I Learned To Play Piano In 20 Hours

I was 9 years old when I graduated from the fourth grade. My parents asked me what gift I wanted. The kids in my class had been talking about how cool it was to own a synthesizer keyboard piano. So I really wanted one! That was the gift I asked for. I opened the box I placed the piano on the stand and I hit all of the buttons. My parents never got me piano lessons so after a couple of days the piano was collecting dust and it was a place where I could put my dirty laundry.

I’m 39 years old today. Over the years I have purchased books, videos, and eventually took piano lessons for a short time. But I quickly got frustrated and quit. I recently watched a TED talk video. (Watch it here.) Josh Kaufman took the stage and spoke on how in the book “Outliers”, by the author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. So Josh Kaufman wrote a book called the “First 20 Hours” where he questions “what if I didn’t want to achieve “mastery”?” What if “I just wanted to acquire a new skill?” He did some more research and found that it only takes 20 hours. Again, he wasn’t preaching that he would be an expert. This is just how long it takes to become decent at something new. He also spoke about how to overcome the frustration barriers.


In this video he says:
1. Deconstruct the Skill
2. Learn to self correct
3. Remove practice barriers
4. Practice for at least 20 hours

In this video he goes on to play the ukulele to prove that it was true. I said to myself: “I can do that!” So instead of the ukulele, of course I sat in front of my portable keyboard piano and I went to work! Okay, not really. Here’s what I did…

• I deleted the Facebook app off of my phone (to ward off unnecessary distractions)
• I went to the library and took out Josh Kaufman’s book: “The First 20 Hours”
• I read it, and wrote some more notes down
• I put together a plan on what I really wanted to learn
• I went online and did some research on Common Pop Music Piano Chords
• I designed a time chart on a poster board where I can track how many hours I had put in
• For 30 minutes at a time I practiced strictly on the 4 common Pop Chords


What were the results?

I’m decent in playing piano!
But it didn’t take 20 hours for me to notice results. After 7 hours I noticed how much I progressed. My eyes opened up to what the possibilities that were to me. I’m gonna buy me an acoustic guitar, a bass guitar, a drum set, a harmonica, a saxophone, a …what else should I get? (Of course I’m kidding! …kind of)

Look. I still can’t read sheet music and I can’t play a Mozart Concerto, but I do know now how to read Piano Tabs and can practice tons of new songs with these 4 Common Pop Chords. But to be consistent and to stay focused I decided to do a little more research and pick one Pop song I could learn from these 4 Common Pop chords.

• Reference: Wikipedia – an ongoing list of songs you can play with the same 4 chords
• Reference: Buzzfeed – 73 songs you can play with the same 4 chords

So I chose to learn John Legend’s “All Of Me”. I have 5 hours left on my practice, let’s see how good I get.


I encourage you to read Josh Kaufman’s book the “The First 20 Hours”.

Would you like to have a personal copy of my time chart? Send me a message and I will give you a PDF version of it completely free.

-Esteban Nina