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Is it hard to learn piano at an older age?

By Scott Houston
One of the questions I have heard consistently over my more than 25 years as a piano teacher is if it’s difficult for older adults to learn how to play the piano. 

Students wonder whether their brain can still pick up a new skill, if health challenges like arthritis will stunt their playing, and if they have the time to learn. And while you’ve probably heard the phrase, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” at some point in your life, I actually think there are some advantages to the learning experience of adults.

Whether you’re a total beginner or have some experience with music, the answer depends on what you mean by “hard.” The most important thing is that anyone who has the desire and determination can learn to play piano—no matter their age. In this blog, I’ll give you some tips to guide your entire journey:

    • Getting started and setting goals
    • Finding the right teacher
    • Keeping the right mindset

Getting started with piano lessons for older beginners

If you’ve never played an instrument before, it might feel hard to coordinate the movements of your hands at first. But if you’re used to playing guitar or learned piano the traditional way–even unsuccessfully–when you were younger, it might be easier for you to play some simpler songs quickly.

Start by being clear about your goals and expectations for the amount of time and effort you’ll be able to commit to your lessons. For example, if you’re hoping to play at a dinner party for fun with friends or at your church in a couple of months, that’s very attainable. However, if you’re set on making your debut at Carnegie Hall this year, that’s probably not realistic.

Finding a piano teacher for adults

Once you’ve narrowed in on your piano learning goals, it’s time to find the right teacher. When you’re looking for a piano teacher, you’ll want to think about what kind of music you want to learn and your current skill level. In general, when you’re looking for a teacher who will be a good fit, think about whether you want to learn classical or non-classical music, and look for an instructor who is experienced in teaching adult piano students, rather than children. 

Using your unique perspective and keeping the right mindset

Adults are more likely to be highly motivated to learn because they are driven by personal goals, rather than by external pressure. Often, adult learners come to piano lessons with a specific goal in mind, such as being able to play for holiday gatherings, church services, or simply as a form of self-expression.

I have found that adult students who combine personal motivation with a positive, realistic mindset are the most successful. Here’s a quote from one of my students that will give you a good idea of the headspace:

“Wow, I have just completed Course 3. I found it challenging, but very satisfying. There was so much information to take in and apply. You made it enjoyable and easy to follow. I can't believe how much I have learned.” - Kathleen C.

It’s important to keep an open mind and be willing to get your hands dirty, and remember that learning to play piano is not going to be easy all of the time. There are going to be things that challenge you and might even frustrate you—and that’s okay!

It’s all part of the journey here outside of your comfort zone, and as long as you remember to keep having fun, keep working at it, and stop being so hard on yourself—you’ll find the rewards of playing are that much sweeter.

If you’re ready to start discovering how much you’re capable of as an adult, I’d love for you to try a piano class on me. In just 45 minutes, I’ll demonstrate how my method helps adults learn to play without complicated sheet music while teaching you to play your first tune. Simply fill out the form below to get started in your first online piano lesson.