Piano or Keyboard Lessons for Adults

Based on a Workshop Presented through Young Audiences of Pennsylvania

By Lou Walinsky
Philadelphia, PA

Many adults have successfully begun or resumed piano lessons and are engaged in the tremendously satisfying process of learning to play the piano or keyboard.

But some adults interested in taking lessons express concern that they are too old to learn or that it is too late for them to achieve a high level of performance.  As an experienced piano teacher, a typical statement I might hear from a prospective new adult student is “I know I’ll never be able to give a concert at Carnegie Hall.”  No doubt that is true, since even most musicians who have dedicated their lives to the muse don’t become solo performing artists, but that is certainly not a impediment with respect to being able to partake in the joy of music making.

Others are rarin’ to go, but once they get started, soon find themselves canceling lessons and after a short period of time, discontinuing the lessons completely.  While they might be extremely interested, their lives are just too busy to include regular practice time.

In the interest of helping adults realistically assess their prospects for piano study, I would like to mention a few of the considerations involved in adults successfully studying piano.

To state the obvious, you must first have an adequate instrument on which to practice.  This would entail either an acoustic piano – preferred by most people – or a touch sensitive keyboard, i.e. a keyboard on which the keys respond volume-wise to greater or lesser pressure.

Next, define your goals for yourself.  As stated above, performing solo concerts at a prestigious venue will most likely not be one of them.  You may simply want to being able to enjoy playing for yourself or be able to play pieces with others in an ensemble or – if you are learning jazz – in a jam session.

Then, determine if you actually expect to have the time and energy in your schedule to practice and hone the piano skills you are interested in acquiring.  The piano lesson is just the beginning of the actual work for the student.  The daily practice is what allows the knowledge and skills defined at the lessons to be integrated and fully functional.  To make any kind of measurable progress on piano, I would advise that adult students plan on devoting at least a half hour a day for a minimum of  4 or 5 days a week.

Finally, interview prospective teachers to find someone who is compatible with your needs.  Aside from personal compatibility with your teacher, it is important that your teacher has the knowledge, communication skills, and flexibility to help you achieve your goals.  In addition to learning piano in the traditional format from the very beginning – or from wherever point you may have left off from previous piano studies  – your goals may include studying jazz, pop or blues piano or learning to play songs from lead sheets and fake books or learning to accompany a vocalist or studying music theory.  All of those interests should be spelled out from the initial contact to determine if a teacher has the skill sets that you need.

Once you have defined your goals, determined that you have the time to devote to the instrument, and found a suitable teacher, you can be off and running to successful piano lessons and a lifetime of joyful music making at the piano or keyboard.