When are you too old to start learning the piano? How difficult is it? I am not sure that I will be able to play because I don’t have the dexterity in my fingers that I used to. Will it be bad for my arthritis? My granddaughter has played for years; I am afraid that I will never be that good. I can’t read music, but want to learn. These are the questions that older beginning students face when they think about learning the piano. Seniors don’t stress! We have the answers you’ve been looking for. We’ve neatly packaged it for you in five easy to understand categories.
- Overcoming Fear
- Life Experiences
- Setting Goals
- Practice Sessions
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Is it too late to learn piano? It’s never too late! As long you are healthy and have a desire to learn, then anything is possible. There are many benefits to not only learning an instrument, but playing an instrument as exciting and wonderful as the piano will give new meaning to your life. Learning the piano can also drastically reduce stress in your life. Though many seniors have started their retirement into their 50s and 60s, there are many other stresses in daily life besides work.
Studies have shown that playing the piano can reduce the hormone cortisol, which is responsible for hypertension and impaired cognitive function. What is cognitive function? Memory, the ability to access new information, speech, and reading comprehension are all part of it. It is your ability to think and respond. When students read music, they are decoding written directions that tell him/her to play a specific note, for a specific time frame, within a specific rhythm. This must be done instantaneously.
This is really incredible information since we know that when people age, their cognitive function decreases not increases. Playing piano might also be a way to stave off dementia and has proven to release dopamine in the same reward areas of the brain that respond to food, sex, and drugs.
Learning the piano can often led to new friendships. Whether it’s meeting new people at your local music store or jamming with neighbors at your church or at the block party, music brings people together. Find out what community music there are in your town. Go to the local community college. Sign up for the Jazz Band. I love meeting new students (especially adult learners and am truly amazed when I see a new face who is ready to step into the unknown. Yes, it can be scary. Yes, it can be exciting!
It’s also encouraging for them too because they know that I am there to help them every step of the way. Adult students shouldn’t be afraid to reach out to their teacher during non-studio hours. Many teachers are happy to get a text or email about a fingering or answer a question that a student might have during the week. In fact, they would be elated that you were at home practicing. Friendships don’t just have to be face to face.
In the age of digital media, seek out a Facebook group that is just Beginning Piano Students. Use Twitter to follow your favorite piano enthusiasts, builders, composers, and performers. Follow your piano favs on YouTube and Instagram.
This new adventure can also increase feelings of self-worth. Don’t focus on the negatives. What if it’s too difficult? What if I fail? What if I never improve? You might not improve. Remember, attitude is everything. You might also have a life changing experience. Change your thinking to: I get to challenge myself today on piano. Learning a new piece give you a sense of accomplishment. It might even get you out of your comfort zone. Play for your kids and grandkids. Play for your dog. Play for your cat. Play at your local senior center or assisted living.
This is not a race. I repeat. This is not a race. Learning the piano is about the journey, not whether or not learn all of Hanon’s 60 exercises. What if I don’t progress fast enough? There are no time constraints here. Time is actually on your side, (yes it is) compared to the under 50 crowd who has to go to work every day. Even if you are still working, scratch out some time for yourself. Don’t put all of your practice sessions on one or two days. Practice in small increments. You will see the most progress when you practice 10 minutes a day for 6 days rather than 30 minutes on Tuesday and 30 minutes on Sunday.
Students in their 50s and 60s often worry about the effects of arthritis and how decreased mobility can be a detriment to their playing. This is a realistic fear. However, a good warm up and routine always help you stay in top piano playing shape. Most doctors will say that you can still play even you have slight pain. Play for shorter periods of time. Rest and come back to the keyboard when you are feeling better. If you have serious concerns, consult your medical professional. He or she may recommend taking a pain reliever or topical cream to ease your symptoms.
If it’s one thing you have, its life experience. This is a real benefit for the 50 and older student. Students in their 50s and 60s are can better relate to music and form an understanding of complex concepts. Let’s face it, you’ve heard Erik Satie’s “Gymnopedie 1” a million times and know every word on Elton John’s Greatest Hits. This is important because you’ve already developed into a critical thinker when it comes to music.
You know what you like and what you don’t like and more importantly, you can articulate why you feel this way. You can break down the parts of the music and see the whole pcture at the same time. It is possible that you will be better able to perform your favorite pieces with minimal errors because of this. It is because of these experiences, or non-experiences (when it comes to music) that you will be highly motivated.
Maybe you never got to play piano as kid because your parents couldn’t afford one. Now is your chance. You are older and now have the discipline to practice.
It’s easy to start playing the piano, but doing so without setting goals is setting yourself up for failure. You need to determine whether or not your will be using a teacher or teaching yourself online. Having a teacher to go to is always a plus, especially for the senior student who really thrives on that one to one connection.
You might consider beginner piano lessons for adults. Teachers can set you up with not only the proper technique, but can help you choose the best method book and provide support and encouragement throughout your journey. Piano teachers are also best suited to music theory and note reading. While not impossible, it is a little more difficult to teach yourself basic notation and reading from the get go.
However, we all lead very busy lives and your current situation or area where you live might not be best suited for a one on one lesson. You might not be able to drive the 30-45 minutes to the teacher’s studio or music store. You might have to watch the grandkids or even have a part time job that keeps you from connecting with an instructor.
This is where online lessons come in. Decide if you going to use an interactive music service such as Flowkey or Playground sessions or just use YouTube as your guide. Remember, interactive music services not always free and are not ideal for students who primarily play on acoustic pianos. Many online lessons require additional hardware, software, and a MIDI keyboard. In addition, be sure to check out Amazon for reviews on method books and musical styles. Don’t be afraid to download free music and resources from the internet. Many of the resources piano teachers get are online or were shared by another teacher.
What do you want to learn? How are you going to get there? Try setting up SMART goals. These goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time Bound. If you have experience in education or business, this is nothing new to you. How does this apply to my playing? You can’t just state that you want to play Chopin’s Prelude in e minor.
You must apply all aspects to the goal. It is better to say, “Over the next two weeks, I want to play measures 1-8 in Chopin’s Prelude in e minor with proper articulation and legato phrasing.” SMART goals work because you know exactly what is expected of you and the time frame. The next step is to figure out how you are going to get there.
Now that you have set up your SMART goals and have figured out your weekly practice schedule, It’s time to start thinking about what you are going to practice. Keep your sessions short. That means 20-30 minutes. If you feel that it’s not enough or you are not feeling fatigued, go ahead and add another 10-20 to your schedule later that same day.
Why are the sessions so short? Beginners should not spend an extended amount of time at the keyboard. You will need time to recover and still have fun playing. It’s not fun if you are sore and experiencing discomfort.
Begin each session with stretching and basic warm up. Practice your 5 finger scales in different keys. Now it’s time to start working on your piece or song. I recommend that you work from the end of the song to the beginning. Students always know the beginning best. Work on the areas that are giving you the most trouble. Circle the problem sections and focus on tricky rhythms and fingerings. If you are working on specific pop song, practice your chords separate from the melody. Work on fingerings as you move from one chord to the next.
What’s Happens Next?
In the end, it all depends on what you want to do. The best advice is not to do this by yourself. Share your love for the piano with your spouse and family. Get together with other musicians and pianists. By all means, they don’t all have to be seniors.
Get a teacher (even if it’s for only a few lessons). Play in church (even if it’s one song a week). Let your doctor know about your new adventure. Don’t give into your fears. You are doing this because you want to. You want to make it one of the best experiences in your life.
If you’re still interested in learning how to play piano or keyboard, get your copy of Piano for All today, which features 10 eBooks, 200 video piano lessons and 500 audio piano lessons!
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