I am a 20 year old student. I use to play a lot of piano while I was a child, and I was very very good at it, a natural talent even though I didn't like playing the classics at Junior Music School. I was in the school from year 7-13, I was really good at it but my stubbornness got over my head so I stopped playing until the day before when I sat down out of curiosity with a mild will to play again. But it was damn horrible. My hearing is in tact, still perfect as ever, but my aim and coordination on the keypad is nothing more but a disaster after 6 and a half years of not playing and I find it playing different tempos and such with both hands nearly impossible. I would very much love to get back in my former shape when I could play any song I would like and such. If I were to get back in my former shape how long would it take, and how and what should I start practicing again?
I have been through almost the exact same experience. I had piano lessons from ages six to thirteen. When I was thirteen, I quit piano. When I was 19, I had a friend who was studying music and restarted my love of music, and I wanted to get back to playing the piano.
Here's what I did: I went through the university library and found most of the old beginner pieces that I was taught by my piano teacher. I also found some of the more advanced pieces, and I found some old exercises for warmup and technique. I was also able to use the university practice rooms, so I didn't have to buy a piano. Now, you could easily find classical repertoire on IMSLP and you could find a good 88-key keyboard controller and some good software for a lot less than a real piano.
Then I started practicing:
- Practice every day! Even if it's only for 15 minutes.
- Don't expect to be able to play the most difficult pieces you used to play.
- Always warm up with a simple exercise or set of exercises. I use a few of Czerny's Exercises in Passage-Playing.
- Start with the simplest beginner pieces - especially if you have any that you used to play. You may master them very quickly in which case you can move on quickly. Or it may take you some time to master the simplest pieces, which means you have a bit more to remember and the pieces are appropriate for you.
- Practice each piece you are working on two or three times every day, going slowly enough to make very few or no mistakes.
- Start off working on one or two pieces at most. You can build up to three or four over time but pay attention to how you're doing and how much practice time you have.
- Keep in mind you are doing this for your own enjoyment, it is a lifelong investment in time, there is no need to hurry and there is no need to ever become "great". Set goals for pieces you would like to play and enjoy the process of learning the pieces even when you can't yet play them the way they sound on your favorite recordings.
- If you have the money, there's nothing better for learning an instrument than having a good teacher.
I too had the same experience with an instrument. I played the Flute in school band beginning from age 11. I continued all the way through high school earning medals and awards for my progressive accomplishments on this instrument. I absolutely loved music, and still do! It was my favorite subject in school and the one class that I always excelled in.
I then went on to college as a Music Ed Major and hit a wall about two years in when I realized my only realistic career option was to teach music in a school (the horror!). I wasn't a fan of school to begin with so I left college and found other work.
I still enjoyed my musical passions and became more interested in singing. I no longer had a reason (at that time) to continue playing the flute so I put it on the shelf for about 15 years and never touched it during that time.
Then one day, after a music friend encouraged me to start playing the flute again, I went home and took it out of the case and when I raised it to my lips nothing but air came out. OMG! Had it been that long? I still remembered the fingerings for most of the notes, but my embouchure and air strength was completely lost.
I immediately picked up the phone and called the local music store to schedule Flute lessons. I was so horrified regarding my loss of ability I believe I started lessons the next day. Three years later, at the encouragement of that same flute teacher, I have been teaching flute lessons for a full year and a half.
How ironic since I was not a fan of school over 30 years ago and couldn't stand the thought of a lifetime of teaching in a school environment. Time changes us and I love the teaching part, but am so happy I can be a mentor without the constraints of a school administration bearing down on my creative spirit.
In addition to the recommendation to find a teacher, get a book called The Musician's Way, by Gerald Klickstein. It has been a source of guidance for me as a musician. Enjoy your revived musical journey with the piano and keep your mind open to anything. Maybe you too will find yourself mentoring young musicians just a short time from now!