Piano Lessons · Piano Practice · Piano Teaching

A few tips for adult piano beginners

A lot of adult piano beginners try their hands at the piano these days by watching YouTube videos. It’s great to enjoy learning on your own: you can take as much time as you need, whenever you want, at the convenience at your own home.  While it’s encouraging to see that many want to pick up piano as their music instruments, there are a few things to consider.

  1. I understand the want to immediately play your favorite song- but most often than not, that favorite song of yours are not for piano beginners. It usually takes more than a few lessons/hours (or maybe a few years) before you can really master the song. Meanwhile, consider playing a more simplified version of the song, and really, try to learn the basics.

  2. Learning the basics seems to be a no-no for a lot of adult piano beginners. Many think if they start from absolute zero, it is embarrassing to them, because they are learning the same thing as the little kid next door who is also learning to play the piano. Consider learning a new language – say French – do you think you would suddenly be fluent in French and start strolling along on a Parisian street, chatting up with your new French friends at the café? It really is not embarrassing to start from scratch, in fact, it’s very practical and the most effective way to start learning from absolute zero, so you know the in’s and out’s of the music language.

    Of course, you can choose to learn the basics particular to the kind of music genre you like. For instance, if you are learning to play pop piano instead of classical piano, you don’t have to learn all the advanced and complicated music theory and acquire the level of reading skills that are required for the latter. Instead, you should learn about piano chords, and simple music reading, know your rhythm, and be able to play from chord symbols. If you however enjoy classical piano, you must learn to read well. Lack of music reading skills is detrimental to classical piano playing. 

  3. Lack of piano technique stops a lot of piano beginners from advancing forward on their music journey. A lot of piano players think if they can read and play a song they just need to practice more and that’s it. Without proper piano technique, it’s very hard to play well – we are talking about making nice sound at the piano. Unfortunately, a lot of piano teachers out there don’t teach about piano technique – some don’t know themselves, others try to avoid talking about it, especially when they want to focus on the students playing more songs and “having fun”. Having fun is great, but without good technique, there is not much fun in your piano playing, that I can tell you right now from my own personal experience. 

  4. Listening to the recordings of the songs you’re learning helps you get a good rhythm and pulse. You can count as much as you want, and use a metronome – but establishing an inner pulse goes a long way. Many think playing piano is all about fingers, so if they can move their fingers fast enough they will make it. Being a piano player is like a football player, or a ballet dancer. You must engage your body to make the music flow and sound good. Feel the music in your body and move along with it while you play. Certainly there’s so much more to technique – but in general, your body should be relaxed and you should work on better finger control with your palms and arms. There are exercises and books out there you can learn more about on this topic.

When people are amazed by my playing (they are very kind), they say “wow you must be playing for long time”. Yes, it is very true, but it’s also very true that I took piano lessons for many many years before I became a professional piano player and piano teacher/coach. If I counted it correctly, I believe it was almost 20 years of basically non-stop piano lessons. Of course, I am a professional pianist and most piano adult beginners are not inspired to do that. They just want to have fun. But my point is, it takes long time to really get to the level you are confident with piano playing. And one thing is, consistency is of the essence. Think about how many years you have been speaking English. You don’t even remember that day you didn’t speak it! Surely it took you a while to be able to understand, read, and write in English. The same would go for music as well.

Be patience with yourself when it comes to piano playing. I do recommend taking some basic piano lessons at the start. Talk with a potential piano teacher about your needs and goals. As an adult piano learner, you have a big advantage at being able to communicate effectively and express clearly about your concerns about your piano lessons and performance. Find a piano teacher who is compassionate, professional, and experience in both piano teaching and piano performance. Find a piano teacher who loves to teach piano (instead of treating it only as work). Those who have passion in educating others to play better piano and learn music for enjoyment are the ones you want to learn from. There are unfortunately not enough of those teachers out there, but I had the pleasure to learn from a few and they inspired me in the best ways unimagined. 

Playing piano is a joy and a blessing. It’s a wonderful way to express yourself and enjoy music to the fullest. I hope you find a way to do it.