Adult Piano Students.What You Need To Know.


If you teach piano  for some years now, you probably had the chance to teach a few or more adult students. And you possibly have come to the conclusion that teaching an adult is a lot different than teaching a child.

A common question  often asked by adults willing to learn how to play the piano is

Can an adult learn how to play the piano?

The answer is  yes!! An adult can definitely learn to play the piano!

Unless, of course, they have those high expectations of becoming the next Chopin or Liszt, learning the piano is possible and achievable in a more mature age, too.

Is there a different approach when we teach adults?

Yes, there is. Adults need a different  teaching approach for the following reasons.

  • Adults have forgotten how to try out things in a playful manner.
  • They first want to understand what they’re doing.
  • They also need to be aware that they aren’t actually bad at learning to play.

Their learning is just different.

The approach and therefore the method should be different, too.

In order to embrace and adopt a new teaching approach for our adult piano students let's think a bit of the reasons an adult decides to start piano lessons.

Why adults  start piano lessons?

Adults start to learn piano lessons for various reasons but here are the most common ones.

Looking for a new hobby

Adults  usually tend to focus to work, finances, family, children and grandchildren.

Some adults have small children or grandchildren to take care of. Some others have adult children and they just spend their time by working a lot. Some adults are retired from work and have much free time.

No matter the situation in which each adult student is, it is important to maintain balance in their lives by spending some time doing activities and hobbies that they enjoy.

It gives them a sense of purpose.

What could be the best hobby for entertainment and brain activity?

Playing music of course!

A desire to learn to play the music they love

There might be  a secret desire since they were kids or it might be  a wish that just came during the last years, many adults would love to be able to play their favourite music on the piano.

It may be some music they enjoy listening to or some favourite songs from the past like 60s, 70s, 80s or 90s. It may also be some popular classical or modern piano music.

Refresh their skills and abilities they had when they were children

Many adult students had piano lessons when they were young. Now that they are adults they might want to go back, regain the skills they had and play their old piano pieces.

Some adults would love to refresh their piano skills so they can play music with or accompamy their youngest family members. These could be their children or grandchildren that have just started piano lessons.

Isn't this  a great activity to spend quality time with family?

Piano lessons for relief

Music has healing powers, we all know that.

Some adults start piano lessons as a part of their healing process or a way to express their grief.

They might also wish to escape from everyday's problems.

Music triggers emotions, which is why it impacts us so greatly.

Knowing the reasons why our adult student wants to learn to play the piano will help us to find the best teaching approach, to encourage him and give him what he expects.

What you should know about adults

When  an adult decides to start  piano lessons, he has great hopes and imagines himself playing songs and music easily on the piano.

And while learning to play the piano should mean having fun and escaping the daily routine it's not always like that for an adult.

Adults tend to be very demanding with themselves.

They expect to be perfect at once. They want immediate results.

But as we know, to learn to play the piano needs everyday practice. Not all adults can practice daily and this can be a bit disappointing for them.

How do we help?

There are a few things we can keep in mind when we teach adults to make them feel capable and content.

  • Get to know your student a bit more.

Learn a few things about him, what’s his favorite music, what’s his favorite song.

Find out whether he has free time daily or weekly and most important find out why he started the piano lessons.

Ask him which song he would love to learn and teach him the melody. You can play the chords and create a beautiful duet. You may also teach him the chords and teach him to sing the song.

  • Set realistic goals in place.

Discuss with your adult sudent what is best for him and set some goals that can be achieved during a short term.  It’s much easier for the adult to stay motivated.

  • Be flexible with the method book you are using

When you decide to go with one method try to be flexible and play extra pieces from other books, too.

Although there are some  wonderful adult method books for learning the piano in the market, teaching from a method book is not always enough. It might be convinient for the teacher to teach only from a book but this is definitely not what most adults would expect.

Don't blindly follow a method book. You may choose pieces from other method books, pieces from different books or the internet.

Most adult method  books have quite difficult pieces as you move along with it and there might be some adult students that can’t cope with the book.

This is not a reason to not teach from a method book. Just don’t stay with the method book. Be more flexible and use songs and pieces from other books, too. This is how you can fill the gap between the easy pieces and the difficult ones

Observe your adult student, see what he likes, what are his weaknesses in his playing and what are his strengths.

  • Play something by rote in every lesson

Learning a piece by rote means someone learns to play a piece without reading the traditional notation. This will help the adult be free of reading the notes from a book and therefore the attention will be on the rhythmic, technical and expressive skills of the piece.

  • Improvise with your adult student

See how your adult student places his hands and fingers on the piano. 

Improvise together, play something easy and fun  and see how far you can go.


You can read more tips in the post Becoming A Better Piano Teacher and First Piano Lesson For A Beginner

Recommended piano method books for adults

One thing you should know is that there isn't one single magical method book that is suitable to all adult students. Each adult student is different and has different needs. Therefore every piano teacher should have different resources and extra materials for each and every student.

This, of course, doesn't mean that you are not about to use a method book. On the contrary, there are remarkable adult method books in the market an adult student can use to learn to play the piano.

My reccomendations

Alfred's Basic Adult Piano Course, Lesson book, Level 1,

Alfred's Adult ALL-IN-ONE Course, Level 1,

Hal Leonard Adult Piano Method, Bool 1,

Adult Piano Adventures bu Nancy and Randal Faber,

Accelerated Piano Adventures Lesson book 1

Bastien Piano For Adults

You can find beautiful pieces by rote like this one, in the book Repertoire by Rote by Dennis Alexander and Amy Greer.

Final thoughts on adult piano teaching

While teaching, I’m also working to:

  • Understand adult student's goals and expectations
  • Learn about their musical tastes
  • Evaluate current skills and abilities

My expectations after a piano lesson with an adult student:

  • They should feel more relaxed and at ease
  • They should believe that it is possible for them to learn piano and feel capable
  • They should be able to play something cool at home (a piece by rote probably)

If you are interested in  getting more teaching adults posts and resources, subscribe to Music Teaching Inspirations email list below. We will inform you when there is a new post or resource on the subject.

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