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What should you expect when you begin piano lessons as an adult? Tips for beginner pianists.

Starting private piano lessons for the first time can be daunting. You don't know the teacher; this will, most likely, be someone you have never met. In most cases, you will need to travel to an unfamiliar location. And then, when you get there, to perform an unfamiliar task. All of this raises two questions: why should I do it? And, once I have decided to try it, what can I expect from piano lessons (and what will be expected of me)? In what follows, we will examine the answers to these questions.

Why start piano lessons as an adult?

First of all, let us look at why you should most definitely want to learn the piano, even though as an adult beginner it is unlikely that you will be embarking on a new career as a concert pianist. Yet there are many reasons besides potential employment to learn a musical instrument.

Music has, as Congreve puts it, "charms to soothe a savage breast." While listening to music on a recording may be a balm for the soul, it does not compare with the act of creating music for yourself on the piano, or indeed, another instrument. We are, after all, embodied creatures, and when we play music on the piano, we employ not merely the one auditory sense, but multiple senses together; in other words, we are much more involved in what we are doing.

Man playing the piano.

And what are we doing? Through the act of making music at the piano, we are connecting our ears, our brain, and our body (fingers, yes, but the skilled pianist will not confine his or her activities merely to the digits.) Thus, through our music making, our mind and body are unified in a single act. They are not, as so much of modern life seems to demand, pulling in different directions.

If that is not sufficient, consider the more abstract benefits piano lessons could bring.

Cognitive benefits of piano lessons

There are the cognitive benefits of piano lessons, for instance. Learning the piano is not an easy thing; perhaps this is one reason why so many hesitate to begin as adults. The concentration and effort required is rewarded, however. As we age, our mental capacities decline, but learning a new and challenging skill like piano playing can stave of that inevitable deterioration.

Piano playing provides an opportunity to impress friends

Once the early stages of learning the piano are complete, you might be surprised at how quickly you gain skill and so are able to impress your friends, colleagues and acquaintances with your newfound musical abilities.

Join the community of amateur musicians

Musical skill, such as playing the piano, also affords the opportunity to learn and play with other musicians. Piano lessons can give you the confidence you need to engage with a new community and make new friends in the process.

What should you expect from piano lessons?

When you meet your piano teacher for the first time, you might be anxious and unsure of whether this is a thing you want to do. That is natural but also unnecessary. For one thing, the teacher will know that you are nervous, and will not judge you harshly for any errors you might make during the piano lesson. I know, as a teacher, that many new adult students are self-conscious about the possibility of looking foolish, but this thought is a chimera. No good teacher will ever expect a beginner to give a perfect performance; even if every note you play is wrong, they will not judge you for it. After all, they too were a tyro once. And besides, as any good piano teacher will tell you, mistakes on the part of the student are more often errors in communication. It is for the teacher, who has the knowledge and experience of playing the piano, to explain things in a way the student can understand.

In your first lesson, the teacher will explain to you how you should sit at the piano. They will attempt to demonstrate good posture and basic technique. Depending on how well that progresses, or previous musical experience, the lesson will then likely progress on to reading music and playing elementary pieces, along with some simple exercises. You should not worry about being completely accurate in your playing or feel any great pressure here. You are not expected to be perfect and the teacher knows that this is entirely new for you. Piano lessons are a long-term commitment; no-one expects miraculous results after only one or two lessons.

You should, naturally, expect any good teacher to push you and to encourage you to do more than you believed that you could. This is essential. It may sometimes feel that you are being judged harshly for minor errors in your play, but this is only your teacher attempting to bring out the best in you. They are merely helping you to improve not putting you down!

What will be expected from you when you begin piano lessons?

When you begin piano lessons, no-one will expect you to spend hours and hours practising the piano. But, certainly, regular, preferably daily, practice is an excellent idea. Without regular practice progress is likely to be slow and scope for frustration increases. For a new piano learner, steady and even remarkable progress can be achieved with as little as ten minutes daily.

During the lesson, concentration and a good effort are all your teacher will require. You will not be expected to turn up each week able to play the music from the last lesson perfectly. It is expected that there will be mistakes.

Everyone learns at a different rate and you should not compare yourself to others or be discouraged if it is difficult at first.


Even starting piano lessons as an adult, with dedication and good tuition, you can reasonably expect to achieve a great deal. With regular practice, you can gain a high level of skill and impress your friends and family. Furthermore, you can gain the immeasurable benefits that come from the ability to make music alone and with others.

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