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How proficient could I become at playing the piano if I start at 21?

I have no experience whatsoever in the formal study of music, and I'm 21 years old.

However, I have always been fascinated by classical pieces, and the piano seems a popular, educational and recommended instrument for beginners.

I believe the piano's hypnotic quality is what instills adult beginners to try to pick it up, but after watching a few videos of pianists I would consider "really good," who can play the instrument well enough to release its hypnotic quality, I must say I'm very intimidated.

I have no illusions of becoming as good as a concert pianist at this age, but I would at least like to eventually be able to play complex pieces like Pictures at an Exhibition Part 1 (Mussorgsky), Liszt, or even Mozart's Rondo Alla Turca. I regret not manipulating the time and cognitive ease of childhood. I guess I am fantasising about becoming good enough to amaze by playing these pieces confidently, but more like amaze a group of people at a private party, not perform in an orchestra or do a recital at a five star establishment. I'm not so silly. :0)

Could I reach this level in say, 10 years, the level of being as good as you can get at the piano as an adult hobbyist, if you didn't start as a child and then study at a conservatory and practise 4-8-12 hours a day? I don't intend to practise over 2 hours a day, except on the few days I'll be very free.

So basically, is this realistic, should I bother? Or should I leave it to the specialists and lifelong devotees who do this instrument justice? I believe people should do what they can be quite good at, and I have other interests as well.

I would be directing this question to teachers, lecturers, or anyone who's been playing since the encouraged age (before 13, say). Thanks.

14 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    You'll make a perfect musician because you're already doubting yourself.

    Haha, kidding. But seriously, the person who said "believe and you can do anything" (paraphrase) was the best piece of advice ever received is probably not lying. As cliche and sappy as it sounds, it's VERY easy to get down on yourself. As you progress in your studies, you may find that any progress you make is not easy to see, and any performances you make (whether they are for others or for yourself) may not be "good enough" for you.

    I do not recommend studying an instrument too intensively if you are already considering the notions of doing an instrument justice or the like. You are being WAY too hard on yourself. While the piano (and any instrument, really) is great, it's just a piano. You are not going to break it, or defile other sounds that come from it by laying beginner hands on it. The piano doesn't care whether you're playing Liszt or Mary Had a Little Lamb. It has no ears and can not judge, and if you have not played before, you should not be so quick to judge yourself. I've seen musicians attempt suicide because they were "undeserving" or "not good enough" after many years of study. They could never play again. So take to heart that advice: "Believe, and you can do anything," and never forget it.

    Learning the piano at 21? I have this idea that adults are only less good at learning new stuff because they think they are, and they have other things that are more important (like work, family, college, etc). Just practice. You don't necessarily need private lessons, but finding a mentor, or someone who knows how to play might be a good idea to start out -- at least for direction as to what you should study. Otherwise, just get some books. There's nothing that can't be picked up on your own.

    Source(s): Took piano lessons from age 7-17 (age 20 now), self-taught on clarinet, oboe, saxophone, and the brass family of instruments, and studied jazz saxophone in music school for a couple years.
  • 1 decade ago

    I don't think you'd ever be a complete Mozart, but there's no reason you couldn't get up to a pretty good level. I'm a bit hypocritical here - I was forced by my parents to start playing the piano at 5 - but I don't think it should be a problem for you. For the first few years a child is taught an instrument, they learn very, very little. It's basically, learn to read sheet music (if you learn to do that easily, then everything else will follow on) and basic pieces - by which I mean "Mary Had A Little Lamb" again and again, with one hand. It's mostly because of the attention span of young children. Adult players learn to do those things within the space of a month at most.

    So I understand how you're worried that an adult's brain can't adapt to learning the basics because it's too "hard-wired" otherwise, but I don't think that's a problem. I started the guitar - which is probably harder than the piano, if only just - when I was in my late teens, and that's been fine for me. So I don't think age is that much of a problem.

    10 years is a long time - I think you'll find you progress pretty quickly if you put your mind to it. 5 years from now, with a good teacher, you could be brilliant if you really want to be. Heck, give it a devoted 3 years and you could go places! Never think it's out of your reach. The piano is without a doubt a great instrument to start off playing music on - and especially for composing pieces if you ever get around to it. And if it helps, I've never practiced for more than an hour in a single day. Never one of these "4 hours every DAY" things with me. And I like to think I'm fairly proficient on the instrument.

    Good luck! Enjoy the piano - it's really fun, and I hope you enjoy it!

  • Anonymous
    4 years ago


    Source(s): Get Better Playing Piano
  • Anonymous
    4 years ago


    Source(s): How Hypnosis Works
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  • Anonymous
    5 years ago

    Forget this age bit that if you start early, you will become a top notch musician and all that stuff. WHat if the kid has no ear , no sense of timing or improvisation. You mean to tell me that he will become proficient. No WAY. Period. Nada If you love the instrument, sit down and learn it. I started playing at 19 yrs old and became more than proficient. Have to admit that I had a passion for music and practiced 15 hours every day. I learnt fast and I wanted more and more. Eventually I bought books, learnt to read, write etc.. arrangement, composing and ended at Berklee College. So you are 20 and starting a little late. Who cares. I know many your age who are amazing musician and started late. You just make up by practicing more and covering the most you can. You'll catch up. don't be afraid to listen to music and trying to find out chords and / or playing notes over the music. This way, you will develop a good ear for music. This is called Ear Training and very important for timing, finding pitch etc.. Enjoy:)

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I started playing around 10 and I took private lessons. You would need to do the same in my opinion. A private lesson teacher is necessary to get down the basic techniques (hand position, posture, etc.) and helpful critique would help you even further. Basically, you've heard that anything you do in life starts with a good foundation (a good family, environment) and playing an instrument is no different. With a good foundation, whether it be you playing in a concert recital or a private party, you could feel at ease knowing that you have proper techniques.

    Also, realize that you will not start out playing pieces from Mussorgsky, Liszt, or Mozart. You'd go through several practice books (whether it be one of those colored books or Czerny) and books simply practicing scales up and down. It may be tedious but it makes your hands more flexible and those are essentials before playing anything. My private lesson teacher used to not give me any songs to play even after 2-3 years in and I can see why.

    With proper training, you can definitely master that in 10 years and maybe even cut that time in half if you're determined. Playing 1-2 hours a day should be enough. Playing an instrument is a fulfilling experience and it brings you another dimension to your life so yea, go for it.

    I apologize if my grammar/syntax is fragmented. It's 5:40AM and I'm about to head on to bed. xD

    Source(s): Played for 9 years.
  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I think you should give it a go! It will be a bit harder starting at the older age and you will get frustrated with it, but it is totally achievable. It really depends on how much time you want to put into it. If you're really determined and practice quite a bit I'm sure you'll be able to play those pieces you mentioned. Just start at the beginning, and don't rush it (get the technique right from the very beginning!). I'm sure you're family and friends would be impressed if you played something like one of Bach's Minuets (remember non-musicians are very easily impressed).

    Being able to play the piano is such a fantastic skill. I really hope you have a go at it!

    Good Luck!

    Source(s): Music teacher/ pianist
  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    How much do you want to play? It's your call. You can do anything you want to if you want to enough. It sounds like it's exactly the right time for you to start learning - because you are making a conscious choice to do it. My father was a singer and learnt to play the piano when he was about 50-ish. We had a senior lady here a few years ago who passed 8th grade singing with honours in an Australian Music Examinations Board exam. I vaguely remember that she was 92, but she was defintiely well past 80.

    Just make sure you invest in a nice piano (or high quality keyboard to start with). The investment pays off when you have an instrument with a good tone and action that you can appreciate. Old, worn out pianos and cheap keyboards are not music to your ears and you won't enjoy playing on one.

    And keep on aiming high. That gives you a solid goal to work towards. Go for it!!! I will be positively green with envy - being "blessed" with short fingers that won't stretch an octave.

    Source(s): Singer, teacher in Adult education
  • 5 years ago

    One of the most diverse muscles in our bodies is the tongue. This amazing tool not only helps you talk, but also helps you properly sing. When you sing, it is important that your tongue rest in specific areas as certain notes or scales are attempted. Learn here how to sing

    The tip of the tongue is the easiest to control, but is not what is used the most in singing. When you sing, the tip of your tongue should be lightly pressed against the back of the lower teeth. This will ensure that it doesn't get in the way, or hinder the middle, sides, or back of the tongue when attempting certain notes. The back of the tongue, probably one of the hardest areas to control, should be the section that is relaxed. Once you get used to keeping the tip of your tongue lightly pressed against the back of your teeth, this should be easier to do. You can even put the tip a little lower if you feel it's in the way or becomes irritated. So, the back of the tongue should be relaxed, yet ready for use. You should be able to control it a little bit at this point. As you practice singing a little more, try to notice what the back and middle section of your tongue are doing. On lower tones or notes, the tongue will lie flat. On higher tones, the contrary. When it comes to lower tones, the tongue doesn't have as much work to do because the lower sound that is emitted originates in the chest cavity and is formed through the throat. With higher tones, however, the higher the tone, the more 'active' this back section of the tongue must be. Now that the tongue has been covered in some detail, it should be noted that singing is difficult on the muscles and surrounding cavities and ligaments. However, difficult does not mean painful. If in hopes of reaching a certain tone or trying to hold a sound, you thereby cause stress to your neck or throat muscles, you are not going to last long. Controlling these muscles, as steadily as possible, and working them to a certain point each day, without strain, is one of the most important factors when it comes to practicing and learning how to sing. Remember, you should never feel pain nor strain.

  • 1 decade ago

    I am a piano teacher who began taking lessons at the age of 7. I played Rondo Alla Turca in high school. It probably took me ten years to get there, but adults progress at a faster rate than children if they are practicing.

    If you want to do it, you should make every effort. I once met a pianist who played impressive classical music and told me she had started playing as an adult. She did spend a lot of time practicing, but she had been learning piano for fewer than ten years and the music she played was more advanced than Ronda All Turca.

    I think that if you commit to practicing 30 minutes a day and build up the amount of practice time as the music becomes more difficult, you could be ready to play Rondo Alla Turca in as early as five years. The key is consistent practice. Practice more when you can, but practice every day if possible.

    Another thing to consider is that there are simplified versions of famous classical pieces. You may want to play some of these for you own enjoyment while you are developing your skill. They are not as impressive as the originals and you should still keep working until you can play the originals. Most adult piano methods include some of these simplified arrangements in the second level, which most people would play during their second year of lessons.

    I believe your desire to play will compel you to practice as much as you need to and you will reach your goal.

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