Piano lessons aren’t just for kids anymore, and that’s great news! So many people who missed out on the opportunity to take lessons as children are signing up for piano lessons as adults. I have more adult students than ever before and they range in age from 18 to 87! I am discovering that working with adults is very rewarding. However, I have found working with grown-ups requires a different approach. Piano lessons for adults are a fantastic idea!

Adult Students are Motivated

A big difference between young piano 
students and their grown-up counterparts is that the grown-ups know that they want to be at piano lessons. No one is forcing the adults. They made the decision and they are paying for the lessons. Most adults are highly motivated students. Which makes piano lessons for adults very rewarding.

By the same token, no one is forcing these adult students to practice either. And let’s face it, most adults are very, very busy. Children are busy too, but adults have much more responsibility to deal with. This is especially true for Moms and Dads. Their work is never done, so finding time to practice can be a real challenge.

Adult Students Have Different Learning Styles

I teach my adult students differently than I teach the children. I begin by asking my adult students exactly what it is they would like to be playing – popular music, classical, jazz, church music, etc. With that in mind, I tailor the lessons to the student’s individual wants and needs. Adults have already spent a lifetime not playing the piano so they are all anxious to get started. None of my adult students are planning to have careers as professional pianists, so my goal is to get them to proficiency ASAP!

What is “proficiency”? I define it as being able to learn and play the music of your choice fluidly. I feel that my goal as a teacher is not just to teach people how to play pieces but to teach people how to learn pieces. Although I generally let my adult students map out their own course of study. I always
focus on a few basic concepts when creating a syllabus for my adult students.

Music reading

I teach piano lessons for adults. I teach my students to read
music. I think that it is very important for people to have at least
basic music reading skills. Unless I can place students at a higher
level, I start all of my adult students beginning with Book One.
Students go through the lessons at their own pace. Most of my adult
beginners end up going through the material very quickly in the
beginning and settle in working at the Book Two level going forward
through the end of Book Four.


I begin teaching technique right away with adults. My book of choice is “Hannon the Virtuoso Pianist”. I start with the first exercise hands separately and then have the students put hands together. I am not concerned with speed or having them cover many exercises. We focus on hand position, relaxation, and coordination. If need be, I work with the students on more basic exercises such as those found in Paloma Piano’s technique book.

Scales and Chords

Major scales are a must, in my opinion. Most of my adult students want to play popular music and to play popular music you need chords. To make chords you to know at least the 12 major scales. Scales also help to establish basic fingering patterns.

Read the post “The Overachieving Piano Student”


At the first lesson, I show my students how easy it is to improvise using the black keys only. True this is a bit “gimmicky” but it gets fingers moving, imagination going and ears working. I encourage all of my students, both adults and children, to improvise and experiment with the piano. I also have a few pieces that students can learn by watching the videos on the Paloma Piano website. My goal is to have my students experience the enjoyment of being able to make music from the very start of lessons.

Once my adult students can read music fairly well, know some scales, and can play with hands together (which in the Paloma Piano method is at the end of book 2b). I change the structure of the lesson. At that point, we spend the first half of the lesson working on traditional piano studies, and in the second half we focus on learning the music that meets the individual student’s interest.

In Conclusion

Having spent the vast majority of my piano teaching career working with children, I must admit that at first taking on adult students was a bit of a challenge. I am always trying to find better ways to meet the needs of all of my students. I have found that my adult students are some of the best students I have.

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