How To Learn The Piano ?
There’s an old joke around music circles that comes in the form of a question.
QUESTION: How do you get to Carnegie Hall?
ANSWER: Practice, Practice, PRACTICE!
Yeah, I know it’s trite and probably not something you needed or wanted to hear if you’re looking for a ‘snap your fingers’ answer a question on how to learn the piano. That being said I can, for REAL, back it up. My kids participated in the World Piano Competition, a classical music competition for young artists who all started out to find out how to learn the piano. They participated for several years. The prize for winning was a trip to New York for an appearance in Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall. The kids played there 3 times. I say that as a proud ‘poppa’ for one reason but more pertinent to this article I say it because it was an absolute necessity in getting there.
You can take private face-to-face lessons and accomplish your goals. Depending on what your goals are you can also take lessons from an online source.
Whichever you choose I can promise you one thing for certain. If you don’t have fun while you’re doing it you won’t stick with it. I say that because I’ve been a music educator for decades and I’ve seen ‘em’ come and I’ve seen ‘em’ go in their quest of how to learn the piano. The VAST majority of the ones who go do so because they were B-O-R-E-D. When that happens the mind wanders and in music, with all the multi-tasking that is required to perform, that spells FAILURE…with a capitol “F”.
What’s that got to do with the Carnegie Hall question, you ask? Well, the answer is simple. If you get bored you won’t practice and if you don’t practice you WILL eventually quit. So the key on how to learn the piano is to make it fun so that the boredom factor doesn’t become fatal.
Ok, we got THAT out of the way. Let’s talk a bit about the how to learn the piano type articles you’ll find on this site. This particular article is basically an introduction on how to learn piano so we won’t be going into depth here on the HOW part. However, we have several other articles and reviews on this site that DO get into the HOW. We invite you to peruse the site and read up on our collection articles on the best way to go about how to learn the piano both online and in private study.
Let’s assume that, as a beginner, your first question is about what type piano you should get to learn on. The answer is, well, it depends. If you are limited in space or you want to take your playing on the road then an electronic model is probably in line. How to learn the piano obviously is easily translated to keyboards and we discuss electronic keyboards in depth in the article Learn To Play The Keyboard so we won’t rehash it here. We invite you to take a look at that article if you’re leaning toward the electronic medium.
If you’re not limited on space and want a more traditional approach then your interest is likely to lie with an acoustic piano. Let’s talk basics about acoustic pianos here since we cover their electronic ‘cousins’ in the other article.
Acoustic pianos come in two models, types or ‘flavors’ as I jokingly call them at times:
There are 4 types of vertical/upright acoustic pianos:
Spinet…………………………………………. 36″ – 40″ high
Console……………………………………….. 40″ – 44″ high
Studio…………………………………………. 42″ – 47″ high
Full-size or Professional Upright………….. 47″ – 60″ high
Acoustic upright or vertical pianos are the choice of those on the how to learn the piano quest by a large majority as they are the ones acquiring pianos today. The primary reason is that the cost is significantly lower in comparison to a grand. The trade off is that, unless you’re comparing a top of the line upright with a smallish baby grand, the sound quality is better with the grand. Also key action and touch are superior on a grand. The touch issue is not that noticeable to a beginner who has yet to develop a ‘fine touch’ but it is a big deal to those who are more advanced players.
Another reason is space. A grand ‘eats’ up a lot of room space where an upright is much more compact.
Part of the journey of how to learn the piano is to get acquainted with the types so let’s take a closer look at the uprights and see what the differences are. Here’s a hint: Think SOUND quality.
Spinet: A spinet is short which requires that the strings be very short. This impacts tone quality in a negative way, especially the bass notes. Spinets also have a reputation for maintenance issues.
Console: The console is favorite choice of the uprights because they are still not very large and the price is still quite low compared with the grands. They sound better than the spinets which gives a bit of an upgrade option.
Studio: Studio pianos have a better sound quality than either a console or spinet because of the length of the strings and sound board which has better resonance. The touch is also better and more advanced players appreciate that aspect. Since these pianos begin to get into a better sound quality area the manufacturers begin to upgrade the quality of their products here.
Upright: If you have made it to the point in your how to learn the piano ‘mission’ and you’re ready for some serious sound and don’t have room for a grand but want that great sound at a lower price the Upright is the way to go. Typically a good upright will sound better than a baby grand because of the length of the strings and soundboard.
Grand: There are 5 types (predicated on size) of acoustic grand pianos:
- Baby Grand piano: less than or equal to 5’4″
- Medium Grand piano: from 5’4″ to 5’11″.
- True Grand piano: 6′ or longer.
- Small Concert grand piano also known as an Artist Grand piano: begin at around 7’
- Concert Grand Piano: approximately 9′ and greater
We won’t go into the differences between the grands on our how to learn the piano tour priamrily for two reasons:
- The primary difference is the length of the strings. (General rule: longer string length=better sound)…..and higher price.
- Most beginners simply don’t start at the top. Most start with an upright.
- The only other consideration to bring up is space. Do you really have room in your home for a 9 foot concert grand? Remember, baby grand’s no matter how cute they look and how impressive it might be to say you have a GRAND PIANO still have short strings and soundboards!
Learn Piano Online
Today we rely on the internet for all kinds of things that we used to get at the local mom and pop ‘whatever’ shop. It was the only option we had so we went with it. That could be good or bad depending on what you were interested in doing. But the internet has changed a lot of that as it has brought many more options through a few keystrokes. For example you can even learn piano online!
I recall moving from a large city one time where my kids were enrolled in a top-flight piano program to a city so small they rolled the sidewalks up at night. Did I say city? It was more like Mayberry where the only music teacher was a Miss Clara Edwards type. I had avoided teaching my own kids, for reasons I won’t go into here, and was desperate to find them a good teacher. I didn’t want my kids going through the painful experience that little Opie went through with Miss Edwards. Miss Clara does fine with the gray-head crowd but that’s not what my kids needed. We ended up driving to lessons every week. It was a one hundred twenty mile round trip that took a lot of fun out of the experience. How nice would it have been if, back then, you could learn piano online? Hmmmm, let’s talk about that.
Unlike today the internet was in its infancy and there was nothing available online to help. That is not the case today. When I began researching the availability of online lessons I was amazed at the volume of information available. I was also appalled at the amount of disinformation out there. I am a degreed music educator so I was able to cut through some of the hype but I quickly realized that others, without such a background, would struggle.
I thought on this for quite a while and decided to start this learn piano online review site to help those who don’t have the background or time to sift through the mountain of possibilities out there. We take the time, and it doesn’t take long for some of these snake oil peddlers, to separate the ones who offer legitimate lessons from those who offer cheap tricks and scams.
I have concentrated on piano/keyboard but in doing so I’ve also tried to ensure that the courses reviewed include music basics and music theory. Some of the courses reviewed are very traditional types and other focus on niche areas such as chord piano. Some support the arguement that it is possible to learn piano online very nicely. Others don’t rate so highly. But that’s why we started this page, to seperate the have’s from the have nots.
- Determine what you want to do with your music. Do you just want to just understand some music basics or maybe more on music theory or even perhaps you aspire to play something on the order of Frédéric Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu in C-sharp minor, Opus posthumous 66. Having the answer to this will dictate which course you should consider. You might want to review more information on how to learn piano online in our Online Piano Lessons article.
- Once you find your course look for a guarantee. You want your money back in case you’re not satisfied with the results.
- If the course has a free trial, by all means, sign up for it. In a lot of cases courses offer extras as a way to get you to sign up. That’s a GOOD thing. Often they offer software packages that you will find useful as you take the class.
- If you don’t have an instrument you will need one. If you don’t have an ‘axe’ it hard to learn piano online or anyplace else! Take a look at our review on Learn to Play Keyboard to get an understanding of what type of instrument you should focus on getting your hands on.
- If you really want to learn piano online then follow the instruction methodology of the course you chose. Remember, they do things in a certain order for a reason. Don’t get a ‘smorgasbord’ mentality and decide you can just pick and choose what you want to learn and when. There is a reason they do it their way…it works. Now, a caveat of that last sentence. Some of the courses offer modules and depending on your background and expertise you CAN be a little more into ‘pick and choose’ there.
- Lastly and maybe most importantly. HAVE FUN PLAYING MUSIC! It should not be a chore.
Video Piano Lessons
A few years ago I would have probably scoffed at the idea of video piano lessons. My background and upbringing in tradition music instruction methodology would not have allowed me to even consider it. After spending a lot of time working up on line courses in recent years I have modified that stance considerably.
People are inundated with demands on their time today. Many simply don’t have time to run out for lessons after a long day at work. But they do have time at night and on weekends to study or in this case check out video piano lessons. And that is especially true if they can do so with ease. The internet is an obvious solution to help with this. Actually that’s one of the reasons we started this site; to help identify courses that work for people who don’t have the background or time to do the research to find the value added courses.
The internet has changed the way we think about education. People are getting entire degrees online. With that in mind I set out to develop quite a sizeable chunk of online instruction. I learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t.
The trick to online instruction is that you MUST have streaming video when you venture into learning where people are required to perform a manual task or function. The reason is simple. We remember maybe a tenth of what we read. But when you combine reading with voice and activity, even watching an activity, the retention factor goes up significantly.
In the case of video lessons a person watches the ‘expert’ perform a task and then tries to replicate it. At first I didn’t catch the significance of this pattern. Then one day while doing my duty as a volunteer band director for my kids’ band I was working with beginners. I noticed a big difference in the tone quality of some of the players. My curiosity got the better of me and I began querying them as to how they practiced.
I found 3 distinct groups:
- Those that didn’t practice at all.
- Those that practiced on their own and by themselves.
- Those that had a parent or relative who had also played an instrument and helped them practice.
The results were quite revealing. The ones who didn’t practice at all were absolutely atrocious and could barely get a sound out of their horn. The ones who practiced by themselves were better but they still had that gosh awful beginner ‘wah-wah’ sound. The ones who had help…get ready for it…..had GOOD tonal quality.
I then began to ask that latter group about their experience. The ones with the absolute BEST sound had their parent or relative demonstrate what the horn SHOULD sound like and then had the student try to emulate that sound.
Borrowing a quote from Gomer Pyle from the old Andy Griffith Show I thought….”SHA—ZAAM that is POWERFUL! I then put that together with my experience helping my kids learn to play their horns and piano and low and behold I had done the exact same thing with them. But I did it as a teacher and though my ‘teaching technique’ was just good and that’s why my kids played so well. LOL! In actuality it was a very simple concept that we had all used. Show and tell works well! Video piano lessons? Yeah, there’s potential there!
Now, let’s take that concept and apply it to video piano lessons. Can you see the link? It’s there and it works if you will suspend disbelief long enough to give it a valid try. You watch the video and try to emulate what you saw and heard. In order to get an objective opinion of your progress you can have someone else watch the video and compare your results with the video.
There’s an old saying that I use often: “If you don’t know where you’re going you will either not get there or you’ll get some place you don’t want to be.” With good video instruction you will KNOW what it’s supposed to look and sound like and that, along with a little effort on your part, will get you where you want to be.
With Piano For All There are 200 Video piano lessons that take you through every step of the way. Each video piano lesson has in-depth verbal piano instruction as well! If you don’t understand the written instruction – listen to the sound file or play the video.
Piano Lessons for Beginners
Everyone has to start some place. Don’t let the idea of beginning become an intimidating factor. You don’t want to get overwhelmed by what you don’t know. Be encouraged that you have taken the first and often most difficult step; you want to learn piano. Every journey begins with the first step so take heart.
Beginners, for our purposes, come in two ‘flavors’ or groups: adult and children. While both can be considered as beginners they must be treated differently. Adult learning techniques and methods for teaching children have quite different focuses.
Adult beginners piano lessons.
Let’s begin with the adult learning experience. Those interested in beginner lessons for children please scroll down the page for more information.
Adults, often long since removed from the learning environment, require a very hands-on approach to effectively gain and hold their attention. Adult learning should focus heavily on the HOW component versus the traditional approach where volumes of books and articles are the only components consumed and internalized.
The beginners piano lessons courses we review use a combination of different media. For example the Piano for All course(course contains 10 e-books, 500 audio recordings and 200 videos. The multimedia approach is very dynamic in that it keeps the action moving which is a big plus for the adult learner. Small successes are championed as the new pianist works their way through the lessons enroute to the next level of achievement.
Beginners piano lessons for the typical adult, who in some ways, has a shorter attention span than a child, who is accustomed to school as a way of life. Most adults don’t want to relive the ‘horrors’ of being in school so adult learning must be tailored with a different approach in mind than a traditional school feel. Piano4All Course works you through its’ hundreds of sound files, pictures, diagrams, videos, lessons as well as step-by-step instructions teaching you to read music. As you move through their interactive course you also learn to play by ear and get the chance to experiment with the type of music that most interests you whether that be Classical, Pop, Blues, Rock, or Gospel.
With beginners piano lessons the idea is to have FUN while you learn. Most people who love a particular style of music REALLY enjoy getting the chance to play that type of music WHILE they learn the lesson of the day.
Beginning piano lessons for children.
While adults are impatient for one reason when it comes to learning, children are impatient for a different reason. Children need constant stimuli in order to focus. A combination of a piano course and a fun game can make all the difference in the success of how well a child beginner progresses. The child who embarks on beginners piano lessons often wants to give up very quickly once the ‘glitz’ of the new ‘toy’ has worn off and the piano becomes more of a ‘chore’ than a means to have fun.
The challenge for the adult who is teaching the child or leading them through the learning experience is to keep them ‘entertained’ as they learn. Now, if you’re an educator, don’t get yourself all worked up by that statement. Learning music is markedly different than traditional learning for children.
As a music educator I have been saddened by the idiotic bureaucrats who try to impose their idea of education onto music teachers trying their best to give their beginners piano lessons. They are worried, in many cases, more about their lesson planning than they are about student learning because they focus on the wrong priorities.
Consequently I’ve actually seen administrators, who’ve never held or stat before an instrument in their life, impose traditional lesson plans of band directors. Those are good until the baton drops and the first note is played and then all bets are off. You simply can’t program music learning in the same way that you do in a traditional classroom.
The reason for my diatribe on this is not because of my personal aversion to lesson planning. You must have a plan to go about teaching music but not a traditional one and that’s especially true with beginners piano lessons.
The reason, rather, is to point out that teaching and learning music are DIFFERENT than traditional academic classes. If you approach music classes the way you approach traditional ones you will end up with a bunch of folks quitting. In music you must instill a desire in people to WANT it and to come back for more voluntarily. While there are rare exceptions, traditional teaching methods simply don’t do that effectively.
Learning to play a musical instrument is much more technical in nature and requires huge amounts of multi-tasking. This is not something that the child can be immersed in all at once. With beginners piano lessons it has to be worked up to gradually while keeping the interest of the child focused by allowing them to get the feeling of ‘play’ as they learn.
The Piano is Fun software is a way of accomplishing this. Some examples of how this works include: Students discover the names of the notes through interactive exercises and games that ensure that they develop true note recognition skills instead of memorizing rhymes. Each beginners piano lesson includes a practice game which allows students to learn at their own pace without getting frustrated. When they complete a lesson, students receive a special reward on their personal progress page. When a student completes a medallion challenge, they are rewarded with a trumpet fanfare and are presented with a Certificate of Achievement. If a student is having problems with particular notes, Piano Is Fun allows you to create a customized lesson to address their specific problem.
You’ll be amazed at how the young beginner will look forward to the next piano lesson. Today kids love computer games and technology. This system allows you to let them use the computer to learn something constructive and beneficial. Later, if they show promise, you might consider moving them into one of our other programs to take them to the next level.