In my first post I wrote about the way in which I use reading to relax and disappear into a different world. I am also lucky enough to play the piano and my love of music is another wonderful form of escapism. I want to share with you what it is about being able to play an instrument that brings such joy to my life. I also have experience of teaching others to play the piano and common questions new pupils ask me are: “Am I too old to play the piano?” and “It looks so difficult, will I ever be able to play properly?” If any of you are thinking of learning the piano, or any other instrument, I hope I can answer these questions and give you some reassurance and encouragement.
I have played the piano since the age of 11 and I cannot imagine my life without it. As I have been playing for 14 years now, it has become second nature. When you begin to learn an instrument, you never imagine that the day will come when you will be able to pick up any piece of music and play it. However, over time and as my ability has grown that’s what has happened. This has unlocked a whole new world for me. I love being able to play a wide range of music genres from jazz to classical. Discovering new composers is a joy and learning a new piece is like embarking on an adventure as you learn the story behind the notes.
While I began learning at the age of 11, there is no ideal age to begin to learn. In my experience it depends purely on the type of person you are. I have taught learners ranging in age from 6 to 69. Younger learners tend to either develop an enthusiasm which hopefully they will retain for the rest of their lives, or they come to the conclusion that actually they would rather be playing football, dancing, or whatever it is that interests them. It also depends on whether they are being pushed into having piano lessons because their parents want them to or because they genuinely want to be there themselves. Older learners tend to be more committed because it is their choice to have lessons. The lady I teach who is 69 years old is very passionate about music. She was concerned that she might not be able to pick things up as quickly as a younger person might but she has been great and has made a lot of progress. So don’t let age put you off! If you have a spark of interest, run with it.
I have always played the piano primarily for enjoyment but I have also taken The Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) exams. Between 2002 and 2009 I achieved Grades 1-7. I then took a break as I moved away from home with my now husband while we attended university. During these three years, I found that I barely touched the piano. I was homesick and playing the piano felt almost painful because it reminded me of home too much. In hindsight, this was a huge error because music has such amazing power to lift your mood. Moving back to North Yorkshire in 2012 rekindled my love of playing the piano and I found a new teacher and began lessons again. I took the ABRSM Grade 8 exam in December 2014 and was devastated when I failed. It had taken so much courage for me to take the exam after a break of 5 years. My confidence took a huge knock and I thought I wouldn’t be able to get over it.
It was back in May of this year that I finally decided that I wanted to attempt the Grade 8 exam again. So I found a new teacher and began lessons with her. I will never forget my first lesson with this new teacher, as I walked into the room shaking and burst into tears when she asked me to play her something. My anxiety levels were through the roof. She was so kind and since then I am pleased to say that my nerves have diminished and I am back on track.
So yes playing the piano is difficult but it is a wonderfully rewarding thing to do. As long as you are willing to practice and be patient with yourself in the early stages, there is no reason why you won’t succeed. Find a teacher who you think you can get on with and give it a try. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on a piano, my first piano was a freebie out of the local newspaper. Before that I used a small keyboard which was perfectly fine when I was starting out.
For all the reasons you can think of not to learn the piano, or any other instrument, I promise you there are many more reasons why you should! I’ll keep you updated on my journey towards re-taking my Grade 8…