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Why It’s Never Too Late: Learning the Piano as an Adult

If you think that piano lessons are only for kids, think again.

 

Learning the Piano as an Adult – It’s Never Too Late

 

I currently teach six adult students at my Sydney piano academy. They’re each a pleasure to teach, and they’ve all made amazing progress in the time that they’ve been with me, be it 18 months, or over three years.

There are many misconceptions and myths about learning the piano as an adult. So this week we’re going to get our myth buster on and discuss why it’s never too late to learn to play the piano.

Busted: The Biggest Myth About Adults and Piano Lessons

The biggest myth about learning the piano as an adult is that you’re too old. And that’s simply not true.

I’ve taught adults ranging in age from their 30s to their 60s. They have gone on to accomplish all sorts of musical goals, just like my younger students. Some have successfully sat AMEB exams for the first time in their lives. Others have learnt to play a particular piece for a special event, such as their wedding. I’ve also had adult students who were afraid of public performances who now enjoy playing at our annual recitals. In every case, they’ve proven that you’re never too old to learn to play the piano.

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Pros of Learning Piano as an Adult

As an adult, there are actually several advantages you will enjoy when learning to play the piano.

Concentration

To begin with, it will come as no surprise when I point out that adult students have much higher concentration levels than kids. This means that as an adult piano student, you can learn musical concepts and musical theory much more quickly than children, which means you’ll also learn to play better, faster.

Motivation

Plenty of children don’t really want to learn to play the piano, and so motivating them can be a battle. Because most adults who take up piano lessons are there because they want to be, motivation isn’t really an issue. You’re there because you want to be, and because you want to improve, you will practise.

Emotional Development

Unlike children, adults are emotionally developed, and so it’s much easier for them to grasp musical expression. This allows you to connect with the music more easily, and to play more expressively.

Time Management

Adults are also much better at managing their free time than children. They also realise that improvement requires practise. This means they are better at allocating time to practise each week – and are more likely to do it.

Cons of Learning the Piano as an Adult

Of course, it’s not all easy sailing to learn the piano as an adult. In addition to enjoying all the benefits described above, you may also face some of the following challenges. Thankfully, if you are aware of them, you will be better prepared to prevent them from becoming a problem for you.

Time Management

Yes, this one can also be a con. Although, as an adult, you’re probably very good at time management, you’re also almost certainly very time poor. Family, work, and social commitments, as well as other activities such as going to the gym, dancing, etc., can make it difficult to find the time to practise the piano. This is a challenge that can be overcome, but it’s important to be aware of it.

Well-Developed Ear

Now you’re probably thinking to yourself, “how is this not a pro?” The reason for this is that adult students know what sounds good and what sounds bad (kids are much less aware of this). This means that adults students will often compare their own playing to the concert pianists they have heard, and then be disappointed when they don’t measure up. These musicians have years of training under their belts, and so it’s important not to be critical of your own playing in comparison. If you practise and have fun, you will improve.

Over-Developed Hand Muscles

Children’s hand and finger muscles are malleable, but adults have difficulty playing the piano without tension. I’m yet to teach an adult whose hands are relaxed and tension-free like a child’s. And I know how difficult it can be, because as an adult learning to play the violin, I also struggle to play with a relaxed technique in order to ensure the correct bow hold, etc. But that doesn’t mean you should give up!

Teaching Adult Piano Students: My Approach

Another myth we’d better bust is that as an adult student, you will be learning nursery rhymes and forced to wear fancy dress outfits like kids at school recitals and concerts. Maybe that happens elsewhere, but certainly not in my Sydney piano studio!

 

Puffy Shirt

 

Before teaching a new adult student, I will always ask what kind of music you want to play in a year’s time, and what your goals are. You may want to play classical or jazz music, you may want to learn chords, you might want to focus on learning to read music, or something else. Whatever you want to do, I will structure your lessons so that you can achieve your musical goals. (Of course, your goals need to be realistic; you won’t be a concert pianist in six months!)

I don’t use children’s method books, as there are plenty of good adult ones. Once you’ve learnt the fundamentals of music (note reading, duration, technique, etc) from these books and built a reasonable foundation, we will choose pieces you would like to learn, and work on them.

Recipe for Success

The recipe for success when learning to play the piano is simple: all my successful adult piano students have realistic goals, and practice regularly.

If you do the same, and enjoy learning something new, then you will love learning to play the piano too!

Do you know someone who would love to learn the piano, but has been holding back? Why not share this blog post with them so they can discover that it’s never too late to learn.

And if you want to learn more about piano lessons for adults click here, or call me today.

I would love to be a part of your adult piano journey!

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5 Essential Tools for Beginner Piano Students

 

Essential Tools for Piano Students

 

Are you a beginner pianist? Is your child beginning to take piano lessons? Parents and beginner adult students often ask me what tools they (or their children) need to be able to learn to play the piano. This blog post covers five essential tools I recommend every beginner piano student should have.

1: Every Pianist Needs an Instrument to Practice on

It may sound obvious, but every piano student needs a piano to practice on!

As to which piano you should buy, I’ve put together a blog post outlining some of the best value instruments for beginners and intermediates. But if you don’t have time to read that, too, then the short answer is: for beginners, an acoustic (regular) piano is ideal, and an electric piano is the next best option. Failing that, however, for a new piano student, a beginner keyboard will also do. If you choose to get a beginner keyboard, always buy one with 61 keys, and make sure that the keys are the same width as those on a regular piano.

 

Yamaha U1 Piano

Photo Credit: Yamaha

 

(Want a specific piano recommendation tailored to your individual needs? Send me an email, or leave a note in the comments below.)

2: An Adjustable-Height Piano Bench is a Must

An adjustable-height piano bench is a must for all piano students, but it’s particularly important for young beginners.

Many students are taught to sit at the piano incorrectly because they have the wrong-sized stool. This is not only uncomfortable, but can also lead them to play with their arm at an incorrect height, and can even result in a strained back.

All this can be solved with an adjustable-height piano bench. The adjustable feature allows little humans to sit comfortably and correctly, with their arms at the right height, and their wrists unbent. Best of all, the adjustability means the bench will still suit them when they grow to become bigger humans. Adjustable benches are also great for families with two or more piano students of varying ages and heights, as they can be adjusted each time a new sibling sits down to practice.

 

Piano Bench

 

An adjustable piano bench will cost you anywhere between $150-500. You can buy one at any reputable piano store. One final thing to keep in mind when selecting a bench is to make sure you choose a comfortable one, as in the future your child will be practicing for up to an hour at a time every day. And no one wants to sit uncomfortably for an entire hour!

3: A Metronome is a Vital Tool

A metronome isn’t necessary for a complete beginner, but once you begin learning scales, you will need a metronome.

It’s said that the Germans know how to do three things well: manufacture cars, play football (you saw the 2014 World Cup final), and make metronomes. As such, it will come as no surprise when I say that my favourite metronome brand is the German “Wittner.

Wittner metronomes come in three main categories – real wood, plastic wood, and novelty. Real wood metronomes are the best quality, and I just love the traditional ticking noise they make. They tend to be around $200-250. Plastic wood Wittners are also quality metronomes, and are cheaper, at $100-150. Then, of course, there are the novelty metronomes that come in penguin shapes etc., and are a similar price to the plastic wood options.

 

Wittner Metronome

Photo Credit: Wittner

 

You could buy a cheap Chinese metronome on eBay, but it will never be the same quality as a Wittner. Wittners are built to last, and so I believe it’s worth paying extra for them, as they will last a lifetime.

Metronomes are important because they help instil a sense of timing. And rhythm and timing are vital for good piano playing.

You may be wondering why I haven’t mentioned metronome apps for phones and tablets. Sure, you can use them, and there are even free ones, but I don’t believe that they are ever loud enough (unless you want to plug them into a stereo and drive the entire family crazy – not something I recommend!). And let’s face it, they really just don’t sound as good as that traditional metronome “tick”.

4: Invest in an iPad

Two years ago, this item wouldn’t have made the list. But I now find that the iPad is a great musical education tool.

I’m an Android fan, but the iOS music apps are more polished, and there are more of them. With an iPad, you don’t need paper practice diaries, flash cards, or note reading worksheets. Instead you can get a practice diary or log journal app, flash card apps, note reading apps, and apps for aural training. The last item in particular is a real money-saver, as you won’t have to pay nearly $80 for an AMEB aural training CD! And, of course (though I’m loathe to mention it), you will find metronome apps as well.

 

Apple iPad

Photo Credit: Apple

 

iPads are also great for music games, which can keep kids simultaneously entertained and educated. For those who are too old for games, you can also buy and store PDF sheet music on the iPad, meaning you don’t have to carry a large folder of sheet music around everywhere. (I particularly recommend the forScore app for this.)

5: Get a Recording Device

Recording devices are more important for intermediate and advanced students, but they’re also great for beginners.

When you play the piano, what you hear and what someone listening hears can be very different. The only way you’ll know if this is the case is if you can hear both. And the only way to do that is to record yourself. Recording is also handy because it allows students to record their lessons in order to listen to them afterwards.

 

Zoom Handy Recorder H4n

Photo Credit: Zoom

 

The very best recording devices are the Zoom products. I’ve been using them since they first came out about 20 years ago! Zoom mics allow you to record in stereo thanks to their XY mics, and these days you can even get them with a video recording option. Cost wise, you’re looking at $200-400 – more, if you want video.

Obviously, until you can afford a Zoom recording device, you can use your phone or camera, but if you want near-recording-studio quality, a Zoom is the way to go.

In Summary

So there you have it – the top five tools every beginner pianist needs are a piano to practice on, an adjustable bench to sit on, a metronome, an iPad, and a recording device. How many can you check off the list?

Share Your Thoughts

Do you have any questions about the items covered in this post? Would you like music app or piano-buying recommendations? Let me know in the comments below! I look forward to hearing from you.

For the piano teachers out there – what tools do you use and recommend? Share below and join the conversation.

Sharing’s caring! If you found this post helpful, please give it a friendly share on social media.

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