BY JAMIE CARTWRIGHT
Quarantine has given many of us the space to explore new creative outlets. If you’ve always wanted to learn a new skill or adopt a new hobby, now is the time. If you’ve ever wished you had learned piano when you were younger, John Perry explains that it is never too late. Millions of adults have signed up for virtual piano lessons over the past year, including former students who have resumed their studies. Music-making in general, and piano playing in particular, is a terrific way to use your time productively, develop artistic skills, and have some fun. As an avid player, he is here to outline the value of piano lessons for adults, and how you can get started today.
Author John Perry has always loved piano: “I last took piano lessons as a college student. As much as I loved it, once I started my career and had a family, I had no time to practice. Piano gradually moved to the back burner and, finally, completely off the stove.” But now, with his kids grown and a new flexible freelance career, John has returned to the piano. When the pandemic began, John Perry was convinced that there was no time like the present to return to his lessons.
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Finding an Instructor
In our digitally connected world, finding a piano teacher is easier than ever. John Perry explains that local music groups, schools, churches, and teacher associations all have websites that can point you in the right direction (there is also the old-fashioned practice of asking around!). John Perry found his teacher through a referral from a friend of a friend. There are plenty of online teaching programs as well, allowing you to learn remotely or through simple YouTube videos. However, in his experience, John Perry believes that both teaching and learning are more effective and enjoyable in person.
When you find a prospective teacher, John Perry suggests a trial period of a month to make sure you are musically and personally compatible. Most private students are children, so most teachers love having an adult to teach. John Perry has had nothing but positive experiences with his teacher: “My new teacher, Sarah, is excellent. It’s amazing how much she reminds me of my first teacher, Mrs. Hayman, when I was in elementary school. They’re both patients, capable, and have answers for every question I ask.”
Practice Makes Perfect
One of the best advantages of piano lessons as an adult is that you’re free to practice as much or as little as you like — unlike the old days when your parents made you sit there! Chances are you’ll love playing for a few minutes every day. As with any other skill, it is important to practice regularly even if it’s only for fifteen minutes a day. Perry states that his goal is fifteen minutes five days a week, though most weeks he goes longer because he is enjoying it so much.
Buying a Piano
Of course, taking piano lessons requires — a piano. If you have one already, great. If not, consider asking around to see if anyone you know may have one you can borrow. Another possible solution is to practice at someone’s home who has a piano—or at a nearby school or church. In addition, a lot of music stores rent pianos. Most of them will allow you to apply rental payments to the purchase price if you decide to buy later.
If you want to buy an instrument, the easiest and safest way is to visit your local piano stores, play on the used pianos they have in stock, and buy the one you like best. Of course, there’s also the new piano option, which gives you a pristine, factory-fresh model. However, John Perry explains: “My advice, particularly for beginners, is to get a used piano in good condition. A well-maintained instrument that has never been wet or otherwise damaged is practically as good as a new one.” It is important to have a piano technician check it out for you first. It will cost you to have them take a look, but their expertise can save you from paying too much or buying an instrument that will break down.
If you don’t have the money or space for a piano, there is the electronic keyboard option. But as John Perry points out, the physical, tactile experience is completely different between the two and pianos can respond to a far wider range of touch and expression than any electronic substitute. Though pianos do take up room, an upright needs no more floor space than a bedroom dresser. If you just want to mess around or play in a garage band, a keyboard is fine. If you want to play the piano, you need a piano.
John Perry claims that his elementary school teacher would applaud his recent progress: “I’ve been at it almost a year now and enjoy playing more than ever. My chops are slowly coming back. Though I still have plenty of catching up to do, I’ve already recovered some of the basics. At least I look the part of a serious pianist: back straight, shoulders firm, arms relaxed, fingers curled naturally as if they were resting in my lap. Mrs. Hayman would be proud.”
(Disclaimer: The article is sponsored, and hence promotes some commercial links.)