Learning The Piano: The Basics To Get Started

Playing a musical instrument is seemingly becoming a lost art. New research shows that approximately only 54% of households have a member who can play a musical instrument. In those households, 48% have two or more additional members who play an instrument1Gallup Organization Reveals Findings of “American Attitudes Toward Making Music” Survey. NAMM.org. (2003). Retrieved 22 December 2021, from https://www.namm.org/news/press-releases/gallup-organization-reveals-findings-american-atti.. While this number is still quite high, it also means that almost half of the population doesn’t know how to play an instrument, which is truly a shame. And if you’re here reading this, chances are that you fall within the latter category or want to sharpen up your skills and don’t know where to start. While the obvious answer would be to take in-person piano lessons, these are often costly and quite time-consuming and with the way the world is going (and inflation being at an all-time high), budgeting for traditional piano lessons is often out of the question. The good news is that this doesn’t mean you are out of luck when it comes to learning how to play.

There are many alternatives available to you that are significantly more budget-friendly and just as effective at teaching you how to channel (and develop) your inner pianist. So, whether you’re looking to learn a new hobby or advance your current skillset, here is everything you need to know about learning how to play the piano without attending traditional in-person lessons.

learning piano basics and tips

Learning How to Play the Piano

Just like any musical instrument, learning how to play the piano takes dedication, practice, and hard work. It can take hours to perfect even the most subtle details, but the end results are certainly worth it. The good news is that you don’t have to take this journey alone, even if you’re planning on doing self-taught lessons. There are several alternatives to in-person piano lessons that are much more cost-friendly and just as enjoyable as if you were to take in-person lessons.

Types of Pianos or Keyboards

While there are many prestigious piano lessons online that allow you to hone your skills without having a physical piano or keyboard in front of you, chances are you’ll likely want to have one or the other at some point. Here are three popular options:

  • Digital keyboards: an affordable, convenient and versatile option that is a good instrument to start with
  • Digital pianos: large and more expensive, but quite versatile and effectively mimics the feeling of an acoustic piano
  • Acoustic pianos: the best option for exceptional sound quality and playing experience, but large and can be extremely pricey

Types of Piano Lessons Available

As you already know, traditional in-person piano lessons are often the first option people think of when looking for a way to learn how to play the piano. However, as mentioned previously, these lessons can be quite expensive and time-consuming.

When you opt for an alternative, you can enjoy the flexibility of being able to work on your piano skills at your own pace and whenever it fits into your schedule. You also don’t have to navigate through traffic to get to your lessons, as they can often be done right at home. However, it’s crucial to pick the best type of piano lessons for you specifically – what works for your best friend may not work for you, as we all learn differently.

To get you started, here is a quick breakdown of the different types of piano lessons available:

  • Traditional lessons: student and teacher lessons in-person with guided lessons and instant feedback
  • Video tutorials: Online tutorials that provide you with lessons you can follow to teach yourself how to play the piano, without any feedback or communication with the trainer
  • App learning: Digital options that allow you to learn through apps that have turned the lessons into games and video tutorials, with feedback available
  • Online lessons: an excellent option that combines all of the types of piano lessons into one to provide you with teachings from a professional, feedback, video tutorials, games, workbooks and much more

Tips for Learning how to Play the Piano

Now that you have narrowed in on the instrument you’ll be using to learn how to play the piano and the type of lessons that appeal to you, it’s time to start learning! To get you started on this new musical journey, we’ve collected some of the top tips for learning how to play the piano, whether it’s on your own or with traditional lessons.

Get a Keyboard or Piano

After reading about the different keyboard and piano options mentioned previously, you’ll want to go ahead and get the one that best suits your needs and budget. Whether it’s a grand piano or a keyboard app downloaded onto your tablet, being able to see and use the keys as you work through your lessons will make the information significantly easier to learn. Keep in mind that many instrument establishments offer rentals for you to hone your skill on.

Get Familiar With Your Instrument

Once you have your keyboard or piano selected, get familiar with it. Most professional, high-quality lessons, whether in-person or online, will start their program off with steps on understanding your instrument. These cover the different keys and their names, as well as the proper hand posture and what each key sounds like. Don’t forget to have some fun and get a feel for the keys too!

Learn Proper Positioning

The placement of your arms and hands are key to learning how to play the piano efficiently and comfortably. It also helps prevent repetitive stress injury, so definitely pay attention to your arm and hand positioning. As mentioned, most lessons will cover this but as a crash course, your right-hand should be in the “C Position”, which is the natural cupped shape when your hand is relaxed and hanging. Your wrists and forearms should also be straight when playing.  

Set Your Goals

Did you know you are 40% more likely to achieve your goal if you write it down? So, decide what your end goal is and then, think of little goals you can achieve to get to the grand finale. And of course, write it down!

Practice, Practice, Practice

As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. Practice as much as you can without taking away from the joy of learning how to play the piano. Practice your hand and arm positioning, your finger placement, the new scales and chords you’ve just learned, how quickly you can play them, etc.

Play with Friends

Just because you’re learning how to play the piano on your own doesn’t mean that this fun activity has to be done alone. Connect with your friends or family members who also play the piano or who are learning, and play together. This is a great form of practice and it keeps it fun and exciting.

All you need to learn to start channelling your inner pianist is an instrument and a little bit of dedication. The rest can be found online in a digital program, Youtube tutorial or with a quick search on Google. Just remember to keep it fun and of course, don’t give up the second the lessons become too difficult. Learning how to play an instrument is a talent and there will be things that come to you naturally and other things that take a bit of work.


  • 1
    Gallup Organization Reveals Findings of “American Attitudes Toward Making Music” Survey. NAMM.org. (2003). Retrieved 22 December 2021, from https://www.namm.org/news/press-releases/gallup-organization-reveals-findings-american-atti.

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