The piano is a diverse and functional musical instrument with an alluring appeal. It is a versatile instrument that lends itself well to all genres and styles of music.
Can piano be self taught? Yes, piano can be self taught. Teaching yourself piano is a rewarding experience and works best when tailored to your learning style and preferences.
Whether you dream of being like Elton John or a concert pianist, learning to play the piano can be a fulfilling pursuit.
It’s a hobby that allows for self-expression, camaraderie with others (picture standing around the piano singing tunes together), and can even turn into a side-hustle or full-time career path.
For many, however, the idea of having to hire a teacher for lessons or racking up student debt at a musical academy is a roadblock to learning to play the piano. There are many advantages of having a mentor teach you the keys, but you have more options.
Even if you choose to forgo taking piano lessons or classes, teaching yourself to play the piano doesn’t mean you can’t access the knowledge and advice of more seasoned players. You might be a natural virtuoso, but nobody instantly understands all the intricate pieces of a musical instrument right away — even if you can already read music and have a background in other instruments.
Self teaching yourself piano will likely come down to choosing from other written and digital resources.
Resources for Learning the Piano on Your Own
Without a teacher to provide the lesson plans, you will have to find a way to access information about learning to play the piano.
The Internet has become an overflowing river of resources when it comes to teaching yourself new skills. The need for in-person instruction has transitioned from a near necessity to a personal preference in learning.
The difficult part isn’t finding an online resource to teach yourself piano, it is finding a reputable source that is suited to your learning style, time constraints, and individual goals.
Most digital resources allow you to move at your own pace, but the structure varies widely. A few of the best online resources for self-teaching piano, with their accompanying pros and cons, include:
If you desire a bit more structure than YouTube can provide, a digital course is a viable option. Digital courses allow you to get information from an instructor without having the set schedule and time commitment. Popular options for digital courses include Udemy and MasterClass.
- More structured. Generally, a digital piano course will have a clear structure with progressive lessons. You know you need to start with one and move onward, for example. There are a lot of benefits of having structure versus not having structure.
- Instruction from real musicians. The people that put together digital courses are more likely to be seasoned musicians with extensive training and experience. Not to say those kind of musicians don’t exist on YouTube, the process of building a digital course is a bigger commitment. Consumers also expect a certain level of expertise from digital courses that isn’t expected in a YouTube video. The platforms that hosts digital classes have more guidelines for who is qualified to provide and sell courses on their platform.
- Low price point. Price point for digital courses can vary, but many of them are reasonable. Udemy, for example, has courses starting at $10.99. Lessons and classes are significantly more expensive, in perspective.
- No feedback. It will depend on the digital course, but most of them do not have real time feedback from the instructors or course creators. You may be able to send them a message with questions, but they are not likely to be able to critique your technique. In many cases, the course is just sold as a package of learning materials without access to a live human.
- Learning styles may not match up. Some courses are all videos, others are reading materials, and some are a mixture of both. If you learn better from a video tutorial than written instructions, or visa versa, the course may not be adapted to your learning style.
- Quality can vary. Unlike an accredited institution or a licensed instructor, the quality of the course isn’t under any regulations. Many courses are fantastic, but some may be subpar. The downside is that it is tricky to know what is a high quality digital course is until you have already paid and been granted access to the program.
Here is a video trailer of the outstanding Herbie Hancock teaching a Masterclass on Jazz:
If you prefer to go old school with self-instruction, there are countless books on learning to play the piano. Books are a solid choice to make if you already have a bit of musical understanding and can understand the written instructions. Even better if you already know how to read music, because many piano books will rely heavily on sheet music to teach the craft.
As you are probably already aware, supplies a nearly never-ending amount of videos on the teaching yourself to play piano. With the right insight into your goals, your current knowledge, and your preferred style of learning, you can find valuable resources to teach yourself how to play the piano.
- A huge collection of teachers, tutorials, and informational videos to choose from. You can quick move from channel to channel until you find something that clicks. You can also mix and match videos to learn different skills, songs, and techniques.
- It’s free to use. As long as you can access a device and an internet connection, you can access all the videos posted on YouTube. This makes learning piano accessible to nearly every income level.
- It’s visual learning. Everyone has different ways they learn best. If you learn best by visual learning, videos might be more beneficial to you than a book.
- Go at your own pace. With structured lessons and classes, you are generally expected to maintain the schedule and pace of the program. With YouTube, you can practice and learn when it works for your own schedule, even if that is erratic.
- Learn and progress at a wide variety of levels. Because of the sheer number of videos on playing piano available, you can find help at whatever level of musical ability you are currently at. Start with a basic beginner tutorial or move on to more intermediate lessons if you have a more solid musical foundation.
- Low amount of structure. If you are someone who needs to be externally motivated, you might struggle to learn to play piano just using YouTube videos. There is no instructor or coach checking in to see if you are practicing or regularly watching lessons. For many people, this makes it easier for them to abandon the process.
- No feedback. One of the biggest advantages to having an instructor while learning a new instrument is the feedback. If you are struggling, there is no one available to answer questions or offer guidance. You could also pick up some weird habits with no one to watch your progress.
- Information overload. There are literally billions of videos on YouTube to sift through. Finding the helpful ones among all the others is a challenge.
- Unverified information. There are no parameters required to upload a video to YouTube. As long as it’s not illegal or harmful, users are free to post whatever they like. This means you could come across false or misleading information. It can also be difficult to determine who is a knowledgeable pianist versus who is just a novice.
Tips for Learning the Piano without a Teacher
If you have decided you want to venture out on your own self-taught piano adventure, there are a few tips that will help ensure your success.
Set a Schedule
One of the hardest parts of learning piano without a teacher is the lack of structure. While this does offer the freedom for you to sit down at the keys when you have free time, you might find you don’t stick with the program without some structure.
One way to ensure forward progress is to schedule a set time to practice. If you know you always have free time on one day of the week, put it in your planner just like you would a meeting at work or a school function. You can always do more than that, but at least you will have a standing date for your piano practice.
Have fun with it
Learning a new skill can be challenging and frustratingly slow. Don’t forget to have fun with it! The more fun you are having the more likely you are to stick with it. Even if it is considered unorthodox, however you choose to have fun with learning piano is up to you.
A good way to continue to have fun is to learn songs you have always wanted to play. Yes, scales and chords are important to the process, but you might get too bored if it takes too long to get to playing a song.
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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.