Although the piano is considered part of the string family, it has one of the most distinctive looks and sounds of any instrument. And although many can play simple ditties such as Chopsticks or Heart and Soul, you may be wondering how long it takes to take your piano skills to the next level.
The piano is a fairly basic instrument, and simple melodies can be learned in minutes. But if you’re looking to play more complex songs, becoming a skilled pianist can take anywhere from three to five years with regular practice. If you’re looking to master the instrument, you can expect to dedicate 15+ years to the piano – and even then, there will always be more to learn, as learning any instrument is a lifelong journey.
The piano is one of the easiest instruments to get started with but one of the most difficult to master. Unlike other string instruments, there are no complicated fingerings or bow techniques that need to be memorized. Instead, all of the notes are laid out in front of you in the form of keys; you just need to know which ones to press.
However, knowing how to play the piano also means knowing how to play several notes at once with both hands. Being able to do this accurately and in quick succession will take time and practice.
The piano is played sitting on a bench, preferably towards the front edge to make for comfortable playing. Your feet should rest on the ground, but you shouldn’t put much weight on them. Relax your shoulders and keep your back straight while playing. Your elbows should be bent with your hands resting comfortably on the keys. While playing piano, keep your fingers curved, as if you’re loosely holding a ball in each hand. This position should feel natural and will give you the ability to move across the full range of keys as you play.
In most cases, the right hand will be responsible for playing the melody. To start, learn simple tunes that can be played with just the right hand. This could be anything, but common beginner piano songs are Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Mary Had a Little Lamb and the Pink Panther Theme. Once you can comfortably play these melodies, try adding chords with your left hand to fill out the song.
Even once you can play chords with your left hand while playing a melody with your right, there is still much to learn about playing with both hands. Many songs will require more than just chords, so learning how to move both hands independently will be essential in your piano-playing journey. To practice this technique, try playing simple two-handed songs such as Für Elise or Clair de Lune.
You can also begin incorporating the pedals. Pianos typically have three pedals: one to sustain, one to soften the sound, and one that sustains only the notes currently being played (called sostenuto). Being able to utilize these pedals while playing with both hands will take skill and practice.
Instruments can’t be mastered overnight, and piano is no different. In order to learn and retain skills, you should plan to practice for at least 20-30 minutes each day. As you grow comfortable with each new technique, continue to challenge yourself with more complex songs.
More than anything, though, remember that learning piano will take time. But if you’re committed to learning, you’re sure to see progress.