The piano is an easy instrument for beginners to learn, but it is a very challenging instrument to master. It is easily accessible, as many people own them, and electronic keyboards are not hard to find. Playing a note is not complicated, so it is easy to be a mediocre piano player.
The piano is one of the most difficult instruments to master, although it is one of the easiest for beginners to learn. Most pianos have 88 keys and numerous combinations of chords and scales. The violin might be the most challenging instrument to learn since you must find the pitch, while a piano is tuned to strike the proper pitch every time.
In this article, we will review what makes learning the piano challenging while still being approachable. We will explore tips for learning the piano, as well as some appropriate expectations for beginners.
The piano has close to 12,000 individual parts that comprise four main functional components (source). These components combine to make a practical and beautiful instrument.
The typical modern keyboard is composed of 88 total keys, of which there are 36 black and 56 white spanning the length of the instrument (source). Each key moves a hammer, which strikes the strings to produce sound, making it a percussion instrument.
A piano typically has around 230 strings, and these strings are tuned to play precise notes. Notes played on a piano use anywhere from one to three strings at a time.
Another functional component of a piano is the pedals, and most have two or three pedals: a soft pedal, a sustain pedal, and sometimes a sostenuto.
These pedals alter the sound produced by tempering the tone or carrying the note on for a longer time.
An electric keyboard, in many ways, is a simplified form of piano, and these sometimes have pedals as well. There is no need for a hammer or strings in this case, as the sound produced is electronic.
What is the Most Difficult Aspect of Piano Playing?
Beginner musicians might struggle with multitasking while playing the piano since the instrument requires playing notes and chords simultaneously with both hands.
On top of this, players will have to manipulate foot pedals at the same time.
Hand posture is a critical but difficult technique to learn, and it’s vital to make sure that your wrists are neither too low nor too high.
It can also be very challenging to learn how to play without looking at your hands, allowing the musician to read the music in front of them without having to take their eyes off of it.
The Piano and Hand-Eye Coordination
Playing the piano requires a great deal of hand-eye coordination because the player must translate the series of musical notes in front of them into a series of complex movements through their fingertips.
Both of a player’s hands must move independently of each other, and if the piece requires using the pedals, the musician must also shift their feet in rhythm.
One of the benefits of playing the piano is that it can significantly improve an individual’s hand-eye coordination (source).
These benefits extend to young and old alike, as practicing and improving your musical skills sharpens coordination and leads to improved brain function.
To help improve your skill level with the piano and your ability to multitask, try practicing one hand at a time at first. You can tap chords and notes out on flat surfaces around you like countertops, books, tables, etc.
It is also essential to strengthen your non-dominant hand by practicing scales and arpeggios using just that hand. Never skip warm-up exercises because warm fingers respond and move more fluidly.
Another way to strengthen the non-dominant hand is to swap hands. If you’re learning a piece for your dominant hand, try playing it with your non-dominant hand.
It is also important to strengthen your fingers individually so that they play the piano keys with the same level of strength. A person’s ring finger tends to be the weakest and takes the most conditioning (source).
Use a metronome, especially if you tend to rush through a piece, which will help you keep the rhythm.
The Complexity of Notes
A musician can play 12 major chords using the 88 keys of a piano. Chords are a group of notes that play harmoniously together, and they vary from three to five notes (source).
A musician plays a chord when they push all of the keys that comprise the chord down at the same time. Chords are played with both hands, but they are more often performed with the left hand while the right hand plays individual notes in a melody.
A pianist can use all 88 keys and arrange them into a variety of chords. They can further arrange keys into hundreds of chord combinations.
What is Easy About Learning the Piano?
The piano is primarily a percussion instrument, but it has some of the complexity of a string instrument as well.
String instruments such as the violin can take years to learn how to find the proper pitch, although the piano produces the right tone with much less effort.
A piano’s strings are tuned in advance of play so that each key strikes the correct pitch.
It is a straightforward process to learn how to play a short beginner song because most do not require complicated chords or two-hand coordination. For example, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” only involves the use of one hand and five notes.
More complicated songs like “La Campanella” can take years to master (source). This song is so complicated that it can take even an expert two months to learn.
Should You Get a Piano Teacher?
Having a teacher will help any student learn their instrument faster by utilizing their experience and education.
Piano instructors are fairly commonplace compared to those for brass or string instruments, while guitar teachers are a little more familiar. Just about any music school teaches piano.
Another resource would be to ask around at your local schools. Many music teachers supplement their income by taking on private students.
The benefit of having a teacher, no matter the instrument, is their ability to tailor each lesson to their student’s abilities. They make sure that each student is learning on a level that suits them.
They determine whether or not a student should spend more time on one lesson, or if they can skip through.
Teachers also provide top-notch accountability for students. They can tell when a student is practicing at home and make sure that they follow up on their commitments.
What is the Best Age to Learn the Piano?
There is no right age to learn a new instrument, and anyone can accomplish this feat. It is certainly easier to learn an instrument as a child, and a child can begin to learn the piano as early as the age of four (source).
The younger a child starts, the easier it is for their brain to store the information, and the more it improves their cognition.
Make sure a child is ready to start playing an instrument before starting lessons. Children have a harder time learning if forced into something they are not prepared to take on.
Always allow a child to learn at their own pace to ensure that the lessons are ingrained in their brain.
Be Reasonable with Your Expectations
Have realistic expectations for learning the piano. A beginner needs to focus on nailing down the basics. Theory, sight-reading, and arpeggios are essential, and a student must master them before becoming an expert.
You cannot start piano lessons and expect to learn Chopin in a week. It is essential to be practical about your speed of learning and skill level, and you must practice if you hope to develop this.
Set aside time every day to practice and then practice more afterward.
Students learn instruments at varying speeds, but if you are a quick study, you may be able to skip ahead in your lessons.
If you have previous experience with other instruments, you might want to skip lessons geared toward reading music, music theory, and other fundamentals.
The piano is not necessarily the hardest instrument to learn, but it is one of the most difficult to master. A piano player has the luxury of playing an instrument already tuned to the correct pitch, and one-handed beginner songs are quite easy to learn on the piano.
What makes the piano challenging is the level of multitasking and hand-eye coordination required. There is a multitude of notes and chords that can be played on the piano, and playing it with expertise requires well-developed skills.
Any instrument provides challenges for a beginner, so a student needs to dedicate themselves to that instrument and remain persistent.