Once you’ve decided that yes, you want to learn how to play the piano, you might start feeling quite excited—and a bit overwhelmed. You might have a friend who’s been playing since kindergarten, but they can’t remember how they first started (some help they are!). You’ve tried to sit down and bang around on the keys, but you haven’t gotten anywhere. You start to feel like maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, after all.
Well, tell those negative nancies in your head to get a grip and hush up—compiled for you is a host of suggestions from a professional pianist and a piano teacher—(that’s me). Trust me, you’re in good hands.
Be patient with yourself
For some reason that I don’t understand, many beginning piano players think they should be able to rival Elton John or Billy Joel after a few lessons, or even after a year or two.
I hate to break it to you, but unless you’re eating and breathing piano during every waking business and happy hour, the road to mastery won’t happen in twelve months. That’s like expecting yourself to become the next Pele after your first season of soccer, or turning into Liza Minnelli after your first local play (although turning into Liza Minnelli might be a bit more realistic if you move to Vegas…).
You need to take lessons. No excuses! Every student comes to a place where they need someone to take them to the next level. Whether you just need a few sessions to get the basics under your belt or you want a full-fledged course of study in piano, lessons will help you achieve your musical goals.
There are lessons available for every budget and every schedule. The traditional route involves going to a piano teacher’s studio or having them come to your home and spending anywhere from thirty to sixty minutes in lessons. Non-traditional routes include group lessons, Skype lessons, and online tutorials.
Match your learning style
Finding a good piano teacher is just like dating-you want to find the one who challenges you but also matches your style. Be wary of piano teachers who swear by one book or one method for all students. Everybody learns in different ways; therefore, a really good teacher comes equipped to address a variety of learning styles. Likewise, if you really want to learn how to play funk, jazz, or rock, and your teacher expects all of her students to complete recitals and aspire to Chopin, she’s probably not the one.
Learn how to read music
Learning how to read music gives you the liberty and the ability to sit down and play whatever song you want. In many ways, it’s just like learning how to read anything: the more you do it, the more information you’re able to process. Keep in mind that a kindergartener starting in early literacy finds The Cat In The Hat more on their level than something like The Great Gatsby. The same principal applies towards musical literacy. While that’s not to suggest that you have to start off playing simple kids’ songs, it does suggest that you begin with the basic musical alphabet and build from there.
Try to play by ear
Playing by ear simply means being able to play a song without sheet music and by how it sounds. There are a multitude of benefits in learning how to play by ear, the chief advantage being this: by developing your ear, you will learn to play more musically and play more confidently. You can find ear-training exercises online or ask your piano teacher to incorporate some into your lessons—or you can just sit down and try to sound out the song.
Completing a marathon is easy if you’ve been training for it; it can be an exercise in futility otherwise. Applying that same principal to the piano—how far you actually get with mastering the piano is reflective of how well you practice.
Don’t give up
Following these suggestions will ensure that you head on towards being The Piano Man instead of seeming like The Fool on The Hill.