I'm thirteen years old, and I had always loved classical music. Instruments like the violin, flute, and cello always sounded amazing to me, but the one instrument that really stood out was piano. I really like piano songs, and now I want to learn how to play piano myself, but I'm wondering how long it's going to take for me to become proficient at it. I wanna be good enough to the point where I can play something like this:

And by the way, I know absolutely nothing about music. Nothing at all. I don't even know how to read sheet music. So how many years of learning will it take for me to become that good?

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  • Everybody has different learning abilities, situations, and support systems in place. If there is enough interest in learning, time spent can become unimportant. Your youth is a definite advantage. – skinny peacock Feb 12 '18 at 17:11

It's impossible to say—it all depends on how much time and effort you put into it. As with anything worthwhile, the development of your skill is directly proportional to the amount of daily, focused practice you do. It'll take years before you're able to play something like the piece you posted above, but know this: you can learn it, if you put in the work.

Daily, focused practice. That's the key. You simply cannot learn and improve your skill unless you're working at it every single day, and unless the work you put in is disciplined and intentional.

You can discover a lot of the knowledge you want (such as how to read music) online. Nevertheless, I recommend getting a teacher, because a teacher can guide your progress and offer suggestions for how to get better at practicing. It's possible to practice ineffectively—a good teacher will help you learn how to practice better and make the most of your practice time.

Good luck! Learning to play music is incredibly fulfilling and satisfying, and it's something you'll carry with you the rest of your life.

  • +1 For teacher recommendation. People say practice makes perfect; this is not true. Practice makes permanent. You need to make sure you're practicing with good habits. Also, the earlier in life you start, the better. So find a good teacher, and get on it! I recommend the Faber & Faber piano method, but there's lots of different piano methods out there. – John Doe Feb 11 '18 at 18:02

Just know there are two main routes to learn piano, or even music:

  1. The classical route (the traditional route). Where you go to a teacher, they stack book upon book upon book of sheet music, and 3-4 years later you're a proficient music sheet reader. after 4 years (or even 10 years) you still know nothing about chords or how to use scales for improvisation.

  2. The 'play by ear' route. Where you don't know how to read music at all, but music theory (scales, chords) and listening to music is all that guides you and you can pick out anything from the radio. Also, this route is good for improvisation. search for 'Karen Ramirez play by ear' on youtube for this, she's the best teacher on playing by ear that I found and its all free.

When I was 13 I went about #1. I went to a teacher who'd sit me down with those painful books. I did so for 4 years, hated every minute of it. Years later I tried #2, and that's where I found my love of music again.

You mentioned you want to play that classical piece, and if so, you may need to go the traditional route. However, if you want to play anything but classical (ie, everything you hear on the radio, traditional songs, christmas songs, pop songs, create your own music, improvise, etc) then I strongly urge you go to with #2. You can get pretty damn good within a year. After a year of my going with #2 I now know about 50-60 pop songs / traditional songs in multiple keys, and I can pick up a new song in about a hour without sheet music at all. Whereas back in the day I used to know like 4 intricate classical songs and I'd spend weeks/months practicing them.

I know people that went the traditional route and 10 years later can't even play a simple song like amazing grace without having the sheet music for it, I find that really sad.

  • If you go the classical route the teacher will most probably ask you to do theory tuition as well, which may improve your chord knowledge considerably. – Neil Meyer Feb 11 '18 at 6:59
  • in my case, my teacher never talked about chords at all. but each teacher is different I suppose. – foreyez Feb 11 '18 at 7:09

It is important to figure out what your goals are, in terms of the music you would like to play. I highly recommend finding a good teacher. Ask the music teacher at your school or other kids who play piano well for names of potential teachers. Interview those teachers and make sure they can teach what you are looking to do. Some teachers specialize in classical music, others specialize in jazz/popular music, occasionally one can do some of both. Some teachers are more adept at teaching theory, so if you want to make sure you learn theory ask about it.

I had excellent classical teachers growing up who all taught me theory and form. At age 13, I was tired of classical music and turned to jazz. There, I learned jazz theory.

I tell my young students that it takes at least three years before playing piano starts to become fun. Older students do tend to learn a little more quickly, but it still takes devoted time and effort. You have to think of piano as requiring as much dedication as an academic subject you're aiming for high scores in, or a part-time job.

One of the frustrations with learning is that you know what you want to do, but you're just not there yet. Be patient with yourself.

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