Table of contents:
– The determining factors of learning the piano
– How long does it take to play the piano well?
> Learning the basics
> Reaching the intermediate level
> The advanced stage
> Becoming a concert pianist
– How long does it take to learn the piano for an adult?
– How long does it take to learn to play a song on the piano?
– How long does it take to play the piano with both hands?
– How long does it take to learn piano by ear?
– How long does it take to learn read sheet music?
The determining factors of learning the piano
Many different factors influence how quickly you are able to learn and progress in your musical development. The first two of the following list are by many musicians considered to be the most important ones.
- Deliberate practice
- Love of music
- Time availability
Although I am aware that deliberate practice and talent are critical factors in musical development, in my opinion, there is one overarching factor that is more important in the long run, namely, the love for music and the instrument itself.
For a beginner, it most likely won’t be a problem, since this is what brought him to the instrument in the first place. Unfortunately, as the months and years go by, the progress can become less apparent, or you might even reach a plateau for a while. Maybe your musical hopes and expectations are not being met, and suddenly you are losing the love and passion for the instrument. Learning how to overcome moments like these is essential to keep you on the path of growth, but more importantly, to keep you engaged for a lifetime.
You may have heard the quote, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” In this case, our will is the engine that drives us in our musical growth, and the love of the instrument (and music) is the fuel. If you lose the passion for the piano, it is a matter of time until you stop taking lessons, practice deliberately, and dedicate your time to the instrument. This is why it is essential to keep the right mindset and always enjoy the time spent at the piano.
As you can tell from the list above, there are many different factors such as talent, age, the quality of your teacher, etc. that influence the speed of your musical growth. If you are interested in their role and how much they determine your learning progress, I would recommend reading my other article that talks about it in greater detail.
How long does it take to play the piano well?
The general timeline
Learning the basics
As it is with any craft or skill, if you want to become good at something, it will require time, practice, dedication, and a little bit of talent. The same rule applies when learning how to play the piano, but don’t be discouraged! If you start today, you can learn how to play simple one-handed melodies in matters of minutes. To play your first song with both hands, you don’t have to practice for years or even months. If you dedicate yourself to practice for 30 minutes 5 times a week, you can start to play your first simple songs in a couple of weeks. Usually, most beginners progress quickly in the initial stages of the learning process, which is great as it gives you an extra bit of motivation to work even harder.
Reaching the intermediate level
Of course, to become a good pianist, it will take a lot more than that. If you want to become decent at reading sheet music, have a proper technique as well as understand basic theory, it will take you approximately 5-10 years to reach the intermediate level if you continue to practice at least five times a week for 30 minutes.
The advanced stage
As you progress with your piano studies into the more advanced level, the progress will usually become less apparent, but all the more important. A deeper understanding of aspects such as touch, tone, speed, and fluency will become more and more important in your practice routine. In case you choose to focus on jazz, r&b, gospel, etc., you will have to learn more about improvisation, harmony as well as arranging and composition. To reach the advanced level, it will take around 10 to 15 years of dedicated practice.
Becoming a concert pianist
Finally, in order to become a concert pianist or a jazz virtuoso, I believe besides being decently talented, you are looking at 15+ years of deliberate practice, led by some of the best teachers in the area of your specialty. Besides many hours spent on polishing your technique, you will be focusing on perfecting the ways of expressing emotions through your music.
Someone once said that the major difference between an amateur and a pro musician is not the notes they play but how they play them. While it may be an oversimplified statement, for the most part, I find it to be accurate.
How long does it take to learn the piano for an adult?
Having a childhood experience with any instrument or singing is undoubtedly an advantage when learning the piano as an adult. Even though it can accelerate the pace of your learning, the primary determinant will be the amount of time invested and the effectiveness of your practice routine. As it is with many skills, deliberate practice trumps talent, so if you are eager to learn, you can outwork the person with more talent or experience. Rather than having long practice sessions every now and than, try to give it daily 15-30 minutes of a concentrated effort, and within a year, you can be playing your favorite pop songs.
How long does it take to learn to play a song on the piano?
Now, let’s say you’re just interested in learning only one song to surprise your girlfriend or wife for an anniversary or a birthday. In this case, learning how to read sheet music, developing proper technique, etc. would simply be an ineffective use of your time. Your best and easiest way to learn one song is to find an appropriate youtube tutorial and learn it by rote. Just make sure to choose a simple enough song. Wondering how to tell whether the song is too complicated? Besides using common sense, I would recommend choosing a song that has no more than 3 to 6 chords, something like All of Me by John Legend. Depending on the difficulty of the song as well as the amount of time spent practicing, it could take you anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months to learn one song with this method.
How long does it take to play the piano with both hands?
Learning how to play piano with both hands can seem challenging to the newcomers. When learning how to incorporate the left hand, it is wise to take things slow and start with simple songs. You should always be comfortable playing the melody with your right hand before you add your left hand. If you don’t rush and pay attention to proper technique, you could be playing your first song within a month.
Developing better dexterity, especially in your non-dominant hand, will take some time. Playing comfortably with both hands will take approximately 1-2 years.
How long does it take to learn piano by ear?
Learning how to play piano by ear is an incredibly valuable skill to have, especially when it comes to improvisational music. Styles such as jazz, funk, or gospel are based around improvisation, thus require you to have good ears. Unlike learning how to read sheet music, which is mainly about discipline and dedication to practice, learning how to play by ear is more dependent on one’s natural ability to hear intervals. But don’t get me wrong, your practice will remain the primary determinant of your progress.
While playing by ear is a simple concept, it will take around 4-6 years of practice and ear training to get comfortable with the skill. Though, in my opinion, in the initial years, it’s wiser to focus on proper technique, music theory, and reading to create a better foundation for this skill. Without any previous musical knowledge and experience, learning songs solely by ear can be very difficult. For this reason, it is recommended to be familiar at least with basic theory such as major and minor scales, cadences, intervals, and chord theory. Mastering playing by ear can be a life long journey, but every step you take towards improving your musical ears is well worth it.
How long does it take to learn read sheet music?
Learning how to read notes isn’t vastly different than reading words. The principle is the same! Even the definition of a letter and the definition of a musical note, are strikingly similar.
“In music, a note is a symbol denoting a musical sound.“*
“a symbol usually written or printed representing a speech sound…”*
As words are made up of letters, chords, and melodies are made up of notes. Now try to remember the days when you were learning how to read, what was the most important learning factor, and how long did it take you to read fluently?
As it is with many things when it comes to music, also, in this case, the single most important factor is practice! The time frame in which you can expect to be able to read fluently will vary significantly from person to person. Depending on the amount of time and the effort you are going to put into it, you can expect to learn how to read at a given level somewhere within these general estimates.
Basic reading skills – 1 – 3 years
(understands notes and symbols, gets through simple musical pieces with necessary pre-reading of materials, makes many mistakes)
Advanced reading skills – 3 – 6 years
(reads with greater fluency all 12 keys, understands and performs a particular piece with fewer mistakes)
Fluent reading skills – 7 – 10 years
(reads with speed, accuracy, and proper expression)
As you probably noticed, there is a wide range of years in which a person can reach a particular level of piano playing skills. And believe me, in many cases, the differences may go far beyond these estimates in both directions. There are too many variables in this particular instance, to come up with one specific number.
In order to have a better understanding of factors that determine the rate of progress you can expect, I would recommend reading our article that talks about it in greater detail. If you are okay with general estimates of time frames in which you can expect to reach a particular level, see the list below.
Time frame estimates of achieving the desired level of piano playing:
- Learning one simple song (kids song) by rote – 1 – 4 weeks
- Learning one simple pop/folk song by rote – 1 – 2 months
- Play basic piano: 1 – 3 years
- Play intermediate piano: 5 – 10 years
- Play advanced piano: 10-15 years
- Becoming concert pianist: 15 – 20 years
- Becoming a jazz pianist: 15 – 20 years
- Becoming pop/folk pianist: 6 – 12 years
If you came here with the hope of becoming the next Mozart in the first few years of your journey, the chances are very slim. Trust me, I get it. As a young and aspiring musician, I was asking the same questions. There is nothing wrong with asking those questions out of simple curiosity, but they can become a problem if you make them your focal point. What I’m referring to is simply that the question may imply a feeling of impatience, desire for instant success, comparing with others, etc., as it happened in my case. And this is not the right way to start the journey. Obsessing over what you can become and how quickly you can get there, can rob you of the joy music brings us. Instead, enjoy the process of learning and appreciate every little progress you make. Because in the end, if you don’t enjoy playing the piano, what is the purpose of doing it :)?
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