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Can I Learn to Play the Piano On My Own Or Do I Need a Piano Teacher?

Young child learning piano and intently gazing at sheet music

There are plenty of videos on YouTube that are targeted towards beginners. Many choose to learn on their own in order to save money. This comes with a cost that is not immediately apparent to beginners but becomes clear to those who have experience playing the piano. Before you start searching “piano lessons for beginners” on YouTube you should consider the value provided by a piano teacher.

Immediate Feedback and Constructive Tips for Improvement

Instantaneous feedback is crucial to prevent bad habits and to improve the quality of playing. Piano teachers are trained to watch out for improper form, finger positioning, poor finger control, and off-count playing. Catching these problems immediately prevents the formation of bad habits. Another advantage of having a piano teacher is that they can show students which small improvements provide the biggest results. For example, when listening to a student play, a teacher can advise the student to play even livelier where it says Vivace, or recommend slowing down more dramatically where it says Ritardando. Teachers know how to interpret the music and provide tips in order to elevate the piece.

Provide Direction and Guidance

A piano teacher can make the difference between a student sounding accomplished instead of average. Qualified, professional piano teachers design custom lessons based on the student’s changing skill level and assign homework focused on areas that need improvement. Unlike beginners, piano teachers are trained to listen for notes played ¼ count too late and other nuances that make a piece sound as it was intended.

Direction is also provided through realistic goal setting. Piano teachers know which skills need to be acquired for each level of progression. Beginners may find that although there is plenty of online material to read and watch for beginners piano, there is a drop in quantity when it comes to intermediate and more advanced levels. Beginners are left with a feeling of uncertainty and ask themselves, “Where do I go from here?” If beginners tackle hard pieces too soon, they risk quitting piano altogether when in reality, they weren’t ready for the piece. It is a far jump to go from mastering Mary Had a Little Lamb to attempting Chopin’s Raindrop Prelude.

Provide Motivation and Encouragement

At some point, you may lose motivation to practice piano and the drive to improve your piano skills. If you choose to learn on your own, no one will know if you haven’t touched a piano in months. Piano teachers notice if a student hasn’t practiced in the past week because lessons serve as weekly progress checks. Earlier it was mentioned that teachers set goals to steer students in the right direction. Goals also serve to motivate students to refine existing skills. Doing well on piano exams, entering music competitions and performing in recitals are examples that encourage students to practice with a goal in mind.

Build A Solid Foundation for Music and Piano Knowledge

Online piano tutorials are sometimes made up of a playlist with each video covering a different topic. One video can do a great job explaining finger positioning while the next video could be terrible at explaining how to read music. The inconsistent quality will leave students with gaps in knowledge, like a slice of swiss cheese. The swiss cheese effect is particularly detrimental if those holes occur when forming the foundation for music knowledge and piano skills. A good piano teacher can fill those missing holes and provide a more well-rounded musical education. If a student does not understand a concept, they are free to ask the teacher questions or to ask for clarification. The same cannot be said for online videos where a question might end up being buried deep in the comments section. A worse outcome would be if you get a reply from someone who isn’t qualified to answer.

Learning the piano on your own is an option if you want to casually explore it as a new hobby without the commitment. Many piano teachers agree that YouTube and other online video services can serve as a great supplemental tool to show students different ways of interpreting a piece. Watching a concert pianist’s fingers glide over the keys of a complex piece is certainly an inspiration for any student. However, online videos are limited by their inability to give constructive criticism, direction, motivation for daily practice, and steps crucial to foster growth in music education. If you want to learn to play well, finding a qualified piano teacher is the best way to go.


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