Is piano hard to learn? So many people ask this question right at the start of their piano journey and are frustrated by the fact that there is no simple answer. In this guide, we’ve tried to give some context and explain to people roughly how difficult it is to learn how to play the piano.
We’ve also looked at some of the more challenging aspects, things people find difficult, and how it can be made easier.
Is piano hard to learn? Everyone’s experience is a bit different, so this is a very subjective question. However, our guide provides loads of information to enable you to make the choice on whether or not piano is for you, and whether to use our academy as a simplified method of learning quickly.
Is Piano Hard to Learn? There Are Levels to It
The reason why nobody can answer the question of “is piano hard to learn?” in a few short sentences is the fact that there are levels to it.
Someone who can play a few nursery rhymes to their kids probably won’t have found it too hard to learn that skill.
Someone who plays piano in a rock covers band might have found it fairly difficult, and undoubtedly invested more time to get to their level of ability.
Someone who is selling out concert halls and performing incredible virtuoso performances might have devoted most of their life to learning how to play the piano to a high standard, and believe me, this is very hard.
So, the lesson to take from these levels is an understanding of whether or not you want to reach a professional level or not. If you are happy to just play around on the piano, learning some of your favorite songs, but not actually reaching a performance-worthy level then your task is going to a lot more simple. If you take the approach of following a simply laid out course such as the Pianu academy, the process can be quicker and simpler. You can be playing some songs in a matter of minutes.
If, however, your ambitions are to be playing professionally and in front of hundreds or thousands of people, or even to turn piano into your career, prepare to put in the work to get there.
Is Piano Hard or Just Time-Consuming?
This is a distinction that you should definitely make when you set off on your journey to becoming a better piano player. There are actually lots of different definitions of something being “hard” to achieve.
It is not necessarily the difficulty of each piece of piano knowledge that people find the most challenging. Instead, it is likely to be the sheer persistence and time that is needed to get to a level you are happy with.
If you are just starting out when learning the piano, think of it this way; you may sit down to learn a new melody or new chords one day and find that it is not too difficult. In fact, by the end of 20 minutes or so you might be playing better than you had expected. However, when you return in a couple of days, the knowledge seems to have gone.
It is arguable that committing the knowledge to our brains is the most challenging thing here. Is piano hard to learn or does it just take a long time? There is definitely an element of both. When the knowledge falls out of your head, it is time to relearn. This repetition is vital in any form of learning, and there is a lot of literature to back it up.
In some respects, it might help to think of learning to play the piano a little bit like learning to walk. This is certainly a good analogy if you just want to learn basic piano skills like chords and simple melodies. Is piano hard? Well, was learning to walk hard? The answer for most people feels like it should be “no”. However, watch a child learning to walk and you’ll see that they’re constantly stumbling and falling.
This is one of the differentiation between piano being hard to learn and time-consuming. “Getting back on the horse” is sometimes the challenging aspects people face rather than not understanding, or lacking the intellectual capacity to play.
Things Beginners Struggle With
One of the things that makes beginners definitely feel that playing the piano is very hard is the fact that there are a lot of new terms, and even new “language” to understand.
This ties back to there being levels of playing the piano, and it helps to understand what your goals are when you are setting out to learn.
Sheet Music, Sight Reading, and Jargon
If you ask beginners what they find most difficult, these areas usually form part of their answer. If you recall learning to play music at any sort of music lesson at school, you’ll remember how tricky these aspects were to get your head around.
They’re big causes of frustration and often cause people to give up.
Sheet music, and being able to read music, is something that is a big subject of debate for many budding piano players. There are plenty of courses out there that show you how to play the piano without learning how to read sheet music.
The video below makes some really interesting points when it comes to playing the piano, and whether you need to learn how to read music. Namely, the fact that the way sheet music is written used to be the best (or even the only) way to communicate music. We didn’t have recordings and we didn’t have YouTube videos back in the 1600s! If you’re wondering “is piano hard?” now, imagine what it would have been like back then.
Nowadays, along with sheet music, we have other methods to learn and to teach. Piano is easier due to the fact that we can show each other videos, and we can follow tutorials online. We can even learn to play within our browsers if we need to.
While some people think that this makes sheet music redundant, other people say that it is still a really useful skill to have. Sight-reading means you can play a piece of music while you are reading it, just like reading the words of a book. This skill can take a long time to learn, but it is undeniably useful.
Our advice is that, though it is good to get a basic grasp of sheet music, you don’t have to fully understand it in order to start learning. People asking “is piano hard to learn?” are often of the opinion that sheet music is essential, right from the start. The truth is that it is sometimes better to dive in and learn some skills rather than learn how to read music. You can always add this skill in the future.
So, do you need to learn to read music? Once again, if you wish to become the number one pianist in the world, and play in a classical setting, then yes, it is definitely advisable to be able to read music to a decent standard. If you just want to play some pop and rock songs, it’s not essential.
Incredible jazz musician and talented pianist Jamie Cullum admitted to never reading sheet music, and not knowing how to read or write music. This is proof that if you find it too hard, you don’t necessarily need it to get a long way in music.
Jargon, and loads of new terms to learn, can be offputting for some beginners, too. It shouldn’t be. There are a lot of piano terms out there, and not all of them need to be understood for you to start playing to a decent standard. As long as you get to grips with notes and chords pretty early, and understand how to count the timing of a song, you shouldn’t find it too tough.
One aspect people don’t tend to pay too much attention to when they are getting started is timing. All music has a tempo and a time signature, and this is a key piece of knowledge if you are going to play songs properly. It can be hard to get your head around.
In fact, constantly counting a rhythm in your head while you are playing something with your hands can be a big challenge and one that many beginners find to be a sticking point. You don’t need to be metronomic in your timing to start with, but eventually, you will want a good grasp of the knowledge required to play in time. If you plan to play along with other musicians in the future then it is essential.
A good way to learn how to stay in time is to play along with recordings of songs. These will (naturally) be played at the correct tempo and time signature, so being able to keep up with the timing is a great sign. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself initially.
Introducing Two-Handed Playing
We’ve talked about this quite a lot on the site in recent months. Playing using two hands is vitally important. Eventually, you will need to. Two-handed playing means you can pay different, complex melodies, and it also means you can play chords and melodies at the same time.
It’s incredibly difficult to start with. Ask someone who is attempting this for the first time and they will tell you how mind-boggling it can be. Add this to the fact that you are also trying to keep time, and sometimes read at the same time, and you will see what a challenge it can be.
Though this is something a lot of people struggle with, good advice is hard to come by. We have a full post on playing two-handed which can be really helpful for some people. However, ultimately, practice and repetition is going to be your best friend when getting this right.
Is Piano Hard? Without The Right Equipment, It Definitely Is
If you want to be able to play the piano then you need a decent instrument to start with. It is possible to play on a keyboard, and start out with a simple, smaller keyboard before you move on to a full-sized digital or acoustic piano.
Luckily, we’re not going to tell you that you need to spend thousands on equipment before you start to learn how to play the piano, but it is definitely a good idea not to make life more difficult with shoddy equipment.
A few things are vital:
- Enough keys. Piano is hard when you try playing a tiny keyboard and you want to play a big concerto! Most pianos are 88-keys, so an 88-key digital piano is a good option, but for rock and pop songs, a lot of 61-key models are fine.
- A decent piano sound. Don’t try to learn on a toy as it won’t give you an adequate simulation.
- A tuned piano. Sounds obvious, but if you are playing an acoustic piano you need to make sure it is tuned before you take your lessons too seriously. This is just a part of giving yourself a fair chance of getting things right.
- Weighted keys. There’s no reason not to play using weighted keys. The vast majority of digital pianos have weighted keys so you can learn what it feels like to actually play the piano properly, with more force applied meaning louder volumes. We call these dynamics.
Is piano hard without state-of-the-art equipment? No, not necessarily. Is piano hard without a decent, functioning piano? Absolutely. If you go for a keyboard, this is fine, but try to get weighted keys, or at the very least, touch-sensitive keys. This will give a more adequate representation of the feeling of playing the piano when you graduate onto an acoustic piano, for example.
Don’t get yourself down if you don’t have the right equipment to start with. Learning the names of the notes and which notes sound good together forming chords is a big part of the lessons at the start. It doesn’t matter too much how, just make sure you get started.
You can even use Pianu in your browser to help you to learn the names of the notes, chords and other aspects of our academy program.
Is Piano Hard? The Motivational Challenge
Some people are surprised at the answer to “is piano hard?” when we tell them that the mental and motivational side is something that they simply need to conquer if they are going to become good piano players.
The difficulty of the piano is often sticking with it. A vast majority of piano players, and other wannabe musicians, give up after just a few weeks or months. As we’ve already covered on our blog recently, frustration is a real problem with wannabe pianists. There are a lot of sticking points, and sadly, if you can’t overcome these then the chances are you won’t become a great piano player.
Possibly the best advice when it comes to this side of playing the piano is to set yourself simple targets. A mental struggle often comes from overstretching yourself. If you are looking to become a great piano player, this is going to be hard, and it isn’t going to happen overnight. Instead of setting yourself unrealistic goals, break it down into simpler targets for yourself.
If you expect to be as good as Jamie Cullum in 3 months, going from a total beginner, then you are going to end up disappointed. Plus, push yourself too hard and you will find that you don’t want to keep playing the piano.
Some people ask us “is piano hard for kids?” and this is maybe the reason children struggle to play. It’s hard for them to stay motivated, and their attention spans are short. This post is a fascinating look into the reasons children give up, and we agree that you shouldn’t push children too hard. In the end, they are more likely to rebel and want to quit their lessons.
Is Piano Hard? Making It Easier For Yourself
There’s no point in us just explaining that piano can be hard and not offering some solutions. We’ve got some top tips on playing the piano to help those who do find it hard (and there are plenty who do struggle).
So, how do you make it easier?
Stick to one method of learning. This is a great tip for people who don’t want to get confused or go through a convoluted method. For example, if you keep looking at YouTube tutorials from different YouTubers then you will probably find that they all have their own unique ways of doing things. Mixing and matching these can be one of the most difficult things for beginners and a sure-fire way to get confused. Sticking to one course or tutor is a good way to teach yourself.
Don’t expect too much. We’ve covered this briefly. Is piano hard? It definitely is when you try to learn every aspect of it in a few weeks. This is just not possible. Go easy on yourself, and while it helps to have clear goals, don’t make these unattainable. If you do, you’re just going to quit before you’ve really even gotten started.
Give yourself breaks. Certain personality types are terrible for this sin of learning piano. They don’t give themselves breaks and they burn out way too quickly. If you’ve practiced every day for two weeks, there is no harm in having a weekend off, especially if you start to find that things get frustrating and you do start to feel that piano is hard.
Get feedback. This has two main benefits. It can help you to feel a lot better about your playing (people are likely to be impressed) and it can also turn you into a better player. Feedback from someone who knows how to play the piano is valuable as it can allow you to spot your errors and correct them. Learning online, these mistakes can go undetected.
Don’t learn more than you have to. You can spend 15 weeks studying the theory behind music, and which scales are best for jazz, but you might never use this information. You might be adding unnecessary extras to your workload that simply don’t get used when the time comes to learn the skills you really want to. The same applies to reading music. If you decide that the skill is not going to be essential for you, leave it out. There’s no right or wrong way to get to the end result of being able to play the piano. If you find sheet music particularly hard, maybe try to revisit it when you know a bit more.
Learn the songs you love. What’s the point if you are not rewarding yourself by learning songs that you actually want to be able to play? This is a way to reward yourself and keep yourself ahead of the mental challenge.
Keep track of progress. Nearly everybody ignores this, but it can be such an effective learning tool. Why not keep a diary of your progress? The things you are struggling with or the things you have learned. This is one way to win the mental battle and remind yourself that progress has been made and will continue to be made.
In Summary – Is Piano Hard? Why Stick With It?
While getting the basics of piano nailed can be easier than some other instruments, becoming a master of this art takes years of dedication and hard work. Piano is hard if you want to reach the very top, but it is not so hard it is unattainable. Compared to rocket science, the piano is probably relatively simple (we wouldn’t know as we don’t know the first thing about rocket science!)
Following our guidelines on making life a little easier for yourself when playing may help. Ultimately, you should consider what sort of pianist you want to be, and work towards this. Don’t worry too much about the technical side unless you have to. It comes down to what you want to achieve.
The piano can be incredibly joyful to play, a wonderful skill, and it can enhance your brain, coordination and creative thinking skills. Stick with it. If you need a break, have one. If you find sight-reading too hard, leave it for the time being. The key is to keep getting back on the saddle and increasing your knowledge. Practice, repetition, and eventually, success.