Have you ever wondered how long it takes to learn the piano? If so, you’re not alone! The question gets asked frequently, especially by adult students. We’re here to help give you an answer.

Learning the piano

“The quick-fix, anti-mastery mentality touches almost everything in our lives.” – George Leonard

A piano teacher who focuses on adult students may commonly hear the question, how long does it take to learn to play the piano?

Indeed, what adult music student has never asked this? After all, we all have limited time and energy. And this becomes even more obvious with every passing year. While the process of learning to play the piano, guitar or another instrument may be enjoyable, actually being able to play seems like a much more desirable condition!

Yet how many children would ask, “how long does it take to learn…”? Learning is something that children do naturally. Learning is like a job description for a child! Unless they experience toxic learning environments, children remain innately predisposed to learning. They aren’t too focused (if at all) on the outcome. They don’t wonder how long it will take to learn their ABCs or multiplication tables. They’re living in the moment, enjoying the process rather than being focused on the end result (“three months from now I’ll know my ABCs!”).

Another influence on our predisposition towards learning as adults is that we live in an “instant results” culture. It’s normal to ask how long it will take to do or learn something. If you want to learn a new skill – a musical instrument, a foreign language, a sport – there is always someone promising quicker results.

Yet as any high-performing musician or music teacher will tell you, it takes time –typically measured in years – to learn to play piano or another instrument well.

That said, what does “play well” actually mean? The words suggest an end result – proficiency or mastery – as if there is a static, unchanging condition to achieve. But no matter how good you get, you can (and will) always get better, as long as you continue playing and practicing.

And no matter how good you get, there will always be someone who can do something you can’t. This is true for everyone, including world-class musicians. Vladimir Horowitz couldn’t improvise like Oscar Peterson. Beethoven couldn’t compose like Mozart. It’s not useful to compare yourself to others, nor is it particularly constructive to negatively compare your current ability to your anticipated future ability.

One suggestion? Forget about instant results and stay in the moment, where you can enjoy your playing. After all, music itself is only ever enjoyed in the present moment. So why not keep your attention on your present-moment skills too, and be grateful for what you can do?

How long does it take to learn to play a musical instrument? Your whole life. And only this moment.

No matter your skill level, Musicnotes has the sheet music to help you along your musical journey! From Beginner Notes, to Easy Piano, to pieces for all skill levels, we’ve got an extensive catalog of piano sheet music ready for you to learn and enjoy.


This post was written by Doug Hanvey, who brings more than a decade of teaching experience, professional classical and jazz piano study, hundreds of self-composed pieces, and a master’s degree in adult education. Visit his website The Creative Keyboardist for powerful creativity tips and lessons for adult piano students.


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