I am 13 and starting to learn piano. I have been asking many people online, who claim to know piano, how long have they been playing. Most, if not all, say that they started between 5-9. I have a dream of becoming a concert pianist one day, decades from now of course. But in general I just want to be pretty good at it, is it too late? Can I not become good since I'm starting late compared to them?
How good you will become and how soon will depend on three things -
- How much time you practice per day. If you practice for an hour a day you will improve almost twice as fast as if you practice for half an hour a day.
- When you give up playing. If you stop enjoying it or other things in your life become more important then you will either drastically decrease the amount you practice and play or stop altogether. This is what happens to most youngsters.
- The quality of the tuition you receive. If you try and learn completely online then your progress will be much slower and likely to also stop much sooner.
Why starting very young seems to be important for becoming a soloist is that if you fall in love with a particular instrument at a very young age then that love is more likely to preclude love for anything else than if you start later. Start later and you may already love other pursuits but if your love for your instrument and dedication and hard work matches the early starters for as long then you should achieve similar results.
On the subject of just how much to practice, I particularly like something attributed to the late 19th and early 20th century violin teacher, Leopold Auer, who trained most of the greats of the first half of the 20th century.
Practice three hours a day if you are any good, four if you are a little stupid. If you need more than that, stop. You should find another line of work
Three hours a day when you are a complete beginner is obviously far too much. Apart from anything else you are likely to develop overuse injuries, but his advice has a lot of merit for advanced students. A real teacher will help you avoid injury.
The other thing to note about practice is that it must engage the brain to succeed in the long run. You have to think about what you are doing for most of the time you are practising. Mindless repetition is more likely to make you worse than better. Again, a real teacher will be of enormous help here.
The accompanist for the choir I sing in just finished his doctorate in piano performance at UT Austin. (Butler School of Music is a very good school.) I know a few graduates of this school, and this guy is a cut above all of them. Perfect technique and control, yet not robotic.
He didn't start piano until he was 16. I'd guess his age now would be 33-ish. But he was pretty good 5 years ago when he was working on his masters degree. And he has played at Carnegie Hall, not as the soloist, but accompanying someone.
Second story: I started learning pipe organ at age 50. I'm now 60. I wouldn't call myself "good", but I can sub for the real organist at church on the Sundays she's gone.
Since you're a little older you'll learn the basics faster. You'll have no trouble catching up to the guys who started at age 5.
I am 13...
I stopped reading at that point. Of course it's not too late! Don't limit yourself. Don't let someone else limit you.
...I have a dream of becoming a concert pianist one day, decades from now of course. But in general I just want to be pretty good at it...
OK, I continued reading... Now we get to the real issue: what actually is your goal?
"Concert pianist" and "pretty good" aren't interchangeable goals. Adding things like "I have a dream" or "in general I just want" IMO only obscure what you really want. It's important to know what you want, because there is a risk of giving up if you don't.
But instead of burdening yourself with questions of what the future holds ask yourself what you are prepared to do now! I'm sure you have read about how many hours a day the most serious musician practice. Figure out how much you can commit yourself to practicing. (The fact you are thinking about this at age 13 makes me think you are very self motivated.)
Start to feel out how much time you can practice and how to fit a daily habit into your life. Also, develop a sense for self assessment. Practice where you are weak then move on to something new after you make improvements.
Take time to find good method books and pedagogical (teaching) material. Look for material that covers ergonomics (body mechanics) so you develop good form for the beginning. Also look for classic teaching material - stuff like Klavierbüchlein für Wilhelm Friedemann Bach or Clementi's Introduction to the Art of Playing on the Pianoforte - or well developed graded material like the ABRSM syllabus. There is a lot to choose from. There isn't one best source. The important thing is to use your judgement and don't take any old Youtube tutorial.
A large part of your question is about comparing yourself to others. Ranking musicians and performance grades/competition has always struck me a strange and for the individual it's fraught with disappointment. Being #1 isn't what music is about. Expression and enjoyment are the point. Regarding skill the important comparison to make is you to yourself.
Start now. Don't stop. Play what you like to play.
I started at the age of six and at the age of nine won a national piano competition in my country - Poland. As a professional pianist and piano teacher I can only say, that it is never too late to start working on yourself. Music and especially piano requires lots of work and time spent on it. But it is never too late to enjoy it, which is the most important.
- I have a dream of becoming a concert pianist one day, decades from now of course.
- But in general I just want to be pretty good at it,
- is it too late?
It is definitely not too late for 2. I took up guitar at the age of 16. I changed to classical guitar at 18 and managed to get into music college a few years older than the other students. I qualified as a teacher and taught for many years, occasionally giving local concerts. However I was never of concert standard compared to the virtuosi who were out there. In any case I didn't want the lifestyle of always living in hotel rooms in different countries.
With regard to 3. From my own experience I can guarantee that, provided your hands and feet work well enough, and you practise sufficiently, it is not too late to become excellent, not just pretty good.
With regard to 1. History is full of people who have defied the odds. Who are we to say you can't do it? There is also a demand for excellent accompanists to classical singers for example. These require a different skill-set from those performing concertos etc.
There is an old saying, 'It's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all'
I think this could be extended to, 'It's better to have tried to become a concert-pianist and only become a very good pianist than never to have tried at all'
One advantage you have over 5 or 6 year-olds is that your hands are close to being the size they will be for the rest of your life! That's something younger beginners have to cope with.
Age is, as they say, just a number. More important is your musicality, ability to practise properly, and propensity to make sacrifices, which will happen in the next few years if you want to become really good.
It is quite possible to learn from the internet, with no real teacher, but you'll have to sort the wheat from the chaff. How will you know if a site is good, bad or indifferent?
Having a piano, time and place to practise, and the yearning is all boding well, but having a live teacher will make a huge difference to your progress and understanding. Without, you'll need to set your own goals, and work on whatever at a pace you decide. A (good) teacher will improve all that.
So, no, it's not too late - it's never to late to learn, particularly music, so get on with it NOW !
Whether or not it's "too late" depends on your goals and expectations.
The fact is that in the performing arts one needs to start as early as possible to develop the skills necessary to get into a conservatory by high school or college, in you teenage years. But this is because one has an expectation of starting their career in their early 20s. This is true in athletics, ballet dancing, etc.
In addition to the above consideration, mastering a musical instrument requires constant practice and attention to your development. This is a life long pursuit and most musicians get better with age up to a point where age can no longer be ignored. No matter how much you practice if you life into your 90s your skills will begin to decay. By how much depends on lifestyle and genetics. I saw Andre Segovia perform in his 90s and it was not great. That being said, if you start too, way too, late then entropy will win.
I think 13 is a perfect time to start, you are not too late. But you have posed a specific goal, that of being a concert pianist. To accomplish this specific goal would require entering a conservatory at an early age, perhaps by age 16, or at least by college. Again, this is to meet the expectation of a career as a concert pianist at a reasonable age. If you really dedicate yourself to practice now, and make good progress this is possible.
On the lighter side, if you just want to enjoy playing and get "good" at it you are definitely NOT TOO LATE. Most kids don't start until their early teens and many become virtuosos. I can only cite anecdotal cases. For example, a good friend of mine didn't start music lessons on any instrument until age 16 and became an exceptional percussionist and guitarist. I worked with him in several bands in college. He is not a professional musician, working as a manager in some tech industry but he is good enough to compete with classically trained musicians for spots in orchestras, etc. Myself, I started on violin at age 5, eventually moving to guitar at 8, then classical bass in high school, at 16. I do work as a musician but in college changed majors to physics. I have no doubt that starting early gave me an advantage in terms of picking up new things easily (drums, horns, etc), but some friends of mine who started lessons late in high school rapidly surpassed me by sheer dedication.
You are very young and can progress quite a bit before college if you start now. If you are serious about making a life long hobby or even a career as a musician I would start lessons now, and get involved in any programs your school or community has for music. This will connect you to the music education community and will provide support for developing in the right direction, getting the skills needed to do what is expected. When I was in high school we were required to compete in all state music competitions as part of our grade, sort of like athletes competing at matches, etc. This is the kind of experience that will prepare you for entering a conservatory and a music program later in life.
At worst, you'll be a little "behind" your peers who started at a younger age, but this really only means that you won't be performing in big-name stuff until your late 20s or early 30s. Realistically, you're young enough that you should have no trouble "catching up" if you put in the time.
13 is a great age to begin learning piano. And since you're just starting and are still plenty young, be open to other avenues for the skill. Maybe you'll find something else that fits you even better than your current dream of being a concert pianist.
You will go as far as you are willing to take it seriously and practice the amount necessary to achieve your goals.
You can certainly become good starting at age 13.
It would be difficult to become great.
Adults have an ability to learn the piano in less time than kids do but other factors limit how well they can end up becoming which has more to do with their brain and dexterity but mostly the brain. And the brain has more to do with music in general than piano per se. Sort of like it is easier to learn a second language when you are young than to do it when you are grown up.