Learn to Play the Piano - And Discover a Whole New World of Music

by Elke Galvin October 28, 2022 • 5 minute read
Learning to play the piano can be the beginning of a lifelong musical journey. Find out how to plan and practice, reach milestones and goals, and stay inspired and joyful.
A young man playing the piano and a woman holding music sheets watching him
You would not assume that an athlete excels in sports just because he or she's got talent, would you? Obviously, they would have put in lots of hours planning, training, and briefing themselves to achieve their goals. Why then do we think learning an instrument is a matter of talent, and not of equally meticulous planning and training? We show you how to get it right!
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Plan These Things to Effectively Learn the Piano

Make no mistake, talent helps when making music. But talent is not even half of it! Do this when you start learning the piano.

Define your goal

In sports, you don't start out by trying to climb Mount Everest. Likewise, few piano players start their journey aiming to become world-famous virtuosi. Most piano beginners say “I want to have a beautiful, satisfying hobby”, “it relaxes me, I can unwind” or “it improves my concentration while I have fun”. But whatever your personal goal is, be clear about it. It will shape your learning journey.

Invest in good equipment

Good equipment pays off: Whether you opt for acoustic or digital, a piano is a bigger investment. Consider space and place, weight, transport, and maintenance costs (tuning, headphones, care) for a piano. And make sure you start to play with weighted keys that give you a proper piano feeling (your old childhood keyboard will not do). Used pianos are a good budget-friendly alternative.

Know what makes you tick

If you love lone adventure trips you will probably be unhappy doing a guided garden bus tour with 40 other people. When learning the piano, there are several different approaches, too. Do you prefer to learn alone? Do weekly classes with a teacher motivate you? Is making progress your priority? Do you lose motivation when you’re only ever served with one genre of music?

Know your starting point

All piano starters are the same? Wrong. Depending on how much musical experience you have, you might have a different starting point than others. Can you read sheet music? Do you perhaps already read sheet music for piano? Do you play another instrument? Then you are not an absolute beginner.

Man sitting at a piano and laughing

3 “Magic Moments” for Piano Learners

You can play your first piece with both hands

The incredible feeling of both hands gliding over the keys, reaching the end of the piece without hesitating or stumbling! This is a real magic moment when you play the piano - especially after intense practice sessions.

You play your first piece by heart

Your fingers find their way across the keyboard and accentuate exactly the right passages! You don’t have to keep concentrating on where you are in the piece and which keys need to be played when. Instead, you express yourself while playing.

Your first "gig" in front of an audience

You probably will be excited before playing to an audience, even if it’s only family or friends. Shoulders down, take a deep breath, and just trust in your abilities! The applause and the cheers will make it all worthwhile.

Bored man lying on top of a piano

3 Common Mistakes to Avoid

Erratic practicing

Every hiker knows that to get to the top, you have to moderate your tempo. If you alternate between resting & running you'll just exhaust yourself unnecessarily. Learning to play the piano should be just the same. It is more effective to practice for half an hour twice a week than three hours in one go on the day before the piano lesson.

Imprecise practicing

Sitting down in front of the piano alone will not get you anywhere. Stumbling through your arrangement will not improve your playing, either. You have to mean it, and really tackle the hardest bits first. Practice it until you have it figured out. Use a metronome to keep your timing. And don’t forget your finger exercises.

Wanting too much too soon

Maybe you have a role model or a piano idol, or you want to master a specific piece as quickly as possible. That’s great - except if it depresses and demotivates you when you find you are just not ready yet. Change your attitude! No world-class hiker started out by climbing the seven summits. Learn to like more accessible milestones on your way.

A girl and a man sitting in front of a piano talking

Why Learning the Piano Is Good for You

Activities that make you spend time sitting down are unhealthy? Not true! Learning to play the piano is exceptionally healthy for you - at any age. Here's how and why:

  • Physically: You train your motor and sensory skills as well as your memory when learning and practicing the piano.
  • Your brain: Many layers are stimulated and trained: scientifically proven are improved coordination between left and right brain halves, improved exchange of information between cerebrum and cerebellum when “automating” motion sequences, and the regulating effect on our brain region for fear and excitement (cue stress release).
  • Your mental health: You can play every style of music, and even sing to it - with even more positive results concerning relaxation and mental health. You can calm yourself or play energetically to recharge your batteries. You can express yourself. Just don't put pressure on yourself, and play what you enjoy playing.
A planner, a hand, and a keyboard

Create a Progress Landmark Songlist

Don't set it in stone, though, and give yourself time. It can be fun to sit down and plan which songs you want to eventually play. Do you have to stick to your list? Do you have to only play what's on it? Of course not. But what you're doing is mapping out a path - your personal piano progress path. And if you stick to practicing you WILL come across your progress landmarks!

You can create a progress landmark songlist for every genre - Classical music, Rock, Pop, Jazz, or whatever you like to play.

Elke Galvin
Elke Galvin is a British-Austrian singer, multi-instrumentalist, and writer. She has worked both as a musician and journalist for over 25 years. Not only is she an acclaimed songwriter, she loves to write about music, too! Making music theory easy to understand is her passion, as is writing about music styles, music and the brain, and how to have fun learning and playing music.

Frequently asked questions

  • When is the best time to start playing the piano?
    The best time is when you are really, really keen on starting! The notion that you have to start learning an instrument as a child is long outdated. What matters, however, is that you regularly invest some time to practice - so it might be wise not to start right before taking a journey (without any chance to practice the piano). There are even some advantages to starting to learn the piano as an adult - your taste in music is already developed, and you know how to study.
  • Can I start to learn without a teacher?
    Yes, this is possible - up to a point, especially if you have some prior knowlegde from playing another instrument. But often the piano serves as an entrance into the world of music. Getting started from scratch is, quite frankly, easier with an instructor. Whether you want to do the 1-lesson-per-week routine, whether you prefer to use the many booming online classes, or whether you just want to be coached whenever you feel you need guidance - all of this is a question of time, taste, and your budget.
  • How long will it take me to learn to play the piano?
    That depends on how you define “learn to play the piano”. Even the world’s best virtuosi can fine-tune their interpretation, can work to make their intonation sound even more mellow. You can, however, expect stable piano performance after around a year - what we mean by that is abilities and routines are established and you can perform a selection of (not too challenging) favorite music pieces.
  • Is it hard to learn to play the piano?
    No, it is not. Let’s compare the piano to other instruments: The keys are assembled in a “logical” way, so you can construct chords if you know the principle, and don’t need any fingering charts. Another advantage is that you don’t have to tune your piano before every use. Guitarists envy you for that! Thirdly, it is as easy to play very high and very deep tones as it is to play tones in the middle range - this is something every violinist dreams of! And finally, it is very simple to make the piano sound - you just have to press a key. If you have ever tried to elicit a note from a trumpet, you will value easy tone production!

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