if you want to take your practice to the next level.
This is something a lot of students lean on a little too heavily. Working on finger technique and posture is wasted if you’re going to mask it all under the sustaining pedal (the right-most pedal, for those new to the piano). It’s an addition to be made sparingly- and many teachers recommend not using it at all during practice, so you can focus on the notes themselves.
Piano Obstacles And Stumbling Blocks
Of course, nothing worth doing is ever easy, and that includes learning how to play the piano. Any student, no matter how diligent or dedicated, is bound to run into problems. Whether you’re trying to motivate a child to practice or simply trying to motivate yourself, there are always going to be rough patches. But this section will teach you how to deal with them - and help you practice consistently.
It’s a real issue when you’re practicing daily, doing exercises and being mindful of your posture - but you’re still not seeing the results you want, or reaching the milestones you set for yourself fast enough.
Pace yourself! Practice the same amount of time every day, and never throw yourself into practicing insane amounts of time a day- you’ll break your routine, exhaust your mind and fingers, and only frustrate yourself further! Take breaks, and focus on other aspects of your learning until you feel ready to tackle your roadblock again.
I’m sure it’s no surprise to many of you that piano is hard to learn and to play. (Take the following piece for example - it requires the player to cross both arms over one another to play!)
Be patient with your progress. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your mastery of piano. If you want to master difficult pieces, you need to give yourself time - no matter what kind of student you are. If you follow the strategies outlined in this article, and establish good practice habits early on, you will make progress. You may be frustrated at the speed , but progress is progress. Stick it out, and you’ll reach the finish line!
Sometimes, you may hit a wall with a given piece. You’re approached it from different angles, played it slow, fast, forwards, backwards, up and down- but you’re tired of it. You see it when you close your eyes and hear it when you try to sleep. But you’re determined not to start a new piece until you finish this one.
Start a new piece! Professional pianists sometimes work on more than 15 pieces at once. This is a great strategy to combat boredom and mental fatigue, and it allows your subconscious mind to process the difficulties with the previous piece. Exclusively working on one piece can actually slow your practice drastically.
Mastering The Piano
Some students are looking for more than just “how to learn to play the piano”. Some want, or perhaps have already begun, to master their instrument. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - mastering the piano is not easy.
It’s a long and often difficult road that at times may discourage even the most dedicated student. However, it’s not impossible - others have gone before you, and they can help.
Diane Hidy, winner of the American Pianist Association fellowship writes on her personal blog:
“The most important advice I have for any young musician is to immediately stop thinking of your fellow students as your ‘competition.’ Soon they will be your most valued friends and colleagues.” - Diane Hidy
It’s important to remember that you’re not alone - you can learn a lot from people your peers, friends, and colleagues. Go to a local open mic! Join a class, host a club, or write an email to a pianist you admire! No man is an island.
Stephen Hough, a distinguished concert pianist, says in his very informative article The Practice of Practising -
“We need to know what might go wrong in a performance and why. There is no such thing as a difficult piece. There are merely moments in pieces which are problematic.”
I definitely recommend checking out the blog post - it has a lot of very good advice for pianists, whether you’re just starting out, or have been playing for years.
Feel The Music
Lang Lang, author of Mastering the Piano and concert pianist, cautions against the emotionless recital of practiced pieces.
“The worst thing that can happen is when a piano turns into a machine, and the pianist becomes a robot.”
A mastery of technique is not the absence of emotion. You have to keep the feeling of the song in mind while also keeping an awareness of what you’re playing - (obviously something easier said than done.) However, it’s a vital step in mastering the piano.
What To Take Away
There’s many good ways to practice, and the important thing is finding on that works best for you. How long it takes to master the piano is different for every student.
However, following these strategies is a good first step - and if you intend to master the piano, these tips will help you establish good habits right from the start, which will only make your journey easier.