Lesson 1: So You Want To Play The Piano?

Lesson 1: So You Want To Play The Piano?

Maybe it’s always just been there, that digital piano you picked up, occupying the corner of the living room, and you’ve gotten curious if you can do something else with it other than display pictures. Perhaps you’ve inherited one—a cheap, dodgy keyboard, and you can’t quite justify purchasing a newer, better model if you don’t know how to play it.

It could be that you’ve just moved into a new home and you know that something large, beautiful, and shiny electric piano, complete with humidity control, will be just the thing to perfect your new space.

Whatever the reason, you’ve realized that you might like to learn how to play the piano.


Before you can try to talk yourself of moving on with the next steps in your music education (yes, you’re about to have one of those), let’s consider a few things to encourage you along your way.

Why People Want To Learn To Play The Piano

People want to learn to play the piano for a multitude of reasons; ultimately, it all hearkens back to a desire to want to play music.  This begs the question: why do we want to play music to begin with?

  • It’s fun

There’s nothing better than good live music—why else do people shell out big bucks to go see their favorite performers in concert? While you might not be the next Elton John—well, you could be—making your own music is like having a free concert travel around with you all the time.

  • It’s challenging

There might be a certain song you’ve always wanted to learn, and gosh darn it, you are simply determined to learn how to play it.  I’ve had students come to my piano studio with burning desires to learn everything from Ode To Joy to Dave Brubeck’s Take Five and even the Dukes of Hazzard theme song.

The sense of personal accomplishment that goes along with increasing difficulty, perfecting a new technique, or memorizing a certain song is amazing. This is true whenever we set goals for ourselves and work hard to reach them. Whether or not music comes to you easily, there is always another level of mastery that you can achieve.

  • We want to be part of something bigger

Sure, melodies and harmonies sound fuller when several instruments gather together in ensemble, but music goes beyond even that fullness by providing a social outlet for those interested in joining some kind of group.  Now, you don’t have to form a garage band to make this happen; it can be as simple as having a friend over to sing lyrics over your accompaniment—or as elaborate as performing with a local symphony or pit orchestra.

  • We want to relax

On the other hand, you don’t have to be around other people whatsoever if you prefer to be alone. Sometimes, there is no other place in the world that can provide the sanctuary of a piano in an otherwise empty room and your very own hands meeting the piano keys.

Why People Haven’t Started Learning Yet

There are plenty of reasons that people give for why they haven’t started learning yet. Some are legitimate while others are teetering on the edge of The Land Of Excuses:

  • Once upon a time, you quit

You started lessons as a kid and quit for some reason:  you had a powdery, boring piano teacher who wouldn’t let you play anything “cool,” it got too hard.  You always regretted not picking it back up. (This is now fixable.)

  • You just never got around to it

My mother always wanted to learn to play the piano.  The oldest of six, her parents finally purchased one when she was in her late teens.  Mom taught herself to play “Strangers In The Night” and that was it.  (No, I don’t mean ‘that was it’ as in she became the next Carole King; I mean that was IT.) She thought she was too old to be learning the piano when she was seventeen years old and about to graduate from high school.  A few years later, add a husband and a couple of kids and time just got away from her. (This, too, is now fixable.)

  • You don’t own a piano

How are you supposed to learn an instrument when you don’t have one?  This is a great one for excuse-makers. Pianos are expensive! They take up so much space. They are too heavy to move, and I move around a lot.

Isn’t keeping up with tuning and maintenance expensive?  And so the story goes. (This is totally fixable!)

  • You don’t have money for lessons

You’ve called around and it seems that taking private piano lessons costs way more than your budget allows.  You feel discouraged and decide to forget about it altogether. (Yes, this is fixable.)

  • You think you’re too old

I got a phone call early on in my piano-teaching days from a woman named Esther.  She told me, proudly, that she was eighty-four-and-a-half years old, and would I take her on as a student?  “I need to learn the chords to hymns so I can play them for my Sunday school class,” she said.

I loved two things about this phone call:  Esther still added the “half” onto her age, commendably, and Esther was determined and fearless about trying something new in her golden years.

…Which brings us to our final point:

Why You Shouldn’t Put It Off Any Longer

Parents are always so eager to sign their kids up for lessons because they know that the skills you obtain in childhood turn into knowledge (and sometimes talent) that stays with you for the rest of your life.

While it is clear that not everyone who wants to learn to play the piano gets the chance to do so during their younger years, it doesn’t mean that adulthood comes upon us and boom, you just missed your chance.  On the contrary, adults who decide to take piano lessons are more inclined to stick with it than a child is.   You recognize your desire to learn something new, you are willing to part with some of your hard-earned money to do so, and you are creating time within your already-busy schedule for the pursuit of music.

Don’t worry if you don’t have a piano—as long as you have access to a practice piano or keyboard, you’ll be ok. Rent a keyboard, browse craigslist for free pianos and keyboard (there are a ton out there), borrow from a friend, or practice at a church. The old adage rings true: where there is a will, there is a way.

Piano lessons can be expensive—or not.  It all depends on who decided to take your lessons from and what they charge per hour. Go to the music store and ask for a list of teachers in your area and find out what the fees are.  If it still seems too high, see if there’s any place local that offers group lessons, which are usually less expensive.  College music students may offer lessons at a discounted rate in order to build some business and make some extra cash—this is a win-win situation for you and for the teacher, too.

There are many resources out there for adult learners; there are even piano teachers who specialize in teaching adults and are willing to accommodate lessons around the standard work schedule.

The longer you put it off, however, the longer it will take you to learn what it is that you want to learn about playing the piano. Life is a lot shorter than the eighty-eight keys on the keyboard.

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