How Long Does It Really Take To Learn To Play Piano?
So you want to play piano, but are insecure about it. You are thinking: “It takes too long to learn, and I don’t have the time!”.
Learning to play the piano takes time, of course. But how much time? Does it take as long as it seems? You have read about how famous pianists practiced for hours every day, for many years… Or did they?
This article will clear things up for you. You will learn how long it really takes to learn, and it can be much less than you thought.
Music, what music?
How long it takes to learn depends on your goals and expectations.
The first thing to know is: What music do you want to play?
The piano works for many genres of music, but they are not all created equal. Some are more complicated than others, and call for greater skill and knowledge. For clarity purposes, we are going to divide it into three big categories: pop, jazz and classical. There are plenty more styles around the world, but they can fit into one of those three.
Pop music is less about technical capability, and more about sound and groove. Jazz is all about the swing, harmony and improvisation. Classical is more about sight-reading, interpretation and technical mastery.
There’s plenty more going on in those styles. There is very complex pop music, and very simple jazz songs, but this is a rough idea of what each genre needs.
If you know what genre(s) you want to learn, the next step is thinking about how deep you want to go into the rabbit hole.
How proficient do you want to be in your chosen style? This is the big question. You can learn the basics of a style very quickly, but if you want to be one of the top performers, that’s another thing.
In general, pop is the easiest style to learn. In a matter of weeks you would have some basics down. Next there is jazz, there are many more subtleties that demand more effort. Then classical, which requires even more discipline.
Having said that, reaching higher levels of an “easier” style takes a lot of time. A professional pop studio musician needs more practice than an amateur jazz musician.
Let’s take pop music as an example. There are various levels:
- Playing along records for your own enjoyment
- Playing with some friends on somebody’s basement
- Playing live on a top 40 cover band
- Becoming a songwriter that performs their own songs
- Becoming a professional studio musician/arranger
We could divide it further, but this is enough to show our point. As you move down the list you need more practice. For playing alone, you only need a couple of lessons to get started. If you get together with friends you will need more notions of chords and rhythm. A couple of months and you should be ready for that. To play live in a cover band you may need to be able to sight-read and even transcribe music. In about 6 months you could be proficient enough to be comfortable doing it on a stage. For writing your own songs, you need more theory knowledge. Becoming a professional studio musician requires a lot of commitment.
You could break down the other two styles in the same way. The conclusions are similar:
- You can start playing music in a few weeks
- You get better, and can play with other musicians in as little as two months
- You could perform easy music in public, with confidence, in about 6 months
- You can dig down on further theory, technique and other skills in the first 1 or 2 years
- You can get closer to the top of the field by practicing all your life
Every style takes a little to start, but a lifetime to master.
We are going to end the article with some advice. This is as close to a shortcut as you are going to get for learning the piano at a fast pace. Follow it and you will get wherever you want to go in less time than you think possible:
- Stick to the basics: I’m not saying you shouldn’t try advanced stuff, but always keep the basics in check. They are the foundations, where you build everything else. They also share a common ground for the three styles. If you don’t know what those ‘basics’ are, see shortcut number 2.
- Hire a good teacher: They will steer you in the right direction. They know what you need to do, each step of the way. They know the basics from shortcut 1, and they will ingrain them into you.
As you have seen, it doesn’t take long to begin playing the piano. Once you start with the music, then it doesn’t matter how long it takes. When you enjoy the journey, you are not in a hurry to reach your destination. That’s a good thing, because that way you don’t ever stop learning.
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