This is the first big step in getting your hands on the keys. You need music lessons in order to learn how to play well. You can certainly be gifted with an ear that can pick out tunes, but you can only get so far without learning the basics of playing.
There are a few different things you need to consider here. Again, what level of player do you want to be? You’ve already decided this, but this will help you figure out what approach to take.
How much money do you have to spend on lessons? This is a very important part. Depending on the types of lessons you want, you can spend anywhere from nothing to $200+ a month.
How much time do you have to spend practicing? If you have a lot of time, perhaps you take the most effective route with live lessons. If not, maybe you need something that fits your time schedule.
Determining the Types of Lessons
If you’ve asked yourself the questions described before, then you have already take the steps needed to find out what types of lessons you will take.
Let’s talk for a second about practicing. There’s an art and a way about it that I think most people overlook. They think they can just pay someone to teach them or buy a program and they’ll magically be playing in no time.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
How We Really Learn
The real playing is learned during your practice sessions outside the lessons. The lessons are feedback mechanisms that help you figure out how you’re doing and where you need to make corrections.
The way that we learn, as humans, is in small increments. Practicing for 1 hr a week will practically do nothing for us. The other 6 days, you’re not exposing your brain to practicing.
The subconscious brain is extremely powerful. The more you focus on the something, the more you’ll understand it or get better at it. This is especially true with practicing, and you need to constantly feed your mind with practicing.
It’s MUCH better to practice for 5-10 minutes every day of the week rather than 1 hour one day a week. Regular practice is the most effective way to learn piano (and in truth, anything).
What kind of lessons do you prefer?
So what kind of lessons do you think you can take? If you only have the time to take a 1 hr lesson once a week and never practice in between, then I would suggest just hanging the hat up now.
You’ll never get anywhere, and you’ll waste a ton of money.
Instead, if you think you can practice 2, 3, or 4 times a week for 10 minutes each day, then you’re onto something. Here is a table with some different practice regimes and their effectiveness:
|Practice Days per Week||Time Per Day||Type||Effectiveness|
|1||60m||Taking a lesson with a teacher||Nearly zero; for entertainment only|
|2||30m||Taking a lesson||OK; may make very slow progress|
|3||20m (2 days), 30m (1 day)||You have one 30m / wk with two 20m practice sessions||Decent; you’ll make progress as long as you stick with it and follow the suggestions|
|4||20m (3 days), 30m (1 day)||You have one 30m / wk with three 20m practice sessions||Better; an extra day of practice will ensure you have deepened your learning|
|5||10m (4 days), 30m (1 day)||You have one 30m / wk with four 20m practice sessions||Even better; almost daily practice will begin to engage the mind to really learn the skills|
|6||20m/day, no lessons||You know what to practice and you do it 6 days per week for 20m||Great; nearly daily practice even without lessons will help you learn much more quickly|
|7||10m/day, no lessons||You know what to practice and you do it 7 days per week for 10m||Optimal; daily practice, even at 10m/day, will get you to your goal the quickest|
The times and scenarios are all made up; you may have 10m one day and 30m another day. You may take a lesson every week, every other week, or monthly. The point is this:
Daily practice, even for a short amount of time, is the most effective way to learn.
To execute this strategy, you’ll need to know what to play. That is where a teacher comes in handy; they’ll guide you through things to practice and help you consistently get better.
If you don’t have the money or time to put into a teacher, then you can find lessons online. These may not directly provide feedback, but you’ll still be able to find things to practice daily.
Ideally, you’ll find lessons that help you figure out what to play every day and provide feedback.
If money is an issue, but you still really want to play, then I’d suggest finding free lessons online. Check out YouTube, Udemy, and search Google; you’ll be able to find them.
Some people may not respond well to free lessons because there is little incentive for them to practice. If you think that is the case, but you really want to learn, then I highly recommend paying for something.
Simply adding the stakes of a little money will help motivate you to learn.
Finding a Piano Teacher
If you think you want to find a teacher to help guide you, then great! You can search on Google for piano teachers, use a site like Thumbtack.com, Craigslist, or any other number of sites.
When finding a teacher, discuss with them how you want to go about it. I would suggest shorter lessons (30m) with the rest of the week spent practicing. You’ll know when it’s time to increase the time of your lesson when you reach a plateau.
Try to find a teacher with good reviews and some history so that you can be sure they will be effective for you.
Finding Piano Lessons Online
Unless you know how to read music already, it will be difficult to learn through any other delivery method.
Our PediaQ team is coming up with piano lessons soon and it’ll be completely free. Stay tuned.
Practice Isn’t Actually Enough: Measure Your Progress
So now that you understand the importance of daily practice, it’s time to understand the other part of learning: measuring your progress.
Without measuring how far we’ve come, we won’t know how much we’ve improved. And if we don’t know that, we’ll get frustrated and quit.
Don’t be that person!
The secret to measuring your progress is to measure backward, and NEVER forward. If you’re constantly looking at where you want to be and measuring yourself against that, you’ll create a very large gap and it will overwhelm you.
Instead, we want to take the time to appreciate small, incremental gains. What did you learn today? What did you learn this week? This month?
As you see the little gains, your confidence will start building and you’ll find yourself building momentum, learning more and more quickly and become a great piano player quickly.
Why Do People Always Talk About Setting Goals Then?
Setting a goal is very important. But you must use them in the right way. You must use goals to look forward, and determine what you practice.
Goals are a guidepost to help us where we want to go. But to understand our progress, we must measure backward. Don’t get the two mixed up.
Goals help us stay motivated, to see the place we want to go, and to give us guidance. Measuring our progress from where we’ve been helping us to appreciate how far we’ve come, boost our confidence, and keep us focused on what we need to do next.
No matter what type of lessons you choose, make sure to implement this very important part of the practice regime!
Team Up and Get Feedback
When doing something new, it’s so important to get honest feedback so that you can continually improve. If you’ve gotten a teacher, then you’ve already got a feedback mechanism.
But whether you do or not, it can help to find others who are also learning or who already play in order to immerse yourself into the hobby.
This serves to help you learn more and to get more feedback so that you can continually improve. It will also be a way to help continually motivate you and keep you interested.
This is indeed optional, and many people have enough internal drive to learn new things on their own. If you’re not one of those people, then read on for a few tips!
Method 1: Play for Anyone Who Will Listen
This is sort of the “shotgun” method. This is for if you don’t have any specific person to give you feedback.
You basically want to try to play for anyone who may come over to your place (friends, family, SO, etc.), or play any time you find someone else’s piano or a piano in the wild.
You can also post videos on your social media; just don’t get out of control!
In this way, you’ll be putting yourself out there for people to give you critique. It isn’t always safe and good, but if you’re strong, it’s a way to get feedback.
It’s also an excellent way to help you get over your stage fright if that is an issue.
Method 2: Find a Community
A safer option than Method 1, finding a community gives you a place where people want to hear others play and enjoy giving feedback.
In this way, you can do all the same things as Method 1 (play for others at your place, at others, or post online), but you know the targeted people will be there to listen and help.
Method 3: Record Yourself and Review Objectively
This is a tough method as well. First, you may not have the equipment to even record (although any cell phone will do). Next, it is a rare person that actually likes to see themselves on video.
However, this can be a very powerful way to track your progress and see where you’ve come and what you need to work on. Take a video of yourself on a regular basis, such as weekly, and see how you play.
Review it objectively whether that day or the next; probably the later the better so you can separate yourself from the emotion of the actual practice.
This is another good way to get over fears as well; watching yourself on video can help you face some insecurities and make you a stronger person.
Summary: Continue to Seek Feedback and Measure Your Progress
As was mentioned in the last section, you need to measure backward from where you have come. And you need to do this continually and often if you want to improve.
It doesn’t have to be a big deal; it can be as simple as setting up a weekly reminder to do a recording. By just doing something simple a few times, you’ll slowly get better and better at getting feedback.
That is a powerful skill to have in learning a new skill and in life. As you improve, your feedback process will naturally grow with you and you will find yourself in a snowball of success.
Begin Learning the Theory Behind the Basics
You’ve got some basics, you’ve got some feedback. Guess you’re an expert now?
Hold on. We’re just getting started. The next step is to learn the theory. Don’t worry, it’s not quite as scary as it sounds (well, maybe some of it is). But what theory does is tells us how and why music works.
Huh? Music has a how and why?
It does. Most people who listen to music never understand it. Take the popularity of all the videos claiming “these artists play 50 pop songs with the same four chords!!!”.
That’s not “magic”. That’s theory. All musicians know that you can play any song with the same 4 chords. Once you get good, you realize that’s not what’s good about music.
How Music Theory Helps Us
As I said, music theory gives us the how and why. When we know theory and we continue to practice, we develop a deeper understanding of music.
The deeper the understanding we have, the better we will play. We will play more fluidly. We will be able to predict patterns in music (hint: music is not random).
We can predict notes and guess keys. We can make our OWN songs.
Knowing theory helps you understand the differences between styles more distinctly, helping you to appreciate music more deeply. Just like knowing the difficulty of your favorite sport, knowing how difficult certain songs are makes you love it even more.
Types of Theory: What You Need to Know
There is a multitude of theory sub-types but I’ll generalize this here. There are two types of theory you need to be concerned with right now: basic and advanced theory.
There are basic things that every musician needs to know to play basic music. Then there are advanced things that you can learn to advance your style in whichever style you want to learn.
You need to learn basic theory now, and leave advanced theory until you have the basics down.
That means jumping into advanced songs now is a no-no. It’s difficult because you really want to play your favorite songs. But you can easily find yourself frustrated and lost unnecessarily.
It will be much easier to learn the basics first so that you understand the move advanced songs more clearly. Then you can learn and play multiple songs with ease.
Every style is built upon the same fundamentals; learn the basics and you’ll be on your way!
Determine a Style You Would Like to Play
Have you learned your basics yet? Good. Because once you learn your basics, you can decide what style you want to play next and learn the appropriate style.
If you didn’t decide what style you wanted to play before, this is the time to think about it some more.
What do you like to listen to? What do you find yourself tapping along to? What brings out the most emotion in you?
Not everyone likes to listen to and play the same styles; I much prefer to play jazz and blues than listen to it on a radio, but I LOVE to watch and listen live.
It’s the connection to the music I like, and the radio can’t do that for me in that style.
If you’re interested in multiple styles, you’ll have to put one aside for now and choose one. You can always choose another style in the future, but I highly recommend only ONE style at a time.
Begin Studying Your Chosen Style
To play your desired style, you must study it. You must play songs in it, listen to songs from it, and really immerse yourself into it.
A good first place is to just start learning the theory behind it. As was discussed before, when you learn theory, you learn how to more deeply understand music.
Find some books, online lessons, or a teacher for that style (or a combination of these) and get practicing. As was the case with your basic lessons, these require daily practice to learn.
When practicing, you want to keep up with your basics while adding in the stylistic elements of your chosen style.
For instance, if you’re playing jazz you’ll want to start practicing more advanced chords during your practice routine.
For Latin, you may want to practice syncopated rhythms. For classical, you’ll want to start training in lots and lots of finger techniques.
Be Persistent and Don’t Worry
You’ll start becoming more and more familiar as you go. Listen to songs once you’ve got a basic understanding of your style. You’ll be surprised when you start recognizing patterns and signature stylistic features of the music more sharply.
Some theory books help you to do this last part by pairing tunes with the elements of the style. If you have a teacher, they can help you. You may want to find online lessons that do this for you as well.
Give it time! It will take a while to pick it up, and that’s perfectly OK. None of the greats got it right in a year. Neither will you; it will take sustained practice.
That doesn’t mean you won’t be able to start playing songs and sounding like a real musician, however. Don’t get discouraged! Slow and steady wins the race.
If you want to become an advanced player, then there will be some things you’ll have to do differently than the beginner stuff. In general, this just means you’ll have to practice more.
But it also means you’ll have to practice more purposefully, too.
Becoming advanced or an expert in anything is never easy. But if it’s something you’re truly interested in, then it’s incredibly rewarding.
Here are some tips for becoming an advanced player:
Practice Routine – You’ll need to create yourself a practice schedule and routine that you can execute on a daily (or very regular) basis so that you’re covering everything you need to cover to improve
Get More Feedback – You’ll need lots of feedback to improve and make the necessary tweaks
Make More Time – Time: you’ll need more of it. Practicing 10min per day will no longer be enough; you’ll need more like 1 hour per day, or every other day.
Anything more than you were before will help until you can find extra time to squeeze in.
Mechanics – You’ll really need good posture and playing form. Without this, your body will get tired and you won’t be able to play. You could even injure yourself.
I recommend stretching and keeping fingers, arms, and body healthy. Here are some example hand stretches that are very useful to keep limber.
Final Summary: Putting it All Together
This guide’s aim was to show you how to learn piano. Hopefully, it has taught you something about the process it takes to do so.
The last thing I will say is this: it takes true desire to learn. You can’t do it on a whim. If you only kind of want it, you may want to think before making some big purchases.
Too many people buy into a hobby they think they’ll enjoy and then realize they don’t want to put the effort into it.
Excuses and Solutions
In light of the last comment, here are some common excuses and solutions to those “problems”.
“I don’t have time”. Yes, you do. Everyone has time, and everyone has full control over their own time. What else are you doing that takes time? Write down everything you do for the next week.
How did you spend your time? I’m guessing lots of it was wasteful. I think the average person watches a few hours of TV a day; you could have spent that practicing. If you want it you will find time.
“I don’t have enough money”. Where are you spending money right now that you don’t have enough? Look around at your expenses and see where they really go. Are you happy with what you purchase?
If you’re the type of person who buys coffees, has drinks out at the bar, or who eats out a lot, it’s not that you don’t have money. It’s that you’re not spending it effectively. Figure out what you really want and put your resources into that.
“I’m not a natural musician.” Most people aren’t. It’s a very, very rare person that is born with musical ability. The only difference between the majority of people is that one group puts in the effort, the other doesn’t.
Find a teacher or find some online lessons and put the effort in. You must go through the daily grind of playing and learn to appreciate what you’re doing in order for you to learn.
But anyone can learn a new skill. It’s not magic.
“I don’t know what I’m doing.” The truth is, no one in anything really knows what they’re doing. They just do their best each and every day. And somehow, we survive.
Of course, you don’t know how to play music; you’ve never played! You have to learn by putting in some time to read about music and playing it. Find a teacher, friend, or online guide to learning and save yourself the heartache of figuring it out on your own.
There’s nothing wrong with asking for help.
Learning to Play Piano Summarized
I don’t mean for the last section to be harsh, but merely to help you open your eyes to holding yourself back. Anything is truly possible, and if you really want to play, you have to MAKE it happen.
It won’t just come to you. You must make a sustained effort over a long period of time to learn a skill. But don’t take it too seriously, have fun with it! That’s the reason you wanted to play in the first place, right?