How to Teach Yourself Piano at Home

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.

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.

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…).

RELATED: 5 Best Piano Books for Beginners

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.

RELATED: 15 Piano Songs That Sound Hard, But Are Easy to Learn

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!

Need help learning Piano?

Try one of our most popular online Piano classes for free

Basic Piano / Keyboard Skills
Learn how to play the piano or keyboard and read music to develop a solid foundation to build upon. In this class we will learn to play simple songs through learning basic music reading skills,the notes of the piano, and basic piano skills and techniques.
Must Know Piano Chords and How To Play Them
These interactive piano classes will teach you the fundamentals of piano chords so you can start expanding your playing skills. You’ll begin with learning the major and minor chords, and then move on to playing major and minor chord inversions. An experienced instructor will explain what each of these are, and make them easy to understand! Finally, you’ll put it all together by learning how to play a song with major and minor chord inversions.
An Intro to Reading Music and Finger Exercises
Finger numbers are one of the building blocks of piano for beginners. This online piano class will dive into why and how to use them. You’ll discuss reading music and learn a few finger exercises to help you begin playing songs. We’ll also get to apply all you’ve learned by playing the classic song “Stand by me” in three different ways!
Learn and Practice Piano Notes and Must-Know Basics
If you’re looking for an intro to the piano for beginners then this is the perfect class for you. You’ll learn how to locate piano notes, how the finger number system works, and how to improve your dexterity. All of these piano basics will be applied as you play a few simple songs with the help of an expert instructor. Aspiring pianists will love this group piano class!
Essential Piano Exercises
An essential part of learning the piano for beginners is understanding all the different elements of a song and being able to put them together. In this group piano class, an expert instructor will show you how to break down the written parts of a song such as the notes, rhythm, and fingerings. You’ll also learn a few piano exercises to help both of your hands work simultaneously. Get ready to feel more comfortable playing with both hands!
Scales for the Advancing Pianist
Have you already mastered the easier major and minor scales? This class is going to help you learn the scales that are more challenging. You will learn the tools you need to master playing in any key. Learn the pattern for the scales starting on black notes Find out why these finger patterns work gain the skills you need to feel more confident on the black keys.
Learn and Practice Advanced Music Notation and Symbols
Deepen your understanding of advanced music notation in this fun, interactive class. Now that you’ve learned symbols and directions, let’s put your knowledge into practice. Together, we’ll review staff ledger lines in the bass and treble clefs, and play short pieces using codas, segnos, repeats, and first and second endings. These pieces will include a variety of dynamic markings, so you can practice playing with more expression and feeling. Learn alongside other students, receive guidance from an expert instructor, and elevate your skills to the next level.
Piano Music Theory: Modes
Modes can be mysterious and confusing - and knowing where to start can be the toughest part. In this class we will demystify modes, learn how they are constructed, when to use them and how to use them. We'll also discuss some popular modal music. Topics: -Modal scale construction -Naming Modes (Dorian, Ionian, Lydian etc...) -Modal chord progressions -Modal chord voicings -Improvising in modal keys This class is best suited for intermediate players, you should be able to find and name all 12 notes, have a good grasp of a few major scales, basic major and minor chords, 7th chords, left hand chord playing and introductory music theory terms. Music notation reading not required! Classical students, pop or jazz students welcome!