Learning to play the piano as an adult: Is this even possible?

Yacine Khorchi
Yacine Khorchi

Founder and Piano teacher

Last update: 20.07.2021

You can’t teach an old dog new tricks? This old saying has been long proven wrong. In our article, we illustrate how adults can also learn the piano – in a way that’s successful and fun.

After all: Your brain is a muscle, which you can train throughout your life. The activity patterns in the brain already change after a short period of time, and connections are made in certain parts of the brain after a first training unit.

Adults have a different way of learning the piano than children

Adults who start playing the piano need to be aware that they aren’t actually worse at learning to play than children – their learning is just different. Adults have forgotten how to try out things in a playful manner. They first want to understand what they’re doing. Moreover, they don’t have a linear way of learning, but rather build on other experiences.

If you’re planning to learn an instrument as an adult to fulfil a lifelong dream, it’s best to opt for the piano. Wind and stringed instruments will be a lot tougher. Kids have a decisive benefit in this respect because their hearing is better, reacting more sensitively to subtle details.

Keyboard instruments are particularly well suited for beginners because of the linear structure of the notes. The player only needs to press a key to play. Beginners need not worry about intonation for the time being.

Adults are often more impatient, expecting quick results. But don’t underestimate just how much time kids and young adults have to spend to master their instrument.

The motivation and objectives behind playing music

It’s important to ask yourself what the objectives are when learning an instrument. With realistic goals in place, it’s much easier to stay motivated. Learning piano means having fun and escaping the daily routine.

There are very few late learners who are dreaming about having a grand career as a soloist. This would be the wrong reason to start playing as well because disillusionment would lurk right around the corner. Having fun being creative and enjoying the music – that’s what it should all be about.

The benefit for adults: The decision to pick up an instrument after finishing school is usually one’s own. No parents or teachers are forcing you, and you’re not facing the same pressure to perform and expectations from the outside world.

Be more patient and criticise yourself less

To meet the demands as a beginner, it’s important to pick pieces that are not too difficult and which you actually expect to be able to master. Adults are usually much too ambitious and react sensitively to frustration.

Throw caution to the wind and don’t try to control everything. What feels like taking a risk, actually isn’t one at all. Criticise yourself too much and you’ll soon lose all fun in playing! From the very beginning, you should be aware that your first musical endeavours are going to sound a lot different than the stereo at home.

Take your time and go gentle on yourself. A new challenge is difficult, but also exciting.

The benefits of learning how to play the piano as an adult

“Playing music at an older age, only brings benefits: a higher quality of life, social contacts, personal challenges, a sense of meaning, and assistance in mastering life’s various situations. These are the core elements, which explain why playing music is experiencing new appreciation in society,” explains the Bavarian Music Board during a working conference on the topic of “Music knows no borders – or age”.

Even after developing certain hearing concepts, people learn in a dynamic way into old age. Brain research has illustrated that practice keeps the mind young. Making music stimulates motor, acoustic, and memory skills. Various parts of the brain are challenged.

Other pleasant side effects: Playing the piano or another instrument balances our mental state, increases life expectancy, and helps us realise our potential. Music triggers emotions, which is why it impacts us so greatly. Playing an active part in the design of music spurns our motivation to improve.

What’s more, music trains our concentration and reactive capacities while improving our creativity. During other leisure activities, such as playing cards or solving crossword puzzles, our brain makes use of pre-automated structures and existing nerve connections. No new processes develop.

Neuropsychologists at the University of Zurich have tried to maintain brain fitness in the elderly, by teaching 70-year-olds how to play the piano, among other activities. Researchers already identified changes in the brain after one week of practice. This means that the minds of the elderly respond exactly like those of younger people.

Practice: The journey is the reward

Practicing an instrument is like hiking: The path, or learning process, is what makes it exciting. This is what gives the experience its value. By learning pop songs, classical ballads, or jazzy pieces, we feed our brain with new and unknown information. It’s best to focus our efforts on a few pieces, learning how to play them well.

It’s all about practice – whether you’re young or older. And you’ll soon master the first, small steps.

Our piano teacher Yacine has created a video to help you practice – hopefully, it will help make learning the first essentials on the piano as an adult even easier! 

Learning how to play the piano yourself as an adult – with music2me

Looking to learn the piano by yourself? Sure thing! At music2me, we’ll help you to learn the piano online – one step at a time. Our tried-and-tested concept starts at the basics and the way to properly sit behind the piano. Afterwards, you’ll start to learn how to play the piano, from fingering and reading music up to playing various pieces with two hands.

You can flexibly design your own learning and practice schedule. music2me works on all PCs, Macs, tablets, and even on your smartphone.

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