How Long Does It Take to Learn the Piano?

As the most popular and widely learned instrument worldwide, the piano is considered a foundational instrument that many musicians learn as the starting point of their musical career. Due to its widespread popularity and accessibility, many people aspire to learn to play the piano, whether it be to accompany oneself singing or to become a professional concert pianist. Regardless of a musician’s ambitions however, learning to play the piano will take hours of practice and dedication, but will prove to be incredibly rewarding after being able to accomplish personal and musical goals.

Due to the musical versatility of the piano, placing a quantitative timeframe on how long it takes to learn the piano is highly dependent on the musical ambitions of the musician – for instance, a classically trained pianist will have very different goals compared to a jazz pianist. However, in general terms, it will take around 1 to 2 years for students to play basic pieces and simplified arrangements of famous tunes. After 3 to 5 years of playing the piano, pianists should be able to read and perform repertoire fluently with guidance from a teacher. To reach an advanced level of performance, it will take around 6-10 years to play works from the standard repertoire, however, there are a plethora of technically challenging works that require over 10 years of consistent practice and dedication to perform well.

How Long It Takes to Play Simple Songs

When starting to learn the piano as a beginner, musicians will first learn how to recognize the keys of the piano, read music and perfect their hand and sitting posture. From this point onwards, beginner pianists will learn how to play simple melodies with their right hand while simultaneously playing chords with their left hand. At this level, both hands are not fully independent from one another and generally move in similar motion. Alongside this beginner level of dexterity, pianists should be able to play I, IV, V and V7 chords in several key signatures, forming the foundation for contemporary, jazz and simple accompaniment piano playing.

At the beginner level, most pianists will focus on playing simple one and two octave scales in C, F and G major. Pianists will also start to play simple scales in contrary motion in order to develop multitasking skills and independence between the left and right hands. Many beginner students will often choose to incorporate Hanon technical exercises to supplement technical development and dexterity. Beginner pianists can expect to play simple tunes such as the Flohwalzer and Chopsticks within a few months of playing, while slightly harder songs such as London Bridge is Falling Down, Scarborough Fair and Satie’s Gymnopédie No. 1 can take a year or so before pianists are able to comfortably play such pieces.

Once pianists are able to get a good grasp on the technical basics and chord progressions of the piano, musicians can start to accompany themselves singing basic rock and pop songs. Some easy songs to start off with include Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love” and “Let it Be” by the Beatles.

How Long It Takes to Play Intermediate Songs

After 3 to 5 years of playing the piano, musicians should reach an intermediate level of performance. Musicians should be musically literate and feel technically comfortable with the basic skills of the instrument. As pianists progress, they will encounter a range of new techniques such as pedalling, trills, repeated notes, alongside an introduction to polyphonic passages. At this point of musical development, pianists should look to consolidate their technical prowess by practicing a wide variety of scales and arpeggios in different rhythms and articulations, alongside technical exercises to improve finger mobility and dexterity. Common technical exercises for intermediate level pianists include the Czerny exercises, Cramer etudes and Burgmuller etudes.

Intermediate level pianists can expect to play works such as Beethoven’s Fur Elise, Bagatelle in G minor and Haydn’s Sonata Hob XVI-G after around 3 to 5 years of playing the piano. Likewise, an intermediate level pianist should have the capacity to play a wide range of piano arrangements of pop, rock and contemporary and be fairly comfortable playing accompaniment while singing melodic lines. Intermediate level renditions of contemporary songs include John Legend’s “All of Me” and “Faded” by Alan Walker, and accompanying piano works such as “Stay With Me” by Sam Smith and “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.

How Long It Takes to Play Advanced Songs

After 6 to 10 years of playing the piano, pianists can expect to start performing advanced repertoire. At this level of performance, pianists should be able to sightread simple works, alongside play at a fast tempo with multiple melodies performed simultaneously. After 6 to 8 years of playing the piano, pianists should be able to play several preludes and suites by Bach and Haydn, alongside the sonatas of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. More advanced pianists should look towards performing virtuosic works such as Liszt’s Transcendental Etudes, Chopin’s Ballades and Etudes, as well as major romantic concertos by Rachmaninoff, Schumann, Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky. It will take over 10 years of playing the piano to be able to accompany other classical instruments, such as the violin and cello, as the piano accompanist must consider the musical voices of both instruments and ensure the sound of the piano does not overpower the solo instrument.

Advanced pianists should hold the technical capacity to play a majority of piano covers of contemporary pop songs, jazz repertoire and vocal accompaniment for pop or rock songs. Jazz pianists in particular should have the ability to improvise and play in several genres of bands. Although technical difficulty of works depends on the arrangements of rock songs, Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” are often cited as rather technically advanced works.

Why Should You Learn the Piano?

Although the physical and mental benefits of playing an instrument have long been recognized, the piano in particular provides unique benefits for humans to link music to a healthy body, mindset and lifestyle.

  • Playing the piano improves your physical health and posture

As a physically and mentally demanding instrument, playing the piano is a workout for all players of all abilities and ages. Due to the technical intricacies of the piano, pianists have improved fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Furthermore, research by __ have found that older adults who learned the piano later in life were more likely to have increased levels of the Human Growth Hormone, which slows the bad effects of aging. Overall,  playing the piano improves physical health and has been connected to lower blood pressure, higher immune responses and reduced levels of anxiety, cardiac complications and respiratory rates.

  • Playing the piano improves the human intellect

Practicing the piano on a regular basis improves cognitive and intellectual abilities as playing the piano activates similar areas of the brain used in spatial reasoning and math. Through diligence and discipline, musicians are more likely to develop good habits such as concentration, creativity and perseverance and have increased memorization capacities. Consequently, by practicing the piano, musicians are able to make structural changes to the brain that will last a lifetime, ultimately optimizing the power and efficiency of cognitive processes.

  • Playing the piano improves emotional intelligence

Due to the aurally intensive nature of playing the piano, pianists are able to apply their listening skills to human interactions outside the practice room. As emotions are conveyed through a mix of facial expression, body language and the tone and contour of voice, pianists are more perceptive in interpreting the emotions of other people through their extensive training in aural skills.

What Skills Do You Need to Play the Piano?

When learning to play the piano, pianists should keep in mind the importance of posture, memorization and efficient practice skills.

  • #Skill 1: Posture

Posture is a vital aspect of piano playing as bad posture will lead to poor technique and create barriers for pianists to improve moving forward. Pianists should be particularly wary of their hand position and ensure they do not slouch when sitting down at the piano stool. Furthermore, it is important for pianists to relax their shoulders and elbows and make sure they do not sit too far away from the piano.

  • #Skill 2: Memorization

Beginner pianists in particular will need to use their memorization skills to jumpstart their progress in their musical studies. Beginning with memorizing the general musical alphabet and associating each with the keys on the keyboard, pianists have a variety of theoretical concepts and physical movements to memorize before playing any songs or exercises.

  • #Skill 3: Efficient Practice Skills

Oftentimes, piano students adopt redundant practice techniques that do not help their overall development as a musician. Consequently, pianists should be aware of their weak points and actively practice overcoming these shortcomings by adopting a variety of practice techniques to combat these issues. Examples of practice techniques include playing with separate hands, practicing with a metronome and practicing in different rhythms.

Equipment Needed When Playing The Piano

#1. The Piano

The piano itself is undeniably the most important equipment for commencing studies in piano. Many beginners choose to start off with electric pianos and keyboards and later progress to upright pianos. More advanced pianists will often have a grand piano to supplement their technical and musical progress and grand pianos come at varying levels of quality and sizes.

#2. Metronome

The metronome is an integral aspect of playing the piano the instrument itself is percussive and rhythmic in nature. As a result, it is important for pianists to maintain a steady beat when playing and a metronome will help to establish this musical meter within musicians.


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