Piano for the Adult Skeptic: Debunking 5 Myths About Piano Playing


Learning to play piano can be an incredible experience that can bring you joy for the rest of your life. Yet sometimes our ideas about doing something can interfere with making the progress we want to make. With that in mind, let’s start by dispelling several myths about piano playing:
1. The “Chore” Myth. Sometimes people catch themselves thinking that learning piano is a chore. This is not true! This myth arises from the fact that many a child has been “forced” to play piano by their parents. As a result, the child learns to see it as a chore. But it does not have to be a chore. It can be an incredible joy.
2. The “It’s Hard” Myth. Very often, people get stopped because they mistakenly believe learning to play piano is too hard. Actually, learning to play piano is easier than many things, especially if you are motivated. Like anything else, playing piano involves learning what to do, and having the patience and dedication to practice what you have learned until you master it.
3. The “Talent” Myth. More often than not, people mistakenly believe that they need “talent” in order to try something new like learning to play piano. Do not get stuck in this trap. In and of itself, talent does not do much. Dedication and positive attitude often succeed where talent falls short. Instead of worrying about whether you have talent (you do!), I would suggest focusing on enjoying the learning process, and staying focused and committed throughout.
4. The Sight-reading Myth. Some people mistakenly assume that they need to learn to sight-read in order to play piano. This myth also arises from the conventional format of piano lessons. To the beginner, looking at sheet music can be as daunting as staring at a page of Latin text. Yet many a great pianist (especially in jazz and pop) does not read music. In fact, reading sheet music has nothing to do with the physical process of actually playing the piano (On the other hand, learning to sight-read well can be a wonderful experience, and a useful one. Do not count it out!).
5. The Time Myth. In our busy adult lives, sometimes it can be hard to justify doing something new because we believe it will take too much time. And yet, can you think of anything that is worthwhile that does NOT take time? Ask yourself this question: “What will be the cost if I do not invest this time in doing this thing that I have always wanted to do? And what will be the benefit for me when I DO?” That will help you put your time investment into perspective.

Now the truth about learning to play piano:
1. Learning to play piano can (and SHOULD!) be one of the most joyful things in life. Playing music, creative expression, and the ability to learn are among the most satisfying things to experience, and with dedication, all these things will happen.
2. Learning to play piano is simple (but not easy!). Like anything else that is worthwhile, learning to play piano is a quite a simple process once it is explained. There are many ways you can find tutorials on it. The challenge is in the follow through to do what it takes to learn it. Yet as long as your desire is big enough, you can cultivate the discipline it takes to do the work. And the results will be very satisfying.
3. The people who become expert piano players keep working at it until they get it. Plain and simple. The people who succeed at accomplishing their own personal goals do not give up! That is all there is to it. This takes belief in oneʼs self, or at least the willingness to do it anyway. Whether or not you believe you have that magic “talent” ingredient, focus on your desire and willingness to do the work to learn. Those are far more relevant factors in your success, plus they are things you have control over.
4. In order to play the piano you simply have to be able to know what to do when put your fingers down on the keyboard. That’s it. And there is no one way to learn it. Some pianists sight-read, some improvise, some play by ear, and some watch other people do it. Some pianists do all these things to learn. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is that you know where to put your fingers in order to play the notes you want to play. Yet the traditional method of learning to sight-read can and should be an enjoyable process, and it can add enormously to your understanding of music as well as ability to play new things quickly. No matter how you learn best, simply engaging in the process will help your musicianship as well as give you the joy and satisfaction of creative expression and improving your ability to learn. In fact, reading sheet music has nothing to do with the physical process of actually playing the piano (On the other hand, learning to sight-read well can be a wonderful experience, and a useful one. Do not count it out!).
5. Playing piano is like anything else: it will give back to you what you put into it. Piano skills will develop as you invest time in acquiring them. The more time you put into it, the more skill you will develop. This is true of anything. Rather than worrying about how much time it will take, perhaps a more constructive approach would be to simply set aside as much time as you can, and focus on learning what is in front of you to learn next. Take the journey one step at a time, and focus on making progress. This is how you will reach your goals.

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