How to Set Realistic Piano Goals and Achieve Them

How to Set Realistic Piano Goals and Achieve Them

It’s no secret that learning to play the piano can be a daunting task. Many people start lessons with high aspirations but eventually give up because they need help to stay consistent with their practice routine.

Or they get discouraged because they don’t make the kind of progress they’re hoping to make quickly. And other aspiring pianists get distracted by the promise of the newest piano program or app.

I’ve been all those aspiring pianists at various times in my life. But since getting serious about wanting to progress at the keyboard, I’ve learned a ton about setting realistic goals.

And I’ve been able to achieve some of my biggest goals.

Since it’s almost time to think about setting a new year’s resolution, now is the perfect time to help you figure out how to set realistic piano goals! And since practice is tied into learning any skill, I will also touch on how you need to spend practice time.

Lastly, I will cover a few of my favorite practice tools. And, with that, let’s get to it!

This post may contain affiliate links. As affiliates of the Amazon associate program, Modacity, Dr. Josh Wright ProPractice, Musicnotes, Playground Sessions, and Piano Marvel, I may receive a commission at no extra cost if you purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information and privacy policy. I take no credit for the images appearing on this page. All photos are courtesy of Canva.

Why don’t people accomplish their goals?

If you want to achieve your goals, understanding your potential barriers is crucial. And there are a few very common things that can derail your progress.

Time

Your perception of time has a significant impact on goal attainment. If you don’t believe you have the time to work towards a goal, you won’t even try to make room for it in your schedule.

And although it can seem as if you need huge chunks of time to achieve big goals, the truth is that 5 minutes here and there is sometimes all you need for massive progress.

If you’re serious about making progress with your piano playing, you need to carve time out of your schedule to make it happen.

Uncertainty

Anyone can set a goal. But not everyone follows through with figuring out how to transform a dream into reality.

And figuring out the “how” is often the trickiest part. But one of the best ways to get yourself unstuck from uncertainty is to find a mentor.

The first step is finding someone who is in the spot where you want to be. That person can guide you and save you countless hours of struggling on your own.

And in the case of learning to play the instrument, finding a piano teacher can mean the difference between success and failure.

Mindset

There’s nothing that derails goals faster than having a negative mindset. The way you talk to yourself matters!

And your brain will find evidence to support whatever you believe about your abilities.

Although I’m not suggesting that mindset erases hard work, it all starts with belief. And with stepping outside your comfort zone.

Result vs. Progress

Many people gauge their progress on how far they are from their goals. But discouragement often comes from looking ahead instead of behind.

The more encouraging way to measure progress is to consider where you are now compared to where you started.

Start looking for ways to enjoy the daily habits that will accomplish your goals, and life suddenly becomes more about the journey than the destination.

Impatience

Success takes WAY longer than you think it does. So many people make the mistake of giving up too soon.

It takes YEARS to master the piano. Whether you love classical, jazz, or pop or aspire to play in your church’s band, it will take much longer than you think.

But in most cases, the people who succeed are simply the people who never give up. They find their passion and stick with it, regardless of the obstacles.

What are realistic piano goals?

Now that we’ve explored potential barriers between you and your goals let’s discuss setting realistic piano goals.

The most crucial factor is ensuring your goals are specific and achievable within a certain timeframe. It’s easy to want to jump from one level of playing to another overnight, but it rarely happens like that.

So, instead of going from zero to one hundred overnight, try setting smaller goals and daily practice habits.

For example, let’s say you’re struggling with playing hands together. Instead of making a goal of “playing the whole song hands together,” try something like this:

Play the first line of Prelude in C Major with the right hand ten times without mistakes by Tuesday.

Play the first line of Prelude in C Major with the left hand ten times without mistakes by Thursday.

Play the first line of Prelude in C Major with hands together at 40 bpm by Saturday.

Aim to break your goals into small steps. Your goals should be so tiny that you can accomplish them in a few days or weeks.

Although making long-term goals is okay, breaking them into a bunch of very tiny steps is how you can make steady progress without becoming disheartened.

What is the relationship between practice and piano goal setting?

Although there are many people out there who believe talent is the key to success, it’s not.

Hard work trumps talent every time.

Learning to play the piano is a skill, much like learning to play a sport or getting better at writing. The only way you’ll get better at it is by practicing.

And tying consistent practice into your overall goal setting is one of the best ways to make progress.

Setting practice-related goals are also one of the best ways to prevent feeling like you need to make more progress.

My suggestion is that instead of “learning the last movement of Beethoven’s moonlight sonata,” make a goal of “practicing 5 minutes a day.”

Regardless of whether you’re an adult beginner or a concert pianist, you can accomplish the goal of practicing 5 minutes a day.

5 minutes a day is measurable and attainable. And even if you don’t learn a Beethoven sonata, you can use that time to hone your technical skills, learn a new piece, or have fun playing the instrument.

And by setting small, attainable habits, you’ll be well on your way to achieving any larger piano goal you set for yourself.

How should you divide up your practice time?

I always recommend starting with a short warm-up. This is the time to prepare your mind and body for what’s to come.

Scales, arpeggios, 7th chords, and Czerny or Hanon exercises make great warm-up material. You could also play a song that you have previously mastered.

Sight reading also makes good warm-up material.

After warming up, I like to tackle my most mentally demanding tasks. And for me, that means memorization. I use this time to learn a new measure or phrase in anything I’m working on committing to memory.

If memorization is easy for you, use this time to work on technically demanding tasks within a specific song or for metronome work.

I generally have 3-4 pieces I’m working on at once, and I try to run through all my pieces during a practice session.

And once I’ve gotten through all my practice “work,” I love unwinding by playing whatever I want. Sometimes this means playing a pop piano cover or working out a song by ear. It could also be playing a piece of music that’s fun to play.

To recap:

  1. Warm-up
  2. Anything that is mentally draining/demanding
  3. Other things that need work
  4. Fun stuff!

How long should your practice sessions be?

Although the standard advice is 30 minutes daily, I take a more flexible approach.

I aim for at least 5 minutes a day. And I exceed that goal on most days.

But there are days when 5 minutes is plenty.

Keeping flexibility in my goals leads to less guilt when I have a day here or there that isn’t very productive. The key to making progress is a regular practice routine.

When starting a new practice goal, keep the amount of time you’ll practice each day small. And before long, you’ll be exceeding what you thought was possible!

Are there tools to make your practice time more effective?

Absolutely! My favorite tool is an app called Modacity.

The app allows you to keep track of what you’re practicing. It gives you practice goal suggestions and lets you add personalized goals.

One of my favorite features of the app is the ability to record yourself. You can record a short snippet or an entire piece.

Recording yourself is the fastest way to improve, and I love how integrated recording is into this app.

If you’d like to read my Modacity review, click here. And to try it for yourself, click here.

Aside from the app, I wholeheartedly recommend a couple of books to improve your practice efficiency.

The first is called Peak. This book unveils the secrets behind how the world’s best and, more importantly, how they achieved success.

The second is also a book. It’s called The Musician’s Way and gives solid practice advice. It’s a fantastic resource to help troubleshoot practice challenges.

The book also advises setting and achieving performance goals, so it’s a fantastic resource if you struggle with playing for other people!

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Final Thoughts

Setting realistic piano goals and establishing a consistent practice routine are the keys to piano success.

Start small, break up your practice time, and use tools like Modacity to help keep you accountable and improve more quickly.

Good habits stack up over time, resulting in unbelievable progress in a relatively short period of time. And with a solid foundation in habit forming, you can progress in every area of your life.

Playing a musical instrument has many incredible benefits for your brain and overall well-being.

And have fun with it! Piano playing is meant to bring joy.

If you loved this post, check out my other piano-inspired posts:

The Best Christmas Piano Sheet Music to Celebrate the Season!

The Best Christmas Piano Sheet Music to Celebrate the Season!

Christmas is a time for celebration! What better way to get in the Christmas spirit than by playing seasonal pieces on the piano?

We have entertaining holiday favorites for everyone! So get your holiday spirit started by checking out these lovely pieces today!

Stay tuned for my top recommendations for Christmas sheet music for beginner, intermediate, and advanced pianists.

This post may contain affiliate links. As affiliates of the Amazon associate program, Modacity, Dr. Josh Wright ProPractice, Musicnotes, and Piano Marvel, I may receive a commission at no extra cost if you purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information and privacy policy. I take no credit for the images appearing on this page. All photos are courtesy of Canva.

Christmas Sheet Music for Beginner Pianists

Christmas Carols for Piano – Christina Levante

This Christmas song collection includes 45 easy and popular piano pieces. It’s the perfect book for beginner pianists.

It contains the very best Christmas songs written in an easy-to-follow format, ideal for beginner pianists.

The melody lines in the right hand are straightforward; although there are occasional 16th notes, most notes are eighth, quarter, and half notes. And the left hand accompaniments are also very simple.

The book takes it a step further and includes note names for every note in the book. Thanks to the note names, this is a great book to try if you’re brand new to the instrument.

Purchasing the book also gives you access to recordings of each piece. This is an exceptional bonus because finding recordings of specific arrangements for other books online can be difficult. And being able to listen to the song helps you learn it on a deeper level.

Here are just a few of the more popular songs in this book:

  • Silent Night
  • We Wish You a Merry Christmas
  • Jingle Bells
  • O Holy Night
  • Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

This book is appropriate for either adult or children beginner pianists. Skip this collection if you are irritated or distracted by having written note names on your music.

Easy Piano Songs: 40 Christmas Carols for Beginners – Thomas Johnson

This next volume includes a variety of very familiar Christmas pieces. All songs come with and without written finger numbers.

Specific selections also come with lyrics, so if you want to sing along, this may be an excellent volume for you!

Song selections include:

  • In the Bleak Midwinter
  • Good King Wenceslas
  • God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
  • Auld Lang Syne
  • O Holy Night

The downside of this volume is that it’s not spiral bound, and with over 150 pages, keeping it open while playing may be challenging. Despite this drawback, it might be a good option if you’re looking for songs with and without notes and lyrics.

Christmas Sheet Music for Intermediate Pianists

A Contemporary Christian Christmas – Lorie Line

Known for her unique arrangements of familiar songs and hymns, Lorie Line has produced several Christmas books over the years.

Her newest has been out for a year and features contemporary Christian songs from Amy Grant, Lauren Daigle, and Carrie Underwood.

My favorite song from the book is “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” by Casting Crows. It’s a gorgeous rendition of one of the lesser-known Christmas carols.

If you’re looking for Christmas arrangements of newer music, this is your album.

Be aware that the difficulty of Lorie Line’s music books varies. In any given book, there are songs that lean more towards intermediate and others that require more technical prowess to perform.

This book is no exception, and if you’re easily frustrated by a slightly more challenging repertoire, you may look elsewhere.

Jazz Piano Christmas Carols Book – Alicja Urbanowicz

If you’re looking for a jazzy interpretation of classic Christmas carols, this next one is right up your alley!

This volume includes 12 traditional Christmas favorites with a hint of jazz. It is accessible for late beginner and early intermediate pianists. Several songs in this volume include:

  • Jingle Bells
  • Silent Night
  • What Child is This

The volume also includes video tutorials, so it may be a great option if you’re a do-it-yourself piano player.

Christmas Sheet Music for Advanced Pianists

The Professional Pianist: Solos for Christmas – Dan Coates

This collection of 50 Christmas songs runs the gamut of seasonal music. Selections include:

  • The First Noel
  • O Little Town of Bethlehem
  • Sleigh Ride
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  • O Christmas Tree
  • Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
  • Winter Wonderland

Thanks to the variety of songs included in this book, it would work well for a holiday party, Christmas Eve service, or other events where you need to play several solo piano pieces.

It’s included in the advanced section because of the variety of song difficulties included in the volume.

Although it’s intended to be used as a take-off-the-shelf tool for professional pianists, the book is relatively large and not spiral bound. Depending on the size of the book, playing from a traditionally bound book can be cumbersome, so you should keep that in mind when deciding whether to order this book.

The arrangements of the songs in this book tend to be more traditional arrangements without the degree of artistic liberty taken by Lorie Line.

In other words, this might be a good choice if you’re looking for traditional interpretations of the familiar Christmas favorites.

Francesco Parrino Christmas singles

If you’re looking for a more contemporary take on select Christmas favorites, check out Francesco Parrino.

Francesco has many highly entertaining covers of songs, including “Let it Be,” “Bad Guy,” and “Listen to Your Heart.”

Although he doesn’t have a book of song selections, you can purchase many of the songs he performs from Musicnotes or his website.

Download Sheet Music at Musicnotes.com

If you’ve never heard his covers, check out his piano performance of “Carol of the Bells.” It’s absolutely spellbinding!

Although the difficulty of his songs varies, I would consider them to be advanced, so consider when deciding how much time you will need to perfect the piece.

Final Thoughts

I hope this post has given you inspiration and insight into the best Christmas piano sheet music for your level. From contemporary Christian to jazz and traditional arrangements, there’s something out there for every pianist!

No matter what type of music you decide to play this holiday season, the important thing is that you enjoy it! Have fun!

Do you have a favorite book of Christmas songs? Please share it by commenting below!

And if you loved this post, check out a few of my other piano-related posts:

Ultimate Piano Lover’s Gift Guide for the 2022 Holiday Season

Ultimate Piano Lover’s Gift Guide for the 2022 Holiday Season

2023 is just around the corner, which means it’s time to start thinking about holiday gifts! If you’re looking for something special for the music lover in your life, look no further. I’ve compiled a list of the best gifts for your piano teacher, music-loving family member, and piano students of all levels.

Whether you’re looking for a new piano book, a set of headphones, or a beautiful piece of jewelry, we have a unique gift idea for everyone on this list. So please sit back and enjoy as I take you through some of my favorite gift ideas for piano lovers this holiday season!

This post may contain affiliate links. As affiliates of the Amazon associate program, Modacity, Dr. Josh Wright ProPractice, Musicnotes, and Piano Marvel, I may receive a commission at no extra cost if you purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information. I take no credit for the images appearing on this page. All photos are courtesy of Canva.

Jump to a section:

Practical Gifts

Sometimes the perfect gift also falls under the category of the most practical gift!

Metal Music Book Clip and Book Holder

Although it may not seem exciting, a music clip can make all the difference between a musical triumph and tragedy. And anyone who has ever had the experience of trying to hold a book open and play piano simultaneously will echo that sentiment!

This particular music clip is functional and beautiful. It’s a thoughtful gift for any pianist in your life!

LED Piano Desk Lamp

A lamp is a gift that keeps giving long after the Christmas lights have been packed away. And this one is convenient because it can either sit with a base or be clipped to the music stand.

This model also features 3 different light settings and has a dim feature to adjust brightness levels. It’s a practical gift that any music teacher will appreciate!

Music Throw Blanket

What’s better than snuggling up with a soft blanket while listening to some of your favorite classical tunes? This holiday season, give the gift of music and comfort with this beautiful throw blanket.

Fun Gifts

Who says piano gifts have to be all work and no play? Check out these cool gifts that are perfect for any music lovers in your life!

Piano Player Facts Coffee Mug

Start their day off with a cup of coffee (or tea) in this quirky mug! This is a great gift for piano enthusiasts!

Piano Paperweight Crystal Glass Cube

This beautiful piano paperweight is an excellent gift for the pianist or music lover in your life. It’s also a great way to add a touch of elegance to any desk or workspace!

Skillshare Membership

Although not strictly limited to the piano, Skillshare is an online learning platform offering various classes. You can learn multiple skills ranging from painting to photography. There are also several unique music classes that any musician will find interesting.

Studio (or Home) Decor

One of the great things about piano-related gifts is that they make lovely home decor items!

Piano Hanging Wall Art

This particular piece of wall art is simple and elegant. It would make a beautiful addition to any music room or living space!

5-Tier Ladder Shelf

With this ladder shelf, you can give the gift of more space to display all those cute piano knick-knacks and keepsakes. It’s also useful as a bookshelf because I don’t know any pianists with enough shelf space for their music books!

Personalized Gifts

Personalized gifts are always a hit! They show you’ve thought about what would make the recipient feel special.

20 Ounce Personalized Coffee Tumbler

This beautiful 20-ounce tumbler can be personalized with a name. It’s perfect for the piano lover who enjoys a hot cup of coffee or tea on the go!

Personalized Phone Dock and Desk Organizer

This personalized phone dock and desk organizer is perfect for the piano teacher or student in your life. It’s a great way to help piano players keep track of their phones and other tiny yet essential items.

Personalized Name Art

This one could fall under either a personalized gift or decor. One of my colleagues purchased it for me, and I absolutely love it!

This is a unique gift that the recipient will appreciate and remember for years to come.

Gifts for that Special Piano Student

Whether you have a little one who is just starting out or a more experienced player, there are plenty of great gift ideas for piano students!

Piano Note Guide for Beginners

Some students benefit from putting those note stickers on the piano. But they can leave sticky residue behind, which can ruin piano keys.

A simple alternative is these silicon piano stickers that sit at the top of the keys and don’t stick to anything. It can be a great way to jumpstart learning for younger players without ruining your piano!

Adjustable Piano Foot Rest

One of the most frustrating aspects of learning piano as a young child is not reaching the floor. Concentrating is more difficult for younger learners when they can’t put their feet on the ground. And with a strong base, learning proper techniques is more manageable.

Luckily, this piano footrest is the ultimate solution to an age-old piano problem! The footrest is adjustable, so you can move it as your child grows.

It’s a fantastic tool to give your young pianist the best start in their piano journey!

Soundbrenner Pulse Wearable Metronome

Metronomes are a valuable piece of equipment that all pianists will need at some point. In the past, metronomes have only come in traditional or digital formats. But a company called Soundbrenner is revolutionizing this technology.

Soundbrenner has now come up with a wearable metronome. The technology from Soundbrenner is a better way to feel the beat and stay in rhythm.

This incredible technology allows you to use a metronome while performing, which wasn’t possible before. And if you play in a band, you can also sync the metronomes, so everyone plays at the same tempo during practice sessions or performances.

Metronomes are essential for musical development; this model is the ideal gift for students at all levels.

This is one piece of equipment that I can’t wait to try out for myself! Stay tuned for a full review post on the Soundbrenner wearable metronome.

Apple iPad

Although paper sheet music will never go out of style, technology has given us a better way to store and carry music books.

With the iPad, your budding piano student can bring their entire music library anywhere. Pianists of all levels have instant access to any piece of music at any time.

Many fantastic game-type learning apps can help accelerate learning. Regardless of your piano student’s current playing level, the iPad is a tremendous music-learning resource!

Donner Wireless Page Turner

This is another piece of equipment that all pianists will find helpful if they play from an iPad.

This device allows you to turn pages hands-free, so you can focus on playing the piano and not worry about flipping pages. Believe me, when I say that manually flipping pages on an iPad is a challenge!

Donner solves that problem with this slick device that helps you stay focused on playing the music instead of worrying about a page turn. It’s also compatible with many digital sheet music apps, including Musicnotes, so that you can use it with your iPad!

This page-turner is also very reasonably priced, which is always a bonus.

A Piano

If you’ve just started your little one in lessons, now is the perfect time to consider buying a piano. Many parents opt for a digital piano to start out with because they are portable and take up less space than an acoustic piano.

Having an instrument at home can promote a love of music in children. And even if your child doesn’t do formal lessons, there are many YouTube tutorials on how to play covers of virtually every song known to man.

Learning an instrument has so many fantastic benefits for the brain. And with an instrument at home, your child can experiment and fall in love with music!

If you’d like guidance on making a digital piano purchase, check out my guide to the best budget digital pianos.

Adjustable Artist Piano Bench

Give your piano student the gift of comfort with an adjustable artist bench. This bench ranges in height from 18″ up to 21″ to accommodate your growing piano student.

And the leather padding offers comfort for all those hours spent practicing! It’s a great gift idea that’s luxurious and also serves a practical purpose.

Josh Wright ProPractice Membership

If your piano student is serious about playing classical music, a membership to Dr. Josh Wright’s exclusive ProPractice program is also a great gift! Dr. Wright is a gifted classical performer, and in this course, he creates detailed videos on how to play some of the most famous pieces in the repertoire.

Although he is a fantastic performer, he is an equally gifted teacher. The videos are interesting and will leave anyone passionate about classical piano feeling empowered and inspired to try their favorite pieces.

You can check out the course by clicking here. And for more information, read my full review of the course here.

Christmas Ornaments

Always an appropriate Christmas gift, ornaments offer the opportunity for a special gift that the piano lover in your life can enjoy year after year! And these ornaments also make great stocking stuffers!

Broadway Gifts Grand Piano Ornament

I love the intricate detail offered by this cute grand piano ornament! From the music on the stand to the strings inside the piano, it’s a delightful little ornament guaranteed to bring a smile to any piano lover’s face year after year!

Broadway Gifts Upright Piano Ornament

This is another charming ornament that any classical music lover would love hanging on their Christmas tree!

Clothing

Piano ties, t-shirts, and sweatshirts are great gifts for your piano lover! And you can find a wide variety of options to suit any taste.

Piano Pullover Hoodie

I love this cute woman’s hoodie! It’s another fun yet practical gift.

Piano Neck Tie T-Shirt

It’s formal and casual at the same time. And it’s the perfect gift for that piano-loving guy in your life!

Spontaneous Creativity T-Shirt

Celebrate spontaneous creativity with this t-shirt designed to put a smile on any music lover’s face!

Steven Harris Piano Keys Men’s Neck Tie

This is a handsome and stylish piano tie that any man would be proud to wear!

Piano Jewelry

Piano jewelry is a unique and beautiful way to show your love of music!

JOYID Pendant Necklace

This necklace is simple yet stunning! It would make an excellent gift for any woman who loves music.

Stainless Steel Piano Ring

This unisex ring is also a fidget spinner. The ring is a great little piece for anyone who loves to fidget!

Infinity Collection Music Charm Bracelet

This bracelet is a beautiful and unique way to show your love of music! It would make an excellent gift for any woman who loves classical music.

Naimo Vintage Piano Design Jewelry Box

This beautiful jewelry box would make a lovely gift for any woman who loves to keep her jewelry organized and safe. The vintage piano design is gorgeous!

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed this ultimate piano lover’s gift guide for the 2022 holiday season! I’m sure you’ll find the perfect gift for that special someone on your list. And if you have other great gift ideas, please share them in the comments below!

Happy holidays!

If you loved this post, check out a few of my other favorites:

The 30 Most Famous Classical Piano Pieces of All Time

The 30 Most Famous Classical Piano Pieces of All Time

Classical music is some of the world’s most beautiful and timeless music. It has been around for centuries, and countless pieces could be considered “famous.”

In this blog post, we will look at 30 of the most famous classical piano songs of all time.

I hope you enjoy listening to them as much as I loved putting this list together! These pieces come from different musical periods, each unique in its own way.

This post may contain affiliate links. As affiliates of Amazon, Modacity, Dr. Josh Wright ProPractice, Musicnotes, and Piano Marvel, I may receive a commission at no extra cost if you purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information. I take no credit for the images appearing on this page. All photos are courtesy of Canva.

A Note

Although this post includes famous classical pieces written for piano, only some of them are from the Classical period in musical history.

For this post, “classical” means a piece written for solo piano.

This post will inspire you to explore picking up a few new pieces and expanding your musical horizons!

Baroque Pieces

Pieces within this period include those written between 1600 and 1750. Johann Sebastian Bach is arguably the most famous composer of this period.

This period saw rapid change in how music composition was approached, and the common practice of writing music in a specific key signature was born.

Prelude in C Major (BWV 846): Johann Sebastian Bach

Bach’s Prelude in C Major is one of the most popular pieces from the Baroque period. It is often one of the first pieces from the classical repertoire that beginners learn, as it is relatively simple compared to many of Bach’s other keyboard works.

This prelude is included in Book 1 of The Well-Tempered Clavier. It’s a cheerful and upbeat piece, and its simplicity makes it incredibly charming.

Minuet in G Major (BWV Anh. 114): J.S. Bach

The Minuet in G Major is another of Bach’s most popular pieces. It is a dance piece part of the more extensive volume of work known as the Anna Magdalena Bach Notebook.

This minuet is in the key of G major and has a light and airy feel. The piece is relatively short, but it is charming and very accessible for beginning pianists.

Italian Concerto: J.S. Bach

The Italian Concerto is one of Bach’s most well-known keyboard works. It is a three-movement work demonstrating Bach’s mastery of the keyboard delightfully.

Classical Pieces

Pieces written between 1750 and 1820 are considered part of the Classical period in music. Ludwig van Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart are two of the most famous composers from this period.

The Classical period saw a move away from the complex counterpoint of the Baroque period and towards simpler harmonies and melodies.

Moonlight Sonata (Op. 27, No. 2): Ludwig van Beethoven

Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata is one of his most popular piano pieces. Moonlight is the nickname given to the first movement of Sonata Quasi Una Fantasia in C-sharp minor, Op. 27, No. 2, five years after Beethoven’s death.

The nickname came about because music critic Ludwig Rellstab described the piece as “like moonlight shining on a lake.” 

This piece is written in sonata form. The first movement is known for its beautiful melody. It is considered one of the most famous classical piano pieces ever composed.

Sonata in C Minor (Op. 13, No. 8): Ludwig van Beethoven

Beethoven’s Pathétique Sonata is one of his most well-known and beloved piano sonatas. It is known for its expressive and emotive character.

Für Elise: Ludwig van Beethoven

Für Elise is one of Beethoven’s most popular pieces. The formal name for the piece is Bagatelle No. 25 in A minor. Interestingly, the music was not even published until after Beethoven’s death.

It is one of Beethoven’s most famous piano pieces and has been learned by many beginning pianists throughout history.

Rondo Alla Turca (K. 331): Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Mozart’s Rondo Alla Turca is one of his most famous pieces. It is a fast and lively rondo in the key of A minor, inspired by Turkish music.

This piece is the 3rd movement from Sonata in A Major, K. 331. Although the entire sonata is technically challenging, this movement is considered the simplest of the three.

Sonata No. 16 in C Major (K. 545): Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Mozart’s Sonata No. 16 in C Major is one of his most famous and well-loved piano pieces. It is a three-movement work, and the first movement is considered one of the most famous classical piano pieces of all time.

Although Mozart considered this piece attainable for beginners, it was never even published during his lifetime. It remains a suitable piece for beginner and intermediate pianists.

Fantasia in D Minor (K. 397): Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Mozart’s Fantasia in D Minor is a dark and emotional piece. It is one of his later works and remained unfinished upon his death.

One of the exciting aspects of this piece is the key signature. Mozart typically composed in major keys, which included upbeat and optimistic melodic lines. The Fantasia is, therefore, a break from his usual compositional style and is an attainable piece for the late intermediate, early advanced pianist.

Impressionism

The Impressionist period in music lasted from approximately 1890 to 1920. Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel are two of the most famous composers from this period.

Composers of this period were influenced by the art movement of Impressionism and sought to create music that evoked emotion and captured a mood or feeling.

Clair de Lune: Claude Debussy

Clair de Lune is the third movement of Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque. The Suite Bergamasque is a set of four piano pieces, and it was written between 1890 and 1905.

Clair de Lune is one of the most popular pieces from the Impressionism period. It is known for its beautiful, ethereal melody.

Arabesque No. 1: Claude Debussy

Arabesque No. 1 is the first movement of Debussy’s two Arabesques. These pieces were written between 1888 and 1891 and are both short works for solo piano.

Arabesque No. 1 is a flowing, lyrical piece with a light and airy feel. It is an approachable piece for intermediate pianists.

Trois Gymnopédies: Erik Satie

Erik Satie was a French composer who lived in the lat 1800s to early 1900s. And Trois gymnopédies are some of his most famous pieces, with the first being one of the most recognized pieces of this period.

They are slow, delicate piano pieces that evoke a sense of tranquility and peace.

Romantic Pieces

The Romantic period in music spans from approximately 1820 to 1910. Frederic Chopin and Franz Liszt are two of the most famous composers from this period.

Composers of this period sought to create emotionally charged and expressive music.

Prelude in C# Minor (Op. 3, No. 2): Sergei Rachmaninoff

Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C-sharp Minor is one of his most famous works for the piano. It is known for its dramatic and emotional melody.

The piece is the second in a series of five collectively known as Morceaux de Fantaisie, composed in 1892.

The prelude is in the key of C-sharp minor and requires much control and precision from the pianist.

Elegie in Eb Minor (Op. 3, No. 1): Sergei Rachmaninoff

Although not as widely known as the C# minor prelude, Rachmaninoff’s Elegie is my favorite piece from the entire piano repertoire. 

Rachmaninoff is a master of dark, melodic themes, and this piece is no exception. This piece is just one example of why I consider him one of the greatest composers of all time. The melody has a haunting quality that is achingly beautiful.

If you’ve never heard this piece, take a few minutes to listen to my performance. I guarantee you’ll immediately become obsessed with this piece!

Prelude in G Minor (Op. 23, No. 5): Sergei Rachmaninoff

Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in G Minor is exciting and intense. It contains yet another example of how brilliantly he handled melodic lines.

The piece begins with a thrilling march which transitions into an exquisite melody in the middle section. Rachmaninoff finishes the piece with a return to the first section.

The prelude is a complex piece to perform due to its tempo and the need to balance the perfect execution of strong rhythmic lines with the subtle beauty of the middle section.

Yuja Wang’s is the absolute best of all the recordings out there. Check it out for yourself!

Nocturne Op. 6, No. 2: Clara Schumann

Schumann was a German composer, pianist, and performer of international renown in her day. Unfortunately, she did not compose as prolifically as other composers of her day. Although she was a gifted composer, her life was also marked by personal tragedies of various sorts.

But the F Major Nocturne is a beautiful piece that conveys a sense of peace. It also leaves one wondering about the musical ideas lost forever at her untimely death.

Piano Concerto in A Minor: Edvard Grieg

Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor is one of the most famous piano concertos of all time. It is known for its beautiful melodies and Norwegian folk influences.

The piece is divided into three movements and features virtuosic piano solos throughout. Performing the concerto in its entirety takes about 30 minutes, and one of the best recordings features Arthur Rubinstein.

Ballade in G Minor (Op. 23, No. 1): Frederic Chopin

Perhaps the use of this piece during a dramatic climax of the movie “The Pianist” made me fall in love with this ballade. Still, it’s a fantastic piece that epitomizes music during this period.

The piece is technically demanding due to the extensive ornamentation and rhythmic challenges, not to mention the musical expression of emotional intimacy.

For all these reasons and more, the G minor ballade is one of the most famous piano pieces.

Nocturne in E-flat Major (Op. 9, No. 2): Frederic Chopin

Chopin’s Nocturne in E-flat Major is one of the most famous piano pieces ever written. It is known for its romantic and dreamy melody.

Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor (Op. 35): Frédéric Chopin

Chopin’s “Funeral March” Sonata is one of his most famous piano pieces. It is a dark and somber work that features the famous Marche funèbre in the third movement.

The entire sonata takes about 30 minutes to perform, and it is considered one of the repertoire’s more technically challenging piano compositions.

Waltz in A Minor (B. 150): Frederic Chopin

This quaint waltz was published posthumously and initially attributed to Charlotte de Rothschild instead of Chopin. It was in 1955 that he was finally given recognition for composing the piece.

The Waltz in A minor is a beautiful piece approachable for beginner pianists.

Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2: Franz Liszt

Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies are a set of 19 pieces influenced by Hungarian folk music. They are known for their gypsy-inspired melodies and virtuosic piano writing.

The second Rhapsody is the most popular of the set, and it features a wide range of emotions, from lighthearted and playful to dark and brooding.

La Campanella: Franz Liszt

La Campanella is one of Liszt’s most famous piano pieces. It is known as a virtuosic and technically demanding piece.

Liebestraum No. 3: Franz Liszt

Liebestraum means “dreams of love” in German, and this piece is a beautiful and romantic work for solo piano. It is one of Liszt’s most popular piano pieces.

Impromptu No. 3 in G-flat Major (Op. 90, D. 899): Franz Schubert

Schubert’s Impromptu No. 3 is a beautiful and haunting work for solo piano. It features a delicate and ethereal melody that is both sad and sweet.

20th Century Pieces

The 20th century was a time of significant change in the world of classical music. New compositional techniques and styles were developed, and many famous classical pieces were written during this period.

Sonata in E Minor: Florence Price

Florence Price was a prolific composer. As an African-American woman, she earned recognition as a symphonic composer. She was also the first to have her works performed by a major orchestra.

Aside from symphonies, Florence composed chamber music and works for organ and solo piano. Her sonata is a stunning example of her talent as a composer.

Rhapsody in Blue: George Gershwin

Originally composed for solo piano and jazz ensemble, Rhapsody in Blue took the world by storm at its debut in 1924.

The Rhapsody features many emotions and styles, from playful to melancholy. It is one of the most popular and recognizable pieces of American music.

Ragtime Pieces

Ragtime is a genre of music that was popular in the early 20th century. It is characterized by its syncopated rhythms and often uses jazz-like chords.

Scott Joplin is one of the most famous ragtime composers. His pieces remain some of the most famous piano pieces ever written.

Maple Leaf Rag: Scott Joplin

Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag might be one of the most famous piano pieces ever written. It is a lively ragtime piece that features syncopated rhythms and jazz-like chords.

The piece was first published in 1899 and quickly became one of Joplin’s most famous compositions. Performing the music well requires excellent coordination and the ability to navigate octave leaps.

The Entertainer: Scott Joplin

The Entertainer is another of Scott Joplin’s most famous compositions. It was written in 1902 and remains one of the most popular ragtime pieces ever.

Like Maple Leaf Rag, The Entertainer features syncopated rhythms and jazz-like chords.

Garden of Eden: William Bolcom

Contemporary composer William Bolcom brings the story of Adam and Eve to life in this piece originally written for two pianos.

The entire work is a fun ragtime take on the story. Still, my favorite movement is the 3rd movement, entitled The Serpent’s Kiss.

Final Thoughts

There are so many unique classical piano pieces, and these are just a few of my favorites. I hope you have been inspired to learn one of these fantastic pieces!

Do you have a favorite classical piano piece, and what pieces are you working on right now? Let me know in the comments below!

The Best Piano Bar Songs of All Time

The Best Piano Bar Songs of All Time

If you’re looking for the best piano bar songs of all time, look no further!

Whether you’re looking for something classic or more modern, we have you covered. So please sit back, relax, and enjoy our selection of the best piano bar songs of all time!

This post may contain affiliate links. As affiliates of Amazon, Modacity, Dr. Josh Wright ProPractice, Musicnotes, and Piano Marvel, I may receive a commission at no extra cost if you purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information. I take no credit for the images appearing on this page. All photos are courtesy of Canva.

What is a piano bar?

A piano bar is a type of bar where live music is played on a piano. The music is usually performed by a solo pianist. Occasionally the pianist will be accompanied by other musicians (such as a singer or guitarist).

Patrons of piano bars typically request songs to be played and tip the performer(s) after each piece.

There are different kinds of piano bars. Some feature a pianist quietly performing jazz music in the background. Others feature talented musicians who sing and take song requests.

And other piano bars feature two piano players who interact with each other and the audience, also known as a dueling piano bar.

All piano bars provide entertainment in the form of live music. The performer generally sets the mood and degree of audience participation.

Some of the best dueling pianos regularly perform top songs in a way that makes it impossible not to sing along!

If you’re planning a night out at a piano bar, it’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with some of the most popular songs that are typically played. That way, you can request your favorite tunes and sing along!

Piano bars can be found worldwide and are popular destinations for locals and tourists alike.

What about the pianos?

Since this is a piano blog, let’s take a minute to discuss the pianos you might see at a piano bar. Some piano bars feature upright, while others have two grand pianos.

There are even traveling dueling piano shows specializing in corporate events and special events. These shows usually feature digital pianos with grand piano cases to give the appearance of an actual grand piano.

But when you hear them perform, it’s evident that you’re not hearing an actual grand piano.

The experience of visiting a piano bar is more about the ambiance than the actual performance. It’s about throwing a few classic cocktails back with friends and forgetting about everything weighing you down.

Regardless of which kind of piano bar you visit, you’re guaranteed to have a great night!

Without further ado and in no particular order, here are the best songs for an evening at the piano bar!

Ultimate Classic Rock Hits

Do electric guitars and crazy drum riffs come to mind when you think of classic rock hits? If so, you may not believe this type of music lends itself well to a piano bar setting.

But many of these songs translate surprisingly well to solo piano. Especially if the pianist is also a strong vocalist or can at least get people to sing.

And you might find that as the night goes on, the performances get better and better.

Although the music critics may disagree with my choices, my top picks for ultimate classic rock hits are as follows:

Livin’ on a Prayer – Bon Jovi

It’s hard not to feel unstoppable when you hear a Bon Jovi song on the radio. And although his songs don’t typically feature beautiful melodies articulated by a piano, Livin’ on a Prayer translates surprisingly well to the solo instrument.

If you don’t believe me, check out this highly entertaining video!

Request this song from a solo or band, and you’ll be rockin’ all night long!

Sweet Home Alabama – Lynyrd Skynyrd

Sweet Home Alabama is always a crowd-pleasing staple of the Southern rock genre. People know the words, and it’s relatively easy to sing. Even more so once you’ve had a few drinks!

Sweet Home Alabama sounds excellent with a solo performer or as a band. Either way, it’s a great Saturday night anthem!

I Love Rock ‘N Roll – Joan Jett

This one is sure to get the crowd going! Joan Jett’s I Love Rock ‘N Roll is an uptempo, high-energy classic rock tune perfect for a night out. The best part? It’s easy to sing along to, even after a few drinks.

So if you find yourself at a piano bar with a live band, be sure to request this one!

Bad Moon Rising – Creedence Clearwater Revival

Bad Moon Rising is a classic rock song perfect for a piano bar. It’s recognizable, easy to sing along to, and has a great melody.

While you might not think of Bad Moon Rising as a piano song, the solo instrument actually does a great job of capturing the spirit of the original.

Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison

Brown Eyed Girl is a classic rock hit that everyone in the crowd will know. This song is so recognizable and a cornerstone of the genre that it was included in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame list of 500 Songs that shaped Rock and Roll.

It’s not surprising since it’s easy to sing along to and has a simple melody with an infectious chorus.

This is another song that sounds great with a solo performer. So if you’re looking for a fun, sing-along song, this is a great choice!

Top Pop Fan Favorite Piano Bar Songs

Pop music has a definite “feel good” vibe that pairs exceptionally well with a night out! And whether it’s from the early 90s or has a Latin feel, pop music is guaranteed to put a smile on your face!

Here are my recommendations for the best pop piano bar songs:

You Learn – Alanis Morissette

I love a great Whitney Houston ballad, but there’s nothing like an Alanis Morissette song to make me feel like I can belt it out with the best! Maybe it’s her vocal range or how she combines a beautiful melody with an infectious rhythm, but You Learn has to be one of my all-time favorites.

It’s a fun song to hear live if the piano bar musician is a great vocalist. And if not, the lyrics are familiar, so you and your besties can make up for what the performer lacks!

All the Small Things – Blink 182

This song ALWAYS puts a smile on my face! It’s catchy, upbeat, and really fun to sing regardless of how much you’ve had to drink. It’s one of those songs that can be easily forgotten, but once you hear it again, you’re reminded of how truly fun it is.

This is another one that translates really well from band to solo keys.

Bad Guy – Billie Eilish

Look no further than Billie Eilish’s Bad Guy if you’re looking for a more recent pop song to sing at the piano bar. It has a great beat and catchy tune and is perfect for showing off your best friend’s killer vocal range.

Despacito – Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber

This one is a bit of a wild card, but I had to include it because it’s so darn catchy! You might not think Despacito would work as a piano bar song, but trust me, it does! The best part is that everyone knows the words, so you can all sing along even if you don’t speak Spanish.

This is another excellent choice whether the music is a solo piano or a band. Horns and percussion add a nice touch and bring the song to life.

Fallin’ – Alicia Keys

Alicia Keys is a classically trained pianist, and her love for the instrument is apparent in her songs. This is especially true in the song Fallin’. Its haunting melody and interesting harmonic progressions showcase all we know and love about the instrument.

This song is beautiful, with or without a vocalist.

And speaking of hauntingly beautiful, check out her performance of the Moonlight Sonata by Ludwig van Beethoven. She performed it as a tribute to Kobe Bryant, and her emotional rendition is nothing short of riveting.

Legendary Country Hits

Of all the music genres, country is, hands-down, my favorite. It’s versatile and relatable. And the lyrics are often thought-provoking but fun! Although there are so many country songs that translate well to piano bar style, here are my favorites:

Friends in Low Places – Garth Brooks

Who hasn’t ended their night singing this classic 90s country hit in a bar? Even if you’re not an avid country fan, I’m willing to bet you know the words to this one which is why it’s an excellent request for crowd singing!

And it’s easy to pull off whether there’s a solo performer or a band.

It’s versatile, fun, and a great piano-bar song!

I Love This Bar – Toby Keith

This is another country song that’s fun to sing, regardless of whether you’re a fan of the genre. And like Friends in Low Places, it sounds great with either a solo performer or a band.

I Love This Bar is the perfect song to request when you’re ready to let loose and have a good time!

Hurt – Johnny Cash

Sentimental and heartfelt, this one cuts to the core. It’s been covered by many artists, but Johnny Cash’s version is my favorite. His voice is so raw and passionate, bringing the lyrics to life.

Hurt is a beautiful piano ballad perfect for a slow dance with your someone special.

Final Thoughts

Whether you find yourself frequenting a piano bar with friends or your significant other, I hope this list has inspired you to make a special request. Piano bars are a blast; if you’ve never been to one, here’s your reminder to take advantage of a great time!

Leave a comment below with your favorite piano bar songs!

And if you loved this post, check out a few of my other posts I know you’ll love!

Can You Really Learn Piano Without a Teacher?

Can You Really Learn Piano Without a Teacher?

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!

This post may contain affiliate links. As affiliates of Amazon, Modacity, Dr. Josh Wright ProPractice, Musicnotes, and Piano Marvel, I may receive a commission at no extra cost if you purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information. I take no credit for the images appearing on this page. All photos are courtesy of Canva.

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.

Motivation

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.

Next Steps

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!

La Huerfana and The Storm

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.

Independent Self-Starters

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.

Next Steps

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:

Don’t let the fear that you’re not “musically inclined” stop you from even trying!

Final Thoughts

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!

If you loved this post, please help me out by sharing it on social media. And don’t miss my other posts on mindset and the piano!

Your Ultimate Guide to The Perfect Piano Practice Routine

Your Ultimate Guide to The Perfect Piano Practice Routine

Do you struggle with getting into a piano practice routine?

Are you confused about how much time you should be spending on practice?

Do you feel confident about how you spend your practice time? Or does it feel like you’re not getting the results you want enough though you put in practice time?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and disheartened by your current piano practice habits, this is the perfect blog post for you!

Whether you’ve been playing for 1 week or 10 years, you will find helpful tips and resources to make your piano practice time effective.

We will cover when to schedule your practice sessions, what you should be working on, and how you can stay motivated.

Ready? Let’s go!

This post may contain affiliate links. As affiliates of Amazon, Modacity, Dr. Josh Wright ProPractice, Musicnotes, and Piano Marvel, I may receive a commission at no extra cost if you purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information. I take no credit for the images appearing on this page. All photos are courtesy of Canva.

Why should you take my advice about how to practice piano?

The short answer is that I’ve been where you are right now. Although I’ve played piano for 30 years, I haven’t always had good practice habits.

And even though I studied piano in college, I firmly believed that talent, not effort, was the key to excelling at the keyboard.

I absolutely loved to play piano but had so much imposter syndrome around the instrument for most of my life. This led to anxiety and depression about my skills as a pianist.

And believing in talent over effort led to inconsistent practice as a form of self-sabotage.

It wasn’t until several years after I graduated with a music degree that I realized how hard work trumps talent every time. I began spending my free time researching ways to improve my mindset around practice.

And I started focusing on establishing good habits to support a regular practice routine despite a busy schedule.

With consistent practice, my skills improved, and I started looking forward to my daily piano practice routines. Most importantly, my love and passion for the instrument intensified.

My transformation inspired me to share what I learned about practicing mindset and establishing an effective routine with others.

The Myth of Motivation

The first thing you need to know about effective practice is that mindset matters. If you don’t manage your thoughts around practice, it will be easy to talk yourself out of it.

Other than the lie about talent versus hard work, I used to believe that motivation comes before action. I can’t tell you how many times I missed a day of practice because I didn’t feel like practicing.

But the truth is that you’ll never feel like putting in the work. Your brain will always try to trick you into believing the effort isn’t worth it. And one of the most effective ways it does this is by getting you to believe that you have to feel motivated to do something.

Although I love the thought that practice makes me a better player, I still don’t always feel like putting in the work.

The only way to get around the tricks your brain plays on you is to set a practice schedule and stick with it. Whether you feel like practicing or not, keep the commitment you’ve made to yourself to improve your piano skills.

Action creates motivation. The more action you take, the more your motivation will grow.

How much should you practice?

One of the first questions that come up around practice is how many minutes of practice you should log.

Although many people will tell you that you should plan for a 30-minute practice session daily, I disagree.

I have minimal time available for my various pursuits on any given day. And between a full-time job, husband, kids, dog, horse, and multiple side gigs, there’s NEVER a perfect time to practice!

Setting a specific amount of time for daily practice was ineffective for me because of my busy lifestyle.

I’ve experimented with many ways to develop a solid piano practice routine. The most successful has been committing to daily practice.

One of the best things I did was release myself from the prison of 30-minute practice sessions.

I stopped setting a specific number of minutes because I started feeling guilty whenever I didn’t hit my goal number of minutes. And I learned that the best way to progress was to be flexible.

Some days, I have enough time for 30+ minutes of practice. But on others, I have only 5 minutes.

And that’s ok.

If you’re serious about working on the necessary skills to become better at the piano, I highly encourage you to be flexible in how you get there.

When should you practice?

The easy answer is whenever it’s easiest to fit practice in as a part of your routine. Some adult piano students find that morning is the best time to fit a session in.

Others swear by practicing late at night. I’ve found that fitting a piano playing session in before I pick my kids up from school works the best.

The first step in planning your practice routine is considering what time of day is best for you.

When are you most mentally engaged in tasks? And when do you seem to accomplish the most?

Although it’s not always possible to schedule practice sessions at your peak productivity time, awareness is the first step.

Try to avoid practicing at those times of the day when your brain is on autopilot because your progress will be slow. Those are the times when you’re most at risk of picking up bad habits.

Practicing at night is the hardest because I’m a morning person. And there are times when I practice under less-than-ideal circumstances. But I try my best to coordinate practice when I’m most alert.

What should you practice?

Coming up with a practice plan is crucial whether you are studying with a piano teacher or taking online piano lessons. Coming up with a plan before you practice makes your practice much more efficient.

Start setting small goals because you’ll feel even more motivated to practice as you accomplish them.

And being clear on a specific goal ensures you will spend the time needed to achieve that goal.

Piano Practice Routine: The Warm-Up

The warm-up is a great time to set your intention for the practice session.

There are many different ways to warm up. But think of this as a time to prepare your brain and body for what’s coming.

You could spend some time working through small sections of difficult passages in your music. Separate the left hand from the right hand and focus on pinpointing the exact spot where you struggle.

Technical exercises are another fantastic way to warm up. I recommend the Hanon exercises because they have patterns that aren’t terribly difficult but get your fingers moving. Czerny and Brahms also have books on finger exercises to improve your technical skills.

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Scale practice is a popular warm-up. You can choose one major scale and its relative minor scale to work on per week. Working on scales strengthens your music theory knowledge and finger technique.

I enjoy spending some time sight reading during my warm-up sessions. It helps with my note reading and playing confidence when performing a somewhat unfamiliar piece.

Piano Practice Routine: New Pieces

After my brain and muscles are warmed up, I like to tackle whatever requires the most effort. Examples include working on a new piece of music or memorizing something you’ve already learned.

It’s at this point in your practice session that everything is primed and ready to go. This is why it’s best to tackle whatever needs the most work. I like to use this point in my practice session to practice whatever I want to practice the least.

There are always practice tasks that are difficult or boring. It’s easy to skip right over them, but it’s often these areas in which you can make the most improvement.

Other ideas for filling this part of your practice session include:

  • Focusing in on any hard parts in your music
  • Working with the metronome to solidify rhythms
  • Engaging in slow practice

In any given practice session, there will be things you NEED to work on and things you WANT to work on. The best sessions are a balance between the two.

Piano Practice Routine: The Fun Stuff

And once you’ve tackled the work, it’s time for some fun! I always save the last part of my practice session for the pieces I’m dying to play. It could be stuff that I’ve already mastered or fun projects.

If you love to improvise, save your noodling for this part of the session. I love to work on playing by ear, so I will spend the last part of my practice playing whatever pop or country song I’m obsessed with.

You could also work on accompanying yourself while singing. Try to find piano-related activities that drew you to the instrument in the first place.

Saving the most fun and exciting activities for the end ensures you leave the keyboard on a high note. And that way, sitting down the next day will be easier.

What if you only have 5 minutes to practice?

My advice is to take what you can get. Prioritize what you want to work on and get to it!

Even 5 minutes of focused practice is better than nothing.

Do you have to practice every day?

Getting better at anything requires consistency. I’ve found that practicing daily keeps everything fresh and makes it easier to progress. But consistency is different for everyone.

And making time every day helps me establish piano practice as more than a habit. It’s not as easy to talk myself out of practice when it’s part of my daily routine.

Are there tools you can use to help make your piano practice routine more effective?

Absolutely! One of my favorite tools is an app called Modacity. It tracks your practice time and keeps a daily log, so you can see your practice streak when you log in.

This app has been pivotal in helping me establish the perfect piano practice routine. Aside from the practice log, Modacity can give suggestions for improving your practice. You can also track improvements you’ve made on individual songs.

I’ve been using Modacity for the past 3 years and can’t say enough good about this app!

If you’d like to try it, take advantage of a special deal for readers by clicking my affiliate link here.

There’s a fantastic book by Gerald Klickstein called The Musician’s Way, which breaks practice down into individual components. It resets any negative thoughts you may have about practice. And it helps you form new patterns of more positive thinking that you can use in the practice room.

The Musician’s Way revolutionized how I approach practice, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone looking to do the same.

What about tools to improve your mindset around practice?

Aside from The Musician’s Way, there are a few other books that I have found helpful in reframing a more positive mindset. And with a positive mindset, you can excel in practice and life.

One of the most inspirational books I’ve read is called Relentless. The book is written by Tim Grover, athletic trainer for the biggest names in athletics, including Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. If you struggle to stay motivated about your goals, reading this book will revolutionize your approach to goal-setting!

Indistractable is another essential read for transforming your mindset. It helps you identify distractions in your life and take steps to improve efficiency. This translates into practice that is infinitely more effective.

And if you’re interested in learning how the best in the world become the best, you have to read Peak by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool. The book explores the traits that the most successful people in the world share. And more importantly, it gives you the tools to transform your own skillset.

Are there tools specific for classical pianists?

If you love playing classical pieces but struggle with finding a piano teacher or attending weekly lessons, I have an incredible resource to recommend!

I discovered the ProPractice course by Dr. Josh Wright several years ago while on the search for ways to improve my playing. Dr. Josh Wright is a world-renowned pianist and put together a fantastic set of resources to help pianists who may struggle with regular lessons.

ProPractice is a course that includes tutorials for some of the most well-known pieces in the classical repertoire.

And he walks you through each piece, guiding you on fingering and interpretation so you can improve your ability to play each piece from the comfort of your home.

Dr. Wright has an active YouTube channel with helpful resources for everything from keeping pieces fresh to dealing with performance anxiety. He is the absolute best if you’re interested in improving your classical skills! You can check out his YouTube channel here.

And if you’re interested in learning about his ProPractice course, click this link.

If you want to see how the course has improved my playing, here’s a recent video of me playing two different pieces for the ABRSM Grade 5 exam. The second piece played in the video, composed by Friedrich Burgmuller, is included in Dr. Wright’s ProPractice course.

By following his suggestions on this piece and others, I completed the Grade 5 exam with distinction. Again, it’s a fantastic resource for anyone who doesn’t have time for regular lessons with a piano teacher.

Two pieces from the 2021-2022 ABRSM Grade 5 Exam: La Huerfana and The Storm

Final Thoughts on Developing the Perfect Piano Practice Routine

I hope this blog post helped outline the perfect piano practice routine! Remember, it’s all about approaching practice with flexibility and a positive mindset.

Regardless of whether you aspire to play at church on the stage at Carnegie Hall, keep at it and never give up on your dreams!

And if you loved this post, please help me by pinning it or sharing it with a friend. And check out more of our unique piano-related content you’re guaranteed to love!

ABRSM Piano Exams: What They Are and Why You Should Take One

ABRSM Piano Exams: What They Are and Why You Should Take One

Whether you are an independent learner or have a piano teacher, you’ve probably heard of music exams. And maybe you’ve always thought exams are for kids rather than adult learners.

But exams offered through organizations such as the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM) are designed for piano learners of all ages. They provide an opportunity to improve your technical skills and overall practical musicianship. And they offer performance opportunities in person or from the comfort of your own home.

Although I was aware of piano exams through several organizations, including the ABRSM piano exams and those through Trinity College London, I had never participated in one until recently. But last week, I took my first piano exam and found the experience oddly motivating.

Keep reading to learn more about ABRSM piano exams and my experience preparing for ABRSM’s grade 5 online exam. And who knows? Maybe it will inspire you to film your own exam video!

This post may contain affiliate links. As affiliates of Amazon and Dr. Josh Wright’s ProPractice course, I may receive a commission at no extra cost if you purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information. I take no credit for the images appearing on this page. All photos are courtesy of Canva.

What is the ABRSM?

The ABRSM started in 1889 as a joint collaboration between the Royal College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music. They aimed to create an examination board to inspire people to hone their musical skills.

And they did this by creating a series of performance grades guiding the musical development of a musician on their journey from beginner to advanced musician.

Today, the organization administers 650,000 exam sessions annually. Musicians can participate in practical exams, theory exams, or even online exams to gauge one’s performance skills.

There’s also a section on jazz if classical isn’t your passion. And singers even have the option of musical theater.

Why should you take an exam?

Learning a musical instrument is a journey. And there’s so much to know! Whether you’ve been playing for 3 months or 30 years, there’s always something you can improve upon.

Musicianship

Exams give you a structured learning plan. Through their gradual introduction to more complex material, they give you a pathway to musical success.

And they fill in the gaps where your musical knowledge may be lacking.

For example, the practical piano exams offered by ABRSM include grade-appropriate sight reading and aural tests in addition to piano pieces learned ahead of time.

Sight-reading and ear training are valuable skills for all musicians because they improve your accuracy and overall comfort with the instrument.

I regret not taking full advantage of learning music theory earlier in my life.

Although I took music theory in college, I didn’t realize the value of this knowledge at the time. I didn’t retain the information in a helpful way that benefitted me long-term. But now realize that I can augment my weak areas by following syllabi set out by organizations such as the ABRSM.

And if you want to be a well-rounded musician but music school is not practical right now, practical grades are the perfect way to improve your musical knowledge and skills.

Goals

Whether you’re enrolled in regular piano lessons or are learning the instrument independently, having goals is crucial. Without goals, things can feel aimless and haphazard.

And even though I love to sit down and play piano, that passion isn’t always enough to get me to practice daily. My practice self-sabotage usually presents in the form of procrastination and, sometimes, self-doubt. This is especially true when life gets busy.

But having definite goals on your calendar, such as several exam dates, can motivate you to sit down and practice. Your exam preparations suddenly take on a sense of urgency when preparing for something more significant than mock exams.

New Music

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut of repeatedly playing the same composer and types of pieces.

But taking an exam forces you to play outside your usual box of repertoire. Each piano syllabus contains a list of selections from which you generally must select 3. A 4th piece is one of your choosing and doesn’t have to come from the list.

Some pieces on ABRSM piano exams are part of the standard piano repertoire, but others are more contemporary pieces that you may have never heard of before. Playing through examination pieces is a fantastic way to broaden your musical horizons!

Performance Experience

After graduating from high school and college, the opportunity to get involved in musical groups and performances shrinks. It suddenly becomes much harder to find chances to perform for others.

Although not everyone relishes the opportunity to play in front of others, performance is a massive part of being a musician. And there’s something intensely satisfying about putting in all that hard work behind the scenes and being able to share it with others.

But exams allow you to perform in front of an audience.

And you can choose to participate in person or partake in digital exams. If you have any hesitancy about performing in front of other people, going for a digital performance grade is a fantastic option because if you don’t like your performance, you can simply re-record it. It’s a performance situation without all the pressures of a live performance.

Are there different ABRSM piano exams?

ABRSM offers several paths to participation in exams. Most exam routes have an initial grade level followed by 8 additional levels, referred to as “grades.” The organization sets an updated syllabus approximately every 2 years, listing the different pieces students can select from at each level.

Performance Grades

One of the best aspects of ABRSM, as opposed to other exam options, is that they offer performance grade exams that allow you to record and send your performance for evaluation.

There are no prerequisites for initial through grade 5; you don’t have to start at the first level and work towards higher grades.

Grades 6-8, however, do have a prerequisite. You must have passed grade 5 in music theory, practical musicianship, or solo jazz before you can participate in the higher grades.

As I was completely new to the exam process, I chose performance grade 5 because there were no required prerequisites. I love the flexibility of being able to record and submit ABRSM exam pieces at any time rather than needing to wait for an in-person date.

This grade level also offered several fun pieces I had never heard of before, which made preparing for the exam a fun experience!

Practical Musicianship

The practical exams emphasize overall musicianship in combination with performance skills. This route offers the same opportunity to prepare individual pieces for performance. It also includes various sight reading, improvisation, and memory exercises.

At this time, all practical musicianship exams are held in person. And if you take the grade 5 practical musicianship exam, you can proceed with grades 6-8 for either performance or practical musicianship.

Scoring is similar to performance and practical musicianship. Each piece is given up to 30 points, with an additional 30 points for the performance. In total, the score is marked out of 150.

Music Theory

You can also opt to pursue music theory exams.

ABRSM offers 8 levels of music theory, and levels 1-5 may be taken as an online music theory exam. If you choose to do grade 5 music theory and pass, you are eligible for levels 6-8 for either the performance or practical musicianship exams. Grades 6-8 theory exams must be done on paper.

Diploma

ABRSM also offers ARSM exams for anyone seeking additional performance experience and feedback beyond grade 8. You must have completed grade 8 to qualify for a diploma exam.

The exam includes at least 20 minutes of prepared music from the syllabus and up to 10 minutes of additional music selected by the candidate. And the exam can be done in person or as a digitally recorded exam.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you take ABRSM exams on any instrument?

Most instruments, including brass, woodwind, percussion, and strings, have their own exam syllabus. You can also take an exam if you play the organ or sing.

Do you have to pay to take ABRSM piano exams?

Yes. There are different fees depending upon the instrument, grade, and exam. Consult the ABRSM website for the latest information on exam fees.

What is the benefit of taking ABRSM piano exams?

Exams give you structured goals to work toward. They also guide your development as a musician, whether or not you’re working with a music teacher. ABRSM offers various supplemental materials, including app recommendations and other online resources, to help you gain the skills you need for success.

Are there similar exams offered by other organizations?

Royal College of Music and Trinity College London offer similar opportunities to enhance your learning through structured exams. Stay tuned to Only Getting Better for additional information and reviews of other exams.

Final Thoughts on ABRSM Piano Exams

Taking a piano exam has been on my goal list for several years now, and I’m ecstatic to have finally checked it off! As I’m not currently working with a teacher, I chose to take an exam at a lower level. And I elected not to memorize my pieces because I wanted to take the exam as quickly as possible.

From start to finish, it took me around a month to prepare the pieces to the level where I felt they were ready for evaluation. I had been playing the fourth piece I chose off and on for a couple of months, so this one was, more or less, ready when I decided to submit it for evaluation.

As I’m not studying regularly with a piano teacher, I rely heavily on Dr. Josh Wright’s ProPractice course. In fact, my last piece is a piece he goes through measure-by-measure in the course, and I feel that I gained so much from his guidance and interpretation of the piece. I love this piece and enjoy its technical and interpretation challenges.

You can check it out for yourself in the video posted below. And if you’re interested in more information about Dr. Josh Wright’s ProPractice course, please read my review.

Although I’m still waiting on the results from the exam, I’m already weighing out different options for my next exam. I am considering taking the grade 5 music theory exam in preparation for moving on to a grade 6 practical musicianship exam.

I’m also considering taking either an RCM or Trinity College exam to make a comparison between the different organizations. Regardless of what I decide, I will keep you posted! Stay tuned because there’s definitely more to come!

Please take a few minutes to leave a comment below about your experience with exams. Have you ever taken one? What was your experience like? And would you recommend taking an exam?

You May Also Enjoy Reading

References

ABRSM: Our history

Ranking the Best Budget Digital Pianos

Ranking the Best Budget Digital Pianos

Maybe you’ve wanted to learn piano for a while now but are intimidated by purchasing a musical instrument. A piano can be a significant investment, and you may be worried about making that investment before you’re confident that you’ll love playing.

Or perhaps you’re a parent thinking about enrolling your little ones in piano lessons. You may be wondering whether purchasing a piano is necessary and, if so, where to start looking for a great option that fits your home and budget.

As a former piano teacher, I can completely relate to your desire to find a good option at an affordable price. And I understand how confusing all the musical jargon is when you’ve only just started your piano journey.

Learning to play an instrument is hard enough without worrying about reading a bunch of reviews and watching countless videos only to feel still overwhelmed when it comes to making a decision.

I get it. And as a self-proclaimed “piano nerd,” I geek out over this stuff! Pianos are my jam, and I love getting into the nitty-gritty details of how they work and who may love a particular instrument as much as I do.

So, please sit back, relax, and take advantage of my tendency to obsessively research the object of my fascination! Let me help you find the best affordable digital piano in your price range.

Pssssst! Are you a skip-to-the-good part kinda person? If so, click below to jump directly to the individual reviews.

This post may contain affiliate links. As an affiliates of Amazon, I may receive a commission at no extra cost if you purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information. I take no credit for the images appearing on this page. All images courtesy of Canva.

Acoustic or digital?

When purchasing a piano, the first decision is whether you want an acoustic or a digital piano. Acoustic pianos come in various sizes that fall into either the upright or grand category.

An acoustic piano generates sound when a hammer hits a string, and the sound resonates across a massive piece of wood called a soundboard.

A digital piano is an electronic replication of an acoustic piano. Digital piano sounds are created by recording individual notes from an acoustic piano and combining them into a sound bank.

There is a great deal of variation in quality for both acoustic and digital pianos. In general, the higher the price tag, the better the quality.

How does a digital piano compare to an acoustic piano?

Although technology has come a long way in sound quality, nothing beats how an acoustic grand piano sounds!

An acoustic grand piano is a gold standard for how a piano should sound, which is why digital piano sounds are made up of grand piano recordings. The feel of an acoustic piano has also historically been hard to replicate.

But purchasing a grand piano is not realistic for most people. Grand pianos are a financial investment between the initial cost and routine maintenance. 

It’s an investment that’s not practical when you’re just starting to learn the instrument or don’t yet know whether you’ll love it.

Like a car, acoustic pianos are individuals, and some need more or less maintenance to reach their full potential.

And not all acoustic pianos are created equal, either—plenty of upright and even grand pianos with subpar manufacturing and sound quality. If you’re thinking about purchasing an acoustic piano, it’s always wise to have a piano technician weigh in on the purchase.

Check the table below for more information on the differences between an acoustic and digital piano.

Acoustic Pianos

Digital Pianos

Initial cost

Varies depending upon brand and type but can range between $1,000-$100,000

Varies depending upon brand and type but can range between $200-$20,000

Maintenace

Needs tuning at least every year and ideally whenever the piano is moved

No regular maintenance 

Repairs

Tuning and repairs can generally be done in your home by a local piano technician

May need to work through the manufacturer for repairs

Space requirements

Upright pianos are 5' wide and 2' deep while grand pianos are 5' wide and 5-9' deep. Plan on at least an additional 2' around the piano for the bench and player comfort

88-key digital pianos are a little less than 5' in length and slightly less than 1' in width. Plan on at least an additional 2' around the piano for the bench and player comfort

Portability

At a standard weight between 200 and 500+ pounds, portability is simply not a feature of this piano

Many models weigh less than 50 pounds and can be easily moved from place to place

Sound quality

Varies depending on brand and model however nothing beats an acoustic for artistic expression

Varies depending on brand and model with limitations on artistic expression

Best for

Beginner, intermediate, advanced pianists

Beginner and early intermediate pianists; musicians who play traveling gigs

Given the challenges with acoustic pianos, digital pianos make an excellent choice for beginners. Digital pianos can even be the best choice for some intermediate piano players. But in most cases, acoustic pianos are ideal for advanced players.

What are the differences between digital pianos and keyboards?

In your search for the best pianos that fit your budget and learning needs, you’ve probably encountered an instrument known as a keyboard. Although digital pianos and keyboards look very similar, there are a few key differences.

Number of Keys and Sounds

Compared to digital pianos, keyboards often come with fewer keys and a more comprehensive range of instrument sounds. Keyboards often come equipped with many different options for making truly electronic music.

Portability

Keyboards are designed with portability in mind. Their compact design and variety of sound effects make them a favorite for gigging musicians who give stage performances.

Music Composition and Vocal Practice

Keyboards can be helpful for musicians who enjoy experimenting with different sounds while composing music. Their smaller size and wide range of sound options are preferable over acoustic instruments for music production.

And for singers looking for help with nailing pitches during practice, nothing beats a portable keyboard!

Key Weight

When it comes to the amount of force it takes to press down a key, also known as key weight, there are differences between digital pianos and keyboards.

Many keyboards are completely unweighted, meaning little to no resistance is felt when a key is played.

On the other end of the spectrum, grand pianos have tiny mechanical parts, including hammers, that strike a string producing a sound. Thanks to the mechanics of an acoustic piano, a real piano will therefore present a fair amount of resistance while playing.

Digital pianos offer varying degrees of key weight, ranging from semi-weighted to hammer action keys more closely simulating the real thing.

Digital pianos with a hammer action keyboard are often graded, meaning it takes more force to depress a key on the lower end of the keyboard than the upper end.

Although keyboards have great features, the difference in key weight and fewer keys make them less ideal for kids and adults who want to learn to play the piano. If you’re not quite ready to invest in an acoustic piano, your best option is a good digital piano.

Check out this video for more in-depth information on the differences between weighted and un-weighted keys.

What should you keep in mind when selecting a digital piano?

Not all digital pianos are created equal. The world of digital pianos is vast, and instruments generally have more features as the price point increases.

This post breaks down the key features you need to consider in purchasing an 88-key digital piano at the lower end of the price scale. The table below lists the criteria used to evaluate each featured model in this post.

Sound Quality

Exceptional = 3

Average = 2

Poor = 1

Portability

<30 pounds = 1

>30 pounds = 0

N/A

MIDI or USB

Yes = 1

No = 0

N/A

Includes stand, pedal, and bench

Yes = 1

No = 0

N/A

Includes bonus online learning resources

Yes = 1

No = 0

N/A

Number of Amazon Customer Reviews

>3,000 = 3

1,000-3,000 = 2

<1,000 = 1

Additional Sounds

10 or more = 3

5-9 = 2

<5 = 1

Transposition/Tuning Option

Yes = 1

No = 0

N/A

Polyphony

>121 = 2

<120 = 1

Information Not Available = 0

Price Point

<$500 = 2

>$500 = 1

N/A

Please keep in mind that the features may be more or less applicable to your situation. For example, you might prioritize high-quality sound, so use the model comparisons to make the decision that fits best for you.

And before we dig into the differences between each of the featured models, let’s touch on a term pertaining to sound quality. This term is “polyphony,” and means the number of voices that can sound at once. In general, the higher the polyphony, the more authentic the sound.

Now, let’s break down the best digital pianos at the lower price scale!

Yamaha P71

Topping the list of best cheap digital pianos is the Yamaha P71. Yamaha is a leading manufacturer of high quality musical instruments. The company got its start manufacturing reed organs in the late 1800s.

Today Yamaha is known for excellence in producing digital and acoustic pianos and a wide range of other musical instruments.

Yamaha also manufactures a nearly identical digital piano called the P45. There are very subtle differences between the two, the biggest being the intended distributor.

The Yamaha P-45 is manufactured for instrument retailers, while the P71 is an Amazon exclusive model. There are otherwise no significant differences between the two models.

Yamaha P71

Star Rating

Sound Quality

Exceptional

Portability

<30 pounds

MIDI/USB

Yes

Pedal, Bench, Stand Included

No

Number of Amazon Reviews

>3,000

Additional Instrument Sounds

10+

Transposition and Tuning Option

Yes

Polyphony

<120

Includes Bonus Online Learning Resources

No

Price

<$500

Total Score

15

Pros of the Yamaha P71

  • Features Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) technology meaning the playing experience is as close to an acoustic as you can get
  • Hands-down the best, most realistic sound of all models featured in this post
  • Each of the additional nine instrument sounds, including harpsichord and organ, is unique and true to their acoustic versions.

Cons of the Yamaha P71

  • Polyphony is low compared to other models
  • This particular model does not come with a bench, pedal, or stand
  • No online learning app included

Why You’ll Love This Digital Piano

Did I mention the great sound that this instrument produces? Although the polyphony is low compared with other models, the sound is incredible! Despite being a die-hard acoustic fan, this model transformed my expectations of how a digital piano should sound.

The realistic feel also makes it a contender for anyone aspiring to advance their classical piano studies. All-in-all, the Yamaha P71/P45 is an excellent digital piano for most beginning students.

Alesis Recital Pro

The Alesis Recital Pro also earned a 5-star rating as a cheap digital piano top pick. Although Alesis as a company started nearly 100 years after Yamaha, it has established itself as a leader in music production and recording. Innovation and creativity are central to the company’s mission.

Alesis Recital Pro

Star Rating

Sound Quality

Average

Portability

<30 pounds

MIDI/USB

Yes

Pedal, Bench, Stand Included

No

Number of Amazon Reviews

1,000-3,000

Additional Instrument Sounds

10+

Transposition and Tuning Option

Yes

Polyphony

>121

Includes Bonus Online Learning Resources

Yes

Price

<$500

Total Score

15

Pros of the Alesis Recital Pro

  • Twice the polyphony of the Yamaha model, which translates to a more realistic sound
  • Up your musical creativity with settings such as reverb and layering to create a unique and custom sound
  • It comes with three months of Skoove premium lessons

Cons of the Alesis Recital Pro

  • Sustain pedal, stand, and bench will need to be purchased separately
  • Many reviews mention difficulty getting assistance from Alesis customer service
  • The sound quality is not as realistic as the Yamaha model

Why You’ll Love This Digital Piano

The Alesis Recital Pro features hammer action keys that simulate an acoustic piano. Touch response is also adjustable, giving you a little bit of control over how the instrument feels.

Although the sound quality is not quite at the level of the Yamaha model, the Alesis has 12 different voices and comes with three months of a premium learning platform. And the over 2,000 Amazon reviews give it an overall rating of 4.7 out of 5, making it a solid contender for anyone wanting to launch their piano journey.

Korg B2

Next up is the Korg B2. Korg has been around since the early 1960s, and the company prides itself on innovation. The company boasts a wide range of musical products ranging from mixers to percussion instruments and even an app that teaches you how to dance.

Korg B2

Star Rating

Sound Quality

Poor

Portability

>30 pounds

MIDI/USB

Yes

Pedal, Bench, Stand Included

Yes

Number of Amazon Reviews

<1,000

Additional Instrument Sounds

10+

Transposition and Tuning Option

Yes

Polyphony

<120

Includes Bonus Online Learning Resources

Yes

Price

>$500

Score

11

Pros of the Korg B2

  • Features Natural Action Hammer Weighted keys to mimic the feel of an acoustic piano
  • Key weight increases as you go up the keyboard to further emulate an acoustic
  • Three months of a premium membership to Skoove is included in the price

Cons of the Korg B2

  • Digital sounds are comprised of a variety of grand pianos around the world, but there are no specifics about which models were included.
  • Sound quality is among the lowest of the pianos featured, while the price point is on the higher end.

Why You’ll Love This Digital Piano

The Korg B2 is a no-frills digital piano excellent for home use. It does not have many extra features making it ideal for piano players who may be distracted by extra bells and whistles. And it includes the 3-month premium Skoove membership, useful for a wide range of piano learners from beginner through advanced.

Roland GO:PIANO 88

Featuring Bluetooth connectivity, the Roland GO:PIANO 88 is a versatile and portable piano suitable for beginners as well as gigging musicians. Roland has been around since 1972 and prides itself on electronic instruments. The company has also developed a free app for iOS and Android with a variety of useful features.

Roland GO:PIANO 88

Star Rating

Sound Quality

Poor

Portability

<30 pounds

MIDI/USB

Yes

Pedal, Bench, Stand Included

Yes

Number of Amazon Reviews

<1,000

Additional Instrument Sounds

<5

Transposition and Tuning Option

Yes

Polyphony

>121

Includes Bonus Online Learning Resources

Yes

Price

<$500

Total Score

12

Pros of the Roland GO:PIANO 88

  • Integration with the Piano Partner 2 app provides access to a library of different tones
  • The app has hundreds of different pieces of sheet music to practice
  • Improve the sound quality while recording videos by integrating the GO:MIXER PRO (sold separately)

Cons of the Roland GO:PIANO 88

  • Advertised to have “traditional piano feel” but difficult to find further specifics on the extent to which keys are weighted or how the acoustic piano feel is replicated
  • Sound quality is fairly low compared to other models in this price range

Why You’ll Love This Digital Piano

If you’re looking for a full size digital piano that is equipped to make electronic music, this is your piano! And at less than 20 pounds, the Roland model is one of the most portable digital pianos out there. With integration of the Roland app, you’ll be playing all your favorite songs in no time!

Casio CDP-S150

The Casio CDP-S150 also features a free app called the Chordana Play for Piano designed for either iOS or Android. Casio was launched in the late 1940s by 4 brothers. The company soon rose to fame when they released the world’s first compact electronic calculator. And throughout the 1980s and 1990s, they became known for producing the best cheap keyboards.

Casio CDP-S150

Star Rating

Sound Quality

Average

Portability

<30 pounds

MIDI/USB

Yes

Pedal, Bench, Stand Included

Yes

Number of Amazon Reviews

<1,000

Additional Instrument Sounds

10+

Transposition and Tuning Option

Yes

Polyphony

Information Not Available

Includes Bonus Online Learning Resources

Yes

Price

<$500

Total Score

13

Pros of the Casio CDP-S150

  • Features a Scaled Hammer Action Keyboard
  • MIDI recorder allows you to document your piano progress
  • Comes equipped with several piano learning resources

Cons of the Casio CDP-S150

  • Sounds more like a keyboard than a digital piano

Why You’ll Love This Digital Piano

If you’re looking for a reasonably priced digital piano that includes everything you’ll need to start learning to play the piano, this is your instrument! It even comes with a headphone jack so you can control who hears you practicing. And as a parent, having the ability to connect headphones is, hands down, one of the absolute best things!

Final Thoughts on the Best Budget Digital Pianos

When considering an instrument, one very important factor is whether the instrument itself fits into your interests and learning goals. If you’re thinking about pursuing classical piano, Yamaha is definitely your best bet in this price range.

But if you love electronic music, the Casio might be your keyboard.

If you’re looking for online piano learning resources, the Alesis or Korg may just be perfect options for you.

And it’s always a good idea to try out an instrument before you buy it to make sure it meets your expectations for sound, touch, and response. Even if you only just started playing, you may be surprised to find that certain instruments are more fun to play than others.

Regardless of the instrument you purchase, music is about having fun. It’s about expressing yourself and learning new skills. Buying a digital piano is incredibly exciting so make sure to take advantage of the information in this post to find the perfect fit.

You May Also Enjoy Reading

The Best Unconventional Ways to Learn Piano

The Best Unconventional Ways to Learn Piano

Does the thought of attending piano lessons week after week bore you? Perhaps you took piano lessons as a kid and still have nightmares about scale drills and mind-numbing exercises. Or maybe you’d love to learn piano but don’t have time for regular lessons.

If you fall into any of these categories, I’ve got exciting news! Gone are the days when you could only learn piano from the crotchety old teacher down the street. Thanks to technology and a little ingenuity, you can take charge of your own learning!

Enter with me into a new era of apps, online programs, and an array of online resources, all accessible from any location with reliable WiFi.

Stick with me as we explore a couple of unconventional ways to learn piano. And make sure to stay with me until the end for a special discount and bonus practice tools to ensure your piano journey gets off on the right foot!

This post may contain affiliate links. As affiliates of Amazon, Modacity, Piano Marvel, Musicnotes, and Dr. Josh Wright’s ProPractice course, I may receive a commission at no extra cost if you purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure for further information. I take no credit for the images appearing on this page. All images courtesy of Canva.

Do unconventional ways to learn piano actually work?

Absolutely. With a few caveats.

If you have aspirations to become a concert pianist, I highly recommend finding a piano teacher. It’s challenging to grasp the nuances of technique you will need to master to achieve this goal all on your own.

And if you are a complete beginner, it can also be very helpful to find a piano teacher to guide you in the beginning stages of your learning.

But I also understand trying to juggle a hobby with life. Ideal and realistic are often very different things.

Learning from an app is often the most realistic option. Especially if it means the difference between getting started today or putting it off indefinitely.

If you’re looking for a piano teacher, check out my Resource page for an array of online teachers accepting new students.

Unconventional Ways to Learn Piano: Piano Marvel

Looking for a program that teaches you the basics of the piano? Basics that will get you up and running on the keys quickly? Then Piano Marvel just might be for you.

Designed by a piano teacher, Piano Marvel helps you master essential fundamentals like music theory, sight-reading, and ear training. And did I mention that it also teaches you HOW to practice?

Let’s dive into specifics.

As Addicting as Netflix

Do you know that feeling when you’re bingeing your Netflix guilty pleasure, and the episode ends? That moment when you’re forced to choose between resolving the cliffhanger or cleaning the bathroom?

How many times does the desire to scrub your nasty sink win over a plot twist?

Almost never.

What if I said that you could have a similar level of addiction to your piano learning?

Like Netflix, Piano Marvel has mastered the art of keeping you motivated and engaged. Through various levels and trophies, acing the next concept becomes a no-brainer. At stake are bronze, silver, or gold trophies depending upon how skilled you become at the songs in each level.

As Efficient as a Prius

Travel back in time with me to your favorite high school or college class. Was it gym? Or maybe you loved band.

What did strolling into that classroom feel like? Do you remember how time seemed to magically fly by? And yet somehow, you always seemed to walk out of that class having learned something new.

Time sailed by, and you were a bit sad when the bell rang. Learning felt effortless. And your energy level at the end of the class felt higher than at the beginning.

What if learning piano could feel as efficient as time spent in your favorite class?

It can, thanks to Piano Marvel! The app chunks learning into small pieces, making each lesson easy to remember. There’s no wasted fluff material that you’ll never use again.

Piano Marvel packs only the most relevant information into your learning. Efficiency at its best.

As Motivating as Accomplishing Your Goals

Sometimes it’s not a fear of failure that holds you back from goals but rather a fear of starting something and losing motivation halfway through. It’s happened to everyone at some point.

You sign up for that shiny new course promising all the answers. And at first, you’re super excited. You put in the time and the work and feel the warmth of accomplishment.

But at some point, your motivation starts to fade. You wake up one day and realize that it’s been months since you’ve even logged into that course.

The sting of disappointment takes over, and your motivation sinks lower than ever. You’re now more hesitant than ever to set new goals.

Motivation is counterintuitive. Many people believe that you must FEEL motivated to ACT.

But the truth is actually the reverse. In most cases, you will only FEEL motivated AFTER you ACT.

Action comes before feeling.

And the more progress you make toward your goals, the higher your motivation.

Piano Marvel helps you attain a series of small goals that fuel your motivation to keep learning. Through bite-sized lessons and incentives to continue your piano journey, learning to play the piano has never been more motivational.

The Nuts and Bolts

There are many apps designed to help you learn piano. But if you want a solid foundation in music theory, Piano Marvel is the best. It also guides you through chords, arpeggios, and scales. Once you learn the basics of theory, playing becomes more effortless. It also opens up a whole new world of improvisation and playing by ear.

And if you connect your device to a MIDI keyboard, the program will give you feedback on note accuracy.

Other apps and programs give feedback as you play. But Piano Marvel waits until you’re finished with the song to provide feedback. One huge advantage of this type of feedback is that it eliminates distractions while you play. Yet by giving timely feedback, you have an opportunity to correct mistakes in a more effective way.

And did I mention that Piano Marvel comes with an extensive library of songs to learn? It even includes several popular lesson books, including Alfred’s premier and adult all-in-one books. Songs are graded by difficulty from 1 through 18, so you can gradually advance your skill level without the frustration of playing something too challenging.

It’s yet another way that Piano Marvel’s system encourages consistent learning over flashy gimmicks.

If you’re interested in trying it out for yourself, use promo code OGBB22 for $3 off the monthly fee. And at $12.99 a month, you really can’t go wrong! Click here to go to the Piano Marvel website.

If you’re interested in learning more about music theory, check out this post!

Unconventional Ways to Learn Piano: ProPractice

And if you’re looking for more unconventional ways to learn piano, you need to hear about ProPractice! Also created by a piano teacher, ProPractice is a phenomenal resource for people who aspire to play classical piano.

ProPractice was created by Dr. Josh Wright. It can successfully be used alongside traditional lessons or all on its own.

The program is designed to be helpful for either complete beginners or people who have prior playing experience.

My ProPractice Story

As a music major grad, I have a massive bucket list of classical pieces I want to tackle eventually. But between working full-time and having a husband and 3 kids, I simply don’t have the time to make weekly lessons work.

I discovered Dr. Josh Wright one day while listening to a podcast and started following his YouTube channel. And a few videos later, I was hooked on his teaching style and depth of knowledge.

I began to see positive changes in my playing and how I thought about the instrument. And so I decided that if I had taken so much away from his free content, how much would I take from his paid course?

I invested in ProPractice and have only seen improvements in my playing ever since!

In fact, I was so impressed with the course that shortly after joining, I became an affiliate.

The Nuts and Bolts

ProPractice is currently set up on the Teachable app. You have the option to start at the beginning and work your way all the way through lessons. Or you can pick and choose which pieces you would like to learn.

Dr. Wright started the course because he found students asking the same questions as they learned various pieces from the classical repertoire. He, therefore, decided to record video lessons to address common questions and problem areas for these pieces.

The course is separated into beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. He further subdivides material into repertoire and technique.

Dr. Wright is constantly adding new pieces to the course, so it will only continue to expand.

As mentioned previously, the course is almost exclusively classical repertoire, so if that’s not your jam, you may want to explore other options. But it is designed to be used as a complete beginner, so whether you’ve never played a piano in your life or spend your free time expanding upon your repertoire, you will find value in the course.

If you’re interested in checking it out for yourself, click the link here.

Bonus Unconventional Ways to Learn Piano

Aside from the two programs listed above, I have a couple more tools up my sleeve to skyrocket your piano playing!

The Art of Practice

One key component of learning any new skill is practice. Although we love to think that talent determines how proficient someone becomes at a skill, the truth of the matter is that quality practice wins over talent every time.

And if you don’t believe me, check out this book! It’s a fascinating exploration of some of the world’s most “talented” people and how they became the best at what they do.

Quality practice is key to making progress, but what does that actually mean? Is it mindless repetition? Or is it something else entirely?

Wouldn’t it be great if there was an app that helped you understand how to effectively practice? Luckily for you, there is!

It’s called Modacity, and I credit this app with my progress in piano playing over the past few years.

The app helps you identify your trouble spots and generates ideas about fixing these areas. It also has a “day streak” practice counter. And there’s nothing more motivating than building on your practice streaks!

If you’d like an in-depth review of the app, check out this recent post.

And if you’re ready to give the app a try for yourself, click here to take advantage of 35% off the price of an annual subscription. With the discount, you’ll still pay less than the cost of a single higher-end piano lesson. It’s a valuable investment into your growth as a pianist and one of the best unconventional ways to learn piano!

Find Music You Love

Nothing motivates me to practice more than finding a piece I love.

While listening to Pandora several years ago, I heard a song that I fell in love with. It was hauntingly beautiful, and I just HAD to get my hands on the sheet music.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find it on my usual go-to place, Amazon. So, I started looking around for other sources of sheet music.

I stumbled upon Musicnotes and struck the jackpot! I found the exact arrangement of the piece I was looking for, but I found a treasure trove of just about any song at any level you could ever need.

Due to its larger size, music is best viewed on an iPad. And as someone who regularly plays paid gigs, I’ll tell you that bringing an iPad is a lot more convenient than dragging a bunch of music books! Musicnotes has an app downloaded on my iPhone, so I can access my purchases any time and anywhere.

One of the features I appreciate most about Musicnotes is the ability to mark up the music within the app. This feature allows me to interact with the music exactly the same way I would if it was a piece of paper in front of me.

You also can print out the music if you prefer paper to electronic.

But the best part of this app has to be the ability to instantly access anything you could ever want. It’s an incredible tool to add fun and variety to your playing!

And in case you’re curious, here is the piece that led me to Musicnotes in the first place.

Once Upon a December, arranged by Emile Pandolfi

Click below to browse some of Musicnotes’ most popular downloads!

Browse the Most-Popular Sheet Music Downloads

It’s Your Turn to Try Unconventional Ways to Learn Piano

And there you have it! I hope this post has inspired you to try a few unconventional ways to learn piano.

In case you missed them, here are links to the various products mentioned in this post.

Piano Marvel: Use promo code OGBB22 for $3 off the monthly fee. Find the website here.

ProPractice: Find the website here.

Musicnotes: Browse the Most-Popular Sheet Music Downloads

Modacity: Click here to take advantage of 35% off the price of an annual subscription

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And for more piano inspiration, check out the following posts:

If you found value in this post, please help me out by dropping a comment below or by sharing the post with your friends. I would sincerely appreciate your assistance in spreading the word about my mission! I’m working hard to bring you only the best products and services.

Thank you so much for stopping by, and I wish you all the best in your piano journey!