“Am I too old to start piano? I love music, but I don’t know if I have any musical talent.”
“I played when I was younger. I love music, but I don’t know if it’s too late to start again.”
“How long will it take for me to be able to play? I heard that kids learn much faster than adults.”
We have heard these exact questions from hundreds of visitors to our store; nurses, engineers, retirees, police officers, attorneys, physicians, homemakers, even a couple of CEO’s of some very high-profile San Diego companies! Here are some concerns about getting started,with some ideas that might encourage you.
They think that it will take a long time to learn, and they might not be able to sustain their interest. Here are two secrets to learning your favorite songs quickly: (1) Have your teacher focus your lessons on the songs you love, take shortcuts, and “cheat” (You’re not studying to become a professional or get a music degree!), and (2) at first, choose short arrangements that can be learned in weeks instead of months. If your passion is for classical music, Chopin wrote beautiful and very short preludes, and Bach wrote terrific beginner’s music for his twenty children. If you prefer popular music, you’re in luck – your favorite song may only have a few chords, and you already know the melody well enough to sing it in the shower!
They remember lessons being boring, or their teacher was too critical. It cannot be emphasized enough that a good number of successful adult students had to fire some teachers before finding “the one”. Your teacher should encourage your musical taste and be flexible about how their “method” may or may not help you process new information (no two students are exactly the same in this regard). While you are learning piano, your teacher should be learning how to best communicate with you.
They think that you have to be born with musical talent to play the piano. (This article on “Is My Child Musically Talented?” discusses this in detail) In a nutshell, your love of music is probably much more important than your inner virtuoso.
Answer these three questions and see if you have what it takes!
- Do you enjoy a variety of different genres, styles of music and performers? Adult students who are trying out “a little of everything”, like a food-lover at a buffet seem to have more fun and stay interested longer than someone who is limiting their study to just one song, style, or composer.
- Does music make you emotional? If the love ballad from “Phantom of the Opera, or even a really well-produced shredded-wheat commercial brings a tear to your eye, or if certain songs bring back vivid memories, you’ll never get bored or burned out playing them over and over! We’ll occasionally meet someone who’s interest in music turns out to be more superficial – it’s something pleasant to hear in the background, but they’re not really moved by it.
- What is your response to hearing live music? If you find live performances exciting, and a two-hour concert seems to fly by, leaving you wishing it wouldn’t end, you’re probably an enthusiastic piano student. If you’re looking at your watch or scanning email on your phone, you might have a similarly short attention span for your piano study.
How to tell if things are going well:
- Things are going well if you’re looking forward to your lesson and learning something whether or not you are well-prepared.
- Things are going well if you and your teacher love the same music. Your teacher plays for you, keeping you enthused and in a perpetual state of “What do I have to do to play that?” Make a list of songs that you never tire of hearing, that make you cry, and and inspire you to sing along. Present your list to a potential teacher, and ask how many of those songs can they play. If they can’t or don’t play your songs, they’re not qualified! (This is a terrific method for a new middle-or high-school age piano student to get started on the right foot – they’re interviewing the instructor almost like an employer asking a job applicant for their qualifications. Teens will work very hard for someone who knows and appreciates their musical heroes.)
- Things are going well if, for a few weeks, days, or even hours, your fascination and pleasure in a piece of music takes over, and you won’t stop working on it until you can play it. You won’t believe how stress-relieving it is to utterly forget the phone, computer, and TV for a while!
- Things are going well if you have just one song so perfectly embedded in your fingers that you can play it on command, in your home on your piano, at a party, or at 2am in the morning, woken out of a deep sleep. Having that one song ready at a moment’s notice will give you the confidence to learn another, and another, and another!
Written by Ken Schoenwetter