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Can adults really learn piano?

By Scott Houston
Growing up, my high school principal often reminded my classmates and I that our brains were not yet fully developed. This favorite, not-so-fun fact of his delivered two warnings:

1. Think twice before making decisions—moldable, hormone-filled brains are untrustworthy!

2. You must prioritize learning while you’re young, “while it’s easy.”

Hearing this, I longed for the ripe old age of 25 when I would be out of school and “fully wired.”

Little did I know, Mr.Greer had human brain science all wrong. While there’s some obvious truth to the hormone bit of his lecture, he didn’t really get the learning part right—our brains don’t actually stop developing in young adulthood. Successfully learning new subjects and skills—like playing non-classical piano—can be enjoyable at 25, 55, 75, and beyond!

Keep reading to get all the facts about the top three reasons why learning to play piano as an adult doesn’t have to be any more difficult than learning to play as a kid.

Table of Contents

  • Your brain is built for constant growth
  • You call the shots
  • You’ve got better options
  • What’s next
  • Additional resources
scott and lady at piano

You might be older, but your brain is built for constant growth

Did you know 90% of brain development happens before age 5? Thanks to brain plasticity, or the ability to adapt in structure, children are able to form basic human functions, learn social behavior, and more at a rapid rate.

It’s true that neuroplasticity becomes less potent as we age, but it doesn’t go away completely. In fact, exercising your brain as an adult can improve brain malleability, create new neural connections, and improve cognitive function.

Learning to play piano involves fine motor training, making it a harder brain exercise than, say, playing sudoku, but the rewards are much greater! Here are just a few of the mental health, learning and memory, and physical health benefits of playing piano or keyboard:

    • improved memory
    • improved hearing
    • improved blood pressure
    • improved hand eye coordination
    • relief from physical pain associated with arthritis

You call the shots

Children are missing three components that are key to the success and enjoyment of learning: autonomy, discipline, and motivation. If you choose to take lessons later in life, the ability to pick them yourself will really support your efforts.

You can choose your teacher, what genre you want to learn, your frequency of lessons and practice sessions, all of that! There are many options available, and the freedom to choose the best type of classes for your personal learning and lifestyle can be very empowering.

The skills and experience you’ve gained from being disciplined and holding yourself accountable in the past will help you take on your next challenge—one that you’ve decided to start yourself. Whatever that personal motivation is for wanting to play, it’s a heck of a lot more powerful than “my mom’s making me.”

Whatever your personal motivation is for wanting to play, it's a heck of a lot more powerful than "my mom's making me."

Your options today > your options 50 years ago

Piano is one of the physically easiest instruments to play. There’s no intense breath control, no plucked-to-the-bone fingers, no carrying or holding required. So why does it get such a bad reputation with adults?

Well, while most music is written and taught with just one line of music, classical piano notoriously uses two lines. If you ever took lessons as a kid, you might remember the frustration. The good news is, piano and teaching methods have improved incredibly over the years—classical isn’t the only way!

Unless you actually want to play classical, you don’t need to work with two lines of notation. Instead, you can use lead sheets (only containing one line of notation) to learn and play.

Option A: Traditional sheet music. Most of us are tough from a young age that if we want to play music, we have to read this complicated, two-line music notation.

Option B: Lead sheet. Only containing one line of music notation and chord symbols, professionals prefer to use this straightforward notation to play gigs and record.

What's next

Many piano teachers (including myself) use a chord-based method along with one-line music notation to get adults understanding how music works and playing it fast. My online music lessons at Piano in a Flash use real songs from the very first class to build your musical ear and motor function with fun practice.

Want to try it out to see just how easy it is? Click the button below to sign up for a free class with me! In just 45 minutes, I’ll show you how my online method works while teaching you the melody and chords in “Joy to the World” without any complicated sheet music!

Additional resources