Playing the piano is a wonderful pastime that can be enjoyed both in the privacy of your own home and as a shared art in a social setting.
However, it can take a lot of time and hard work to learn and become proficient at it! If you’re interested in finding the best way to learn piano, then it’s a good idea to get acquainted with the different learning methods that are available to you.
Everyone is different, and what works for one person won’t fit another’s learning style at all. No single article could possibly cover all the ways there are to learn something, but these methods should give you the starting point you need to find your direction.
Take a look at this list of best ways to learn piano and consider which might be the best fit for you!
Finding Your Best Way to Learn Piano
1. Taking In-Person Private Lessons
Many people think of this option first when they start contemplating how they want to learn and build their piano skills. There are certainly a lot of advantages to one-on-one learning.
One of the biggest perks is that you can build a rapport with your teacher as you become more familiar with one another, which will result in better and more personalized feedback. Your teacher will get to know you and learn to recognize the signs that you might need to slow down and spend more time getting the hang of a particular step.
Another advantage of taking private lessons is the speed with which you’ll receive constructive criticism. When you opt for independent learning instead of in-person lessons, you don’t receive nearly as much feedback while you develop–if you receive any at all. A teacher who knows you well will be less hesitant than most to point out areas that you should smooth out before advancing to the next stage. They’ll probably also provide some extra accountability and better motivation for you to practice each week as well!
The primary downside to private lessons is that the cost can add up. Additionally, some people find private tutoring to be more stressful than other options that give them more freedom in terms of practice time, scheduling, and their level of commitment.
2. Self-Teaching with Books
If you’re more of an introverted type or don’t want to spend as much money on private lessons, then learning independently through books is always an option. Some people also feel self-conscious or uncomfortable with the idea of learning from someone one-on-one, and that’s perfectly fine!
There are tons of books out there for all stages of learning how to play the piano, from beginning materials to teach you basic scales and chords to more advanced pieces that will help you fine-tune your techniques. This means that book learning will grow with you as you learn.
If you choose to teach yourself piano with books, then it’s a great idea to get some supplemental materials as well. The best things to get are flash cards and a book to write sheet music in. Flash cards will help you become more familiar with the notes and learn to recognize them quicker, which will lay a solid foundation for your skills later on. And, as you probably learned from taking notes in school or during meetings, writing things down helps you commit them to memory much more effectively.
One downside to independent learning in general is that you won’t receive any personalized feedback or constructive criticism. When you learn alone, you won’t have a more experienced musician there to correct you. In order to learn as accurately as possible, study materials from multiple different sources to make sure you consistently get it right. You can also use a metronome to help train yourself to keep time accurately while you play.
A significant upside to self-teaching with books is that there’s a nice level of flexibility within the approach itself. Whether you’re more interested in focusing on music theory or in learning by doing as you sight read sheet music, there’s a book for it! You can get books that focus more specifically on whichever aspect of piano music you’re most interested in and fine-tune your approach accordingly.
3. Smartphone Piano Apps
If piles of books, notes, and clutter aren’t your thing, or if you’d simply like something more interactive, then a smartphone app for learning piano might do the trick for you! Plenty of people enjoy apps for their engaging interfaces and user-friendly structure which make each study session feel more like a game than a lesson.
Many smartphone apps blend visual and auditory learning styles together for a well-rounded approach that lots of people find to be highly effective. The best apps out there require a monthly subscription, but most users will tell you that they’re well worth the money–and they’re practically guaranteed to cost less than most private tutors do!
Along with the key advantage of flexibility in terms of lesson plans and schedules, apps also provide a level of freedom in terms of location. Even when you’re killing time away from home and don’t have access to your piano, you can still scroll back through your previously-completed lessons and review what you’ve learned with ease. The more you go back and study again at different times and in different settings, the better the lessons will stick in your long-term memory!
4. Independent Video Tutorials
Another great digital resource that you can use for a fresh take on learning to play piano is the wonderful world of video tutorials. Resources such as YouTube are free, easily accessible, and often quite effective!
There are more YouTubers who teach piano than you can even begin to imagine, many of which take unique approaches to their lesson structure. If you find the right video personality to match your learning style, you can learn to play the piano as effectively as if you’d taken private lessons–and at a fraction of the cost, or no cost at all.
As with independent book learning and smartphone apps, studying piano music through online video tutorials is remarkably freeing in terms of when and where you can study. Even when you aren’t near your piano, you can listen to a good education video just about anywhere! You can seek out videos that will help you learn to recognize notes and keys by how they sound, get comfortable counting and keeping time, and much more.
There is also a ton of variety out there in terms of lesson pacing and style when you’re dealing with video tutorials. Different people all take different approaches to sharing their knowledge, and you have a lot of freedom to find which one feels right to you. Some video tutorials quickly cover the basics, making them a great fit if you’ve had some piano instruction before or are a very fast learner.
Other people like to go into much more depth with their tutorials, slowing things down and studying each scale in detail. Some tutorials are also more technical and straightforward, while others supplement the lessons with fun facts or related bits of music theory. It might take a little bit of trial and error, but you’re virtually guaranteed to find a video tutorial somewhere that works for you.
5. Structured Online Piano Courses
If you like the idea of being able to learn from home but simply can’t make peace with the idea of giving up personalized feedback, then you’re definitely not alone. Constructive criticism can be truly invaluable, and it’s understandable to want to access that resource even while following an unconventional lesson plan.
For budding pianists who are strapped for time or stay at home but want real-time interaction with a teacher, there are a number of structured online piano courses available out there that can give the best of both worlds!
Many people also find that studying independently with apps or books makes it too easy to slack off, and the accountability of an online course can be a great remedy for that as well. It’s often much easier to stick with a lesson plan when you have someone to answer to who will recognize whether you’ve practiced enough to make progress or not.
Structured online piano courses are also more comfortable for a lot of people who need flexibility, but crave guidance. Learning how to play a musical instrument can be intimidating, and some people find that they really need feedback in order to feel confident in what they’ve learned and put it into practice. Distance learning affords you the ability to check in and see how you’re doing, ask questions, and get feedback, but still practice and experiment in private.
6. Joining a Music Learning Center
If you live in an area with a community learning center and crave constructive feedback and interaction, then studying at a music learning center can be a great option. Many people find that they feel more motivated and encouraged to learn in a community setting than they would if they were studying alone.
Additionally, you stand to learn from way more people if you join a music learning center! If others hear you practicing, they may chime in with helpful tips or guidelines that helped them when they were struggling with the same things. This will give you a similarly well-rounded pool of knowledge to draw from, to what you’d get from watching an assortment of video tutorials.
Music learning centers are also very helpful for people who may not have the money or space to own their own piano, but still want to learn how to play. The communal instruments in learning centers will give you the option to practice and learn without having to commit to your own instrument just yet. This can also be helpful in leading you to “test drive” different pianos and get a feel for which type of piano you prefer to play before you purchase your own to use in the future!
Take a look at this video which talks about the benefits of musical training for your brain!
7. The Hybrid Approach
The beauty of the hybrid approach is that it’s essentially whatever you want it to be!
Do you need interactive feedback, but clam up when you make mistakes in front of others? Try studying with a blend of private or online lessons and independent book learning. Do you genuinely want to build and hone your musical skills, but struggle to find spare time during your busy week? Try book learning on the weekends and turn to your smartphone app to improve your ear and study throughout the day with mini lessons.
There is truly no limit to what approaches you can take to your own musical learning process. A lot of people decide that they want to learn piano and then treat it as if they’re still in school, stressing over hard deadlines and worrying that they aren’t doing it the “right” way. While there are correct and incorrect ways to handle an instrument, there’s no right or wrong way to learn! Learning piano does not have to be rigid or unforgiving.
Learning is a fluid experience that may evolve and change, even on a weekly or daily basis. Don’t forget that learning piano is supposed to be enjoyable! Find your own personal learning rhythm: If you want to try something new or different that you think might work better, then do.
Be kind and work with yourself to find the most effective and comfortable ways to learn, and you’ll enjoy the journey much, much more. When you enjoy what you’re doing, you put much more of yourself into it–and if you have fun while learning and practicing, your playing is going to sound much better!
Everyone learns differently, and no one way is automatically better than all the others. There are all sorts of options out there for finding your own best way to learn piano–and you don’t have to limit yourself to just one, either!
Try out a number of different learning styles to see what works best for you, and don’t be afraid to mix and match if that’s what you find to be more effective. If you love the interactivity of community education and enjoy attending a local music learning center but you simply don’t have time that week, turn to your trusty flash cards or smartphone app and keep studying anyway! It’s all about finding the best learning approach for your lifestyle.
Private lessons, structured online lessons, independent book or video learning, smartphone apps, and community learning are all great options for learning to play the piano. Give it a try, experiment a little bit to see what works best, and put your best efforts into whatever approach you take!
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.