What do you need to learn to play piano?
- a piano
- lots of patience
Why do I need a piano?
It’s important to spend as much time in personal piano practice each day as you do in your weekly lesson. That’s the best way to get the real value out of piano lessons. Put simply, personal practice is repeating what you have learned in a lesson – and repetition is the key to progress. Keep it fun, but just get your hands on the piano as often as you can!
What kind of piano should I get?
It’s just about possible to make a start on a basic electronic keyboard, so it might be worth borrowing one from a friend or finding an old one from the attic, and that will let you see whether you want to invest time, effort and money in learning piano. Very soon though, you’ll need a proper instrument to practice on, so it’s not worth buying an electronic keyboard if you want to learn piano.
If you’re lucky, you might be able to find a good second-hand upright piano, but it’s unlikely you will be able to find a good one for less than £2000. You’d probably want to make sure that the instrument you’re buying didn’t need renovation and the best person to help you make that decision would be a reputable piano technician. And then there’s the cost of moving the piano from its previous owners to your own home. It’s been said that you can expect a piano to last a life-time, so on balance, it might not be worth forking out for an old instrument. However, for roughly the same price as a decent second hand piano, you could buy a new piano. If you want to go down that path, I’d recommend Iain Ovenstone of East Neuk Pianos. As a skilled piano technician, he will also be able to tune your piano for you, about twice a year.
Alternatively, you might think about buying a digital piano. These can be delivered to your home via one of the courier companies, and there is no outlay for regular maintenance. If you choose to go down that path you need to look for an instrument that has 88 weighted keys. A good basic example of an instrument like that is the Casio AP-250 Celviano Digital Piano, which currently retails at around £500. A top-of-the-range Kawai, Roland or Yamaha digital piano would retail about the same price as an acoustic piano. The sales teams at, for example, Kenny’s Music in Dundee would be able to advise you. It’s probably better to go to one of the music shops and try out an instrument, or at least have someone demonstrate it for you, rather than just buy something online (there are some traps for the uninitiated there too). Then, if you can expect an acoustic piano to last a life-time, a good analogy for an electronic instrument is how long would you expect a laptop to last?
Elsewhere in the world of music education they say that it takes seven years to make a piper. Assuming a piano student was aiming to sit one practical grade exam every year, it would take almost a decade to go from beginner though to the final grade; graded music exams go from Prep Test or Initial Grade, then Grade 1 up to Grade 8. Even after a music student has passed a Grade 8 exam, there is still a lot to learn (in terms of formal education, that might mean another four years as an undergraduate at music college, and still another year on a post-graduate performance course).
Even though the most basic skills take time and patience to get right, students have the chance to make beautiful music from the outset. And it’s the sheer pleasure of creating beautiful music that makes all the detailed practice rewarding.