\"\"
Piano Forum logo

Are there any success stories from adults who started learning the piano? (Read 549 times)

Offline ranjit

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 276
Is there anyone here, or anyone you know of, who has started playing after they were 18 years old, and still was able to tackle Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2, for instance?

All I hear from piano teachers or other people online is that technically it should be possible. But, for example, in this reddit thread, when asked to come up with a single example, all people come up with is people playing simple pieces such as Chopin waltzes, mazurkas, or Schubert impromptus. https://us.reddit.com/r/piano/comments/3huj0g/are_there_are_any_success_stories_for_adults_who/,

Offline dogperson

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1169
I find this definition of ‘success’ shallow as well as self-defeating.  Shallow because it defines an end point rather than if the pianist plays with musicality and technique.  It is self-defeating because the emphasis in on the wrong goal,  so a student rushes through where they actually are in order to run faster to the false goalpost. In the end, you have Simone who plays  a bunch of notes. Big deal.

Using my definition of success, which does not include a specific piece, you can  start at any adult age and achieve success. ... which should be making beautiful music no matter what you play.




Offline brogers70

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 965
I agree with dogperson. It depends on what you mean by success. I started at 40. Last year, at 60, I gave a house recital, playing

Bach French Suite in Eb
Beethoven Sonata in E major, Opus 14#1
Chopin Nocturne Op 9 #1 in Bb Minor
Brahms Intermezzo in A major and Romance in F major Opus 118
Janacek, First Movement of In the Mist

None of these are super virtuoso pieces, but the small audience loved it. One woman, a dairy farmer, was in tears and told me it brought back her whole youth. People who had never heard of Janacek were turned on to him. That's success in my book. And I get to spend 3 hours a day working on great music by great composers. There's virtuoso stuff I'll certainly never be able to play. But if I'd let someone dissuade me from starting, 20 years ago on the grounds that I'd never be a "success," it would have been a personal tragedy.

Offline ranjit

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 276
I find this definition of ‘success’ shallow as well as self-defeating.  Shallow because it defines an end point rather than if the pianist plays with musicality and technique.  It is self-defeating because the emphasis in on the wrong goal,  so a student rushes through where they actually are in order to run faster to the false goalpost. In the end, you have Simone who plays  a bunch of notes. Big deal.


I understand what you mean. However, I really want to know if anyone was able to play difficult repertoire starting as an adult.

I can already more-or-less "play" most ~grade 8 material, but I'm afraid that I may not be able to 'make it' due to my age due to the fact that it looks like almost no one ever does! I adore Liszt and Ravel pieces so much that I would feel really hollow if I found out that it's unlikely I will ever be able to play them well because I've passed a critical window of learning opportunity or some other bs reason, and I might as well rather just give up trying to play the piano.

Personally (and this is obviously a very personal thing), I think of being successful as being able to produce on the piano anything that I can imagine. I want there to be a direct link between what I can imagine and what I can play, so as to channel and express my thoughts and musical ideas effortlessly. However, this also means that if I can imagine a beautiful rendition of Jeux D'Eau, I won't feel successful as a pianist until I can play it!

... None of these are super virtuoso pieces, but the small audience loved it. One woman, a dairy farmer, was in tears and told me it brought back her whole youth. People who had never heard of Janacek were turned on to him. That's success in my book. And I get to spend 3 hours a day working on great music by great composers. There's virtuoso stuff I'll certainly never be able to play. But if I'd let someone dissuade me from starting, 20 years ago on the grounds that I'd never be a "success," it would have been a personal tragedy.

Don't get me wrong, it is admirable that you learned to play the piano well and with musicality, and it's amazing to be able to make a mark in people's lives as you did in your recital. My concern, however, is that I may never be able to play my favorite pieces, and there are so many pieces I adore which are virtuosic. It is that I really like piano music with multiple moving parts, such as orchestral transcriptions which often use the "three-hand technique", and pieces with innovative pianistic textural effects, both of which require great dexterity.

When I asked people I knew if they knew anyone like that, they talked about colleagues who played pieces such as Maple Leaf Rag in a jazz band, or sometimes played some relatively easy classical. Basically all the "amazing piano players" I find online who have claimed to have learned as adults, till date, have only been able to play easy pieces well, or play difficult pieces poorly. All the courses or teaching marketed towards adults turn out to be scams which teach you things which can be figured out through an internet search! People often reassure adult beginners that while they won't be able to play as well as those who have been learning since they were small children, they can still play some pieces which they enjoy. I couldn't care less about that, I want the real deal! And so, I would love to know if there is someone out there who has been able to learn some significantly difficult pieces such as Hungarian Rhapsodies or Chopin Ballades well, starting as an adult.

Offline brogers70

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 965
OK, I see your point of view. It would be encouraging to know that someone else in your situation had succeeded in doing what you want to do. If there are such people, they are pretty rare - but then people who start as children and end up playing the Transcendental Etudes or Ondine are pretty damn rare, too. And the people who start as kids and fail to reach that level, fail to do so, even though there are plenty of high profile examples of people who started as kids and succeeded at it. So I don't see that you've got anything to lose by assuming that it's doable. If it is, then terrific. If it turns out not to be, you've spent years working on music, and that's a great thing, too.

Offline helveticat

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 5
OK, I'm new here and am not yet any sort of pianist, but have been around the block a bit with other instruments so take this with a pinch of seasoning. To start with, I think your question is good and I'd also like to hear similar stories (being a very late starter with significantly lesser ambitions than yours).

I would feel really hollow if I found out that it's unlikely I will ever be able to play them well because I've passed a critical window of learning opportunity or some other bs reason, and I might as well rather just give up trying to play the piano.

Suppose you met an oracle who said it could tell you whether you will ever be able to play the Hungarian Rhapsodies. Would you want to know?  What would you do if you got the answer "no"? I mean, what use would that information be to you?

So what if nobody has ever started piano at 20 and mastered the Hungarian Rhapsodies? You can be the first. Someone may as well be, assuming it isn't impossible to achieve that. I don't mean that in a pep-talk way, just factually. For every achievement, huge or trivial, somebody did it first and up til then nobody had done it before.

Adults and children clearly learn things (all things) in different ways, and have different advantages and challenges. I don't know much about piano teaching or learning, but I can't believe that with a dedicated practice regimen and good training you won't be able to reach that standard eventually.

Another way to look at the oracle's answer: It seems to me this is a bit like knowing the day you'll die; isn't it better to proceed hopefully and see how far you can get?

Behind this is one of the Great Truths that they don't tell kids about: you never really "get there" in any area of life. You never "get good", you get better and your goals change as you do. The goal is always receding from sight and that's just how things are supposed to be. I suspect most concert pianists don't sit around gloating about how good they are; they practice and fret about how far they are from their own goals, which perhaps you and I can barely imagine.

I think of being successful as being able to produce on the piano anything that I can imagine.

This is a ridiculous thing to expect to achieve. Or it's not, depending on what you can imagine. There are musicians (I've met some) who can play anything they can think of because all they can think of are the same few simple things they've played all their lives. But if your ears and mind are open, the thing is that the more music you learn and absorb, the more you can imagine. Be proud that you can still imagine what you can't yet play; be worried if that changes.

For what it's worth, I would be delighted if I could play at the level you describe yourself as being at now. You're my goal, Hungarian Rhapsodies Person is your goal, and so it goes.

Sorry none of this answers your question which, I repeat, I consider to be a good one  :)

Offline stylerpiano

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 149
Rajnit, you know me a little bit on this forum, because you've remembered for my performances.
I started to play the piano when I was 27 ( 5 years ago ) and now I practice the La Campanella for instance. Sine my last practice session post I can tell you I can play it from start to end in a very good tempo.

As for the HR2 you remember I posted the Lassan section on this forum. It was not perfect because I practiced it only for a few months, not as much that I practice La Campanella.
Unfortunately I finished the learning of HR2 at the 3/4 of the piece, I put it to later challange.

Of course my only goal with for e.g. La Campanella is to practice it life time to play it better and better as I do with my earlier learned pieces.

HR2 was the first piece which I let it go :)

I aways practice my pieces which are in my head, and most of them are learned by lots of pianist:

- Chopin Nocturne Op 9. No 2.
- Chopin Nocturne C# minor op posth
- Chopin Fantasie Impromtu
- Für Elise :)
- Beethoven Pathetique sonata 3rd mvmnt

I can tell that I learned most of this pieces in 3 years and after two more years I play them better and better now I can play them easily without any thinking just playing. Of course it's just for the harder ones for.e.g Fantasie Impromptu. I always like to practice the nocturnes and every easier pieces too :)
THIS IS MY GOAL WITH ALL THE PIECES. :)

Modern:

- River flows in you
- Ballade pour Adeline

for fun:

La Campanella
HR2 Lassan

This is my current repertoire after 5 years of piano learning.




Offline kawwai

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 6
I don't fit the criteria exactly, but this is my story. I started close to 2 years ago when I was 13. I basically didn't learn much in my first year, and last May I played an easy arrangement of Canon in D. After that, in the summer I learned Mendelssohn song without words op 19 no 3, and the 2nd movement of pathetique. I put in a lot of effort, I'd say, and even when I went on a 2-week vacation to Taiwan, I found a piano practice room, and I practiced a small amount. So far since May, I've played Chopin nocturne no 20, Bach little prelude bw926, Schumann album for the young op 68 no 12, and a small Bartok piece. I'm learning the rest of pathetique, Liszt Gnomenreigen, Schubert impromptu op 142 no 4, and mozart sonata k331 first movement. I found that when you enjoyed it more, it was easier to progress quickly since you eventually lern to love playing.

Offline ranjit

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 276
kawwai - Are you actually learning Gnomenreigen (is this with a teacher)? That's pretty cool.

Offline andysag

  • PS Silver Member
  • Newbie
  • ***
  • Posts: 1
I always wanted to learn to play but never had the time until I retired at age 68. Maybe a coincidence but my Wife's aunt died and I ended up inheriting a Yamaha keyboard. So I bought a stand for it and a copy of Alfred's Adult all in one course level 1 and started learning. Now I can read the scores and play a few songs. I have now moved to level 2 and brushed up on chords, triples etc etc. Apart from what is in Alfred, I download scores for music I particularly like. I am a fan of Giuseppe Verdi (My brother calls him Joe Green) and found Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves quite easy to play. After learning a piece from the score, I find it easier to play it by ear. My next project is Anvil Chorus which is a bit more difficult but I am determined to keep at it until I can play it reasonably well. Some scores I found to be unnecessarily complicated for example, I downloaded Where is Love from Oliver and didn't like the chords so I re-wrote it with different (in my view more suitable) chords and it sounded really good. My main problem is I don't practice enough but now I am stuck at home because of the COVID19 pandemic I should have a bit more time to practice. I know I probably wont be able to master the likes of Fantasie Impromptu like a concert pianist, but that is not the point. If I can get pleasure from playing music that I like, that is successful enough.