How to Teach Yourself Piano - 5 Steps to Success
Playing piano is a wonderful pastime. It is a joy to listen to but even more so when it is you playing it! Sometimes our parents buy us piano lessons when we are young, but we never seem to practice or want to go to the lessons. Now that you are older you are probably wishing you had!
Piano lessons can be pretty expensive so that might be why you are looking to teach yourself piano. It is really not that hard if you are motivated and have some spare time to devote to improving your skills.
I learned piano by teaching myself different songs and practicing them over and over again. I am going to walk you through the 5 steps you need to take if you want to learn how to play the piano yourself.
Step One – Obtain a Piano
Playing a piano is rather difficult if you don't have access to a keyboard or piano. There are several ways you can have access to a piano and save you lots of money and frustration.
The first and most obvious way is to purchase a new or used piano or keyboard. You can either buy one new from a music store (online and offline) or pick up a used one too. Most music stores carry used equipment but to really get a good deal, head down to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army (or any other salvage/pawn store for that matter) and keep an eye out for keyboards and pianos. They almost always have a small keyboard for sale but sometimes get an upright. Internet classifieds (such as craigslist) might also be a good option for finding an affordable piano.
Another way to find a piano is if you belong to a church. I can't think of a church that wouldn't have a practice piano in their music room. Talk to some folks at the church to see if there could be a time when no one is using the piano and you could practice on it. Asking a few targeted questions goes a long way in finding a piano to play on!
You can read the article on this site about which types of pianos are best suited for you.
Step Two – Learn to Read Music
It will be difficult to teach yourself songs if you can't read sheet music. Although you can learn by ear, if you don't have formal training or a serious gift that could prove quite difficult. Learning to read music will also benefit you in that you won't necessarily have to hear the song to know how it is played, though that does help tremendously.
There are several free programs on the internet that give you a brief intro to reading music, and those work well for getting you started. If you want to continue on and become very proficient at reading music then either a lot of practice is in order or you could invest in an online piano course. These are usually about as expensive as a book at the local music store, but provide you with videos and audio clips as well to help you along in the process.
There are several articles here that help you get started with reading music and should get you on track to teaching yourself to read music.
The other option is to invest in a book from the local bookstore. It will be a little bit less interactive, but certainly with some effort will teach you to read music. Look for freebies online before you do this one though.
Step Three – Learn Some Music Theory
Music theory is important but definitely not as important as learning to read music. This will help you in understanding why composers do certain things and it will also help you write your own songs and improvise on the spot!
Music theory comes with a lot of memorization so it makes sense that the more you practice and read up on it, the more fluent you will become in the language of music. There are several online sources where you can learn music theory, including this site. All you should have to do is once you get to a topic that you need more information on, just type it into Google and find what you need. A good resource is of course Wikipedia because music theory is such a large topic that many people will be policing the validity of that content (unlike some other things on Wikipedia.)
Once again, you can invest in a book to learn these things, but it won't be interactive and won't be free, unless of course you check it out from your local library, which I would definitely recommend.
Step Four – Find Sheet Music
Sheet music is essential to learning to play the piano. It tells you exactly how a certain song is played. It is an incredibly useful tool when teaching yourself to play because it lets you practice single measures at a time and have the instructions right in front of you!
There are some places online that let you view sheet music for free with perhaps a trail membership or something similar but sometimes they don't let you print the music out. Printing the music is in my opinion essential to the learning process. This lets you write notes on the page and keep better track of issues you are having with a song. Some sheet music places let you have total access to the sheet music for an inexpensive annual fee while others charge a small fee for each download. I prefer the monthly subscription model because then I can download and print as much music as I want to.
If you are only looking to learn a few songs, then perhaps at this point the pay-per-download model of sheet music website is a better option, allowing you to pay for how much you actually use the service.
Physical sheet music in music stores is another option, though it is usually much more costly because the publisher must print and distribute the sheet music, then of course the music store adds their own margin on top of that...it adds up pretty quick when you are considering purchasing more than a few pieces of music.
You can check out a few providers of easy online piano sheet music at this site as well.
Step Five – Practice Your Favorite Songs
This one is the most obvious, yet most overlooked. In order to improve you piano skills, you must practice a lot. And when I say practice, I don't mean just trying to hammer through a song or two every day, I mean actually working on your form, posture, finger strength, agility and endurance in the correct ways so that when you do play the sheet music you have invested in, you are learning the physical skills to play the music well.
A good practice program involves some warm ups, scales, new songs being attempted, working on old songs, sight reading (similar to new songs being attempted) and other various technical exercises. You can find a few good practice routines on this site as well as searching Google for others.