Well so much for regular updates to my blog. It has been over a month since my first post but hey, at least I haven’t given up entirely.
I’ve written another article for this site about developing speed at the piano, which you can read here but having read through it I thought there was something still left to be said. Not necessarily on the same topic but closely related. What I would like to talk about here is the last point in the article, “Give it time”. This is important not just for developing speed at the piano but for all aspects of your piano playing. I made a comparison in my article between people and computers, pointing out that a computer can have software installed on it and instantly perform new tasks. We aren’t computers so we can’t learn new things instantly. This is especially true of piano playing. Learning to play the piano is just about the most difficult thing a person can do. This is one of the reasons there are so many benefits to learning piano (see Why Learn the Piano). However, the difficulty of learning to play the piano can discourage a lot of people, particularly if they start their piano lessons with unrealistic expectations. I am often asked by new students how long it will take for them to be able to play piano. This is a question I dread because the answer is usually unsatisfying to the person asking it, more on that later, but also because more often than not it is a sign that someone is preparing to give up. My experience in the past bears this out, but really, why else would they ask? It is the kind of question you get from someone who wants to be able to play the piano now. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, provided you realise that learning to play the piano just doesn’t work that way.
If you are wondering what my answer to the question is, here it is; “That depends on you. Learning to play the piano takes a long time even for the most talented. More than that though, it takes a lot of work and a lot of dedication. If you need a figure I would say 10 years at least. This is assuming that throughout those 10 years you practice regularly and persistently. However, there is a catch. Even if you do all this, there is a very good chance you will never play the piano as well as you’d like to. This is true for two reasons; 1. Few people can sustain the interest in learning piano for long enough to develope any real proficiency, and 2. No matter how good you get, even if you become a concert pianist, you will always want to play better than you can.”
This second point is actually one of the wonderful things about learning a musical instrument. Learning is one the great joys of life and there is always more to learn when it comes to music. Human beings have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. We also have an unquenchable thirst for emotional experiences. Learning a musical instrument provides both these things in spades and it never lets you down.
If your goal is to be able to play the piano you must be prepared for the fact that it takes time. Not a few weeks, or months, but years of dedicated, persistent practice. This practice should not be viewed just as a means to an end, but as an end in itself. You should also not think of practice as work, but instead as part of the pleasure. If you can do that then it won’t matter how long it takes you. It won’t matter how proficient you become. You’ll have reached your goal already. All that will be left is for you to continually push the goal further in front of you.