Returning to the piano after a prolonged hiatus or break can seem a little intimidating at first. Perhaps you learned diligently as a child, or gave up as you entered adult life as other responsibilities became apparent. Whatever the reason for stopping, the important thing is that you’re back and ready to jump back in!
We have a lot of people who often come to us with the same question and it can be easy to jump the gun so to speak and feel like you’ll be able to do everything you once were able to as soon as you get behind the keys again.
Whilst the piano is actually an incredibly forgiving instrument to relearn and like a bike, is something you never truly forget, it does require a little patience and structure to have a great re-learning experience. If you push through it though, we’re sure you’ll be back to your former playing levels in no time at all.
If you are feeling a little lost on where to start and what to expect, here are our top tips for getting back into playing the piano.
#1 - Dig Out Your Old Music
Something we particularly love telling those who learned when they were younger to do, is to try to find the same books you used to use when you once played. Obviously if this was many years ago then it may not be possible, but if you’ve still got them, get out your old books or pieces of music and start flicking through the pages!
For example, let’s say you used to play to a grade 5 standard. Familiarise yourself with what you were once playing and used to be able to play, instead of starting at the pinnacle of where you left of, shift back through the previous chapters and see what you can still play and understand from memory.
This might even require going back a grade or two, just to get to a point where you are comfortable with what is written in front of you. Likewise, if there are any pieces you have particularly embedded in your head, play the pieces you remember being able to play from start to finish without hesitation and repeat the same for scales and arpeggios.
It’s often overlooked how powerful muscle memory is for pieces that you used to play over and over again, no matter how many years ago they were! We’ve seen people in their 70s and upwards still be able to remember how to play certain pieces, even if they haven’t played since being a child! Pretty soon, you’ll quickly have some recollection of what it is like to be playing again and fall back in love with it!
The important step here is to not get frustrated, in a world where we are able to get most things at the touch of a button, most of us are used to instant gratification, however if there has been a 30-year gap, you probably won’t be able to restart at that same level so need to build back up to get there.
The world has definitely changed since music books and now the learning experience is far more diverse, for more,why not check out our top ways to learn the piano here!
#2 - Practice Slowly And Build Up
Here’s another one that we often see people overdo when relearning, particularly those who have had run ins with tendonitis or arthritis in the past.
If you’re just getting started again, you need to rebuild the muscles in your hands to a level that they are able to keep up with what you are wanting to play. For those just re-immersing themselves in the piano, 20 minutes is a good place to begin. From there, build up to 30 minutes, 40 minutes and eventually an hour plus when your body is ready.
The same goes for the speed at which you play each piece. Pieces that are particularly quick or intricate can result in your hands fatiguing rather quickly. Instead, slow things down, perhaps to half speed, then build back up gradually to full speed.
#3 Warm Up!
You’ve heard it before and you’ll definitely hear it again and again...Playing an instrument is exactly the same as exercising, you need to warm up before delving into your playing.
Scales, arpeggios, broken chords, even making your own musical warm ups, all are fantastic ways to help keep your fingers loose and reignite those fine motor skills that come with playing the piano.
Those who don’t regularly warm up when playing often find that their hands ‘burn out’ and pretty soon will feel incredibly inflexible or even cramp. This will leave you feeling super frustrated as even if you’re able to read the music in front of you, your fingers won’t be able to keep up!
#4 - Gradually Build Your Repertoire
Something we often see with learners who have a previous history of playing is trying to relearn everything you once knew at once. It’s easy to try bouncing from song to song that you used to be able to play.
This will likely leave you confused and as you’re gradually trying to learn new techniques and tricks, this is one way to overload your learning, cut corners and impact your technique. A far more structured approach is to instead master your scales and arpeggios, then focus on learning just one or two songs from start to finish instead of learning 5 songs but only being able to get halfway through.
The more you practice, the more your repertoire will begin to build.
#5 - Don’t Put Pressure On Yourself!
When you are relearning, particularly as an adult, it’s easy to put pressure on yourself or get frustrated if you can’t grasp something straight away. The important thing to remember here is that music certainly isn’t a race and should be one of the most enjoyable parts of your day.
There is no need to hurry to the next stage and learning the piano is certainly not a competition.
As any musician will tell you, the secret to learning any instrument or craft is utilising cumulative information. It’s only by mastering each stage and advancing progressively that you’ll see real improvement. If you go too quickly, your play will be sloppy will leave you frustrated as things don’t sound as they should. In this case, the tortoise and the hare comes to mind!