So, you are probably here because you would want to learn to play the piano but are not sure how to start. Or perhaps there is someone else in your home who is interested in playing the instrument but you lack the knowledge.
Whether it is you or another person you know, you have come to the right place!
From the latest in music learning, choosing your instrument, and the different types of study techniques, we have everything you need right here! Read on and start learning!
What’s The Best Way to Learn Piano?
There is an air of elitism between those who learn how to play the piano the traditional way and those who opt for a more modern approach. Somehow, many of us believe that a private tutor or attending school for an instrument is the only viable way of learning the piano.
However, as society progresses, we invent more and more ways to make education easier to access. People who used to have trouble finding ways to bring themselves to school can now self-study or turn to online classes. More people who do not have the time to commit to a daily teaching session now have the option to use piano learning apps.
Recently, online courses have been on the rise. You can find a course for just about anything, from cooking and acting to learning the piano.
There are plenty of ways to learn to play the piano online. You can take private lessons, sign up for an online class, and make use of a piano learning app on your digital devices. Now, we can make use of our free time productively and learn the things we have always wanted to learn.
We know the struggle. Sometimes, learning piano the traditional way is not only expensive but can also put us in a position where we are pressed for time. These are the problems online piano lessons and learning apps seek to eliminate. These lessons are much cheaper than getting a private tutor or signing up for piano classes. Oftentimes, these lessons also adjust to your schedule–you can take them any time you can!
However, like all else, taking online piano lessons also has its downsides. Unlike traditional piano lessons, it is very rare to get quick feedback from a mentor. Additionally, it can be difficult to keep your focus on the lessons. You need lots of self-discipline when taking piano lessons online.
For this reason, many people opt for a hybrid of the two. Some turn to online private tutors while using piano learning applications. This way, they can fill the gaps both online piano lessons and traditional piano lessons have.
Choosing Your Instrument
Even before you start thinking about taking piano lessons, you should start thinking about the piano you will be using. Once you start your learning process, you will be spending lots and lots of time with your piano. For that reason, it is important to know what the different kinds of pianos are.
There are three common types of acoustic pianos (1):
- Grand Piano
The grand piano is the most majestic (and most expensive) of them all. They are characterized by horizontal soundboards that can stretch up to 4ft tall. The internal parts are made mostly out of wood with some metal reinforcements. The dampers and hammers lie horizontally above the strings. The keys are either made from wood coated in ivory or pure ivory. Grand pianos have a wooden cover that folds or sometimes slides over its 88-keys as well as a stand for music sheets.
- Baby Grand Piano
Baby grand pianos, as the name suggests, are grand pianos that are smaller than the standard size. Despite its size, the baby grand piano still has an 88-key setup. However, the soundboard is not quite as large as that of a grand piano. Because of this, a grand piano is louder than a baby grand piano.
- Upright Piano
The most popular type of acoustic piano is the upright piano. It is often found in many households as the perfect addition to a parlor or living room. The upright piano is favored because of several reasons: it is more affordable, more compact, and it produces a warm, homey type of sound. Unlike a grand piano, an upright piano’s soundboard is positioned vertically.
Many believe that an upright piano is inferior compared to a grand piano. However, a 5-foot upright piano can rival the tone and loudness of a typical grand piano.
Unsurprisingly, there are more types of electric keyboards than there are acoustic pianos. This is because electric keyboards are easier to modify to fit the needs of the modern-day musician. Here are 7 of the most common types of electric keyboards:
- Beginner Keyboard
This type of electric keyboard is made with beginners in mind. They have 61-key and 88-key variations. A beginner keyboard often has the feature to add effects that are used for entertainment purposes. Beginner keyboard keys are not weighted because they are made from plastic instead of ivory.
- Arranger Keyboard
Arranger keyboards are a step above beginner keyboards. Many solo artists prefer this type of keyboard as it allows them many liberties. Arranger keyboards have the feature to provide backing tracks to many different music styles as well as record compositions. You can also connect an arranger keyboard to your computer via USB.
- Digital Workstation
If you are the type of musician who wants to be in control of every single note, then the digital workstation is for you. It allows you to customize every bit of your music and provides you with your own synthesizer. Digital workstations have everything arranger keyboards have and more!
Synthesizers are made to create and record sounds that standard keyboards cannot replicate.
- Electric Organ
Electric organs may not have the metal pipes acoustic organs have, but they are created to produce the same sound.
- Digital Piano
Want the sound quality of a grand piano but without the ridiculous weight and price? A digital piano might be the most ideal type for you. Digital pianos are meant to replicate the sound of an acoustic piano.
- MIDI Keyboard
If you do most of your music on the computer, then a MIDI keyboard (2) is your best bet. This is also great for people who would like to take online piano courses. A MIDI keyboard cannot make its own sound because of the lack of a sound module. You will have to connect it to a musical device using its built-in 5-pin cable or connect it to your computer via USB.
To many people, acoustic piano seems like the more ideal choice. Not only is it beautiful and fancy, but it also makes for a perfect addition to any home. However, unless you plan on wowing the world as a concert pianist in Carnegie Hall, it is not necessary to go for an acoustic piano.
If you would like to grace your home with an acoustic piano, then an upright piano would be perfect. Otherwise, electric keyboards are the way to go.
Electric keyboards are much cheaper than acoustic pianos and they are also portable and easy to move around. New features are added to electric keyboards all the time. And while a standard keyboard cannot replace the elegance a grand piano exudes, it more than makes up for that factor in terms of additional features.
Most modern keyboards contain hundreds of sound effects to use for your entertainment. Depending on your choice, keyboards can also have backing tracks to accompany you as you play your music. Electric keyboards also allow you to record, edit, and store your music, which your standard acoustic piano cannot do.
Furthermore, electric keyboards do not need tuning. Tuning a piano can be quite a chore. And if you do not know how to do it yourself, it can cost quite a bit. Being made of plastic and metal parts, keyboards are also not affected by temperature and humidity. On the other hand, since an acoustic piano is made of wood, humidity harms them.
All in all, it is a much more practical choice to go for an electric keyboard. Still, the choice lies in your hands. At the end of the day, it all depends on what you feel more comfortable in.
Now that you know how to select your preferred instrument, it is time to pick your learning method.
There are several options for learning the piano:
First off, there is the self-teaching method where you gather resources such as books and online tutorials and take matters into your hands. With this learning method, you will be able to take control of your time and select which material to consume.
Second, there is the tried and tested traditional learning methods. For this method, you scour your location for nearby music schools or private piano tutors. With this, you will be able to get instant feedback as well as one-on-one coaching, which is very useful especially for beginners.
The third method is by taking online piano lessons. There are so many online piano lessons to choose from the internet, all you need to do is seek them out. Online piano lessons are far more affordable than taking traditional lessons. They are also more organized than self-studying. These online lessons provide you with an outline to follow for more linear learning.
Lastly, many people have taken to mixed learning—a mix of all three lessons. This kind of learning involves having a private tutor to mentor you online while learning through apps in your spare time to practice.
In this part of the article, we are going to take an in-depth look at these learning types. I am going to try my best to provide you with some resources to get you started. I will also provide you with the pros and cons to help you decide which learning method is the best for you.
1. Self-teaching Piano
This type of learning method is a test on your discipline and determination. By opting for self-study, you will remove the presence of a coach to guide you through your lessons. The good thing about self-studying is that you have full control of your time.
There are several ways to go if you plan on self-studying:
Books and Manuals
One great way to self-study is through purchasing books and manuals that follow the standard piano training curriculum. Following the curriculum is important because these are tried and tested methods developed by pedagogists through the years. It is the same curriculum that has trained hundreds of thousands of pianists from generation to generation.
Publishers for these books often provide them per level, starting from the basics and then proceeding to levels 1, 2, and so on. These books have the same theories and techniques. Their only differences are the way theory is executed as well as the philosophy behind them.
The most popular publishers for piano learning books are Alfred Piano Methods (3), Bastien Piano Basics by Kjos (4), Faber and Faber Piano Adventures series (5), and the Suzuki Method (6). These books are the standard in piano learning and are preferred by most piano teachers.
Additionally, you can also get piano books for practice (7). These books include songs from all genres as well as sheet music.
The books are not too expensive, costing from around $7 to $30. However, if you want to get them even cheaper, you can go for second-hand ones on Amazon or eBay.
As liberating as self-studying may seem, it also has its downsides. By eliminating the coach from the equation, you also eliminate your source of instant feedback.
As a beginner, feedback is very important, especially when you are still going through the fundamentals of playing the piano. Having a coach will help you avoid developing bad habits that might become a challenge to rectify further down the road.
General Music Theory and Hands-on Practice
This method is a much faster way to learn the piano. This entails learning basic music theory such as rhythm, arpeggios, signatures, patterns, symbols, and the like. Once you learn these, you can incorporate them into their playing.
Learning through this method has two benefits. The first is that it is quicker. Since you do not have to go through the entire piano curriculum, you save a lot of time. The second is that it is cheaper. By choosing to learn music theory only, you only need to purchase one book instead of a series of workbooks.
A useful resource for this learning method is The Complete Book of Chords, Arpeggios, and Cadences by Willard Palmer (8). It teaches piano music theory in a manner that is direct and easy to understand.
The biggest problem with this type of self-studying method is the fact that other than music theory, you get pretty much nothing else. Yes, you do get to understand what you are playing and why you are playing it but besides that, there is nothing. There are no pointers on how you should position your hands or how you should sit in front of your piano. There will not be any exercises specifically made to increase your playing agility. It is very much like learning how to play by ear except with a bit of reference.
Learning How to Play by Ear
If you are the type who likes to experiment and figure things out on your own, then perhaps you will like learning how to play the piano by ear. This self-study method is by far the cheapest of them all!
When you study by ear, you need no teachers, no books and no curriculum to follow. To some, this can be confusing and chaotic but others thrive with this method.
Although, people who learn by ear do not really have any idea what exactly they are playing. They simply just tap a few keys on the piano and go with what sounds right. So unless you are a musical genius, learning how to play the piano by ear will likely not bring you very far.
Still, if your goal is just to learn a simple song and play a few tunes, this method could be sufficient. If you want more than just that, consider other options!
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2. Traditional Methods
The traditional method simply means either getting a private tutor or applying to a music school. This is the oldest and most preferred learning method.
The great thing about this method is that they follow a standard piano curriculum. This curriculum has been perfected by the best piano pedagogists used to train aspiring pianists through generations. Often, piano schools, as well as piano teachers, refer to the Suzuki Method for their lessons.
Aside from lessons and exercises, you will get mentoring and feedback from tenured instructors: the one thing self-studying lacks.
However, taking piano lessons can be pretty expensive. The price ranges from $30 to $60 each session for 30-minute lessons. Of course, the price is increased for lessons that take 45 minutes to an hour.
Additionally, both private tutors and music schools follow a strict schedule. You do not have the freedom to study only when you are available. Students are required to adhere to the schedule set by the school or the tutor.
If you have the money for it, you should give this approach a try.
The best thing about private tutors is that even though they stick to the standard piano curriculum, they will be tailoring them to fit your needs. Every pianist is unique and every student has a different learning curve. Your instructor will assess your first lessons and then determine how to proceed from there. This ensures that you get the most out of your tutoring classes.
Some private tutors invite their students to their studios, so they can conduct the study there. However, some travel to their students’ homes for lessons. For this, you will have to set aside travel expenses as instructors who travel to their students’ homes often charge an extra fee.
The Music Teachers National Association or MTNA (9) offers students looking for a private tutor an online form (10) to help them locate qualified tutors near them. The Royal Conservatory also provides a similar service (11). Lastly, another useful site is TakeLessons (12). This website provides you with information and a map of the best music teachers near you.
Aside from these resources, you can also ask around. Ask your friends and families if they can recommend a piano tutor for you!
This type of traditional learning method allows you to attend classes with other aspiring pianists like yourself. This kind of environment exposes you to like-minded people. One great thing about this type of learning method is that you are given opportunities to perform in front of an audience. This is something not a lot of courses can offer.
Surprisingly, piano schools cost the same—sometimes even more—than private tutors. The reason behind this is that aside from paying their instructors, schools also have to cover administrative costs like facility upkeep, bills, and such.
One other thing that you need to add to your budget if you are considering this option is gas money. Unless you live very near your piano school, then you will have to drive over every day.
If you would like to get a better insight into piano schools that are in New York City, you might want to give Key to Success (13) a visit. Otherwise, you can just look up piano schools near you on Google.
3. Online Learning Method
This is one of the more modern ways to teach yourself piano. This learning method has the same feeling of independence you would feel if you were self-studying. However, instead of eliminating the presence of a mentor, it is replaced with a digital one.
Not only will you have full control of your time and schedule, but you can also learn from the comforts of your home, at your own pace. The hardest part of this method is finding a great course that fits all your needs. Still, with so many reviews from music websites online and a bit of research, you can definitely find the perfect course.
The best thing about them: there are no additional fees like travel costs and gas money and the online courses are also often much cheaper than traditional lessons.
Online Piano Lessons
One of the ways you can learn piano online is by investing in an online piano lesson. Strangely, the lessons in online courses do not strictly adhere to the standard curriculum. Do not get me wrong, the lessons definitely still follow a semblance of the traditional piano learning curriculum. However, the authors of these online lessons often put their takes and philosophies into their courses.
While you can use acoustic pianos with most online courses, the preferred instrument is usually an electric keyboard or a MIDI keyboard. Fortunately, these keyboards are fairly cheap and easy to find. Getting them is a good choice, as you will likely need them as a beginner, anyway.
A great example of an online piano course is Piano For All. This online course is known to be the quickest and easiest way for a total beginner to reach an intermediate level. For a one-time payment of $40 to $50, you will get lifetime access to this online course and free access to all future updates and 9 interactive books.
Another great course you could look into is Piano Marvel. This course provides amazing lessons in music theory and piano techniques. The lessons do not stop there though. The course has intermediate lessons, advanced lessons, and even supplementary lessons. It also has a huge library with songs from different genres that you can learn to play. A Piano Marvel account is free, but you can opt for a feature-rich premium account for only $15 a month.
This is yet another option for learning how to play the piano. The best parts of this learning method? It is completely free and you have full control of your time and the content you consume!
With that amazing offer, many people opt for this method. However, not all video tutorials on the internet are worth learning from. With public video platforms like YouTube, anybody can post anything they want, including video tutorials from people who are not qualified to teach.
You must take the utmost care in selecting your virtual instructors.
Using Practice Software
The practice software is great for anyone who is not really interested in taking piano lessons seriously. If you are the type of person who is just there to learn a few songs to impress people at your next social gathering, then learn how to play the piano using apps. Additionally, if you are already taking a piano course, the practice software makes for great supplementary lessons.
Piano learning software often exhibits game-like mechanics, which makes learning songs all the more fun for people of all ages. The libraries in these apps are often huge, with songs from every genre available. Additionally, these apps are relatively cheap. They can range from free up to $35 monthly.
The downside of piano learning software is that there is no theory or technique included in them. Some offer very basic piano lessons to get you started but do not progress further than that. The software is simply great as a supplementary course and not as your main source of knowledge.
If you are interested in looking into piano apps, you should check out Flowkey and Playground Sessions. Created by legendary musicians and in collaboration with Yamaha Music, these are some of the best learning apps out there.
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If you are curious as to which online piano lessons and learning apps are the best, it is important to research well for a more informed decision.
4. Mixed Learning Method
This type of learning method is simply putting the best qualities of traditional lessons and online lessons together. Nowadays, you can hire an online piano teacher! You will get both the customized curriculum and close mentoring you would get if you took traditional lessons. At the same time, you will also get the flexibility in the schedule that you get from online lessons. What’s more, is that you can do all of this without ever leaving your home!
The mixed learning method is perfect for people with busy schedules. Those who do not have the time to go to a piano class can simply take a class from the comforts of their home.
There are certain websites that you can go to in order to find yourself a suitable instructor. Websites like TakeLessons (17), PianoTeachersConnect (18), and PrePly (19) give you the option to look for qualified instructors online. Another great thing about this type of learning method is that it does not limit your options based on your geographic location. You can choose teachers from all over the globe, browse ratings from other students, and more!
Online private lessons often cost similar to traditional private tutors but without added fees. The average price for a 30-minute class is around $34. For lessons that last up to 45 minutes, you should expect to pay somewhere around $47 and $62 for hour-long lessons.
How Long Does It Take to Learn the Piano?
It is easy to get impatient with the progress you are making. The piano is a very complicated instrument so it is definitely going to take some time before you can say you are a pro at it!
The time you need in order to learn the piano depends on several factors:
- Level – Are you a beginner hoping to learn advanced piano? Or perhaps just a beginner aiming to transition to an intermediate level? Your skill level and your goal are one of the things that determines the time you need before finishing your lessons.
- Lesson Content – Are you in it for a couple of songs or do you want to learn complicated classical pieces? It is going to take a longer time to learn Liszt – La Campanella than Perfect by Ed Sheeran.
- Dedication – The speed of your progress also depends on how religiously you take your lessons and how much you practice.
- Budget – This is the reason why taking note of your budget is important before you start committing to lessons. If you stop in the middle of your lessons, it is going to take you far longer to relearn once you decide to pick it back up.
- Instructor – If you have an instructor, the way your instructor handles your lessons and you as a student can also affect your learning speed. A great instructor produces great results.
- Musical Talent – This is not to say that not everyone can learn how to play the piano. However, certain people progress quicker when it comes to music.
Depending on these factors, your lessons can take from a few days to years. Professional pianists have been developing their skills for their whole lives! According to pedagogists, you should dedicate at least 30 minutes a day to practicing the piano. However, if you plan to take piano seriously, then you might want to aim for more.
Great! You have reached the end of this article!
By now, you already know the changes in modern music learning! It is quite impressive what we can do with technology nowadays and see how amazing that we can use it to improve the quality of learning instruments like the piano.
You are also now more informed regarding the different types of pianos. You know the types of both acoustic and electric pianos as well as the features each of them have. Hopefully, with this knowledge, you will be able to select the perfect instrument for your piano journey.
The article was also able to inform you of your options on how you can start learning. There are plenty of ways to learn! I have provided you with a detailed description of what to expect in each method as well as a list of pros and cons. Hopefully, with the information provided, you will have a better idea of which kind of learning method to pursue.
Finally, it is best to remember that there are plenty of factors that could affect your learning speed. This does not, in any way, make you a terrible pianist or student. Some of these factors are just some that we cannot help. Either way, your responsibility as a musician is to practice! If you want to learn more, read some of the review of the best online piano lessons, and choose what’s best for you.
The saying “practice makes perfect” is real! Keep at it and good luck!
BEST Ways To Learn The Piano in 2021? [Ultimate Guide]