December 11, 2023

About the Author: Stefan Joubert

Stefan Joubert manages the London Piano Institute, a premier destination for adult piano learners seeking individualised instruction and progress towards their musical goals. He believes anyone can learn to play regardless of age or ability!

It is no secret that piano is a skill that can only be developed over time. But how long would it take before you are able to know some basics and play a few songs? And is it worth the money and time?

Practice is crucial for learning the piano. The more hours you constantly put in, the more rewards you’ll reap. For beginners who have absolutely no experience whatsoever are advised to practise at least 30 minutes to 1 hour daily. Starting with basic scales and arpeggios will swiftly grow your technique. But is there a cheat-code anyone can use to skip right to success?

The answer is no. Piano is a very easy instrument to get started on, but like every other instrument, it only gets harder. The learning process is the key to a good piano player. Skipping over it will result in a lack of technique and an incompetent skill for harder pieces. Success cannot be achieved without putting in the work, which looks different for everyone.

People who have good hand coordination tend to learn faster than those who don’t. Although, practice can quickly fill in those gaps and catch up with talent. For most people, you could expect to play some basics within 6 months, after practising at least 20 minutes a day for 5-6 days a week. You could learn a basic song and be able to play it within a month with a lot of practice, but when it comes to piano, each building block is essential in the learning process. Skipping over them will bring trouble when learning harder pieces. Thus you have to start at the bottom and work your way up.

One of the building blocks includes technique. Many have a shallow perspective when it comes to playing the piano. Yet, like every other instrument, there is a specific way to produce the music to get the best sound out of it. This is called technique and it has to be developed like a muscle in the body. Simply playing on the piano does not build technique. You have to develop finger strength and agility, enhance rhythmic precision, master chord patterns and cultivate expressive playing. Technique can take years depending on the amount of effort you put in. But how do you specifically target technique? Here’s how:

Pianist performing on a grand piano

1. Practise Scales and Arpeggios.

Always make sure each note is played for the same length. When playing with both hands, ensure equality gets justice. Both hands should be played at the same time. Starting slow will help build a strong base from where you can gradually add speed. It is ideal to get your scales and arpeggios as smooth and fast as possible, but is also effective by bringing the speed down and practising it on a slower rhythm. Alternating between fast and slow is ultimately the best recipe for strengthening your finger technique.

Man playing piano with both hands

2. Practise Staccato Movements.

Staccato means ‘detached’, the opposite of legato -which is playing smoothly- and is a great way to strengthen your fingers. It targets the weaker muscles on your fingers. Staccato can replace almost any legato movements and help grow your technique. Practising staccato scales and arpeggios is a great start. You can even formulate your own movements on the piano to specifically practise certain fingers.

Hand of a woman turning music sheet to the next page at a piano

3. Incorporate Sight Reading.

To most piano players, sight reading is the black sheep in the family. Unfortunately, it is an essential part to learning the piano and can only benefit the process. The further you ascend on your piano journey, the harder pieces get. The more difficult it gets to memorise. Consequently it will make learning new pieces harder and ultimately result in abandoning the piece or even the piano itself. Nevertheless, the earlier you start aquatinting yourself with sight reading, the better. It will lead to other possibilities of learning new pieces on the spot and much easier as well. It will quicken the learning process and make it more fun to do so as well. In the long run it will benefit way more and you will definitely see an increase of technique.

A man playing piano emotionally

4. Embrace Emotion.

There is nothing worse than listening to a piece that is devoid of emotion and passion. Therefore, feel yourself breathe into the piano. When you express yourself, the notes will come out sounding fuller. Expressing yourself includes subtly switching up the tempo and changing the dynamics. It will lead to building a technique and style unique to you only. Every piece has a certain emotion to it. By executing that emotion, you are growing your technique and strengthening your feeling towards the piano. This results in a more exuberant and flavourful sound that is pleasing to the ear.

A metronome

5. Practise With a Metronome.

A metronome is a device that marks time at a selected rate by giving a regular tick. Regularly practising with a metronome helps maintain the correct speed and gives the player a sense of tempo. It improves your rhythmic ability and natural sense of timing. The metronome Can also be used to track your progress. When you practise with a metronome, it can start slow and gradually fasten the better you become. This way, you will know exactly how much you’ve progressed. Practising with a metronome will also benefit other aspects of timing and, of course, your overall technique.

Here is another article going into this subject in a much more depth!

In conclusion, learning the piano may vary from person to person, but the more time you put into it, the faster you’ll progress. Although the option of skipping important steps looks appealing, it is important to have the end goal in mind. Technique is developed over time and creates an invaluable reward. The time it takes to learn the piano is up to you, yet no matter your skill level, there is always something new to learn. Learning a new skill is priceless. Time passes by anyways, so why not use it to learn the piano?

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