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Adult learners

Updated: Jan 30, 2019

Advice to adult piano students

What's different in an adult learner?

It's common knowledge that the best age to start learning an instrument is as early as possible. This is true because children learn more quickly than adults and also their muscles are easier to train in terms of piano technique. Anyway, these are not the only differences between adults' and children's learning processes.

The other differences are related to:

  • Experience

  • Reasons and motivation for learning

  • Dependence

  • Focus on learning

In simple words, adults

  • have a wealth of experience to draw on

  • want to be responsible for the direction of their learning and their motivation is intrinsic

  • aspire to become independent in their learning process

  • learn by focussing on tasks

These characteristics are not negative nor positive. They are only facts that teacher and student have to consider to work better and more effectively.

An adult piano beginner

The adult learner's peculiarities can be actually extremely positive if both teacher and student plan their musical journey with awareness. As a teacher, I use different teaching methods and I plan my lessons on the basis of the students' individuality. Teaching adults has been very rewarding because their satisfaction in reaching results has always been very contagious.

The following suggestions come from my experience with adult learners over years. They are as simple as important.


Playing the piano requires many skills, some of which involve also physical dexterity. Training adults' muscles is a very difficult and slow process, so technical difficulties at the piano will be absolutely ordinary and it should not demoralize you. Since most of the issues depend on unnecessary tensions in our shoulders, neck and arms, spend a little time every day to do technical exercises that help you relax. Become aware of your body to control it better while you play.

Take your time

Adults understand difficult musical concepts and theory very quickly. For this reason they might get frustrated when, in order to reach a clear musical goal, they need to slow down and break the process in little steps. This is actually what every musician does because being in control of every aspect of your playing requires a multitasking ability that you can reach only step by step. So, take your time and focus on one little goal at a time to reach perfection and confidence.


To boost your piano skills you need to practise every day. Your practice session is that moment of the day in which you leave everything else out to dedicate yourself to music. Plan your schedule so that you can enjoy a little lonely time with your piano undisturbed. It doesn't have to be a full hour, but just a focussed session to achieve at least one goal (e.g. improving a particular passage, working on the expression of a specific melody etc.). If the time you spend on it has your undivided attention, it will pay you off very quickly.

Follow your guide

To help your teacher guide you, you need to be trustful and unafraid to fail. Failure is part of the learning process and every time it happens you understand something useful. If a particular way to practise is not giving results, explain this to your teacher and discuss other possibilities. The experience of your teacher, as both pianist and tutor, will help you realise what to do to get over the impasse.

So, dear adults, don't be afraid to get it wrong, relax and give yourselves the possibility to enjoy something you love!


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