How long do I have to take piano lessons to play a real song?

December 12, 2020

Music Lesson Goals - Piano Lessons NYC

There are many reasons to sign up for regular music lessons. It’s certainly great to experience art and creativity through a fun hobby. Ultimately, the goal in learning an instrument is to play and perform music that you enjoy! You may be asking yourself, “How long do I have to take piano lessons before I can play a real song?”

There are many advertisements online for piano learning apps or courses that boast of immediate results. That, my friends, is simply not possible. Do not fall for their tricks!

Anyone can come up to a soccer ball and kick it but it doesn’t mean that you are automatically a good soccer player. Similarly, everyone can come up to a piano keyboard and press some keys down, but it wouldn’t mean that you are “playing the piano.” To play a song on the piano takes some dedicated practice.

So when posed the question “How long do I have to take piano lessons before I can play a real song? -”  we cannot really give you a solid answer! It depends upon a number of factors, including the difficulty of the song, how much time and effort you put into practicing, and your technical skill set.

Don’t let this discourage you from taking lessons –  we have good news! When it comes to making good sounds, piano is the easiest instrument. The ability to immediately produce a good sound on the piano is immediate and very rewarding. This means that students of all ages experience instant gratification in their first piano lesson. If a key is pressed down, you hear the sound! There are hundreds of ways you can do this, but a sound will always come out.

This is not the case with most other musical instruments.  If you pick up a trombone or clarinet, for example, you will have to spend hours and hours learning the technique to make any sound at all. A friend of mine once played a joke on me. I asked to try his trombone and he said “sure, just not too loud please.” After five minutes, the only thing I had accomplished was turning purple with my eyes popping out while trying to blow in it as hard as I could! I couldn’t make any sound at all.

The hard part of learning to play piano is learning to use different fingers on the keys to produce a sound. Typing is the closest activity to playing the piano but it is still a thousand times less demanding for hand and finger coordination. On piano, unlike most other instruments, we can play several notes at once and this is what beginner students usually find the hardest. Most of the initial practicing goes into learning to read the music and into translating it to independent individual finger movement.

How long does it take to get over this initial hump?

With the help of a good piano teacher (like NYC’s Riverside Music Studios has!), most students can learn to play a simple song right during their first piano lesson.  The first time you work with an instructor, it’s likely you can learn to play songs like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or the melody to “Ode to Joy.” Simple but encouraging, right?

Next comes the part of learning piano where you have to learn how to read the sheet music. Copying the teachers’ hands, like copying a YouTube piano tutorial. is not a long term solution! You will need to spend a few months understanding how to read music.

Another piece of good news: music notation (the way we show what music sounds like on paper) is actually REALLY simple! Unlike learning a new language where there are dozens of rules and also dozens of exceptions from the rules, in music there are only simple and logical rules.

You will be working on basic hand and finger coordination which usually feels very new and unusual to the beginners. This takes a few months to settle in as well.

Obviously, the more you practice on your own, the faster you get the results. There’s a limit to how much you can speed the learning process up because it takes a certain time for the brain to form new neural connections that allow us to play the piano. And yet, can we make a projection? Yes we can!

After decades of giving thousands of piano lessons in NYC, we can create a crude chart for you. Consider the first page of “Für Elise” by Beethoven. This will be the most well known part of this piece. You certainly know it but if you need a refresher, listen to the first 30-45 seconds of the piece anywhere online.

So, how long will it take for you, if you start with zero experience, to be able to play the first page of “Für Elise”?

  • One 30 min lesson / week and practice two or three times for 30 min between your lessons: 4-6 months.

  • One 45 min lesson with the same amount of practicing: 3-5 months.
  • One 60 min lesson and the same amount of practicing: 2-4 months.

If you practice more in-between the lessons or take two lessons per week, then you shave off even more time from these projections.

Want a non-classical example? Use “Yesterday” by The Beatles and roughly the same timing will apply.

Every musician who is beginning their journey is different: some people adapt to new skills faster and some slower but anyone who wants to play the piano is eventually able to learn it. It’s really never too late to take piano lessons. This is an acquired skill that can be taught to you by only a qualified teacher.

Our advice? Don’t keep asking yourself “How long do I have to take piano lessons before I can play a real song?” If you’re ready to find out for yourself how quickly you can learn, contact Riverside Music Studios  to start your own private piano lessons in NYC!




To sign up for music lessons in NYC or to contact us with any questions using the form below:

(212) 247-4900
Riverside Music Studios - Midtown
1727 Broadway, Suite 2
New York, New York 10019

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Riverside Music Studios - Downtown
160 Broadway, Suite 900EB
New York, New York 10038