I get this question all the time. How many years of learning piano do you need to be able to play the song that you want? The answer, I hope, is going to be simple. I’ve been a piano teacher for many years and here is the data that I’ve collected to the best of my knowledge:
First year of learning the piano
In your first year, you will be learning the basics. I suggest that you use flash cards heavily to learn your notes. The stronger you are with note reading, the better your foundation will be. You NEED to know how to read notes. There’s no other way around it. I would also choose a method book and play through all the lessons. Your first year is the most important for setting the foundational skills that you’ll need in your next couple of years.
Second year of learning the piano
Congratulations on making it to your second year! Many students don’t make it to their second year. It’s quite an accomplishment and you should be very proud. In this year, you are advancing your skills and learning more difficult music. Stick to your lesson books and practice your foundational songs. At this point, you are moving on to the next difficult part of learning the piano and you are so close to your third year. Once you reach your third year, I believe, you’ll be able to pick up a song of your choosing and start playing.
3+ years of learning the piano
This is the year that you’ve been waiting for! At three years of learning the piano, you are ready to start choosing your own pieces to play. Make a list of songs that you want to learn how to play and watch the YouTube videos of pianists playing them. Observe their technique and pay special attention to their dynamics. The next step is to start practicing heavily and start building a routine that will match your goals. Limit your song list to two/three songs at a time that you’re working on. You are now competent in your playing where you can begin choosing your own songs.
I strongly believe that three years is the magic number for students to acquire a strong mastery of the piano. Be careful not to rush the process because learning the piano is not easy. It’s equivalent to learning another language. As you build your mastery, no one can take this skill from you because it’s yours. You’ve worked hard for this. Even if you don’t play the piano for a couple years after you’ve dedicated three or more years to learning the piano, you’ll still be able to come back and play. I tell my students all of the time that the piano will always be there for you when you need it. The knowledge will stay with your for the rest of your life. And the piano will always be waiting for you when you come back to it. I hope you enjoy playing the piano and I look forward to sharing more of my knowledge with you.