Should you teach yourself the piano or work with the finest piano school in London? We are certainly biased towards the latter, and for good reason. However, with some dedication and careful study, you can certainly train yourself to be able to play songs and pieces on the piano. Here are some tips for learning to play on a keyboard on your own, and please don’t hesitate to reach us with questions. Good luck!
Is Piano Easy To Learn By Yourself?
No, the piano is an exceptionally difficult instrument to learn — it comes with a full set of technical and linguistic elements that you must learn. First, there are the notes themselves that you must read on the staff, and then you have to relate those notes to keys on the piano. Then, you must be able to read those notes fast enough to play phrases on the keyboard, and after that, you must be able to perform these actions with both hands at the same time. Last but not least, you’ll want to be able to play some tunes by ear; for the most part, this is a different skill set from learning to read music. That said, the piano is a dynamic pursuit, and there are many, many angles that must be covered. If you have the time the both research how to learn the piano and sit down and practise based on that research. You can learn the piano, generally, by yourself. But no, it is anything but easy.
How Long Will it Take To Learn the Piano?
Being a “pianist” who can play and read tunes and work on intermediate level music could take 2-4 years, depending on the time you invest in practise. Becoming an advanced pianist who can play difficult music and comfortably sightread intermediate music can often take a decade or more. Of course, these estimates vary wildly depending on the student!
Learning to read music and play the piano is rather similar to learing a language. It takes a consistent application of effort over a long period of time, and there is a vast chasm between being able to get by in a language and being “fluent.” Please do not believe the commercialized piano products out there that claim that you can learn the piano in 30 days — that’s crazy. Sure, you can memorize where to place your fingers like a robot, and be able to plunk out a few tunes. But if you want to truly claim that you are a pianist, you must dedicate years to the study.
Start By Learning the Notes on the Staff and the Keyboard
This can be done without a piano — get comfortable in your favorite cafe or pub and study a diagram of a piano keyboard with the note letters superimposed. The notes on a piano — A, B, C, D, E, F, G — are easy to memorize in order, but you should be able to point to all instances of “A” on the keyboard, for example. You will need to familiarize yourself with the concept of sharps and flats after you learn the notes.
Then, quiz yourself on the keyboard — use flashcards if you’d like. You should be able to point to the correct key when someone calls out a note name, and you should be able to blindly point to a note on the keyboard and be able to say its letter name.
Next, you’ll have to be able to read notes on the staff in the treble and bass clef — you can learn this from numerous charts on the internet as well.
As you accumulate more notes, buy some beginner piano music or note reading exercises, and practise reading and playing as much of the music as you can (slowly!). This is probably obvious, but you will want to do this one hand at a time when you are first starting out.
Watch a Video On Proper Hand Position and Posture
If you play the piano with incorrect posture, bad hand position, or too much tension, you could experience injuries or tendonitis. That’s why it’s so important that you learn correct piano technique right at the beginning. It won’t seem like it matters at first, but as you progress in your piano studies, you’ll wish you had learned to play with correct technique early on.
Practise Playing By Ear
Can you sing or hum a tune when you hear it on the radio? If so, why shouldn’t you be able to replicate that tune on the piano? You can start playing around with tunes on the piano as soon as you familiarize yourself with the topography of the keyboard — where the low notes are, the high notes are, and what it sounds like when you play in half-steps, whole steps, skips, or jumps.
It gets trickier when you want to add accompanimental chords to the tune you are playing, but you can certainly learn to do that as well (see below). If you want to play the piano by ear, the first step is to simply get started trying.
Learn Key Signatures and Chords To Read Lead Sheets
Once you’ve learned the concept of sharps (raising the note a half step) and flats (lowering the note a half step), you’re ready to start learning key signatures. You need to know which sharps are in the key of D Major, you should be able to pick out the flats in the key of B Flat Major, and so on. As you progress through these key signatures, you should teach yourself the chords that go with these keys. For instance, what is a B Flat Major chord? It’s B flat-D-F. The first inversion would be D-F-B flat. Once you recognize chords, you can download some basic lead sheets and start playing popular tunes.
This also makes it possible to play accompaniments along with the melody when you play by ear. Let’s say you want to play “Hey Jude” by ear in the key of C Major. Once you pick out the melody, you can start adding chords by ear in the left hand (you can also just find a lead sheet for your favorite songs).
Practise Your Scales
You can get started with scales early on, even if you don’t plan to pursue serious piano playing. It’s easy to get started; you can download or buy a free scale chart, and started memorizing the scales in different keys. Make sure you learn the fingering correctly as well! Learning your scales will improve your technique, finger dexterity, and note reading, and since scales and variations of scales are present in most piano music, you’ll be able to learn music more quickly.
The Truth – You Should Combine Self-Learning With Piano Instruction
You will progress far more quickly if you take lessons from a qualified teacher, practise what they tell you, and then self-teach on the side. You can then bring your questions to your teacher, and they can tell you if you are headed in the right direction.
A good teacher will give you the fundamental skills you need to teach yourself, and learning the piano takes a huge degree of self-motivation even if you have an excellent professor.
If you aren’t sure whether piano lessons are for you, please don’t hesitate to send us an email at the London Piano Centre. We would be happy to set up a trial lesson, and we can explain the value of piano lessons to you in person if you are interested. If not, we wish you all the best as you pursue your dream of playing the piano.