I was lucky to be surrounded by many musical opportunities while I was growing up. I was in school bands, choirs, musicals, and I played in community bands. Because of all this exposure, music was always there as part of my life, but I had no formal training.
This exposure to the arts was invaluable to me in college where I studied theatre. I was able to use my knowledge of sheet music to sing in musicals and call cues when I stage-managed.
Why should you learn to play the piano?
Above are ways that music was helpful to me in the arts, but music has so many more benefits and applications in other disciplines and to happiness and mental health. These benefits include but are not limited to: relief from stress and anxiety, improved memory and concentration, and social and community opportunities.
Is there a best age to learn the piano?
Although there are benefits to beginning piano instruction from a young age, the piano can be learned at any age. I chose to learn piano because I enjoy listening to the piano, and I did some research about which instrument music teachers say you should learn first.
I already knew how to read sheet music when I decided to learn piano as an adult, but I didn’t know how to read bass clef very well, and my knowledge of theory was almost non-existent.
Anyone can learn the piano!
I am here to tell you that adults can ABSOLUTELY learn piano, and why I’m so happy I chose to learn to play. Keep reading to learn my tips for learning piano as an adult.
Tips for learning the piano as an adult
Do some introspection
First, you need to look inward and find out why you want to learn the piano. There are no wrong answers here, but understanding your “why” will help you to focus on your goals and stay on track.
I decided to learn piano for a couple of reasons. First, I manage a music school, and though I had some musical experience, I wanted to feel like I could better understand what my students and teachers were all about. Second, I’m always looking for new creative outlets, and piano has been a really great tool for me to express myself creatively.
Identify your interests
It’s important to understand the types of songs and genres that you enjoy. This will be important when you’re choosing songs to learn. It’s so much easier and rewarding to learn songs you enjoy than it is to force yourself to practice music you have no interest in.
Set realistic and achievable goals
Setting goals is an important step when you begin learning the piano. Now that you understand why you want to learn to play the piano and know your interests, setting goals will give you something to work towards.
These goals can be anything, as long as they are realistic. Sometimes we can get ahead of ourselves and set goals we might not be able to achieve. If this happens, we might start feeling down and want to quit. Setting realistic goals is a key part of making progress.
If you need help, find a good teacher. They will be able to use their experience to help you set personal goals to align with your skills and personality.
Find a good piano teacher
Although it’s possible to teach yourself how to play the piano, finding a good piano teacher can give you access to information you wouldn’t even know you were missing on your own.
I taught myself to play the piano when I was a kid, but now that I’m an adult with a teacher, I’m realizing all the things that I didn’t know, and why they are important to help me learn.
Study the basics
When studying the piano, it’s important to understand the basics. Learning to understand musical notation, rhythm, theory, and scales, will be an important part of your overall understanding of music.
Practice makes perfect – really! I’ve just begun to understand a piece of music that I’m learning. At first, I was intimidated, but I just kept practicing and now I can play it! This is such a rewarding part of the experience. The more you practice, the better you will get.
While you practice, however, you want to make sure you’re “practicing smart.” Each time you practice, try to identify what it is that you need to work on. Sometimes you need to work on just playing the right notes, sometimes you should focus on dynamics, sometimes you want to play it with more emotion. Finding a good piano teacher can help you identify the areas you need more practice in.
Benefits to learning the piano as an adult
Relief from Stress & Anxiety
As someone who suffers from anxiety, playing the piano has given me an escape. As with any art, the piano can provide both distraction and catharsis from the toils of everyday life.
The type of brainpower used to read sheet music, and then translate that to commands for your fingers, is comparable to the type used when learning a second language. Both of these things are great for improving your memory and concentration – It’s like exercising your brain!
Using both of my hands at the same time is a huge challenge, but it’s also quite rewarding to create something beautiful out of this difficulty. Overcoming obstacles like this builds a type of confidence that stays with me after I get up from the bench.
Although COVID has created a strain on the musical arts, there are many opportunities for community bands, church bands, and other artistic group opportunities. While they might be largely virtual at the moment, these opportunities will return to our society in time and will provide great ways to make new friends, and be part of a group.
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Author: WIllow Cowherd
Willow has been working with Ensemble Schools since June 2020 and works as the General Manager at the Rochester Academy of Music in Rochester, MN.
Willow earned her B.S. in Theatre and Sociology from South Dakota State University in 2019. She has performed for Prairie Repertory Theatre and worked on performances with the Broadway Tour of ‘Chicago.’ Her main training is in Stage Management, but she has an abundance of creativity which she pours into music school management, writing, graphic design, and acting. She currently works as a medical actor for the Mayo Clinic Multidisciplinary Simulation Center.