Whether it’s possible to learn piano without a teacher is hotly debated in piano circles.
Some say you can’t get the same level of instruction or feedback from a book or online tutorial. Others argue that with enough practice and self-discipline, anyone can teach themselves how to play the piano.
In this blog post, we’ll explore both sides of the argument and give you some tips on how to start learning the piano on your own!
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What does playing the piano mean to you?
It may seem like a strange question, but it’s the most logical place to start.
Students of all ages are drawn to the instrument for entirely different reasons. Some students aspire to be able to play any piece of music put in front of them.
Other students want the skills to play their favorite songs by ear. These students may not be particularly concerned with learning the correct technique. They simply want to enjoy the experience of making beautiful music.
Other prospective piano students love learning new things. They are obsessed with classical pieces and may even aspire to become a concert pianist. You may find these students eventually auditioning for several different music schools.
Then some view playing the piano as a way to relax. They don’t want to pressure themselves and enjoy exploring the different sounds the instrument can create.
All of these reasons are perfectly valid! And they will all lead you to different conclusions about whether or not you need a teacher.
It’s important to understand the motivation behind your drive to learn the instrument before we dive into whether it’s possible to learn piano without a teacher.
The “You Must Have a Piano Teacher” Camp
Those who argue for teachers believe that teachers are the key to learning the instrument and developing as a musician. They assert that teachers provide an exclusive and essential service.
This camp believes that, without a teacher, you will never achieve the level of playing you desire.
Members of this group believe a piano teacher can give immediate feedback on your progress and help you identify and correct bad habits.
They also contend that teachers can help instill good practice habits, which is essential for anyone who wants to improve their skills on the instrument.
There are some great points made by this camp! A good piano teacher can provide a wealth of knowledge and support to their students.
And for those who aspire to become a classical pianist, traditional piano lessons are still the best choice, at least in the beginning.
Once you reach a certain level in your piano journey, you can advance your skills with only occasional oversight from a teacher and the help of various online resources.
The subtle techniques required for playing classical are challenging to master unless you have oversight from a good teacher. Without a solid foundation in technique, completely self-taught pianists expose themselves to long-term damage.
And as you start playing more challenging pieces, the risk of injury increases.
The “You Don’t Need a Piano Teacher” Camp
This camp believes that teachers are not essential for learning the piano. They argue that anyone can teach themselves how to play the piano with the right resources and a bit of discipline and motivation.
One of the main arguments made by this group is that teachers often follow a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching. They believe that the path to teaching piano is outdated and isn’t easily adapted to individual learning needs.
This camp also believes you can save money by avoiding traditional piano lessons. They argue that the cost of a private teacher can be prohibitive, especially for those who are just starting out.
This camp also has some valid points! Self-discipline and motivation are essential for anyone who wants to learn the piano independently. And plenty of piano-playing resources are available online, many of which are free.
Is it possible to learn piano without a teacher?
Yes. Many self-taught students are out there improving their piano skills daily without the help of a teacher.
Although I grew up taking piano lessons, I don’t believe traditional piano lessons are a good option for all adult beginner piano students.
I believe that both camps have their benefits and drawbacks. You can succeed on either path if you honor your motivation for learning and stay on course with your goals.
Let’s dive deeper into why you may want to choose one path over the either.
You Might Want a Piano Teacher If:
No one is more vocal about the necessity of having a piano teacher than the teachers themselves!
And as someone who has had years of individual instruction, I can understand their point of view in several different situations.
Shiny Object Syndrome
Are you someone who gets really excited about starting something new but is easily distracted by the next shiny opportunity that crosses your path? If so, you might want to find a piano teacher.
A great teacher can help you stay focused on learning, and with their help, you can stay focused on your goals.
If you’re serious about wanting to learn the instrument, invest at least 6 months into dedicated one-on-one time with a teacher. At the end of the 6 months, you can re-evaluate whether learning the instrument is for you and move forward knowing you gave it your best shot.
Coordination is Challenging
Some people can rub their bellies, pat their heads, and chew gum simultaneously. Others can’t clap a steady beat.
Playing the piano involves coordination between your eyes, brain, and hands. Coordination is something that doesn’t come naturally to some people.
If you fall into this category, don’t give up on your dream of learning! But do know that getting your left hand to work with your right hand may require some oversight from an experienced teacher, especially if you’re a beginner.
Do you find yourself starting new projects but quickly stopping progress because you lack the motivation to finish?
Motivation is tricky. Although many people believe motivation inspires action, I think the exact opposite. It’s been my experience that I only feel motivated to do something after I’ve already started taking action.
If I wait to feel motivated, I’ll never do the things on my list.
But finding the right teacher can be a great way to stay motivated to learn piano. This is especially true when you find someone who inspires you to accomplish your goals and challenge your negative assumptions.
You Have No Idea Where to Start
Are you confused and overwhelmed when you think about how to start your piano journey? If so, then you should seek out the help of a teacher.
A great teacher can help you establish a solid musical background and fill in all the gaps that might happen if left to your own devices.
Classical Music is Your Passion
You will want a teacher to help you form a strong foundation if you aspire to play classical music.
Developing the correct technique is crucial for playing this genre without injuring yourself. And it’s challenging to learn the proper technique yourself without any experienced teacher’s feedback.
You’re Not an Independent Learner
Are you someone who thrives on interactions with others? And did you learn better in a group setting than on your own?
If so, finding a teacher might be the best way to learn the piano. Some people learn by reading, others by hearing, and still others by doing.
But if you learn best through feedback and discussion, you should find a teacher, at least in the beginning.
If you’ve decided that finding a piano teacher supports your learning goals, read “How to Find the Right Piano Teacher for You.” This post is a deep dive into what you should consider when searching for a teacher.
It also includes a link to a list of different piano teachers currently offering online lessons. Many teachers have shifted to providing online lessons over the past couple of years, so there’s never been a better time to start playing!
You Can Skip the Piano Teacher If:
It’s also worth noting that even if you start with a teacher, you don’t have to continue lessons forever. There may be times in your life when having a teacher doesn’t work for your schedule or budget.
And that’s ok! As long as you’re enjoying the instrument, it doesn’t really matter.
Although I studied with a teacher throughout my childhood and teenage years, I believe that having a teacher isn’t the best choice for all students.
People come to the piano for various reasons, and not every path to mastery involves a teacher.
You Only Want to Learn a Few Pop Songs
Suppose your motivation to learn piano involves being able to play a few pop songs. In that case, it may not be worth finding a teacher.
There are so many tutorials on YouTube that can give you the information you need for free.
And if you want to learn to play by ear, free apps can help you with that too. My favorite app for ear training is called “Chet,” which helps you learn to play melodies and recognize harmonic intervals.
Its game approach is very addicting!
Beyond the Basics
If you’ve already mastered the basics with a teacher, even if it was years ago, advancing your skills without a teacher might be a good option for you.
You can find many great piano-based courses online tailored to your learning interests.
If classical piano is your passion, then make sure to check out Dr. Josh Wright’s ProPractice course! I first heard of Dr. Wright on a podcast and started following his YouTube channel.
His videos were so helpful that I eventually decided to invest in his course and felt an immediate transformation in my playing.
Although I’d love to incorporate regular lessons into my week, it’s not feasible with my schedule right now. His course has been a lifesaver for me because I can still study pieces on a deeper level but don’t have to feel guilty if I don’t have time to practice every day.
In fact, I recently did the Grade 5 ABRSM exam, and one of my selections is a piece he covers in detail in the ProPractice course. His instruction helped me pass the grade with distinction, and I am so grateful for this course!
If you’d like to find out if the ProPractice course would be a good fit for you, read my complete review of the course.
Are you someone who would rather be left alone to figure things out? If so, then you can probably skip the teacher.
Figure out your motivation and exact learning goals. Once you nail down your goals, find the most appropriate online program. There are many great apps for learning piano; your learning style would be an excellent fit for almost all of them.
Piano Marvel is one option for learning piano. It offers a guided approach to learning the instrument, so you don’t have to try and figure out where to start.
Although it has a variety of songs at different playing levels, this particular app has a very classical approach to teaching the instrument. You may want to consider a different app if this approach does not appeal to you.
And for my take on the app and whether it might be a good fit for you, read “The Best Unconventional Ways to Learn the Piano.”
You Want to Play for Fun
Formal lessons may not be for you if your only motivation for learning is to have fun. If you never aspire to play for anyone else and simply want to enjoy the process of making music, then you can get by without a teacher.
There are still ways to improve your skills and knowledge if you want to, but it’s not necessary.
You can find plenty of online resources that will give you tips on improving your playing. But for the most part, enjoy exploring the piano on your own, and don’t worry about becoming the next Beethoven.
Composition and Songwriting
If your motivation for learning the instrument comes from a desire to write your own music, then traditional piano lessons may not be the best path.
Many piano teachers focus on teaching the correct body mechanics and technique for playing, skills that are not particularly relevant to composition.
But you will need a solid foundation in music theory. There are many great online resources for learning theory.
SkillShare offers an incredible deep dive class taught by a university professor on music theory. There’s also a website called www.musictheory.net that provides a wealth of information on the topic.
YouTube can be your best friend when it comes to learning the art of songwriting. And you might be surprised to learn that most pop music is based on the same basic chord structure.
Although there are benefits to having a piano teacher, it’s not realistic for everyone. I’ve seen many people put their dreams of playing the piano on hold because they didn’t think it was possible to learn without a teacher.
Don’t let outdated ideas about learning piano stop you! There are so many paid and free resources out there that can help you realize your dreams of learning to play.
There are many online teachers offering lessons on an as-needed basis. And not every teacher expects you to attend weekly lessons.
You could also consider combining online resources and teacher oversight if finances or time are barriers.
For more inspiration and ideas on pursuing your dreams of playing the piano, check out “How to Learn Piano as an Adult.”
The Myth of Talent
It’s also worth noting that musical talent can only get you so far. Many people feel they’re not “musically talented,” which keeps them from learning.
But the truth is that talent only gets you so far. In the long run, effort wins out over raw talent every time. And one of the most crucial factors to making progress is having a solid practice plan.
Consistent and focused practice will help you progress regardless of whether you have a teacher. Although some teachers will help you establish a practice routine, many will not.
And plenty of teachers are still focused on the concept of repetition versus thoughtful and meaningful practice.
The topic of practice is one I find fascinating, and you can read my thoughts on the subject in the following posts:
- Your Ultimate Guide to the Perfect Piano Practice Routine
- Easy Brain Hacks to Upgrade Your Piano Playing
- 5 Mindset Secrets to Boosting Your Piano Playing Confidence
- How to Instantly Upgrade Your Piano Practice
- Top Piano Practice Myths You Need to Stop Believing
Don’t let the fear that you’re not “musically inclined” stop you from even trying!
I hope this post has inspired you to think about what’s motivating you to learn the piano and to figure out whether a piano teacher is essential for learning.
Although I have had several great teachers throughout my life, I can understand why some learners hesitate to reach out to a teacher.
And I feel there are situations where a teacher isn’t necessary.
Ultimately, the most important thing is that you stop wondering “what if” and start going after your piano dreams!
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