I have heard this question so often. And it actually always resonates with me: “How long will it take until I can play what I really want to play? And can I ever do it, or is it already too late?”
And like many of my colleagues, I’ve often given the less than satisfactory answer to that question, “It depends.”
But why is this question actually so difficult to answer? Shouldn’t a professional know exactly how long it takes to train someone? Theoretically yes, practically I would actually have to ask back every time, “How good do you want to be able to play? And what do you actually want to be able to play?”
Even without any prior experience, you could sit down in front of a piano by yourself and be “strumming” simple melodies in no time. A few YouTube tutorials or half an hour with a beginner’s book later, and you could probably already be picking simple chords and humming a melody to them. And you’re already playing the piano.
If, on the other hand, you want to climb the Olympus of virtuosity and master the most difficult, complex, longest pieces that have ever sprung from a musician’s brain, it will take anything from ten to fifteen years of training under the tutelage of good teachers, daily practice included.
Most students find themselves somewhere between these two pictures. If you want to learn piano to enjoy your music or simply because it is fun and enriches your life, you will often have achieved considerable success after only two to five years.
To help you find an answer to the question.
“How long does it take to learn to play the piano?”
you should heed the following tips:
1) Practice effectively.
Yes, practice makes perfect. But no, dull and endless repetition of technical exercises or pieces never produced a master. Learning to play the piano means acquiring a variety of new skills. And it is absolutely essential to learn how to practice effectively. The further you progress, the more complex the pieces become, the more ambitious your goals are, the more important a good practice strategy becomes.
How much energy do you want to invest to be able to play the piano? Many people would like to be able to play an instrument, but at the same time are not willing to invest the necessary energy to learn it. And that’s totally fine! But if your piano time always ends up at the bottom of your priority list, and nine times out of ten gets crowded out by other things, your progress will naturally change.
3) Collaboration with your teacher
The best teacher in the world won’t be able to help you if you can’t work well together. Not every student is a good fit for every teacher and vice versa. It takes good communication and a solid foundation of trust to achieve optimal results. No professional teacher will resent his or her student if he or she raises issues, makes requests, or even says, “I’m sorry, but this just isn’t a good fit for me.” This is not a judgment on the teacher’s ability or person, but an important realization to respect.
4) Individual learning speed.
We are not all the same. Over time, you will figure out what is a good learning pace for you. There will be things that come insanely easy to you, and situations where you feel like you’re literally breaking your fingers. You’ll have periods where you learn exorbitantly fast, and you may experience dry spells that seem like an eternity. Your individual pace is something that is difficult to predict at the beginning, and it is not set in stone, but changes over time. The important thing is to be patient with yourself and figure out how you learn best!
The length of time to learn to play the piano is therefore absolutely individual.
5) How much does normal life get in the way?
Even with the best intentions, the most motivation, the most efficient learning pace and the most fantastic teacher, there are simply weeks and maybe even months that go really badly. Life has a habit of throwing ricochets at us from time to time and seeing how well we can dodge or absorb them. And sometimes playing the piano just isn’t what it’s all about this week. Or this month. Taking breaks and resting is not the same as giving up.
So is it possible for you to learn to play the way you envision? Within a manageable time frame? Absolutely!
Will you ever feel that you are accomplished and there is nothing left to learn? Probably not.
Most musicians say they spend a lifetime learning their instrument, even after they’ve conquered the world’s stages. Learning to play an instrument is a journey that opens up a world of enjoyment, pleasure, musical self-understanding and limitless expression of one’s own feelings and thoughts.
So how long does it take to learn to play the piano?
A few minutes, a lifetime, and everything in between. It’s your journey.