5 Questions you should ask yourself before taking piano lessons
Is learning to play the piano something on your bucket list? Before you dive in, ask yourself these five questions to ensure you are ready for learning.
There is something incredibly appealing to being able to play the piano. As an instrument, its ability to create rich-sounding music is an experience few other instruments can rival.
Identifying as a pianist stops conversations.
The fact that the piano can be used to play pretty much any type of music -from baroque to the latest pop song- makes it a suitable instrument for anyone’s music taste.
No wonder so many people are fascinated by the idea of learning to play piano.
But there are some key elements to learning the instrument that sometimes get glossed over by eager beginners, five of which I want to talk about here.
If you can honestly answer all 5 questions with a “YES”, you know you’re ready to start learning!
1. Are you ready to commit the next several years of your life to learning to play?
Learning to play the piano is not an easy task. Like any complex skill -and it is incredibly complex, make no mistake – it takes time to master. A LOT of time. You cannot rush it.
Pianistic skills, particularly those involving physical movement, require time and consistent dedication to develop.
Just like you can’t expect someone to become a bodybuilder overnight, you will not be a confident, fluent pianist in a few months.
Learning to play the piano will take years. That’s the truth.
It’s not a convenient truth, however.
We live in a time where everything is instant. Want to watch a movie? In a few clicks, you can have it ready for viewing on your device. Want to eat something quick? Just drive up to the window of your favourite take away restaurant and you’ll be eating in mere minutes.
We’re constantly bombarded with messages that there are workarounds and shortcuts for things that traditionally take time – yet most of the messages, sorry to say, are blatant lies. Lose 10 kgs in 2 weeks. Become an overnight success. Learn to play piano in 4 weeks.
My dear reader. Remember when your mum/dad/carer told you: if it’s too good to be true, it probably is?
Wise words to keep in mind!!
Learning piano is a long-term commitment, there is NO other way. With dedication (and practice) you can get incredibly far in a year, but physical technique, biology, cannot be cheated.
2. Do you have a piano or keyboard?
Are you still with me? Good! It means the prospect of years of learning isn’t scaring you off, and that means you have overcome the biggest obstacle to learning an instrument: dedication!
The next question I want to ask you is: do you have a piano or keyboard, and if not, will you be able to afford one.
Like any hobbies, learning to play the piano will require some ‘gear’. A piano is paramount.
Some new learners might not realise this! They may think that to learn to play all you do is go to a weekly lesson and you’ll learn over time. But the truth is that you need to practice. And for that you need an instrument.
And I’ll say it straight up!
Pianos cost a lot of money.
Acoustic pianos of decent quality costs thousands. Many beginners are not prepared to part with that amount, so opt for keyboards instead.
Generally, serious starter keyboards can be found at around $900AUD. These will serve you for the first 2 or 3 years, but be prepared to upgrade when you get better and more accomplished in your playing. If you need some help selecting what sort of piano works for you, check out my blog series here.
The cost involved in getting started scares some people. If that is you, I would question whether learning to play is a good idea.
3. Can you commit to 30 minutes of practice a day?
So, your commitment – CHECK!
Having a piano – CHECK
Now let’s talk practice.
You cannot learn a physical skill (and yes, piano playing is physical skill!) without consistent practice.
If you never practice throwing the ball through the hoop, you’re probably not going to be able to score much during the game.
The same goes for playing the piano. Fluency and confidence are the direct results of regular practice.
I don’t think you should have to set aside hours each day. Unless you’re studying at Julliard.
Most beginners can get plenty done in 30 minutes 4 or 5 times a week.
4. Are you willing to keep an open mind to learning?
Ok so you are ready to commit long term, you have a piano and can put 30 mins a day aside for practising.
Now the question is – what do you want to learn exactly?
Sometimes (ok, a lot of the time) people come to the piano with ideas or notions that are a little misguided or even misinformed.
For instance, I hear many beginning adults express hesitation at the idea of learning to read music. And I get that – it’s a scary prospect having to learn to decipher a new language.
It’s also true that learning to read is a slow process and that it will take a few months to build some fluency.
But the solution is not necessarily to forego the reading!
What many don’t realise is that by refusing to learn to read, they are squarely putting themselves on the path to learn music by improvising, playing by ear and through memorisation.
If that excites you, great! But most people find the idea of improvisation and having to remember ALL their music frightening.
As a complete novice, I suggest you remain open to all paths. Reading music, playing by ear, improvising as well as performing, interpreting and arranging music. They are all part of a well-rounded musical journey and while most will lean towards certain disciplines, you’ll never know what you’re capable of if you don’t even try!
5. Are you willing to invest in your learning?
Whether we like it or not, learning to play the piano will cost some money. It’s up to you to decide how far (and to what expense) you want to invest in yourself.
There are many methods these days. You can, of course, find a teacher! Either someone close, or someone online (hello!).
You can take private tuition (one-on-one piano lessons) or you can find a group class if you prefer to learn with others.
You can skip the teacher entirely and rely on the internet, watching YouTube tutorials or finding piano playing software. Or you can subscribe to sequenced video lessons. These are particularly great options if your budget is tight, though they usually do come with the enormous downside of not having regular feedback from an expert.
Or you can combine multiple elements for an even broader education: private lessons, join a band, use technology to enhance your learning.
There are plenty of options! Do make sure you understand the pros and cons of each. There is something incredibly sad about choosing the cheapest method, only to find months later you have ruined your technique and you can start from scratch.
So, how did you go? Did you answer YES to all the questions?
The piano is such an awesome instrument (the best, though I’m slightly biased of course) and I am sure you will not regret your decision to start learning!