One of the most common questions we get asked is: can I learn to play piano by myself? The answer is, yes. While we believe the best way to learn piano is from an instructor, we also understand that some students prefer self-learning. So what is the Best Teach Yourself Piano method? and the best teach yourself piano books to buy?
The piano is one of the most versatile instruments, and learning it will serve you well in other areas of life. If you’re truly committed to playing this instrument, use this learning guide to get started.
Best Teach Yourself Piano
Step 1) Get Your Own Piano or Keyboard
You can’t learn how to teach yourself piano if you don’t have one! Even if there’s a public place where you have access to a piano, it’s far better if you have one in the privacy of your home. That means it’s time to make an investment.
Acoustic pianos typically range in price from $2,000 to $10,000 or more for some high-quality concert grand pianos. Obviously, as a beginner, you don’t need a grand piano, but you’ll at least want a quality instrument to practice on. Acoustic pianos are large and heavy, and require regular tuning to remain playable. Even though these aspects seem like downsides, nothing can truly replace the sound and feel of a real piano.
If the cost is an issue for you, however, a digital keyboard is a totally acceptable place to start. A full 88-key version starts at about $150. Remember, you’ll also need a keyboard stand, piano bench, and sustain pedal. The more features you want (UBS drive, sound effects, internal metronome, sample songs, etc.), the higher the investment will be. Most importantly, don’t be tempted by inexpensive, low-quality keyboards. Insist on weighted keys, which is the key to achieving different dynamics in the music you play.
2) Start by Finding Middle C
So your keyboard is all set up and you’re excited to get going. If you have no musical background, you may feel overwhelmed by looking at all those keys – but don’t worry! A great place to start is by finding middle C.
Think of middle C as home base, the place where all beginner pieces work off of. To find middle C, sit down in front of your piano and position yourself at the center. The black keys are arranged in sets of two and three. Middle C is the white key just to the left of the grouping of two black keys near the middle of the keyboard. Place your right thumb on Middle C, pointer finger on the next white note (D), and your middle finger on the white note next to that (E). Using these three notes, you should be able to play Mary Had a Little Lamb by ear (start with E, D, C…).
3) Learn to Read Music, Chord Progression, and Finger Exercises
Before you can expect to play more than Mary Had a Little Lamb, you need to pin down some good resources that explain how to teach yourself piano. The Internet is one of your best resources, but certainly not the only one. Here are some helpful resources to get you started:
TakeLessons’ Piano Playlist: The exercises in this playlist will help you build finger speed, strength, and accuracy at the keyboard. Incorporate them into your daily practice sessions!
DataDragon: Learning to read music is not quite as simple or straightforward as finding Middle C. It’s an ongoing process you must focus on each time you play. DataDragon can help with this; the various lessons cover time signatures, types of notes and rests, counting, and more.
OnlinePianist: Chords (multiple notes played at the same time) and scales (a succession of notes played one after the other) are the foundation of piano playing. This resource teaches you how to play every major and minor scale on the piano as well as a huge variety of chords.
Hanon exercises: It’s important to build finger strength and improve your musical aptitude. Hanon exercises are an excellent resource for this. The link provided here lets you download a free PDF version of each exercise, as well as play a sample so you can hear how the exercise is supposed to sound.
MusicNotes: When you’re ready to start playing actual songs, MusicNotes is a great resource to find sheet music for your favorite songs, in a variety of difficulty levels. A free one-page sample gives you a feel for the difficulty of the piece before you pay for the entire song.
Bonus Tip – Consider Combining Self Learning with Lessons
You may think you now know how to teach yourself piano, but just like a New Year’s resolution, you may only keep it up for a couple of weeks. Working with a private piano teacher can make a drastic difference in your motivation and the speed at which you progress. Your teacher can provide:
Individualized instruction: Even with the above resources at your disposal, it’s difficult to know if you’re doing everything right. Are you playing that chord with the correct fingers? What if the tempo is off? Is your bad posture the reason you find it tough to play for more than 10 minutes at a time? No matter how many tutorials you watch or samples you listen to, many of these questions will remain unanswered unless you have a teacher at your side.
Accountability: What are the odds that you will hold yourself accountable to complete your music theory work and Hanon exercises needed to become a better pianist? Without a teacher to report to, you may find yourself skipping these important steps after just a few weeks. Your technique is bound to falter and you may find pieces more difficult to learn without a rock-solid foundation encouraged by a piano teacher.
Motivation: Anticipating your next lesson and having a desire to show your teacher how much you have improved is a huge motivational tool. Even the concept of paying for a teacher is a good motivator to sit down and practice. If you’re teaching yourself, you could easily lose your drive if you get stuck on a tricky piece. There are only so many words of encouragement you can give yourself, but a teacher can whip you back into shape.
Correct pacing: You may be eager to jump into music that is well beyond your skill level. But if you find that learning a particular song is incredibly difficult, you’re likely to get frustrated and give up. The right teacher will know how to pace you so you’re always challenging yourself, but not to the degree of complete frustration.
A broadened perspective: Perhaps the only reason you want to learn how to teach yourself piano is so you can play Christina Perri and Adele songs. However, a teacher can open your eyes to the beauty of other genres of music to round out your repertoire. With the right teacher, you’ll learn about composers you may have never considered on your own.
If you find that learning how to teach yourself piano isn’t allowing you to progress as quickly as you’d like, try TakeLessons Live or find a piano teacher near you and commit to lessons. You might be surprised by how much you improve!
Being able to play the piano is important for anybody who is serious about becoming a musician. Being able to play the keyboard is the first step to becoming a music producer and these days, it has become easy to learn.
There are lots of options at your disposal ranging from in-person training, online courses to self-guided lessons. Any option that you choose will require a quality piano method book to guide you in becoming a great piano player. There are different piano method books which are recommended based on motivation, age and skill level.
View Top Piano Classes
Piano for Beginners: Piano Notes, Techniques, & Other Piano BasicsBy Phillip F.Piano for Beginners: How to Play Piano ChordsBy Phillip F.Piano for Beginners: Rhythm Exercises & Understanding Time SignaturesBy Jared J.How to Practice Piano: Essential Piano Exercises for BeginnersBy Phillip F.Piano for Beginners: How to Read a Lead Sheet of MusicBy Jared J.Tips for Reading and Playing Sheet MusicBy Jared J.Piano for Beginners: An Intro to Reading Music & Finger ExercisesBy Phillip F.Piano for Beginners: How to Read Music Notes & MoreBy Jared J.Must Know Piano Chords and How To Play ThemBy Phillip F.
Common Mistakes When Buying Your First Guitar
Often people get inspired to play guitar and jump straight to purchasing something that might not suit them. Here are seven common mistakes people make when buying their first guitar:
Mistake #1. Getting the wrong sound – Classical, Acoustic or Electric?
You have 3 basic choices of sound when you buy a guitar:
- Nylon String Classical
- Steel String Acoustic
A lot of people believe that the best choice is to start on an Acoustic Guitar and build up to an Electric Guitar. However, I think that your first guitar should be appropriate to the style of music you enjoy listening to.
If you like AC/DC, Green Day, or say the Foo Fighters, you really need an Electric Guitar to get the sound you want. If you like Jack Johnson, Ben Harper or Taylor Swift, an Acoustic Guitar could be a good choice. Nylon String Guitars sound great for flamenco music, classical music and a lot of traditional music.
Having said this, if it’s for a child under 12 we normally do recommend a nylon string as it’s easier for them to press the strings down. Some children can have tougher hands than others, so if you have a rough and tumble child, they mght be able to handle steel strings earlier than usual. Check out our buying guide for Choosing a Guitar for a Child for more information.
If you’re not sure what type of guitar is best for you, then just think of the music that you like to listen to the most, and call or email us. We will give you a personalized recommendation.
Mistake #2. Getting the wrong size
This is something that a lot of people get wrong. Electric Guitars are much smaller than Steel-String Acoustic Guitars and Nylon String Classical Guitars, they can basically be used by most people, but you do need to consider the extra weight. An Electric Guitar can weigh 5-6 Kg which can be difficult for children to handle. We would normally recommend children be at least 13 years before they try an Electric Guitar, but this is a generalisation and some children (sometimes as young as 10) have been ok. Every child is different, and some children may be capable at a younger age, so if you consider your child to be quite strong for their age, then by all means go for an electric. We carry a broad range of sizes in our entry level range. The correct size is most accurately determined by the player’s height, age and in some cases gender. If you can tell us these three details we can give you a personal recommendation.
- Smaller in size than acoustic or classical
- Good for rock, metal, pop and country music
- Has steel strings which can be hard on young fingers
- Can be heavy, depending on the model.
- Recommended for:
- Good for folk, pop, country, slow rock music
- Has steel strings which can be hard on young fingers
- Sounds bright and loud, great for strumming chords
- Light weight but bulky
- Recommended for:
|Age||Height (cm)||Recommended Size|
|5 – 12||100 – 120||3/4 Size – See LSP34|
|12 – 15||120 – 165||Small Body – See LSPS|
|15+||165 +||Full Size – See LSP|
Classical Guitar (Nylon String Guitar):
- Good for classical, flamenco, Spanish music.
- Available in the smallest size – 1/4 size.
- Gentle on finger tips – perfect for young children
- Sounds mellow and soft – not as loud as acoustic
- Recommended for:
|Age||Height (cm)||Recommended Size|
|2 – 5||75 – 100||1/4 Size – See CL14|
|5 – 8||100 – 125||1/2 Size – See CL12|
|8 – 12||125 – 165||3/4 Size – See CL34|
|12+||165 +||Full Size – See CL44*|
* A full size classical guitar has a wider neck than other guitars. If you have small hands we recommend the CL44S slim neck classical guitar.
Mistake #3: Buying a guitar with strings that are too high and hard to play
String action is one of the critical things for getting an easy to play guitar. The easiest way to understand action is that it’s just the measurement of the gap from the bottom of the string, to the top of the fret and it’s measured at the 12th fret (the half way pint of the string).
For a beginner we recommend an action of:
- Electric Guitars 2-2.3mm
- Acoustic Guitars 2-2.7mm
- Nylon String Guitars 3-3.6mm
A common issue with most entry level nylon string guitars is that the necks are usually made in a very traditional manner using a section of metal bar a few mm thick to keep the neck straight (you can’t see this bar it is built into the neck).
We started finding that this type of construction leads to the neck bending (or bowing) after about 6 months. Unfortunately with the traditional method there is not an easy way to adjust it back to normal – once it is bent it’s time to get a new guitar! This lead us to re design our classical guitars to use a truss rod. A truss rod is a much stronger example of the bar used in traditional manufacturing, but its main advantage is that it is adjustable. So if in the future you neck begins to bend it can easily be adjusted back into correct shape. Here’s our guide to adjusting your truss rod.
Mistake #4: Getting stuck with bad machine heads guitar that don’t stay in tune
Here is an example of a basic covered machine head:
These are made out of gears and pressed metal, it used to be the only way to make machine heads (so a lot of vintage guitars use this type). While it can look cool and retro, these vintage style tuners are often very hard to tune and to keep in tune.
Now there is a modern way to get a much better guitar – the die-cast machine head:
Made from a mould these machine heads are much smoother and more accurate than a covered machine head.
Mistake #5: Choosing a popular brand name because you think you’re getting a superior product
Most popular brand name guitars are indeed very good quality at the higher levels but their entry level guitars, in our experience, are not such a great deal.
In the entry-level market, brand-name guitar companies are usually forced to make their guitars with cheaper materials. There is a simple reason for this. Most major brand-name companies have a brand owner (sometimes an American company). That company buys from a factory in China, and in Australia they will have a distributor who will sell to a retailer (your local music store). It’s pretty easy to see why they can be forced to use cheaper materials. There is a lot of price pressure to get a guitar manufactured at a low enough price for everybody to take their cut of the profit down the chain.
At Artist Guitars we manufacture our Australian designed guitars at our trusted factory in China and sell direct to you. There is no need for us to choose inferior components because we don’t have the pressure of keeping the costs low.
Mistake #6: Buying a guitar without any support materials
When most people buy their first guitar they can be a little confused about what to do. A guitar can be a confusing purchase and most guitars don’t even come with a manual explaining how to use them. That becomes a problem because most people then have to search for the information (which
can be hard to find).
Unfortunately it’s during this critical time that a lot of people get discouraged and may even give up on playing altogether. The first 6 months of learning guitar are critical, statistics show that if someone can still be playing at 6 months they will be much more likely to go on to play guitar for life, so the first 6 months are actually the most important time.
Mistake #7: Paying for features you just don’t need
At the beginner level, you need a good quality instrument, but having a more expensive instrument generally doesn’t make your playing any easier. Higher level instruments are designed for high-level players who want the ultimate in sound.
As a beginner most people are not very sure of the sound, style or type of guitar that they would ultimately like to play, but after playing for 6 months or so I’m sure you will know a lot more about guitars and when it comes time to choose your next guitar it will be an easy choice. The key features a beginner needs is a guitar that is well set-up and easy to play, but you don’t really need to spend too much money on getting a better quality of sound. Higher level guitars will only sound better when your playing has progressed to the level that you can play quite well.
Most beginners find that during the process of learning (after a year or so) you will figure out your own sound. You will naturally be drawn to music that features guitar in it, and great guitar parts. So what usually happens is that your own musical tastes will change and with this change the type of instrument that suits your sound the best will also change. So when you’re ready to take the next step, you will have a much better idea of what you really want.
So in summary…
The 7 key mistakes when buying a beginner guitar are :
- Getting the wrong sound
- Getting the wrong size
- Buying a guitar with strings that are too high and hard to play
- Getting stuck with bad machine heads guitar that don’t stay in tune
- Buying a brand name and thinking you will be getting a better guitar.
- Buying a guitar without any support materials
- Paying for features you just don’t need