Things to Consider When Learning to Play the Piano

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Source:, Natasha Piggott.

Learning a new skill can be rather daunting and frustrating at the beginning, especially when you lead a hectic lifestyle. However, the payoffs of acquiring a new skill can be extremely beneficial, be that financially or simply as a personal accomplishment- one to tick off of the bucket list. Playing the piano is a skill which many wish to have under their belt, and rightly so. The piano can often be seen as the basis for music itself, as learning this instrument provides you with musical theory knowledge that can subsequently be transferred to other instruments. The good news is, that learning to play can be very achievable, provided you learn and practise effectively. Playing the piano can reap many rewards, which is music to any beginner’s ears. When learning a new skill, to succeed you need to put lots of time, effort, and often money into honing your chosen skill. This is why it is important to know how your skill will benefit you in the long run.


For some, playing the piano may just be a hobby or a relaxation technique yet, it is a skill that can be widely profitable, both financially and for self-progression. The ability to play an instrument to a good standard, instantly stands you out from the crowd. Be it when applying to university or for a job, having this skill on your CV transforms you from an average applicant, to one who is well-rounded, patient and creative. In the current age, when education is widely accessible for many, it is often hard to be seen as exemplary in a sea of candidates with good grades, a long list of work experience and a winning interview presence. This is why it is vital to obtain a skill which reflects you as a valuable candidate- one who understands perseverance and effective time management.

Playing the piano can also be very lucrative when going into the working world and trying to earn a living. There are many jobs and ways to earn money through the application of this skill, and many that you can do self-employed. Many dream of a career that they can do from home, avoiding tyrannical managers, and dull office environments. The foremost, and most obvious way to earn money, is through piano tutoring. Once you have become proficient at playing the piano, you can earn money through teaching others. If you are patient (which you will have proven if you have learnt to play) then this can be a very good way of making money on the side of your day job, or as a full-time career. Other jobs can include session musicians, who perform music, such as the piano during a recording session. For example, a singer who is recording an album, yet cannot play an instrument, will hire a session pianist to play the music on their tracks. Or even for those who would like to earn a living online, creating videos of yourself playing can be posted on platforms such as YouTube. Once you have built a following, you can begin to earn money from these videos, through adverts, and even affiliate partnerships with other companies.

The rewards from playing the piano are endless, which makes it such a valuable skill to learn. It is important for some to have a goal in mind when taking on a new skill, which could be the promise of a potential career and way to earn money, or even just to be able to play a certain song that you love. Having this goal in mind, will help you to maintain perseverance and patience when practising.

The Best Way to Learn

It is important to adopt the best learning method right from the outset, in order to ensure you are learning both correctly and effectively. This can avoid problems further down the line. My advice, as both a pianist and teacher, is to learn the piano with a tutor, and specifically one who will teach you to read sheet music. It is very easy these days to find tutorials online, and to learn through copying what other pianists are playing by watching their fingers. This can be a quick way to learn a song, yet it is not an effective way to learn the piano. I have taught students in the past who have previously learnt through this method, and it is hard to unpick bad habits that they have acquired, and to then re teach them in the most effective way. Learning to play the piano, whilst learning the theory behind it may be a slower way to learn, yet it will quickly accelerate you into becoming a skilled and experienced player. Once you can read sheet music to a high level, you will be able to play almost anything. This cuts down learning time by a large amount. If you learn to play each piece by ear, or by copying, you will not understand the theory behind it, and therefore you will find it harder to reap the benefits of playing, such as tutoring for example. An analogy I will give, is if a child learns to read, they can pick up any book and after some slight faltering, will be able to read and understand its content. If they learn by memorising the content of one book, by having it read aloud to them, they will not then be able to pick up another book and read it on their own. This is why it is vital to learn in the correct way, and the easiest way to do this is with a tutor, who can properly explain music theory.

Effective Practising

Once you have learnt the basics of playing the piano, it is crucial to practise in order to improve. This may seem obvious, but the problem is, that people often do not practise in the right way. You may say, ‘I am practising every day, yet I’m not getting any better’. This is because you are not practising effectively. It is not a good use of your time to play a piece you are learning over and over for an hour each day, as you may be wasting valuable practise time, by focussing on sections that do not need work. If you are a busy person and only have a short space of time in which to practise each day, it is important that you are using that time wisely. When practising a piece, you should highlight the sections that are the most difficult, or that you often trip up on. You should take these sections and separate them from the whole piece. Take the first one that is causing problems and practise this section very slowly over and over, increasing the speed each time until this section is perfected. You can then move on to your other tricky areas, until the piece is manageable in its entirety. Only then should you be playing the piece all the way through. Another very important part of practise is scales. They may seem rather tedious and mundane, yet they are so vital. Playing scales each day will improve the strength and dexterity of your fingers. If you do not strengthen your fingers, you will find that you will limit yourself on which pieces you are able to play. Another important part of your practise is sight reading. This means taking a piece or a short phrase of music that you have not seen before and playing it. This improves your ability to read sheet music, and the more adept you are at this, the more complicated pieces you will be able to master.

It is important when learning and practising, not to create excuses as to why you cannot attend a lesson or practise each day. Learning and practising must become a routine, in order to improve. Set a dedicated time each day for your practise, just as you would brushing your teeth each morning, and stick to it. Keep in mind your goal and remind yourself of the benefits this will bring you, and with perseverance, you will be sure to succeed.

Written by

Cambridge master’s student, literature grad and a semi-amateur writer.

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