How long does it take to learn piano?
Updated: Jun 23, 2021
A very common question that comes up from adult piano students, is how long does it take to learn piano. We define "Play the Piano" as the same as "Piano proficiency", which we will define later in the article. But if you really want to burn up the piano, how long does it take to get to that point in your piano lessons?
The shortest answer to how long does it take to learn piano is, "it depends". But a breakdown of those factors are as follows:
1. If you're an adult practicing at least 30 min a day, it should take about a year before you're able to be proficient enough to take your development on your own.
2. If your child is about 12 years or older practicing about 30 min a day, it should take 2 - 3 years until you're proficient enough to learn on your own.
3. If your child is younger than 7 and practices about 30 min a day, it will take approximately 4 - 5 years before the student is proficient enough to take learning on their own.
The most important factor in reducing the amount of time to reach proficiency is practice of proper technique and performance pieces. So, the definition of piano proficiency is different depending on your goals. But for ease, we will define what it means to be proficient on the piano.
Piano Proficiency - What you need to learn to "play the piano":
1. Play all 12 major and minor scales.
Each scale should be able to be played 2 octaves with the 8th notes being played at 120 BPM, which means there are two notes played per beat.
2. Have an understanding of chords and keys...AKA Music Theory.
A proficient pianist understands how to read music notation, and how to read all the key signatures, time signatures, dynamics, expression marks and understand chord progressions. This means that the student has understood and completed music theory knowledge at least up to a level demonstrated in Keith Snell, Fundamental Piano Theory, Level 6.
3. Perform repertoire up to a Late Intermediate level.
A proficient pianist is able to perform music up to a late intermediate level, which is music like the first movement of the original form of Moonlight Sonata or Solfeggio by CPE Bach. Of course, the list of music that would belong on this list is endless. A good example of the list of songs that would qualify a Late Intermediate repertoire can usually be found with a quick Google search.
This list is not exhaustive, but if a student can do all 3 of these criteria, they're usually at a place where they can stop regular piano lessons and take their learning and further growth on their own. This does not mean that they should stop, only that they should be able to read and understand music enough to where they will be able to continue their development on their own.
In conclusion, we did not mention specifics for students who decide to go the direction of Jazz music proficiency. However, the above criteria is what most piano teachers are working towards. There is much more knowledge to gain after a student would reach this level that a piano teacher can show a student: chord charts, playing by ear, composition, advanced repertoire, secondary dominants, chord replacement, etc. So, remember once you reach a level of proficient understanding, there is a lot to follow.