|Posted on 20 June, 2019 at 6:35|
Can I Learn To Play Piano As An Adult?
Well, the answer is yes you can! Completely from scratch or brush up old skills.
How Long Will It Take Me?
Depends on your enthusiasm, aptitude, the time you set aside for regular practice and your end goal.
Having a huge desire to play piano for your own enjoyment or wanting to play at Muriel's wedding in six months - this is the end goal motivation that will fuel your aptitude for practice. A few minutes at the piano daily is better than an hour at the weekend, but as long as the input is regular then you will make solid progress. Give it a go and stick to it!
You should master basic scale, arpeggio and chord shapes to begin, which will enable you to read music and play with assurance and a flourish later on. Gain an early awareness of major and minor hand shapes and sound too. If you place your thumb on middle C your four fingers cover D-E-F-G so run up and down this half scale 1-2-3-4-5 and down 4-3-2-1 (thumb is 1, little finger is 5) and you will develop a solid hand shape and hear C major. Now move your whole hand up one note to thumb on D with fingers covering E-F-G-A. Still all white notes. Run up and back on this half scale 1-2-3-4-5 and down 4-3-2-1 several times. Same basic hand position as before but now you hear D minor scale.
Sing the five notes up your hand - point at your thumb and sing C, finger 2 sing D, long finger 3 sing E, finger 4 sing F, little finger 5 sing G. Sing the actual note names - do this daily and you will train your ear to recognise the degrees of the scale. Repeat over for DEFGA. Having a good ear for music and a solid functional flexible hand position is vital.
D is the one symmetrical note on the piano - it is the white note between the group of two black notes. To the left is C and to the right is E. The lowest note on a full piano is A (often C on a five octave keyboard) - count up the scale ABCDEFG then it starts again ABCDEFG for over seven octaves! Try playing all the D's rapidly one after another in any order with either hand, any finger. Exercises like this are easy and fun and quickly promote your keyboard sense. At first the layout of black and white keys looks daunting but picking out specific notes helps your sense of spacing.
Follow that by selecting all the C chords one after another - thumb plays C, finger 3 plays E, little finger 5 plays G in the right hand, reverse order in left hand. Put the right (damper) pedal down and enjoy the sound! Pedal off and try all the D minor chords - 1 on D, 3 on F, 5 on A - same hand shape as C major chord. Pedal on! Release the pedal after playing one chord before playing another chord. You can play six chords on the white keys - those starting on C, F, G are major chords and compliment each other, and thos starting on D, E, A are minor chords and compliment each other. The other pedal on the piano makes the music sound softer - two pedals - soft, loud - piano forte. Pianoforte.
You can have fun for hours playing randomly from one chord to another - we call this chord progression. A to D to E to A would be a classical progression in A minor where C to F to C to G to F to C is a blues progression used in pop, rock, blues music. Mix and match major and minor chords and see what pleases your ear. You may be sure the great piano composers spent endless hours playing like this in their early years - it trains your hand positions and sense of keyboard spacing, it trains your ear, and it develops your creativity for playing piano and making music!
Do I Need A Piano Teacher?
I am a piano teacher so of course I will say yes, you need a piano teacher! But there are books available to acquire some basic knowledge and you will most likely pick out a few songs and chords by ear over time. Online videos show you painstakingly which notes to pick out, both graphically and by watching someone's hands. George Gershwin taught himself to play by placing his fingers exactly where the keys fell on a pianola! But all these methods are incomplete in themselves and lead to hand position faults which will be hard to correct later on. So the quickest most effective way to learn is to find a good local teacher who inspires you and patiently work through their suggested exercises and guidance from one song to another, always gradually increasing the level of difficulty. You'll be surprised how little you achieve in one week, but many weeks together build confidence and skills.
So How Long Is It Going To Take Me To Learn To Play Piano?
Most adults who start from scratch, or start knowing a little about playing piano usually learn all they will in between two to three years. Most people haven't the time or the desire to go further than that. Most adults will learn to a standard between grade 3-5 and peak out. That means you can play most tunes you want to in simple form with both hands together - you'd be good enough to play at a party or down the pub for an hour if you've got the bottle! Which is pretty good!
You will have gained a skill for life - you can continue to buy or download songs forever and learn them yourself whenever you want. You will be able to write music for yourself and sing along to your own piano playing! You will be able to play along with musical friends and build your own band! It can be a very social skill, but most adults prefer to dabble by themselves to take the pressure off and relax after work.
Can I just say there is a huge variance in the hand skills required to play a Mozart or Beethoven sonata, and a cool simple blues pattern? But even boogie bass patterns need hours of repetitive practice to work well. There are plenty of classical pieces for beginners and many simplified classical themes to play. But essentially focus on the music you truly love to hear, sing, play! Never get bogged down with a piece because you think you ought to - you most definitely ought not to! If something is taking you too long, try other easier things first and lead back up to the challenging piece.
You should be able to play some songs recognisably in your first 3-6 months! If not, then change your teacher. It's like driving - some people like having lessons as a nowhere hobby, others actually intend to learn to drive, pass the test, go places. There is no test to pass in piano!
Can I Take Piano Tests Or Exams?
Yes, if you want to! But you don't need to. There is no piace of paper which qualifies you to play piano well. If you feel taking an exam will help your confidence or master some disciplines then go to it with the help of a piano teacher. Most adults I teach prefer not to take exams. There are pro's and cons of piano exams - they help you master a piece of music to a degree of depth but generally encourage you to take too long on too little music, always highlighting errors which does not lead to a free flowing musical approach.
I prefer to catch the essence of a melody by keeping in time with the pulse of the music, 3 to a bar, or 4 to a bar, and introduce a simple bass left hand gradually - I always encourage independence of hands - maybe get your left hand to play a bass pattern and try to make up something in the right hand. Keep to white notes in C major or D or A minor to begin. To play creatively using hand position knowledge and your ear as guide rather than reading the music too closely. Most arrangements are junk and you could do better yourself! There's no right or wrong. Even painfully wrong notes can be twiddled away from - use a tiny chromatic passage to reassert your original key, or just go off into a new key!
So Will I Ever Be The Next Fats Waller Or Jamie Cullum?
Yes, if you want to be! Recall I began by saying you need an end goal. Maybe you want to grace Muriel's wedding next July, or just relax after work, or maybe you've set your sights on the stage! You can start at any age - one pupil of mine began at 85 - and learn basic chords and progress quick as you want. Listen to music constantly, ask questions, learn the basics, get involved with band and stage music, be a roadie to begin. Just get on and do your thing and don't let anyone hold you back. If you get a teacher who laughs at you, get another. Find supportive encouraging people to hang around. And that goes for all of life!
No right or wrong - it's piano - it's music - it's creative - it's YOU!! Develop your own style of playing by trying new ideas daily.
Let me wish you all the best! Be patient, believe, be happy!
Louise Woodcock is a Piano Teacher in Kent, UK and teaches all ages 3-103, and all abilities. Success!