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Catherine Cowan Pianist

Piano Lessons For Adult Beginners

"Am I too old to old to learn the piano?"
is a question that adults interested in taking up the instrument ask themselves. This question may stem from the belief of "lost time"; the belief that beyond childhood the internal pathways of the brain have formed and it would require significant work to form new connections in learning the skill of playing the piano.

The best way to answer the question is perhaps to substitute "the piano" with another skill. "Am I too old to ... learn to dance? Learn web design? Take up running?" You realise that the skill involved is not that relevant; they are all easily interchangeable and ultimately it comes down to answering "am I too old to learn" - in other words, whether you still have the openness to discover new things, whether you are receptive to new experiences, and whether you have the willingness to try. Age is irrelevant - it is whether you are open to trying and discovering new things.

Children are unencumbered by the stresses of a working adult life, and have more time and energy to devote to learning the piano, adult beginners have maturity on their side - this translates into a quicker capacity to grasp harder concepts, a longer concentration span which will help in practice, and life experience to know how to self-direct their learning. While the term "child prodigy" is often bandied around to imply all good pianists started young, adult learners take less time to achieve the same standards. Learning does not follow a linear pattern and progress at the piano - fuelled by time, openness and practice - is exponential.

When you have lessons with me, within minutes of the first lesson I will ascertain what you already know, what discuss with you to find out how you learn best, and what your intentions are, in order to find a method that works for you. Everyone has a different starting point and different skills. For some adults a starting point may be learning about the notes of the keyboard and reading music. For others - such as adult returners to the piano - this may already be a known concept and we will of course progress from a different starting position. Furthermore, everyone has different interests and tastes. Chopin's music may be the epitomy for one person, for another person the composer of choice may be Einaudi. But in all cases you will soon learn the inter-related skills of reading music, working the pedal, and playing melodies with chords; it's at this stage that you really start to feel you are making music. I will show you how to make accompanying patterns using chords - a practice that has developed over centuries of piano playing - so you can play various accompaniments to a tune you already know and bring these skills to new songs.

Most adults I teach want to learn for their own enjoyment but some also challenge themselves to attempt graded exams. These exams either learning technical exercises such as scales and arpeggios, and include other tests such as sight-reading and aural. I mainly cover the ABRSM or Trinity exam syllabus. But there is one difference - I always start with what you know and what you can do, and help you extend, progress and slowly assimilate new concepts. This means I never put the exam book in front of you and ask you to do small sections at a time each week. Rather, I reduce the music to what you can currently play, and then add more notes as you become more familiar with it. It's a method of teaching that I know works.