Adult beginner? Here are 11 ways you can optimize your learning experience and your progress:

  1. Buy or rent the best instrument you can afford. Minimally, get an acoustic piano that functions correctly and that you’re willing to tune once or twice a year, or a digital piano with a pedal.
  2. Don’t teach yourself. Playing the piano involves complex intellectual and motor abilities, and there are countless ways to go astray and develop bad habits. Build a solid foundation with a teacher. A good teacher will teach you how to practice and learn new music on your own. Advanced players may arrive at the point where they can coach themselves. Even then, though, all but the most virtuoso pianists benefit by continuing to study with a teacher who knows something that they don’t or to get feedback – just like a world #1 tennis player like Roger Federer still has a coach.
  3. Practice most days. Even if you only have a few minutes to get your hands on the keyboard, that’s better than cramming all your practice in on one or two days a week. That said, it’s also okay – even beneficial – to take a day off once a week, or every now and then when you feel like it.
  4. Work on music you like. If you are learning from a method book, like most beginners, you may occasionally find yourself practicing a piece that you don’t enjoy that much. Don’t skip over the piece, but do ask your teacher if you can also work on a piece that you enjoy more.
  5. Play duets. Ask your teacher if you can play some duet music (music for two pianists and four hands). Duets are fun and you will become a better player as you play with your teacher or other more advanced musicians.
  6. Expand your appreciation of music. Ask your teacher for listening suggestions to enhance your knowledge and enjoyment of different styles, composers, and players. This will inspire you to keep going, and may take you in new musical directions.
  7. Develop your musical ear. Pianists with a good musical ear all, unfortunately, all too rare. This is probably because piano music – particularly classical music – can be so complex that one must have good music reading skills to learn it. As a result, though, many pianists rely on their reading skills to the detriment of their musical ear. A good teacher will ensure that your musical ear does not lag behind your reading skills.
  8. Learn effective practicing skills and apply them. Don’t wait to learn effective and efficient practicing skills, such as the Golden Rule of Practicing. Even more important, use those skills consistently.
  9. Focus on the fundamentals. Don’t overlook learning musical fundamentals such as basic rhythm skills, reading skills, and keyboard technique. These fundamentals will serve you well from the very first lesson.
  10. Don’t compare yourself with kids. While it’s true that kids are learning sponges, it’s also true that adults generally advance faster than children due to their previously-acquired skills and intellectual abilities. While the average adult may be less likely to become a virtuoso, with time and consistent practice, adults of any age can become excellent, advanced piano players.
  11. Learn to improvise. While improvising may seem scary, particularly if you feel you barely know how to play, consider that improvising is how every child learns to speak their native language. Just as putting together words and phrases is what children do to learn to speak (and eventually write), putting together groups of notes in scale and chord patterns helps you learn the building blocks of music. Even better, improvising is fun.
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