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How Long Does it ACTUALLY Take to Learn Piano?? (Read 9376 times)

Offline keystroke3

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How Long Does it ACTUALLY Take to Learn Piano??
« on: February 08, 2018, 03:48:11 PM »
This is the BIGGEST question I had when I was first starting out piano. "How long is this gonna take?"

And when I'd ask teachers, they'd always just say... "it depends". And that's IT! And I HATED that answer, because it's kinda a cop out answer. It's not helpful at all, it just deflects the question instead of giving any kind of relevant information.

And I get it, because it does depend. But let's stop running away from the question and start putting some variables in for "it depends" so we have somewhat of an answer. So to do this, I suggest we break up piano into three categories:

1. Developing Solid Technique
2. Learning to Play by Ear
3. Learning Actual Songs

First we have to define what "good" means. As quantitatively as we can.

Then we'll break each down into a single statement of "IF you practice X minutes a day using Y practice routine you'll get good in Z weeks".

By the way, I'm getting this data from students who've followed the plan. So it isn't just random data or guesswork. If some of these numbers seem "too good to be true", I'll address that at the end of the article.

1. How Long Does it Take to Develop Solid Technique?

Ok, let's define this first. I'd consider SOLID technique as the ability to play all 12 major scales at 90 bpm, sixteenth notes.

Does that mean you've mastered technique and can play any song? Of course not. But I'd say at that level you definitely have solid technique.

On average, it takes about 12 weeks for a beginner to get to this level IF:

1. You practice 10 minutes a day, 5 to 6 days a week
2. You use Accelerated Techniques (like the Rhythms Strategy and Metronome Ramp Up)

By the way... skipping 5 days and then practicing 50 minutes on the 6th day is NOT the same as practicing 10 minutes a day for 5 days. It has to be 10 minutes every single day.

2. How Long Does it Take to Learn to Play By Ear?

Ok so for this, we have to define GOOD at playing by ear. I'd define it as the ability to learn a pop song by ear in about 10 minutes.

Again, this does not mean you've MASTERED playing by ear, but most people would be very happy to get to that level. So how long does it take?

IF you can already play songs hands together, it'll take you about 4 months to train your ear to this level. If you're a complete beginner, it'll take 6 months as you'll have to learn other skills like hands together coordination.

Again, the caveats are:

1. You have to practice 10 minutes a day, 5 to 6 days a week
2. You have to use Play by Ear Exercises that systematically train your ear

In other words, not "just listening to songs over and over, I learned that one the hard way. Tried it for months and didn't make much progress. Then I had my "Aural Skills" class in college and learned it in a semester.

3. How Long Does it Take to Get Good at Playing Actual Songs?

Ok, so this one's a little trickier to define. Because it REALLY depends on how hard the songs are. Mary had a little lamb is obviously a lot easier to learn than a Chopin Etude. And I know there are "rating numbers" for classical pieces, but lets be honest even within those there's a wide range of difficulty. And it doesn't include any other genres like Jazz or pop or blues. So here's my definition:

If a random person saw you playing piano, they would think "Wow, that guy/girl's GOOD at piano".

Not "Holy crap that's amazing can I get your autograph!!!". But they'd think you're good.

I know it's pretty qualitative, but it's the best I got. So how long does it take?

It takes about 6 months to get to this level at piano IF:

1. You practice 20 minutes a day, 5 to 6 days a week
2. You FOCUS on the "tricky" sections that need work instead of playing through the easy parts of the song

For those who say "It's too good to be true"...

Alright, this is my way of anticipating getting raked over the coals in the comments... because I know people are going to say "12 weeks to get good technique, this guy's a charlatan!" or some other BS.

Look, I've seen these results time and time again from students. The reason that a lot don't make it is they don't ACTUALLY follow all the little details. For example:

A lot of students will say "yea, I practiced every day this week". But when you ask them "ok, did you practice Monday? Did you practice Tuesday?... " ext, you'll find out they actually missed a lot of days.

Another big one is the time. Students will do 10 minutes "in their head" instead of starting an actual stopwatch to time their 10 minutes. I can tell you from experience after a couple weeks, that "10 minutes" starts slippin down to 7 minutes, 5 minutes, and even lower.

But if you follow the details, you can absolutely get there.

For those who say "yea, but everybody's different"...

It's true, we're all different, but we're not THAT different. And as long as you follow the plan, you'll get CLOSE to the expected results. For example, lets say there are two students, Amy and Jim. For Amy, Technique comes naturally to her and it only takes her 11 weeks to learn instead of 12. For Jim, Technique doesn't come naturally. But if he FOLLOWS the SYSTEM and the DETAILS, he'll still learn in 13 to 14 weeks. But it's NOT going to take him 24 weeks!

In other words, nobody's at a huge advantage or disadvantage. Even Mozart, who everybody proclaims as the "child genius" was actually that way because his dad mad him practice for 10 hours a day (look it up) not because he had some "magical gift from the heavens".

Anyway, let me know your thoughts.

Step-By-Step Gameplan to Hit Every Area of Piano

If you want the practice routine to hit every area, watch to the end of this video:


Let me know what y'all think,

-Zach Evans

Become a Piano Superhuman: Free Course - http://www.bestpianoclass.com/streetsignup

My YouTube Piano Covers and instrumentals: http://www.youtube.com/user/Keystroke3

Offline mjames

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Re: How Long Does it ACTUALLY Take to Learn Piano??
«Reply #1 on: February 08, 2018, 04:36:11 PM »
Like 5mins, usually that's all it takes to learn twinkle twinkle with both hands.

Offline pianoplunker

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Re: How Long Does it ACTUALLY Take to Learn Piano??
«Reply #2 on: February 08, 2018, 07:21:06 PM »
This is the BIGGEST question I had when I was first starting out piano. "How long is this gonna take?"

And when I'd ask teachers, they'd always just say... "it depends". And that's IT! And I HATED that answer, because it's kinda a cop out answer. It's not helpful at all, it just deflects the question instead of giving any kind of relevant information.

And I get it, because it does depend. But let's stop running away from the question and start putting some variables in for "it depends" so we have somewhat of an answer. So to do this, I suggest we break up piano into three categories:

1. Developing Solid Technique
2. Learning to Play by Ear
3. Learning Actual Songs

First we have to define what "good" means. As quantitatively as we can.

Then we'll break each down into a single statement of "IF you practice X minutes a day using Y practice routine you'll get good in Z weeks".

By the way, I'm getting this data from students who've followed the plan. So it isn't just random data or guesswork. If some of these numbers seem "too good to be true", I'll address that at the end of the article.

1. How Long Does it Take to Develop Solid Technique?

Ok, let's define this first. I'd consider SOLID technique as the ability to play all 12 major scales at 90 bpm, sixteenth notes.

Does that mean you've mastered technique and can play any song? Of course not. But I'd say at that level you definitely have solid technique.

On average, it takes about 12 weeks for a beginner to get to this level IF:

1. You practice 10 minutes a day, 5 to 6 days a week
2. You use Accelerated Techniques (like the Rhythms Strategy and Metronome Ramp Up)

By the way... skipping 5 days and then practicing 50 minutes on the 6th day is NOT the same as practicing 10 minutes a day for 5 days. It has to be 10 minutes every single day.

2. How Long Does it Take to Learn to Play By Ear?

Ok so for this, we have to define GOOD at playing by ear. I'd define it as the ability to learn a pop song by ear in about 10 minutes.

Again, this does not mean you've MASTERED playing by ear, but most people would be very happy to get to that level. So how long does it take?

IF you can already play songs hands together, it'll take you about 4 months to train your ear to this level. If you're a complete beginner, it'll take 6 months as you'll have to learn other skills like hands together coordination.

Again, the caveats are:

1. You have to practice 10 minutes a day, 5 to 6 days a week
2. You have to use Play by Ear Exercises that systematically train your ear

In other words, not "just listening to songs over and over, I learned that one the hard way. Tried it for months and didn't make much progress. Then I had my "Aural Skills" class in college and learned it in a semester.

3. How Long Does it Take to Get Good at Playing Actual Songs?

Ok, so this one's a little trickier to define. Because it REALLY depends on how hard the songs are. Mary had a little lamb is obviously a lot easier to learn than a Chopin Etude. And I know there are "rating numbers" for classical pieces, but lets be honest even within those there's a wide range of difficulty. And it doesn't include any other genres like Jazz or pop or blues. So here's my definition:

If a random person saw you playing piano, they would think "Wow, that guy/girl's GOOD at piano".

Not "Holy crap that's amazing can I get your autograph!!!". But they'd think you're good.

I know it's pretty qualitative, but it's the best I got. So how long does it take?

It takes about 6 months to get to this level at piano IF:

1. You practice 20 minutes a day, 5 to 6 days a week
2. You FOCUS on the "tricky" sections that need work instead of playing through the easy parts of the song

For those who say "It's too good to be true"...

Alright, this is my way of anticipating getting raked over the coals in the comments... because I know people are going to say "12 weeks to get good technique, this guy's a charlatan!" or some other BS.

Look, I've seen these results time and time again from students. The reason that a lot don't make it is they don't ACTUALLY follow all the little details. For example:

A lot of students will say "yea, I practiced every day this week". But when you ask them "ok, did you practice Monday? Did you practice Tuesday?... " ext, you'll find out they actually missed a lot of days.

Another big one is the time. Students will do 10 minutes "in their head" instead of starting an actual stopwatch to time their 10 minutes. I can tell you from experience after a couple weeks, that "10 minutes" starts slippin down to 7 minutes, 5 minutes, and even lower.

But if you follow the details, you can absolutely get there.

For those who say "yea, but everybody's different"...

It's true, we're all different, but we're not THAT different. And as long as you follow the plan, you'll get CLOSE to the expected results. For example, lets say there are two students, Amy and Jim. For Amy, Technique comes naturally to her and it only takes her 11 weeks to learn instead of 12. For Jim, Technique doesn't come naturally. But if he FOLLOWS the SYSTEM and the DETAILS, he'll still learn in 13 to 14 weeks. But it's NOT going to take him 24 weeks!

In other words, nobody's at a huge advantage or disadvantage. Even Mozart, who everybody proclaims as the "child genius" was actually that way because his dad mad him practice for 10 hours a day (look it up) not because he had some "magical gift from the heavens".

Anyway, let me know your thoughts.

Step-By-Step Gameplan to Hit Every Area of Piano

If you want the practice routine to hit every area, watch to the end of this video:


Let me know what y'all think,

-Zach Evans



Of course there are other variables to consider in each of the categories which you expressed but all in all you hit the nail on the head - "discipline".   That word does not appear in your post but you described it. I would add that setting a specific time of day will enhance the organization of practice.  10 minutes does not seem like much but it can when trying to do other things as well. 

Offline chopinlover01

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Re: How Long Does it ACTUALLY Take to Learn Piano??
«Reply #3 on: February 08, 2018, 08:13:10 PM »
The only criticism I have of your stuff, Zach, is that you do kind of oversell yourself. I don't mean that in a bad way, and I totally support your channel! It's hard making a name for yourself in the music industry.

But the "piano superhuman" course demo has you doing a 2 handed piano arpeggio that's clearly not super fluid. Your jazz piano video, while not abysmal, made it clear that you don't listen to jazz very much at all.

Your pop stuff is great though! I can tell you know the style. But there's so many stylistic details in every other style of playing (pop certainly has all of its own idiosyncrasies!) that I find it hard to watch you play other styles.

As a little bit of background on me, I was classically trained, and about a year and a half ago I made the full conversion to jazz. I currently play jazz, Latin american music (salsa, etc), funk/soul, occasionally pop, among other styles. I'm a working pianist and to me the course seems cheap. The idea that you have the secret to make everyone great at piano when you yourself aren't super technically or stylistically proficient outside your niche and then try to teach outside your niche (ie jazz) seems a little bit almost egotistical to me.

I don't mean that as an indictment of your character. You seem like a great guy!

Anyways, I'd love to get to know you better, so feel free to shoot me a PM and I'd love to talk with you.

Thanks,

Harrison
Jazz Ambassador 8)

Offline keypeg

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Re: How Long Does it ACTUALLY Take to Learn Piano??
«Reply #4 on: February 09, 2018, 04:00:10 PM »
When I first read the opening post, I didn't pay attention to who was writing it.  As it went on, I thought it was being written by an enthusiastic relatively new student who had thrown himself fearlessly into piano, made some first discoveries, and wanted to proclaim it to the world.  I got there at "technique", when the writer seemed to think "solid technique" was being able to zip off scales at  90 bpm.  Then when he wrote of being told ""Holy crap that's amazing..." I figured it was an immature newish student, probably a young guy out to impress girls and friends.  Finally I realized it was written by someone who teaches, promoting his site, and this was merely a "presentation style" meant to catch attention and engender interest - maybe for a particular population.

Zach, technique = playing scales at 90 bpm?  Technique = scales?

I clicked.  Found another video with lots of talking, and then a video on scales.  It's presented in C major.  It shows the thumb under method in the way I learned first, and this is presented as the "beginner" way.  That's what almost ruined my hands some years ago; and yes, I could play all 12 keys - that's not rocket science with the patterns that exist in major scales.  It's taken years for me to dare touch scales again.  I've restarted now, and had some intense work with my teacher a few hours before seeing that video.

That "thumb under" done the way shown can put loads of tension in the hand, worse if someone is trying to get up to a speed.  I am relearning scales where the way the body moves is part of the picture, and then that extreme thumb position or its "position" period isn't needed.  It's not called "thumb over" - it's just called how to play a scale.  It is not presented as an advanced technique (as you say) - the littlest kids are taught this way.  Never C major first: B, Db, F#, because they're easiest on the hands because of the shape  of the higher black keys, and the thumbs fall on the lower white keys for all these scales.

It may be that you teach solidly and well.  The presentation itself would keep me away, though, because of the impression that it gives.

Offline clouseau

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Re: How Long Does it ACTUALLY Take to Learn Piano??
«Reply #5 on: February 09, 2018, 11:18:45 PM »
according to latest research, give or take, 10.000 hours
"What the devil do you mean to sing to me, priest? You are out of tune." - Rameau

Offline klavieronin

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Re: How Long Does it ACTUALLY Take to Learn Piano??
«Reply #6 on: February 10, 2018, 07:24:20 AM »
according to latest research, give or take, 10.000 hours

I'm pretty sure that 10,000 hour rule has been debunked; https://www.businessinsider.com.au/new-study-destroys-malcolm-gladwells-10000-rule-2014-7?r=US&IR=T

My favourite answer is "The rest of your life."

Offline clouseau

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Re: How Long Does it ACTUALLY Take to Learn Piano??
«Reply #7 on: February 10, 2018, 07:10:32 PM »
It depends on what we mean with "learn the piano". The way you put it, sure, one never stops learning. But I think the OP means to reach a high level, like, advanced amateur/early professional if that makes sense. And for that kind of level, it seems that the rule does apply, at least, in most of the cases I've come across. 10.000 is, of course, a rough estimate and has to be taken with a grain of salt.
"What the devil do you mean to sing to me, priest? You are out of tune." - Rameau

Offline klavieronin

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Re: How Long Does it ACTUALLY Take to Learn Piano??
«Reply #8 on: February 10, 2018, 08:43:54 PM »
10000 hours is 2-3 hours a day for 10 years. I guess that sounds about right but like the OP pointed out in his video, it has to be consistent and regular practice.

Offline keypeg

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Re: How Long Does it ACTUALLY Take to Learn Piano??
«Reply #9 on: February 11, 2018, 05:20:51 AM »
But I think the OP means to reach a high level, like, advanced amateur/early professional if that makes sense.
How can you conclude that.  The OP defines "solid technique" as being able to play a scale at a given tempo --- a single task.  He says that the things he lists can be learned in the space of 6 months.  Average practice time is suggested to be 15 - 20 minutes for each.  That will give a "high level" of technique for an early professional level?  Were the great masters who took years of lessons inept untalented fools with rotten teachers, that they took years, and practised more than that?  No, it is not about high levels.

Offline clouseau

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Re: How Long Does it ACTUALLY Take to Learn Piano??
«Reply #10 on: February 11, 2018, 07:40:41 AM »
keypeg, that is not what I meant, I was referring to the 10000 hours theory, not the 20 minutes per day  ;)
"What the devil do you mean to sing to me, priest? You are out of tune." - Rameau

Offline keypeg

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Re: How Long Does it ACTUALLY Take to Learn Piano??
«Reply #11 on: February 11, 2018, 10:09:07 AM »
keypeg, that is not what I meant, I was referring to the 10000 hours theory, not the 20 minutes per day  ;)
Do you mean the original poster who postulated (somewhere) about the 10,000 hours theory, rather than the OP who started this thread?

Offline keystroke3

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Re: How Long Does it ACTUALLY Take to Learn Piano??
«Reply #12 on: February 11, 2018, 06:57:30 PM »
So the 10,000 hour rule, for one thing, is how long it takes to MASTER something, not to simply get good at it. I think you can get "good" at piano in much less time.

Of course "good" is a completely relative term. If an average person hears me play, they say that I'm "amazing" at piano. If Horowitz heard me play, he would probably say "that guy is a beginner". If you took someone at the same level as me, they'd say "that guy's intermediate" at piano.

So using a term like "good" is useless unless we define it quantitatively. The best way IMO to quantify technique is by using BPM of scales as a measuring stick. If we don't quantify it somehow, it's very difficult for us to set specific goals and benchmarks.

If you wanted to take it further, you could define "great technique" as a higher level, and "master technique" at an even higher level than that. But we have to set the bar somewhere.

And sorry but I hate the answer "it takes a lifetime". Really?? But those standards NOBODY is good at piano! Because nobody has lived a whole lifetime unless they're dead! All that does is discourage new students from starting to play. It's the least practical answer and usually is just said by people who want to feel important and smart instead of actually thinking about how we can form a more intelligent answer. :)

Just my thoughts  :)
Become a Piano Superhuman: Free Course - http://www.bestpianoclass.com/streetsignup

My YouTube Piano Covers and instrumentals: http://www.youtube.com/user/Keystroke3

Offline ronde_des_sylphes

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Re: How Long Does it ACTUALLY Take to Learn Piano??
«Reply #13 on: February 11, 2018, 07:11:20 PM »
I suspect, to be fair to the OP, what he's defining as ".. to learn piano" is the acquisition of a functional technique which will enable a student to play material ranging from pop tunes to the smaller Beethoven sonatas (there is a reference to Chopin etudes being "crazy stuff" or whatever the phrase was, I watched it yesterday and am only just replying), so we're not talking about creating supervirtuosi, and some of the discussion here is probably a bit moot. Insofar as that goes, reasonable enough. I'm not so sure about the playing by ear bit, my experience is that some people find it very difficult, some can do it with varying degrees of competence and the occasional person is freakishly good.

Offline chopinlover01

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Re: How Long Does it ACTUALLY Take to Learn Piano??
«Reply #14 on: February 11, 2018, 07:23:06 PM »
Nah, playing by ear is definitely trainable. I used to be great at it when I was young, I lost it for ages, and just recently gained it back to be able to play jazz.
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Offline ronde_des_sylphes

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Re: How Long Does it ACTUALLY Take to Learn Piano??
«Reply #15 on: February 11, 2018, 07:26:28 PM »
Yeah, but to what level? Playing back melody and harmony isn't so hard, but I'd suggest that a lot of people would struggle with Bach fugues.

Offline klavieronin

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Re: How Long Does it ACTUALLY Take to Learn Piano??
«Reply #16 on: February 11, 2018, 11:08:20 PM »
And sorry but I hate the answer "it takes a lifetime". Really?? But those standards NOBODY is good at piano! Because nobody has lived a whole lifetime unless they're dead! All that does is discourage new students from starting to play. It's the least practical answer and usually is just said by people who want to feel important and smart instead of actually thinking about how we can form a more intelligent answer. :)

I wouldn't take my comment too seriously. It was mostly a joke but let me explain. The question is "How long does it take to learn piano?" not "How long does it take to get good at playing piano?" One can be good and still learning. One can be great and still learning. Learning should NEVER end. If you feel like you have learned enough, what point is there in continuing to practice? Everything becomes boring then. Learning is the fun part. If you are able to recognise that then you win. If not, in my experience at least, it's not a promising sign.

Of course, if a student asks me that question I generally do give a more pragmatic answer alongside the one above which is; "If you practice at least an hour a day, 5 years to feel competent, 10 years to feel at home".

[Edit] Also, I hate to nitpick but I never said "it takes a lifetime". I said it takes "the rest of your life". There is a subtle but important difference. If I say "it takes a lifetime", I'm implying that the only people who would have a chance are those who begin learning at the age of 0. On the other hand, by saying it takes "the rest of your life", then I'm saying that anyone can learn. They'll just never finish learning which is how it should be.

Offline keypeg

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Re: How Long Does it ACTUALLY Take to Learn Piano??
«Reply #17 on: February 12, 2018, 02:50:32 AM »
So using a term like "good" is useless unless we define it quantitatively. The best way IMO to quantify technique is by using BPM of scales as a measuring stick. If we don't quantify it somehow, it's very difficult for us to set specific goals and benchmarks.
No, I would never have that kind of benchmark. I would want, for example, to be able to play quietly and loudly at will.  I want to express myself at the instrument - not win a race.

I know you weren't responding to me in that post, but otoh, you also weren't responding to me in any post.

Offline chopinlover01

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Re: How Long Does it ACTUALLY Take to Learn Piano??
«Reply #18 on: February 12, 2018, 03:37:11 AM »
I think the best definition for really learning instrument is being able to express a musical thought to the best of your ability, in whatever style you play. If it's classical and you aren't improvising, then it's interpreting the music you're playing to convey the mood you want. Obviously, improv + composition is huge everywhere else (not so much in classical).
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Offline mjames

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Re: How Long Does it ACTUALLY Take to Learn Piano??
«Reply #19 on: February 12, 2018, 04:44:01 AM »
So like, a week?

Offline clouseau

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Re: How Long Does it ACTUALLY Take to Learn Piano??
«Reply #20 on: February 12, 2018, 07:54:05 AM »
I believe we actually agree on most of what keystroke3 is communicating, but got stuck on the meaning of individual words. Scales are a good indicator of technical ability, I agree. But learning the piano is not only technique, so maybe it's a good idea to use actual repertoire to define level (like mentioned, ex. easy Beethoven). There are cases who can play hanon at breakneck speed but mess musically up at even simple pieces. Has someone like that learned piano? In my opinion no, he is just a good finger-athlete.
"What the devil do you mean to sing to me, priest? You are out of tune." - Rameau

Offline chopinlover01

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Re: How Long Does it ACTUALLY Take to Learn Piano??
«Reply #21 on: February 12, 2018, 04:23:22 PM »
So like, a week?

Let me know when you're at Lincoln Center...
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Offline bernadette60614

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Re: How Long Does it ACTUALLY Take to Learn Piano??
«Reply #22 on: April 29, 2018, 05:20:41 PM »
My opinion, and this is a revised one:  If you think you've finally learned how to play piano, you probably should stop.

You never stop learning.  If, for example, you listen to Glenn Gould's early recordings and then his later ones of the same pieces, clearly he has learned something in the intervening years.  Had he put those pieces aside feeling they were done, he would have never learned how to play them differently.