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How to Teach Yourself Piano Quickly and Effectively, Without Confusion

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Last Updated: November 2022 | Article Details: 2037 words (11 – 13 minute read)

Want to know exactly how to teach yourself piano fast?

We got you…

In this post, we’re going to give you the most effective strategies for learning to play piano by yourself. That means you won’t have an “piano teacher/instructor” in the traditional sense – you’ll be teaching yourself to play.

And yes, that is possible for both adults and children.

So let’s get into it…

Here’s how to teach yourself how to play piano in a nutshell:

  1. Choose a Learning Method
  2. Get Yourself a Piano
  3. Dive Right Into Learning the Fundamentals
  4. Setup a Practice Plan/Schedule and Stick to It.
  5. Consistently Step Your Game Up (Going Beyond the Fundamentals)

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But truth be told, the absolute best way to learn how to play piano by yourself is to invest in a structured set of online piano lessons. It’s affordable, and more importantly, is a literal road map with step-by-step instruction on what to do.

It’s by far, the most efficient way to teach yourself piano.

But let’s get into what learning piano will consist of for you.

Choosing a Learning Method

There are 2 main approaches to learning to play the piano.

You can learn how to play just by ear, or you can learn how to read music.

Of course, you can learn to do both, which is the best choice, but each method will have a different focus for you.

Setting Your Goals

So, decide what you want to do.

Do you want to be able to sit down at a piano and improvise your own music? Want to be able to come up with your own piano compositions for recording/producing?

Then you’ll want to learn how to play piano by ear. Focus on learning scales, chords and the number system (more on these below)

If your goal, however, is to be able to sit down with a piece of music – for example your favorite Bach piece, or sheet music from Adele’s latest album – and play it, then it’s a better idea to learn to read music.

So your focus will be on learning traditional music theory and practicing your sight reading skills (more on this below).

Now if you’re serious about becoming a musician, you should obviously learn how to do both. But it’s still important to set your “most important” goal – improvising your own music, or playing other people’s music.

Getting Yourself an Instrument

A lot of people will tell you to just go out and buy a piano. And that’s cool – nothing wrong with it.

But we recommend seeing if you can just rent an instrument for the first little while. If you’ve got a local (or even a big chain) music store in your area, there’s a good chance they rent instruments.

Of course, if you’re ready to buy, go right ahead. But DON’T buy an acoustic piano (like a grand/upright piano, etc).

Why? They’re expensive. Really expensive.

What Type of Piano to Get

Our preferred place to buy a piano is Sweetwater. They’ve got the best selection and great prices – they also offer financing so you don’t have to drop hundreds of dollars right away.

You can get a digital piano that sounds beautiful for a fraction of the price. Just make sure you get one that gives you the same feeling as a large, acoustic piano (as for “fully weighted keys“).

I’d highly recommend going for the 88-key variety, so you have the most flexibility in what you’re able to play/practice.

Once you’ve learned to play (not as a master, but at a functional skill level) then go ahead and drop a few thousand on a nice acoustic piano. But until then, stick to a digital version.

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Diving Into the Fundamentals of How to Teach Yourself Piano

Ok, so now that you’re ready to start learning, how do you do it?

In this section, we’re going to give you a roadmap for learning to play piano fast, all by yourself.

At first, you’re going to do a lot of reading/studying to understand exactly what’s happening with this magnificent instrument. Then you’ll mostly be practicing with a little bit of study/reading every week.

We highly recommend learning all the basics all at once (how notes, scales, chords, progressions all work) and then choosing one key (example the C note) and practicing all the basics on that one key for a week before moving to another key. We’ll explain more in a sec.

But let’s start with learning the basics.

The Absolute Basics

Learning Piano On  Your Own

At first, you want to study and learn the basic building blocks of music on the piano.

It will seem overwhelming at first, but that’s because there are so many possibilities available to you – note combinations, rhythms, moods/emotions, etc.

But don’t worry about it. The way you eat a giant elephant is one bit at a time. So take it all in piece by piece. Don’t learn everything at once and overwhelm yourself.

Here’s what you need to learn first:

  • The notes on the piano (including sharps/flats)
  • The C Major scale with proper finger placement
  • Music Theory Basics (including rhythm/time, scales/chords and the number system)
  • How to read notes on a music staff/sheet music

These are the building blocks you’ll build upon to teach yourself piano so make sure you spend some time getting familiar with these.

At the end of this section, we have links to all our guides that will teach you all this stuff. But for now, keep reading to learn what to focus on next.

Learn Basic Scales, Chords and Progressions

Once you’ve got a solid understanding of the basics above, you can start to put together scales and chords.

You started with the C Major Scale, so it’d make most sense to now learn the basic C chords – major, minor augmented and diminished triads. Also learn about “inversions.”

That will give you a good sense of how to put scales and chords together. (hint: there’s a special combination/pattern you can memorize to be able to put together ANY chord or scale on the keyboard).

Once you’ve learned how to put together basic chords and scales, it’s time to learn some basic “chord progressions” for piano players.

Progressions are one of the building blocks of full songs. You’ll start by understanding the concept of “diatonic harmony.” With that you’ll be able to build your own chord progressions in any key on the keyboard.

Our Guides to Help You Learn the Basics

Here’s a complete guide to basic music theory. And click here if you’re interested in the Suzuki Method.

And here’s a full guide on everything you need to know to learn how to play the piano. This guide will give you a solid handle on ALL the basics we discussed above. So definitely read through it

Once you’re good to go with those guides, you can also dip your toes into more piano scales and chords on piano to practice.

Setting Up a Practice Plan + Schedule

This is literally the most important part of teaching yourself piano.

You NEED to practice CONSISTENTLY. That means every single day. If you can’t commit to that, you won’t get better to the point you can actually play well.

You have to be able to hold yourself accountable. If you can’t, you should get yourself a piano teacher who will.

How to Practice

Learning to Play an Instrument

But if you’re the type that CAN commit, then make sure you’re spending at least 30 minutes a day practicing.

If you have the time, stretch it out to a 60-90 minute practice session. But don’t go beyond an hour and a half daily – that seems to be the ideal amount of time per day.

And each time you practice, make sure you’re using a metronome or a click track to help you keep time and improve your rhythm.

What to Practice

When you’re first learning the basics, you want to take it slow.

We recommend choosing a key and practicing ONLY that key for a week. At the end of the week, if you’re comfortable with everything you’ve been practicing, you can move on to the next key. If not, go another week practicing that same key.

It’s easiest to start in the key of C Major (all the white keys, from C to C).

Here’s what you should practice (spend 15-20 minutes on each):

  • The entire scale – going up the keyboard and down the keyboard, using both hands (with proper fingering)
  • All the basic triad chords that can be used in that key (using diatonic harmony rules) – including their inversions
  • A basic chord progression in that particular key
  • Playing an actual song (using either a YouTube tutorial or a piece of sheet music)

Do this every single day – without fail.

Here’s a more in-depth guide on how to practice piano, if you’re interested.

Again, choose ONE KEY and practice all the above in that key alone. The idea is to build up your muscle memory. Once you’re good at one key, you can move on to the next.

There are 24 separate major and minor keys that can be played on the piano. Master those 24 using the method above before moving on to more advanced stuff.


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    Stepping Your Game Up

    Once you’ve got a solid grip on the major and minor keys and their respective triad chords and progressions, you should start gradually making things more difficult for yourself.

    This means trying more advanced techniques:

    • Seventh chords and other chord extensions (ex/ 9ths, 11ths, etc)
    • Using piano modes and other scale types (ex/ Phrygian Mode, Blues Scale, Pentatonic Scales, etc)
    • Coming up with more complex progressions using advanced chords and voice leading
    • Learning more difficult songs

    As you can see, there’s a lot of places to go before you can master how to teach yourself piano. But don’t worry. If you practice the above every single day, you’ll be able to play in as little as 20 hours.

    Just be consistent and don’t give up.

    If you’re feeling overwhelmed, we get it. It’s a lot.

    That’s why we always recommend getting yourself an online piano course to give you a structured, step-by-step way of learning piano. Go from A to Z easily.

    Lately, our favorite pick has been PianoForAll. If you want to learn classical music though, read our review of Piano Marvel. If you’re looking for a practice tool to help you check out our review of Playground Sessions or our Melodics review.

    It’s definitely the best way to learn – more affordable and flexible than a private tutor, and not as confusing as going it all alone.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    Is Teaching Yourself Piano Hard?

    Learning how to play music on your own is definitely more difficult than having someone teach you. That’s because it takes a lot of self discipline to learn the skills and then consistently practice them. It’s often easier when you have some sort of outside accountability – like a tutor/teacher/friend/community/etc. But it is definitely possible to teach yourself piano, no matter who you are.

    Can You Teach Yourself Piano On a Keyboard?

    Yes, it’s definitely possible to learn most of what you need to know to play a real acoustic piano using a keyboard. The concepts, notes, chords and theory is generally the same. However, most keyboards do not have “weighted keys.” That means the pressure required to press the keys on a real piano is much more than most keyboards. So the nuances of your finger movement and pressure will be different and may take some getting used to when transitioning between piano and keyboard.

    What Is The Best Teach Yourself Piano Book

    Here at Deviant Noise, our favorite piano self study course is HearAndPlay’s Music Theory Bundle pack. It’s a set of lessons that teaches you how to play piano through traditional music theory and learning to play piano by ear. It’s also the most affordable course we’ve reviewed on our site.

    Thanks for reading our How to Teach Yourself Piano article. Follow along and you’ll be playing in no time!

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    About The Author:

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    Omar Zulfi

    Omar Zulfi is a music producer, rapper, singer, songwriter and digital entrepreneur. He is the founder and head writer at Deviant Noise. Learn more about what he's doing by clicking here.

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