How long does it take to learn the Piano?

Learning to play the piano can be very daunting. Many players quit before they hit their sixth month. The amount of time needed to learn for new beginners, musically inclined players, old and young players will differ from person to person. Although it is generally believed to hold great benefits if you start learning to play from a young age. You also stand the chance to learn faster. However, this should not discourage you, as the time needed to learn the piano varies from person to person. Some will take a few months while others run into years.

With consistent practice in the first 6-12 months you can expect to be at the beginner level. After this you will continue to learn and hone your skills as it is easy to start but difficult to master like most instruments

I am going to discuss the different time slots needed to effectively learn the piano for whatever group you belong. We will also discuss the different ways you can make your learning process a little easier and maybe even a bit faster than the anticipated time. 

Is it hard to learn the Piano?

Most pianists have a common saying– the piano is an easy instrument to learn at the beginning but it is the most difficult to master in the end. If you think about it, this saying is quite true. It is quite easy to start learning to play the piano but it is very hard to master.

Is it hard to play the piano? There is no fixed answer to this question. The piano is generally seen as a tough instrument to learn yet it comes quite easily for some people. This in no way means they waltz their way into becoming masters of the piano. Just like everyone else, they have to practice and work at it.

Using both hands

Many people find the piano difficult because of the hand eye coordination involved. If you are naturally right-handed you will have difficulty learning to coordinate your left hand, and if you are left-handed you will have difficulty playing with your right hand. As we all know, the piano requires both hands playing for playing. Many piano teachers have adopted training their student’s dominant or natural hand first before progressing to the other hand movement. This is way easier than trying to get them to master movement on the chords with both hands at their first trial.

Some students progress quickly from their dominant hand training to their less dominant hand. Some of them even make the progression within a week while it takes some other students several weeks to progress from their dominant hand. This is the reason why difficulty in learning will vary from person to person. Some catch on a bit faster while some need a little bit more time. Do not let this discourage you though, in the end hearing yourself play will bring you so much gratification.

Another difficult moment for piano learners is learning how to move both hands on the chords simultaneously after they have mastered playing with both hands. The tricky part of this stage is that the chords for both hands are different. That is the chord C for the right hand will be a different note entirely for the left hand. This stage is so daunting that some students actually quit when they get frustrated by the hand movements and their inability to gain coordination. The truth is that it is a difficult stage to progress from.

The learner has to take in a lot of things at the same time, like the different chords for the left hand and the right hand, the timing, the rhythm as well as reading the music for both hands.

Reading music / theory

The next difficult stage is learning to read the piano pieces. Here you have to memorize and master the right and left chords, the notes and the bars. Memorizing and knowing the chords is very important for this stage. It may take some time, so do not worry, all you have to do is keep on practicing and memorizing.

Learning as an Adult

Learning the piano as an adult is the same thing as learning almost anything as an adult, just throw in a little bit of dedication and a lot of hard work and time spent on your keyboard, and you will get it. Adults who would love to learn to play the piano may be discouraged by their age. However, the countless stories and testimonies of adult learners online should tell you that age does not stop some adults who are really motivated to learn. The only hurdle you may have to cross will be the extra time that you will need to always squeeze out to practice.

Trust me, no one can escape practicing when it comes to piano. The only difference is that a child has no choice but to practice because you as the parent or their teacher instructs them to. But as an adult, no one can instruct you to stay on your keyboard and keep practicing.

That sheer zeal and motivation have to come from you alone. The challenge often is that adults have a lot of responsibility. You have the kids to worry about, you have their school to worry about and you have your own career and bills to worry about. In any case an adult can very easily throw their hands up in the sky and say “screw this. I can’t do this anymore”.

As you can see learning to play the piano as an adult has no restricting factor because of your age. You can catch up just as well and easily as a child would and one great thing about this is that you can chunk the boring music and practice any music of your choice. Of course, this does not apply to you if you are under the tutelage of an instructor. Boring music or not, always listen to your instructor.

Learning as a child

The general word of advice in the music world is that the best time to teach a child the piano is between the ages of 6 and 9. However, this is not a hard and fast rule for when to start learning piano. If your child shows an affinity for piano, no matter the age, by all means teach the child piano. Mozart started learning to play the piano at age 3.

But there are a number of things that are to be considered if your child is to learn effectively.

  1. What is their hand size? Will they have a good grip on the chords?
  • Can they remain focused for over 30 minutes?
  • Are they disciplined enough to practice efficiently when required?
  • Do they have a good coordination of both hands or individually?
  • Can they tell their left and their right?
  • Can they count up to 4?
  • Can they follow instructions?
  • Can they communicate effectively with others?
  • Are they able to play/practice by themselves?

Children quickly get used to what they keep practicing. A child has more free time on their hands for practices and they have little or no responsibilities to distract their attention. This is probably the only advantage a child has over an adult learner. Plus, the fact that it is easier to become a child prodigy, I mean, there are probably only a handful of adult prodigies.

While it is better to start early, it is never too late to start and you just may end up being one of the rare “adult prodigies”

How long does it take to learn the basics?

Learning the basics of piano is probably as easy as piano learning is going to get. There are three aspects of learning basic piano. Piano technique, play by ear and lastly, learning songs or scores.

Having a good technique means you have good finger strength, coordination and hand dexterity to play some songs. You also have to master the 12 major scales. Learning great technique requires dedication and practice. Some learners go as far as practicing with accelerated learning techniques, creating technique master plans and time tables. Following a strict practice time plan, you should be able to master this stage in about 12 to 15 weeks. Or at the very least you will be good at it.

The next stage is the play by ear.

What I mean by this is learning to play a pop song or a popular song within 10 minutes of hearing it. The time frame for learning this depends on if you are a complete beginner who has never played a complete song with both hands before. It will take about 6 months to learn this technique. But if you are already used to playing with both hands then you should have mastered the play by ear stage within 4 months. As always, you have to be dedicated to learning and keep practicing to get better.

Learning songs is the last aspect. At this stage, it is assumed that you already have great dexterity, coordination and finger strength. You are versatile with both hands and you know all your major scales, bars and chords. At this stage learning simple songs will be less difficult than learning complicated music. This stage should take about 6 to 8 months, depending on the learner.

There are other determining factors that could determine how fast you learn the basics, such as; is the learner a child or an adult? Are they following a strict learning plan or do they get distracted and have intermittent breaks? Learning piano is like learning a language, if you take a long break when learning, you will forget your basics

How long should you practice the piano? 

Deciding on practice hours and sticking with it is usually dependent on two basic categories. Are you a beginner or have you passed the beginner stage? Practice time for these two categories differ because one is getting used to the instrument and the other is already used to it. Generally, pianists are advised to make their practice time between 30 minutes and up to 4 hours every day. Breaks are usually advised during practice hours to avoid mental and physical burnout.

How long to practice the piano as a beginner

Formulating a practice timetable is probably one of the hardest things for pianists because they an can backslide from sticking to the plan. A beginner must take care not to just jump right into the music, there are other things they must first master. The mistake many pianists make is practicing a song they have not properly scored. Get your timing perfect and practice till your finger grip is beyond good.

Sitting down by the piano and playing for hours on end will not make you better at it, especially as a beginner with very poor basics. Piano playing is not just physical, it is also largely mental. You have to also practice off the keyboards by studying your sheet music, listening to music recordings, singing, clapping to rhythm and harmonics and actually studying your lesson notes or book.  As you can see, a lot of mental work is actually required. To know the chords and major scales, you actually have to keep memorizing them. Of course, it is important to practice in order not to forget all that you have learned.

Not having a good grip, not knowing the theory and easily losing focus are some of the setbacks beginners face. All of these can be worked out with constant practice. As a beginner you can start your practices off with about 20 minutes of practice every day. But as you continue to advance in playing, with increased levels of reading music, partial scales and sharps, it is advisable to increase your practice time to about 45 minutes every day.  It is important to take short breaks.

This is especially important when you have advanced to practicing for hours. Your hands and brain need a breather. It’s also important for your general performance.

How long you should practice after the beginner phase

After the beginner phase you pretty much have your finger grip, reading skills and harmonics on lockdown. You are ready to start practicing the hard stuff beginners are not ready for. At this phase you can practice for hours on end. Some pianists practice for about 2 to 4 hours every day with short breaks in between. Some eventually extend their practice time to 4 to 8 hours each day. Planning to practice for hours every day and actually practicing for hours every day are two different things. You have to be dedicated and willing to do this.

Also at this phase you are expected to master your play by ear routines. It is like I said at the very beginning, learning to play the piano is easy at the beginning but it is very difficult to master in the end. You are no longer a beginner and this is where your work starts. Learning to master the piano. Some teachers will tell you it is a never-ending feat, mastering the piano. This is where great pianists are separated from basic players and it all depends on practicing.

How good can you get at playing the piano in a year?

Many intending piano students ask this question a lot. How much of the piano can they learn in a year and how good will they get?  While the answer to this varies from person to person, generally speaking, within a year a constant practicing student should be able to play music in the 12 major and minor keys.

You would have learned both hands mechanics of playing the chords with one hand and applying melodies with the other. You would have learned how to read notes and sight-read simple music sheets. You would also have learned transposing and playing with 6 different keys. By the end of a year you would have learned how to play and transpose the 12 major and minor keys, as well as how to play songs and elicit emotions with them by using the fast, slow, and soft techniques when needed. Not only will you learn to play within the year you will play amazing songs that are like stories, great expressions and details. 

Is there a way to learn the piano faster?

Any report you may have heard on how to learn piano faster will always refer to practicing more. If this is not the case then whatever you heard or read is a lie. There is no quick fix for learning the piano. You either practice to become better or you end up quitting with frustration. However, there are other factors surrounding practice that will aid your learning process.

  • Practice often: Like I said before this can never be over flogged. If you want to get better at piano, practice. If you want to learn piano faster, practice.
  • Taking breaks: This does not mean long indefinite breaks most people take when they grow tired or get discouraged. What I mean by this is taking a breather between practice sessions. Taking breaks refocuses your mind when you return to the keyboard. Take a moment to walk around, drink some water or move to a different environment for a while.
  • Get enough sleep: This is important to be productive and efficient in any venture you find yourself doing, and piano is no different. To be highly alert, focused and efficient you need at least the required 8 hours of sleep every day. This will keep mental and physical fatigue at bay.
  • Supplements: This is basically supplying your body with the much-needed vitamins and minerals it requires.  This keeps you fit, healthy and always prepared to take on the daunting role of a pianist.
  • Healthy diet: This is simply eating right and drinking a lot of water. And you always have to be hydrated. Eating the right food and drinking the right fluid keeps you fit, alert and healthy to be a great music performer. It will also aid your learning process.

That was a long read, I must admit. But if you’re here, it means you’ve learnt one or two things. I also hope I’ve been able to convince you to take up that class today. After all, it is never too late to start. 

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