Returning to the piano after a long break

About the Author: Celine Gaurier-Joubert

Céline Gaurier-Joubert is a concert pianist and the founder of Paris Music Institute. Thanks to her unparalleled knowledge and experience, she has become a reference in the field of music education for adults.

Coming back to the piano after a long hiatus can be disappointing. I've written this article to help you get back into it if you haven't played for a while.

Throughout my career as a piano teacher, I have met a number of people returning to the piano after a long time away. They all told the same story. They took piano lessons into their teens, but played less and less as their schoolwork became more rigorous. Some continued and tried to combine university studies with piano playing, but gave up after a few years when they got married and started a family.

This is only natural, as we all have priorities and it can be difficult to balance them all out.

These people, on the other hand, have never stopped loving the piano and hope to return to it when their children are older and their careers are well established. I have to commend those who have the bravery to return to the piano, as most people do not want to go through the anguish of having to re-learn everything.

man playing the grand piano

If you want to get back to playing the piano after a few years away, my first piece of advice is not to expect to be able to play as well as you did ten or twenty years ago. If you haven't played the piano for so long, you should expect your muscles to have weakened or your fingers to have lost their dexterity. Your technique needs to be re-constructed from the ground up. Yes, it's tough work, but if you have done it before, you can do it again!

I recommend that you go step by step and do not benchmark your results against previous ones. Go back to the fundamentals and slowly but surely rebuild your technique. The less pressure you put on yourself, the more likely you are to succeed. Take your time and gradually build up your technical skills.

Even if you think you can get back into it on your own, I think going back to piano lessons with a great piano instructor would definitely help you plan your studies. Trying to do everything on your own can be both emotionally draining and disheartening. Sharing your feelings and challenges with a professional pianist can make your climb up the ladder much easier.

hands playing the piano

I also suffered from an interruption in my piano studies. At the age of 26, I felt like I had reached a dead end and didn't know how to continue. At the time I had been playing the piano for 22 years and had finished my piano studies. I was on my own, with no sense of direction, and I couldn't see how to improve my playing.

After about 8 years, I decided to go back to it. I was glad I made the decision because I realised how much I missed it, but it was painful to realise that my fingers were no longer responding. I could no longer control them and I had lost my ability to meet technical demands and still produce a beautiful sound. I had to rebuild my piano technique from scratch, just like the athletes who have to start training again after a long time off.

Patience and perseverance allowed me to reach my goal and perhaps play better than I had before. It took courage and endurance, but I surpassed my past abilities! It was fantastic!

woman practising the piano

You have to take your time and pretend that you have never played the piano before. You must approach the instrument with a fresh perspective and leave your previous achievements behind; otherwise you will continue to compare yourself and be discontent.

At the Paris Music Institute, we are happy to work with extraordinarily patient and supportive piano teachers who will be happy to help you. It makes no difference if you have lost the habit of reading music. Riding a bike is similar to playing the piano. It may be shaky at first, but it all comes back very rapidly.

Don't be embarrassed to share your emotions with your piano teacher because you have nothing to prove. He or she will never pass negative judgement or criticism on you. On the contrary, he or she is there to help and support you in your endeavours. If you just want to concentrate on technical exercises, he/she will help you rebuild your technique; if you want to learn jazz piano, he/she will guide you. At the Paris Music Institute, we are here to help amateur pianists succeed in their piano learning, whatever their background and goals. We will be by your side every step of the way and will never let you down.

woman reading piano music sheet

Taking up the piano again after a long period of time off is great, and I can only encourage you to do so. It's great that you haven't lost your passion for the piano despite the fact that life has taken you away the piano. In fact, trying again could make you much more effective, as the insights you gained in the past are not wasted.

You will most probably achieve your goals, but as I have said before, do not look back. Learn with an open mind and with patience. It will take time to get back to your previous level. You must accept this from the start and train assiduously on a day-to-day basis.

On this journey, consistency, persistence and discipline will be your closest allies, so don't neglect any of them if you don't want to stop playing a second time. As I said before, getting back into piano playing can be difficult, so don't blow it and keep going despite the barriers. Even if you are dedicated to your piano studies, you will experience setbacks and plateaus. Don't let them get you down. Instead, see them as a challenge rather than a problem. You will definitely overcome them if you hold your head high and keep your eyes on the prize!

Give it your best shot. You will most certainly achieve your ambitions!

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