January 12, 2019

About the Author: Stefan Joubert

Stefan Joubert is the co-owner of S & C. He is passionate about helping adults learn how to play the piano. He truly believes that no one is too old or not talented enough. He also manages The London Piano Institute located in the City of London. You can contact Stefan at enrol@londonpianoinstitute.co.uk or enrol@sandc.ae

Knowledge is power – discover the journey of learning how to play the piano and understand a little more about this wonderful journey!

Have you always wanted to learn how to play the piano?

Do you know that you are more talented than you can possibly imagine?

It’s a proven fact that you can learn how to play the piano regardless of your current age or ability.

What you need is an excellent education and a willingness to practice and put in the time required to become great at playing the piano.

This means you need to have lots of perseverance and downright determination to continue through both thick and thin to reach your destination with the instrument.

I know it is a journey, not a destination, but you get my drift!

Learning to play the piano means starting an incredible journey.

It’s a journey filled with exciting twists and turns, and beautiful views for you to explore.

On this journey:

  • You will learn how to read music
  • You will learn how to play in time (and on time)
  • You will learn how to distinguish between different types of musical scales
  • You will learn how to play with both hands together
  • You will learn how music theory works
  • You will learn how to perform in front of an audience
  • You will learn how to make the piano sing!
  • And so, so, so much more!

You may wonder, how do I start this journey properly?

This is an essential question, as you want to become successful at playing the piano and make your musical dreams come true!

The first step towards becoming successful at playing the piano is to select the right piano teacher or Academy for your piano lessons.

Learning the piano by yourself is generally not advised, as you may pick up terrible habits and less-than-adequate techniques far too quickly.

You need expert advice as it is a complex instrument that requires a tremendous amount of knowledge and expertise.

An excellent piano school or instructor will help you lay the right foundation from the start of your piano learning journey.

Starting with a rock-solid foundation is more important than you may realise at first.

The right foundation will enable you to progress much faster.

In a more linear and less painful fashion.

And, that’s what you want, right?

Learn the art of sight-reading to get off to a sound footing!

Sight-reading is an art and a skill.

Sight-reading can be learned and practised!

Ideally, your instructor should help you learn how to read music notation as if you are reading a book.

This means you need to learn how to recognise notes immediately without any reference, rhyme or calculation of any sort!

Immediate recognition of any arbitrary music note on the stave is of vital importance.

You need to internalise all the musical notes, and recognise them pretty much instantaneously!

This takes a tremendous amount of work.

A great instructor will make this easier.

He or she will help you manage this important task in a step-by-step fashion.

Once again, please stay away from rhymes and calculations, as this will only make it harder for you to learn to recognise the notes correctly in the future.

Once you have conquered the art of sight-reading, everything else becomes a lot easier on the piano.

Discover the beauty of scales, arpeggios & the importance of music theory

You need to get to know all 12 keys on the piano and get a sense for each key.

For example, if the score is composed in the key of E Major, you need to develop an intuitive sense or feeling for that particular key.

Immediately, without any prior reference, you should know that the E major key contains four sharps namely F#, G#, C#, and D#.

If you are into pop and rock piano, this can also be of great value, as you will be ready to perform in whatever key the band is playing in!

So, if the band tells you that they are performing in the key of G major, then you instinctively know the scale and the chords of G major.

You also know that G major contains the lovely red-hot F#!

Once you get familiar with the major keys, you will need to get familiar with the minor keys.

Musical keys work throughout the cycle of fifths.

The cycle of fifths is the ultimate method for practising musical scales.

The cycle of fifths will also teach you a lot about musical composition.

Of course, I am getting ahead of myself here now…

In this article, I simply want to speak about the journey of learning.

I want to give you an idea of what it takes…

You will discover all these concepts in time to come.

Discover the importance of weekly piano lessons and why education is paramount!

How many hours of piano lessons should I take per week?

It all depends on what you want to achieve.

My best and most dedicated students study with me for at least two hours per week.

Some even study with me for three to four hours per week!

Of course, not everyone has the time available to dedicate to lessons for so many hours per week, so even if you only attend weekly for 30 minutes, you can still make significant progress.

Should you have the choice, I would recommend doing at least 90 minutes of piano lessons per week and even up to 2 to 3 hours per week if you want to make substantial progress at a very reasonable speed.

This may seem like overkill.

The truth is, it is not.

In the above example, you would most probably not take 3 hours of piano lessons in one go.

He would most probably break the three hours down into two manageable sessions of 90 minutes.

During the first 90 minutes, we would most probably focus on scales, arpeggios, the key centres as well as sight-reading.

In the second session of 90 minutes (which should ideally take place later in the week), we would focus on your musical pieces.

Also, please bear in mind that I have specifically written this article with the idea of classical piano lessons in mind.

If we worked on jazz piano, the structure would be different, but contain some similarities!

It would be as exciting, but just different!

So in the example above, you can see that with three hours of weekly piano lessons, you can make fantastic progress.

Once again, if you can only attend for 30 minutes per week, do not despair.

Any amount of time is always better than none.

I am just giving you the ideal picture for you to plan your piano journey.

So, whatever time you can dedicate to private lessons, go for it.

I would give one word of warning:

If you attend your piano lessons once per fortnight, you will make slow progress.

I do not allow fortnightly lessons anymore, but in the past when I was only starting, I would accept students for a lesson per fortnight.

It was generally speaking a disaster.

Students attending per fortnight (unless they were exceptionally motivated) would simply not practise properly in the second week.

They would slack off!

The fact is, you need the inspiration and motivation derived from an excellent instructor to make significant progress especially when you struggle with a piece of music or technical issue.

That is why weekly lessons is an absolute must!

In my piano school, students pay for a minimum of four lessons per calendar month, and we provide 48 lessons per annum.

Of course, sometimes a holiday is required, and we simply reschedule that week at a later date.

But, a minimum of 48 high-quality piano lessons gets provided per annum!

So regular attendance is a must if you want to become successful at playing the piano.

Discover the importance of practising the piano and how to practice

Practising the piano is as important as attending lessons and being passionate about it.

When you practice you essentially become the teacher.

You teach yourself during your practice time.

It is therefore essential to address the age-old question of how many hours per week one should practice.

The answer to this question is generally (for the beginners) – around 15 to 20 minutes per day for 4 to 5 days per week.

If you are at a more advanced level, it may be necessary to practice between 30 to 60 minutes per day for 5 to 6 days per week.

If you opt to take the graded examinations such as The Associated Board of the Royal School (ABRSM) or Trinity College’s grade exams, you may even need to do 60 minutes plus per day.

It all depends on your current piano skill level and what you which to achieve in the time you practice.

In my experience, students who opt to fo the graded examinations want to complete at least one grade per annum.

To keep up with this pace, I would recommend doing at least 60 minutes (or more) per day.

If you merely want to play for your pleasure without the pressure of examinations, I would suggest between 15 to 45 minutes per day.

Once again, it all depends on what you want to achieve and at which level you want to perform.

Remember, it is your unique learning journey, and it is not a destination, so please feel free to take your time and make it as adventurous and pleasurable as possible.

When you practice the piano, it is also essential to split your time between a creative and disciplined practice session.

In an ideal world, you want to spend 70% of your time on a strict, disciplined practice routine and 30% on a more creative one.

Often, this may be harder than it seems at first, so if you cannot stick to 70/30, then at least do 50/50 (50% on the disciplined method and 50% on the creative method).

It is also during your practice sessions that you will make serious progress on the instrument and move closer to your musical goals!

That is why you should schedule a daily uninterrupted time for your private piano practice.

If you can become successful in your private practice habits, you can become successful in your piano playing endeavours (and life too!).

Time and effort along with excellent quality piano education are the key ingredients for becoming a superb pianist!

Remember: good old-fashioned principles will never change!

We may live in the modern world.

We may have access to the latest technologies.

We may even manage to fly from one continent to another at half the speed at which we are flying today, but, as things progress technologically, the human race on aggregate is sadly becoming lazier.

They are however things of principle that will never change.

One of those things is the concept of self-study, the idea of discipline.

That is why, when you practice, it is essential to put your phone on flight mode, get rid of all distractions and solely focus on practising.

Practice your instrument in an old-world fashion.

The past contains so many successful examples if we are willing to learn.

Modern technology (generally) makes learning the piano more arduous than the past.

We have so many options and so many “learn-to-play-the-piano-fast” online piano courses that we forget about the good old-fashioned way of learning.

Nota bene – studying privately with an excellent instructor.

The truth is, nothing beats learning with another human being on a one-to-one basis and attending your lessons weekly.

There may be a tiny number of piano students who have successfully learned to play via an online or self-study piano course.

The issue is that most piano students do not have the discipline to practice appropriately without a teacher to oversee their progress.

Make sure you choose the right method of learning to play the piano.

Another word of advice: follow all the instruction of your piano teacher and become the best piano student that you can possibly be and your piano playing will thrive!

You see, the road to achieving greatness is a lot simpler then you may at first have imagined.

I mean, the actual implementation is difficult, but the concept and understanding of what to do are relatively easy.

I personally, wish you the greatest success on your journey!

Also, remember we all go through the same emotions and the same frustrations.

In my private studio, I see many students on a weekly basis and see the same patterns again and again and again.

Remember you are not an isolated case, you are part of a group of thousands learning, part of a group of thousands achieving, part of a group of extraordinary individuals who will do whatever it takes to make their dreams of playing the piano a reality.

So during your journey, do not feel alone when the going gets tough, remember that others have also been where you are today.

If you struggle with a particular piece or passage, remember others have conquered that specific passage too – so can you!

Others have achieved their dreams – again, so can you!

Yes, it will take sacrifice and the willingness to put in the time and effort required to reach your goals, but it is indeed achievable.

So once again in your journey towards becoming a pianist, I wish you the greatest success.

In the short run, things will sometimes seem difficult, but in the long run, you will be surprised at just want you can achieve.

– Make discipline and structure your best friends.

– Make learning a joy and the world will be your oyster!

– May you achieve your boldest piano dreams!

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