Why I Started Piano Lessons at 26
Humility and practice go a long way in keeping a promise to myself
I had played piano for over a decade, but my fingers still plunked the keys with the precision of bratwursts.
The way I saw it, I had an excuse: I had never taken a formal lesson.
Piano became a hobby of mine in junior high. I wish I could say I was inspired by a Mozart concerto and had a grand vision of morphing into a musical maestro. But the truth is that I just really liked Linkin Park. We had a piano in our living room, and I thought it’d be awesome to learn their hit song, “In the End.” That was my grand vision.
Those first nine notes, which I insisted on learning by ear, took me a week and a hundred listens to unlock. I was not a musical prodigy — I was just persistent and obsessed with a rock band.
The more I played — and I would learn every song from their debut album Hybrid Theory — the better I got. Songs that used to take me weeks to learn started to take days. Then hours. My progress was addictive.
I dove into piano like a seagull seeking sardines. I jammed on the keys after school each day. I learned how to play the chord progressions and melodies from dozens of pop songs. I taught myself basic music theory. I even wrote my own music.
But I refused to take lessons. Didn’t need ’em. They would ruin the fun, I thought.
I brought a cheap keyboard with me to college. When mathematical modeling homework grew too tiresome, I took breaks by tinkering with songs on the piano.
When I finished university, my parents gave me a beautiful Yamaha keyboard as a graduation gift. I placed it in my new grown-up apartment, excited to play every day.
But I didn’t. Between long hours at work and a barrage of personal experiments, the piano’s beauty was ornamental; its keys covered in dust.
I was stuck. When I did sit down to play, the adolescent joy flowed, only to be stymied by mid-twenties cynicism. I’d hear my sausage fingers hit wrong note after wrong note, and think, Dude, for as long as you’ve been playing, you still suck.