Does the brain function less with an older piano player? : LUSENET : Everything About Teaching and Learning the Piano : One Thread

I am 48, with a classical music education (cello , flute to academy standard)and have no problem reading music. I have decided to learn the piano now after years of playing 'single melody' instruments'. I am encouraged by my progress but I hadn't expected it to be such hard work! Don't get me wrong - I love it! - but I am worried that my age is a debilitating factor in absorbing 'multi-line' music. I get very frustrated with the left-hand/right-hand coordination. I spend hours getting it right.. and, yes, finally it DOES come together but is an effort. I can play the hands separately , no problem, but when it comes to putting them together than my brain goes into overdrive and sometimes refuses to work altogether. Is this a natural learning process with the piano? Does the brain instinctively react against the right hand/left hand conflict? I am intrigued by the workings of the brain re: left hand side = right hand and left hand side = right hand. Is this common to all people learning the piano? Or does it become more difficult the older you are?

FYI: I am studying the Clementi Sonatas Op.36

Any reaction is greatly appreciated.

And I love this site! Very helpful Q+A and very encouraging also!

Kind regards Brian Jones in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

-- Brian Jones (, December 28, 2002


Just a thought: Although you are musically schooled but trained on other instruments, playing the piano sounds as if it's still new for you. Practicing Clementi Op. 36 might not be your best first choice to get both hands working simultaneously on a keyboard. Since you already know how to read music, why not try some adult method books which will start you off with basic keyboard coordination skills and prgress from there. It shouldn't take you that long. Hope this helps.

-- Jack Tyrrell (, December 29, 2002.

Brian ~ Learning the piano does make one long for the "simple" days of playing only one or two notes at a time, doesn't it? (In my case it was the viola.) All I can say is "our kind" (that is, older students frustrated by playing right and left hands together) are legion. Add counting out loud, and our brains short out. Someone else might know more about the right brain-left brain conflict and age, but I do know that learning the piano is supposed to be very good for stimulating both "brains," thus postponing dementia. You are young yet, and for you there is hope. Good luck, and it IS fun, isn't it, when it all comes together! (PS - I'm hoping to someday visit the Netherlands - the people I have met from there are incredibly nice!)

-- Shirley Gibson (, December 29, 2002.

Dear Jack and Shirley

Thanks a lot of your helpful replies! Jack, I am encouraged by what you say about coordination. At the back of my mind I know that some day it will come more easily than it does at the moment. I know it's just a question of time and good hard practice...Shirley Hi! to a fellow instrumentalist...yeh, I guess Im still thinking in single lines although I have no problem with counting. Good luck too with your studies!

Kind regards Brian

-- Brian Jones (, December 29, 2002.

Thanks for the question and thanks for the replies, both were helpful and encouraging for me. I thought I was the only older (I'm 55) piano student who sometimes finds it very challenging to pull it all together. Right hand/left hand coordination, reading multilines and spaces! plus counting and maitaining rhythm, continuity, and tempo can be very, very challenging. I have found that if I just keep at it, things have a way of eventually coming together. I have been studying piano for 2 years now. I am a level three student. My interest is sacred music. Please share with me practice suggestions (how much time each day?) and practice techniques and methods. Any and all words of encouragement will be appreciated.

Thank you very much.

Jerome (Cincinnati, OH/USA)

-- jerome (, January 02, 2003.


I started my piano training at age 44. I am now 51 and love it and because of my dedication, I have progressed well but slowly. I am also a doctor so I have had an interest in the piano neuromuscularly speaking. I don't think that age has anything to do with it except that as our energy levels are lower, we are able to sit at the piano longer than our younger cohorts. Reading both lines of music for the piano is a simple matter of starting slow and building up speed. I find it helpful to not get bogged down in counting or rhythm too much at first. Learning the fingering and training my ears to the sound seems to be most important in learning the piece. Then I focus on counting and rhythm which is adjusted easily once the sound and fingering is working. On the other hand, trying to get the counting and rhythm straight when I am still trying to hit the right keys can be frustrating and difficult.

-- JOHN FLEMING (, January 02, 2003.


I’m almost finished reading a new book out called The Practice Revolution by Philip Johnston. EXCELLENT BOOK!! I’ve been teaching piano for about 32 years, and I have to say that there are many great practice tips in this 324-page book (for students as well as teachers). Covers all kinds of topics: Using the Right Practice Tools, Making the Piece Reliable, Memorization, Speed Pieces Up, Dealing with Difficult Sections, Preparing for Performance, and many more. You can tell this guy spent much time thinking about practicing. If you’re looking to get the most out of the time you spend at the piano, definitely check this out. It’s advertised on a website called Incidentally, I have nothing to do with the site or the book. You can preview it there or, I believe,

-- Jack Tyrrell (, January 04, 2003.

Brian--without a doubt, we should have taken piano when we were younger--I do believe we learn faster when we haven't used up all the disk space in our heads, haha! But seriously, I'm 50 and I began playing seriously 6 months ago--I worked on teaching myself from books like Alfred and Bastian Adult piano course about 12 years ago. Finally I decided to get a teacher to fill in the 'gaps'. I find I have to put in about 3 hours a day. I fit in scales, chord progressions, cadence and theory work in the early morning before my day begins. I fit in pieces I'm working on a couple times a day/evening. It does take a lot of patience, but well worth the time and perseverance! I've really found that singing/humming while I learn each hand separately helps me to 'know' the song and makes for much easier 'coming together' of the two hands. I had to force myself not to keep going in a piece and be in denial when there was an area especially difficult. I will learn one measure at a time until it is correct and sounds smooth, then add another measure, then another. I usually learn two to three new pieces every two weeks. I'm at level 6 in a classical syllabus program, and my goal is to reach level 10 and then begin the Jazz syllabus. My husband began jazz guitar 3 years ago and is now playing in a combo at the community college where he says many of the music students are in their 70's--so we're just 'young 'un's'! Good luck and most of all Have Fun! Mandy

-- Mandy (, February 10, 2003.

Thank you all! Itīs great to see that there are others out there who missed out on the piano lessons while young and have to courage to start anytime. I started lesson 1 1/2 years ago at 43 and boy, is it hard work! I didnīt know what I was getting into but it was one of the best decisions I ever made :-)). I have a wonderful teacher that recommended Seymour Bernsteinīs book "With Your Own Two Hands: Self- Discovery Through Music". I Quote "The effectivenes with which you overcome difficulties, whether in practicing or in life, depends upon your determinatoin to succeed. When you are truly determined and fully committed to a goal, you somehow find the means to achieve it." I put this on top of the piano. Brian, I read an article about the effect of piano playing on the brain and apparently piano playing increases right/left coordination at any age. Getting the mind to work in a different way is rejuvenating. Persevere! And donīt worry about age. Best wishes from Hamburg, Germany

-- Yvonne Henschel (, March 15, 2003.

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