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Can You Forget How To Play The Piano?

Life happens, and adults need to put piano lessons on hold from time to time. Middle schoolers and high schoolers may also drop piano as academic and athletic pressures intensify. While unfortunate, this is understandable.

But just how damaging can this break from music be, and will you be fighting an uphill battle if you choose to start learning piano again? This blog will walk you through some of the difficulties associated with dropping piano, what to expect when you jump back in, and more.

If you would like to learn more about piano lessons in Doylestown at the Cosgrove Flute and Piano Studio, please get in touch!

Can You Forget How To Play the Piano?

If you have several years of serious piano study under your belt, no, you really can’t forget how to play the piano. Generally speaking, you’ll be able to sit down at the piano and sight read music just like before, if you had reached that level of playing.

Let’s say that prior to your break from the piano, you were able to comfortably sight read through Aram Khatchaturian’s No. 1 Andantino from his Children’s Album, Vol. 1 (Ivan Sings). This is a level 5 piece, and if you were able to sight read this, you will probably be able to do so even after taking a year off from the piano.

Note that if you were playing professional level repertoire, like Prokofiev’s Sonatas, you won’t be able to just pick up where you left off. You have to be “in shape” to play this music, and you can lose that muscle memory and dexterity. You won’t be starting entirely from scratch, but you will need to relearn the piece.

What If a Pianist Hasn’t Reached an Advanced Level?

The sooner you drop piano after starting, the more quickly you will forget what you’ve learned. A common scenario: many young professionals start taking piano lessons in Bucks County for the social and artistic benefits. Then, when work gets busy a year or two later (or kids come along), they put lessons on hold. These adults will sometimes revisit music lessons a decade or so later, and they are disappointed to realize they’ve forgotten almost everything they learned.

Don’t be discouraged if this describes your situation. 1-2 years of piano lessons is not usually enough time for the muscle memory and knowledge to really embed itself, unless you practiced heavily during that time period and continued to play the piano here and there after quitting lessons.

The same applies for those who took music lessons as children and revisit lessons as adults. Assume that anything you remember from your childhood music study is a bonus!

How Long Does it Take to Relearn the Piano?

If you only had a year or two of experience under your belt before putting things on pause, expect 3-6 months of ramp-up time before you return to your previous level. This depends on your level of motivation and practice discipline of course.

If you were a professional level pianist prior to putting music on hold, you won’t need to relearn the notes, scales, and rudiments of piano, but it will take a while to relearn the music you were playing. If you spent a year of college learning a Chopin piano concerto, for instance, it will probably take six months to “work it up” to performance level again.

Do You Really Need to Drop Piano?

Many people make knee-jerk reactions with the piano. They get stressed out and quit too soon. But perhaps a quick analysis of your schedule could help.

You Only Need To Practice 20-30 Minutes Per Day

To continue making progress as a beginner or early intermediate pianist, you really just need a few minutes every day to review your practice materials. That, plus a 30-45 minute weekly lesson, will push you in the right direction.

If you are playing advanced music, consider practicing your music in brief chunks. Many musical passages repeat themselves, so if you learn a particular chunk of a piece, it’s likely that you’ve also mastered additional iterations of that chunk that appear later in the piece.

Examine Your Expectations

If you started lessons thinking that you could play Fur Elise in your first year, you were sadly overestimating your ability (unless you are unusually motivated). Remember that it takes years to become an advanced pianist, and failing to sight read well in your first 12 months doesn’t mean that you aren’t on track.

If you do need to take a break from lessons for financial or time reasons, try to continue playing a bit every day. Play your scales, read through easy music, and keep the notes and fingerings fresh in your mind. That way, when you start lessons again, you can pick up right where your dropped off.

For more information about piano lessons in Quakertown, PA, please get in touch. Students of all ages and skill levels are welcome at the Cosgrove Flute and Piano Studio.

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