Learning Piano As an Adult – It’s Actually Easier

Learning piano as an adult is supposed to be this dreadful experience – but what makes it so? If Piano Motivator suggests that it’s actually easier, do you believe it?

Let’s take a closer look.

Geography, Then and Now

The best part of full-time school was always geographical containment. You spent the day in one building – or at least one contained campus. Adult life is much more spread out and we waste too much time traveling between places.

One of the keys to grown up management — and if you were lucky, some worldly-wise dorm proctor or other upperclassman taught you tis in college – is learning how to maximize all of those bits and pieces of time between major events. Smart students – and their grown up counterparts — pick up two extra hours a day. 

Scheduling, Then and Now

Another thing about school – all those bells. They start you off and tell you when to stop. No one goes over, no one ends early. One bell follows another until the day is over. What you do between bells can change every day, but the structure holds tight. Take away those bells and, just like that playful chorus in Handel’s Messiah, “all sheep have gone astray.”

If you’re going to learn the piano outside of school, you’ll need time to (1) go to your lessons; and (2) practice. That time has to come from somewhere. No problem, right?

If you plot out 24 hours per day, seven days per week on a large grid, and assign different colors to different tasks – work, sleep, meals, commuting, night school, television – pretty quickly, every hour of the week is accounted for and suddenly the whole thing fills up.

Finding half an hour a day to practice can be as easy as getting up an hour earlier or eliminating one half hour of television.

Or as difficult.

And what about all that time spent on your cell phone? 

Excuse-itis, Then and Now

By the time we get to be grown-ups, we master the art of inventing excuses for things we don’t want to do. If we spent half that time actually doing something constructive, we could incite a revolution.  Vince Lombardi – that ultimate “old school” coach of the Green Bay Packers —  used to say that “our deeds form our habits and our habits form our character.”

The funny thing about habits is that, to create one, good or bad, just do any one thing three times in a row. Bam! You have a habit. If you still don’t believe it, sit on the floor with the older dog you just brought home from the shelter – cute face, sad eyes and an assigned name you can’t stand.  Now, with small bag full of dog food, call the dog by the name you choose, have him/her come and get individual pieces from your hand each time and say “Good _________, each time s/he takes one.  20 minutes later, when the bag is empty, guess what that dog’s name is?

The toughest part about any good habit — including practicing the piano – is that it you have to plow through an initial period of feeling awkward. Just take it step by step and you’ll be fine. If it’s any consolation, remember that bad habits all contain that same initial awkwardness.  If you don’t believe it, ask any cigarette smoker, how did that first cigarette taste?  Answer: Eccchh!

Someone famous once said, “Hey, five years from now, you’re going to be five years older, whether you learn anything new or not!”  S/he was right!  I used to play jazz with a very successful, 50-something local dentist who, all of a sudden, decided he wanted to learn the string bass.  He bought a bass, took some lessons, practiced and started showing up at local jam sessions. Two years later, he showed up on my bandstand, ready to play.

Survival, Then and Now

When we’re young, pursuits are connected to big dreams and the possibilities seem unlimited. Sometimes we can be consumed by ecstasy or despair.By the time we’re grown up, at least one of those dreams has fallen short, we’ve lost direction and maybe lost people along the way. We lose track of favorite possessions.

As grown-ups when we decide to finally learn the piano – or return to it —  we do not necessarily expect to become a rock star, a classical virtuoso, or even the best on the block – but we have made up our minds to learn anyway.  As youngsters, the ugly discrepancy between music and the music business can make us never want to go near an instrument again. However, as grown-ups, we already went through all of that when we learned about not getting into medical school, not qualifying for special armed forces training, or not growing tall enough to play professional basketball. Maybe we had to move back home from Major Market, International, to take care of aging parents. Maybe money for college suddenly ran dry when 50-something Dad’s small employer sold out to some nasty corporation that kicked him to the curb.

So now, when we decide it’s piano time, the illusions are gone, but the journey ahead still holds plenty of promise.

Just in a different direction(s).

Regret

Regret is primarily a grown-up issue because it requires a lapse of time between a crossroads and a mile marker further down that road. Taking that space center summer internship instead of going home to help out in Dad’s hardware store certainly would have opened different doors. Ditto, declining to take a semester off to cultivate your new rock band, only to get fired by the club owner because his customers wanted to hear their favorites instead of your “boss, hit-bound” original material.

Focus

Can we be brutally honest after all these years? Almost nobody who ever went to school as a young person ever went with the primary objective of assimilating academic information or “learning” anything other than just how to grow up and eventually navigate some vague future life.

It’s no wonder that we forget so much of what we “learned” in school from all those boring lectures, crammed texts, knee-jerk exams interspersed with sports, performing arts, hobbies, romantic urges and other episodes of mischief .

It’s different when you are a grown up.  Suddenly, you have this material you want to learn, a finite window of time in which to learn it – and a surprising new ability to hunker down, concentrate on what you need to do, and get it done in record time that would have astounded any of your “younger selves.”

In Grown Up World, you start with the one lesson various guitar players taught us all – namely, that 15 minutes practicing with a metronome equals an hour practicing without.  You move on to learn that eight measures worth of music often equals a sentence of spoken language. If the music is too complex to perform with the hands together, practice the hands separately.

Conclusion

As a grown up starting out on – or returning to – the piano, you face challenges you were spared as a youngster.  At the same time, you come armed with resources that were never available to you until right now.

Do the math – learning piano as an adult is easier.

At Piano Motivator, we wish you the best success – and don’t forget to enjoy the journey!

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