Learning to play the piano can be a truly rewarding experience.
But as an adult beginner, you may feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information out there on how to learn this instrument.
To help simplify your journey, I’ve put together 13 essential tips for adult beginners looking to start playing the piano.
These practical suggestions will help take some of the guesswork out of learning and allow you to focus more on having fun while developing your skills as a musician.
From understanding basic music theory and posture techniques to exploring different genres and finding ways to stay motivated – these tips will give you all the tools needed for success as a beginning pianist!
- Write down your goals for learning the piano
- Figure out your ideal learning situation
- Find a learning method that fits your learning style and goals
- Buy an instrument
- Establish a consistent practice routine
- Join a piano community
- Learn music theory
- Practice sight reading skills
- Start learning to play by ear
- Incorporate memorizing into your practice routine
- Master hands separate before putting it all together
- Play what you love
- Get some sleep
My Piano Background
Transparency and authenticity are two of my core values, so it is important to tell you why I am qualified to advise beginner pianists on the instrument.
I started piano lessons at age 7 and continued playing until graduation. Although I initially enrolled in college as a pre-veterinary medicine major, I switched majors to music 3 days into my freshman year.
The college I attended gave me many incredible musical opportunities, including the chance to take organ lessons. And to this day, I continue to perform regularly as a church organist.
After graduating with a baccalaureate degree in music, I remained fascinated with the instrument and dove deeper into the topics of practice, memorization, and performance anxiety.
I’ve taught piano beginners of all ages and continued to hone my performance skills by accompanying vocalists and instrumentalists in various settings.
And I’ve continued pushing myself to expand my playing repertoire by learning new pieces. I’ve also recently started exploring the various testing options available for pianists.
I love the piano, and my goal in starting this blog is to share my love with others and hopefully inspire others to pursue their musical passion!
1. Write down your goals for learning the piano
If you’re thinking about learning the piano but have yet to start, one of the first things you can do is take some time to figure out your goals in learning the instrument.
For example, do you want to:
- Learn to play by ear?
- Play your favorite pop songs?
- Impress your friends?
- Play for a church service?
People want to learn piano for many reasons, but it’s a good idea to get clear on your exact goals to find the best way to accomplish them.
If you’re not clear on your goals, you definitely won’t achieve them. And clarity at this stage helps you avoid disappointment down the road.
2. Figure out your ideal learning situation
Everyone learns differently, so what works for one person may or may not work for you. That’s why it’s essential to figure out how you learn the best.
Do you prefer online courses? Or do you like having a teacher who can guide and motivate you?
Do you need structure to stay motivated? Are you an independent learner?
What is the best way for you to retain information? In other words, do you learn best by reading, hearing, seeing, or doing?
Taking time to reflect on your personality, learning style, preferences, and what has worked in the past will help you move toward your goals faster by giving you a solid foundation.
Be honest with yourself. If you’d like to be an independent learner but have needed help following through in the past, take time to figure out why you struggled.
Answering these questions will help you pick the best learning tool. And having the right tool for the job makes all the difference in whether or not you’ll succeed in the long run.
3. Find a learning method that fits your learning style and goals
When it comes to learning the piano, there are many great options, including:
- Self-paced online courses
- In-person group lessons
- Private lessons
Maybe a combination of several different tools would help you succeed in achieving your goals.
And speaking of goals, now is the time to bring them back into focus. Combine the goals you brainstormed with your ideal learning situation, and you will be able to identify how to make your piano dreams a reality.
For example, I am a very independent learner interested in classical piano. After some research, I discovered Dr. Josh Wright’s ProPractice program.
It’s an excellent fit for my goals, interests, and learning style.
Playground Sessions might be the right place to start if you want to learn to play pop songs in a video game-like format that simulates being part of a band.
And if you’re interested in a more traditional approach to learning the instrument, Piano Marvel might be a perfect fit.
If you’re interested in trying it out for yourself, use promo code OGBB22 for $3 off the monthly fee. And at $12.99 a month, you really can’t go wrong! Click here to go to the Piano Marvel website.
Formal lessons with a piano teacher can be a fantastic option for many people who are entirely new to the instrument. It’s also helpful if you find a teacher who can help you advance in your areas of interest.
4. Buy an instrument
Once you’ve figured out your goals and explored your learning style, it’s time to find yourself a piano.
Fortunately, there are so many great options when it comes to pianos! Acoustic, digital, upright, or grand, your perfect piano is out there.
If you’re starting out and are unsure whether you will stick with the musical instrument, consider a digital model. But if you’re passionate about classical music, consider sticking with an acoustic.
The topic of finding the perfect piano for your budget and goals is a huge one, so make sure to check out the following guides for more information:
- Baby Grand vs. Upright Piano: Which is Right for You?
- Acoustic vs. Digital Piano: Which One is Right for You?
- Ranking the Best Budget Digital Pianos
5. Establish a consistent practice routine
One of the most critical factors in determining whether or not you’ll make progress toward your piano goals is the quality of your regular practice sessions.
It’s easier to get better at anything, whether it’s sports, photography, writing, or music, with consistent practice time.
Make sure you carve out dedicated time each day to work on your piano technique and repertoire. Even if it’s just 15 minutes daily, that consistency will pay off in the long run.
Set up a practice area that’s comfortable, distraction-free, and inspiring. Put sticky notes with reminders about upcoming concerts or goals around your workspace.
These small things will help keep you motivated and excited about learning the piano and achieving your goals.
And if you’re looking for a more in-depth guide to practicing, make sure to check out the following resources:
- Your Ultimate Guide to the Perfect Piano Practice Routine
- The Ultimate Guide to Getting Your Kids to Practice Piano
- Easy Brain Hacks to Upgrade Your Piano Playing
- The #1 Piano Practice App to Skyrocket Your Playing
Find ways to make practice fun, and you’ll always look forward to the time you spend on the keyboard daily.
6. Join a piano community
Whether online or in your community, meeting others who share your passion for the instrument helps you grow as a musician.
Being part of a community allows you to get feedback, which is especially valuable if you are learning independently.
There are a few piano learning options that come with an associated community. Playground Sessions offers a community option, as does Dr. Josh Wright’s ProPractice course.
The ProPractice community is on Facebook, and I’ve found it incredibly motivating and supportive. Dr. Wright is active in the community, posting motivational quotes and responding to questions.
If you’re interested in classical piano, I would wholeheartedly recommend his course and the positive community he has built on Facebook.
There are a few other piano communities on Facebook, including one for people with performance anxiety. The group is geared toward people who love the piano but are hesitant about performing, so it’s a very positive and supportive environment.
If you take lessons from someone in person or online, sometimes there are recitals or other social events for piano students. I recommend partaking in those events.
Although I am a complete introvert, connecting with others over a shared passion is easy and, dare I say, fun!?!
7. Learn music theory
Music theory is the foundation of all music; studying it will help you become a better player. It will also help you to enjoy music on a deeper level.
Theory will help you understand key signatures, the difference between a minor and major scale, and the different types of chords; all crucial information that will help you be able to play music by ear. It will also help with improv and sight reading.
Most piano teachers incorporate at least a bit of music theory in piano lessons. And if you’re studying independently, there are websites and videos that can help deepen your understanding of the topic.
If you’re looking for a more formal course on theory, check out Skillshare. There are a series of videos on the platform that are done by a college theory professor.
The videos are helpful, engaging, and well worth your time.
8. Practice sight reading skills
Sight reading is a skill that requires dedicated practice, but it’s also gratifying. Being able to look at a piece of music and start playing it without hesitation is an incredible feeling.
The best way to practice sight reading is to select pieces several levels below your current level. Don’t worry about perfecting it; the goal is to become comfortable reading unfamiliar music.
If you have access to a piano teacher, they can assign you sight-reading sheet music and offer feedback to help you improve in this area.
However, if you’re learning independently, some great apps can help.
Examples include Sight Reading Factory and Piano Marvel. Both programs have exercises designed to help you become a more proficient sight reader.
Sight reading is a fun and valuable addition to your daily practice routine.
9. Start learning to play by ear
If there’s one skill I wish I would’ve emphasized more in my younger days, it’s learning to play by ear.
Developing your ear helps you sight-read and memorize more effectively. It also makes learning pieces more enjoyable.
There are a few different ways to learn how to play by ear. The most obvious is to listen to your favorite songs and try to replicate them on the piano. But if that feels overwhelming, there are some more structured approaches as well.
There are a few websites and apps designed to develop this skill.
One of my favorite apps is called Chet. It guides you through various listening exercises that range in difficulty, from the basic differentiation between a half step and a third to determine the correct pitch of a series of notes.
You can even work on figuring out the melodies of famous rock and pop songs or determine the correct notes in a series of minor chords. One of my other favorite games is trying to pick up the correct chord progression.
Chet takes a game approach, making it addicting and a fun boredom buster.
Although I’ve never used this next one, the Theta Music Trainer is another resource for developing a more musical ear.
Playing by ear is a great way to expand your musical abilities, and I recommend trying it out!
10. Incorporate memorizing into your practice routine
Playing a piece of music without looking at the score is an invaluable skill.
Not only does it allow you to perform more freely, but it also allows you to internalize the music and express yourself more authentically.
Memorizing can be intimidating and confusing, but it can become much easier with practice.
One of the best places to start memorizing is with a piece you’ve mastered and enjoy playing. This will make the process less daunting, and you’ll be able to focus more on committing the music to memory.
Start with one measure and gradually add measures to your memory until you’ve memorized the whole piece.
Having a foundation in music theory and playing by ear can help you memorize more completely and effectively because when you understand the structure, you can more easily commit the music to memory.
Work on incorporating some memorization into your daily practice session; it will become easier with time.
Learning to memorize music is a skill that can translate to many other areas of life and is incredibly satisfying!
11. Master hands separate before putting it all together
Playing the piano requires an incredible amount of coordination. And to learn a piece well, you have to understand what each hand is doing separately before you can put them together.
When working through a new piece, it’s essential to scope it out first by figuring out the time signature, dynamics, and whether there are parts that will be tricky.
After getting the initial basics of the piece down, focus on playing with each hand separately at a slow tempo before putting them together.
You might even need to break the piece down, measure by measure, to figure out the tricky parts.
There may be measures that will be easy to play hands together but others where the right and left hand have completely opposite parts.
Playground Sessions does a great job of teaching you how to break a piece down to each hand separately before putting them together.
If you’re taking an independent approach to learning to play the piano but are struggling with learning how to learn, check out Playground Sessions.
12. Play what you love
You are drawn to the piano because you want to play the music that moves and motivates you.
Regardless of what genre you love, the most important thing is to find a way to regularly incorporate the piano music you love into your learning.
If you’re taking private lessons, share your goals with your teacher so they can help you find level-appropriate music you enjoy playing.
Although you won’t find all the music you play motivating, it’s essential to always have a few pieces you love in your practice routine.
Even if it’s music you never share with anyone, it’s worthwhile to learn if you love it.
When you find joy in the pieces you’re playing, it’s easier to stay motivated and focused on learning. So go ahead and play what you love!
If you want to play music you can recognize from the beginning, check out Playground Sessions. I found the music, even from the first lesson, recognizable and entertaining to play.
It also allows you to play with a track, which is almost like playing with a band. It’s a fun way to learn the instrument!
13. Get some sleep
My last piano practice tip might seem entirely out there, but I will say it anyway.
Research continues to prove just how crucial sleep is to your overall well-being. It’s especially valuable when learning a new skill because your brain solidifies what you’ve learned while fast asleep.
Getting 7-9 hours of sleep every night is the best way to speed up your learning, especially when you aspire to be a piano player.
Here are a few tips for better rest at night:
- Avoid screens (phone, TV, etc.) 1-2 hours before bed.
- Practicing meditation before bed can help your brain release the problems of today.
- Stick to a regular bedtime and wake-up time.
- Seek out natural light right away in the morning to help your body naturally become more alert.
- Keep your bedroom dark and cool for optimal sleep.
- Exercising earlier in the day can help you feel tired at night and help you to sleep more deeply.
There’s nothing better than the satisfaction of knowing you’ve mastered something really tough. And learning to play the piano definitely fits into that category!
Although learning any new skill takes hard work, it’s almost always worth it. Playing an instrument has many incredible benefits for your brain, and it’s a fun way to pass the time.
It’s also a great way to meet people and get involved in the musical community. Once you have mastered the basics, playing with other musicians, either as an accompanist or as part of a band, can be entertaining.
I’ve done a fair amount of accompanying and love playing with choirs or soloists. And I especially love accompanying my daughter on her violin.
You’d be shocked at how many opportunities come when you can play the piano. Whether it’s for church or jamming with friends, learning to play the piano is something you’ll never regret.
And even if you never play for another person, if it’s something you enjoy, it’s worth pursuing.
The great news is that it’s never too late to start your piano journey! So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start making some beautiful music!
Good luck and happy practicing. 🙂
If you loved this post, check out my other piano-inspired content:
- Piano vs. Organ: The Differences and Which is Better for You
- 13 Easy Classical Piano Pieces for Adults
- How to Practice Piano with Modacity: The Ultimate Guide
- Playground Sessions Review: Waste of Time or Worth the Hype?
- 15 Best Love Songs to Play on the Piano
- Can You Learn to Play Piano by Watching a YouTube Video?
- The Best Ways to Learn Piano in 2023
- Can You Really Learn Piano Without a Teacher?
- A Complete Review of ProPractice by Dr. Josh Wright
- 7 Ways to Enjoy the Journey of Life: Simple Tips
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