Me and My Piano

Thoughts on learning piano as an adult

The piano is a beautiful instrument, those 88 keys are the cheat codes to every frequency of musical happiness. Every beautiful auditory pleasure imaginable. A good pianist can decode the language of Claude Debussy whilst still marvelling at the sheer complexity of understanding their own approach to playing the piano.

Music is the silence between the notes. - Claude Debussy

The beauty of the instrument is just so utterly appealing, but it’s only when you remove the front and gaze into the inner beauty of the complexity required to create music, its a also a perfect analogy for love and understanding.

Absolute Filth.

There’s something about perfume, pheromones and the smell of love, that parallels with the fragrance of music, permeating through ordinary life to create another level of connection. For this budding piano student and hopeless romantic, only piano can do this.

Its just so fucking difficult tho.

Anyway here’s how I got into piano.

When lockdown was announced in March 2020, I did what most people who don’t fetishise Sourdough (AKA Sourdon’t) do, I decided to learn something. For me, its a no brainer. I have alway wanted to learn piano. But I never got the opportunity.

Step 1 — Get a keyboard

So I bought a decent keyboard, a Roland FP-10. It’s important to get a keyboard with weighted keys, hammer action, escapement, bluetooth connectivity and most importantly, one that feels more like an *actual* piano.

The Roland FP–10 really is the best keyboard you can buy for the money

Step 2 — Get a method book

First of all, don’t stick anything on the keyboard, no note names, nothing.

DO NOT DO THIS!! Its counter-intuitive and so bad.

Don’t download any apps. Sure, there are apps such as Simply Piano and all kinds of content available on YouTube. You need to start with a decent method book. Go buy this book. Alfreds Adult All-in-one. Its brilliant.

This is the bible for Adult Piano learning. The perfect starting point.

Start to learn the note names. Start with middle C. Well done you have just cut out a bunch of really bad habits and saved a bunch of time, also if you get a proper teacher you wont have to unlearn all this crap.

Step 3 — Understand how to learn ‘music’.

Anyone can brute-force teach themselves to play a piece of music. Thats easy. Or learn to play by ear, thats a good skill right? Or follow a YouTube tutorial, download apps such as Simply Piano, or watch YouTube videos (eurgh), Synthesia (please don’t).

This is like learning how to speak lots of Japanese words, but still being unable to hold a conversation. To communicate fluently, you need to be able to read, write and converse. Same is true with music

Learning to read music, along with a competent understanding of music theory, takes years. This is the long way round, but absolutely the best way.

Learning piano as an adult is different to learning as child. There’s the practical (playing) and the theory stuff.

Children can pick up the muscle memory (playing) really quickly, yet struggle learning the ‘stuff’ (music theory).

Adults are the opposite. And that’s why most of them don’t stick to it. The key is trying to make it enjoyable, even when you sound awful.

Also getting your technique right, is so much better than trying to ‘unlearn’ bad habits. And with piano, there are hundreds.

Learning to play piano properly takes 10 years. You can’t rush this, and the more corners you cut, the longer it takes. Any time is a good time to start.

Step 4–Play *every* day (Play, sleep, repeat)

Its really important to play every day, it doesn’t matter how little, just make sure you do *something* every day. Let me explain:

Here’s how your brain works:

Your brain processes new information slowly, overnight.

You learn stuff, this is loaded into the brain and converted into muscle memory.

You sleep

You wake up and get a little bit better at it

So doing even 10 minutes of practice, every day, is better than cramming an hour, one day a week.

Step 5: Buy an *actual* piano

Oh my days. After a year or so I realised I had never played an *actual* piano.

So I went to a place that sells pianos, and had a tinkle. My goodness. Look if you are serious about piano, then buy a piano. Its just another level. Its acoustic, authentic and loud. But so rewarding.

My piano. Its magical. It’s a 1992 Yamaha U10A. Special edition. Handmade in Japan.

Wrap up

Well I hope this was useful, I still struggle every day trying to fulfill this ambition of mine to be able to learn music theory and play classical piano at a decent level. I take it one day at a time.

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Mat Venn

Designer. Dad. Cyclist. Runner. Flâneur. Autodidact. Piano student. Writer of intelligent balderdash. Fondue enthusiast. Hopeless romantic