You should be proud of yourself … you’ve gone from wanting to learn to play the piano to researching how to go about it.
Depending on your musical abilities, your attention span, and your personality, one learning method will work better than all others for you. Let’s look at some of the many ways you can learn piano.
The traditional method guides a student by using the most basic fundamentals as a foundation, then slowly introduces increasingly complex lessons. The benefit of a traditional learning experience is that the student gains a greater understanding of the keyboard, music theory, the relationship between notes in the scales, and so many other details that make sense out of an unfamiliar skill. And when it comes to performing, you will eventually gain the proficiency necessary to play your desired piece of music as the original artist or composer intended. The drawback to this method of learning is that it takes a significant time commitment and great patience to get up and running.
By Ear (Aurally)
Do you “have an ear” for music? Can you translate what you hear into notes and chords on an instrument? If so, you have a talent that significantly streamlines the learning process. Learning by ear eliminates the task of learning to read music. But to be effective at playing by ear, you still ought to learn how to place your fingers in the appropriate patterns, learn the names of the notes, etc.
If you’re the type of person who’s looking to play as soon as possible (is today soon enough?), then the chord method is for you. Each chord is a basic note combination that provides enough audible information to sing along to. Even though the actual song you are “covering” may contain a complex series of notes, chords represent enough of the music to get the party started and have some fun. The great thing about this method is that learning chords takes relatively little time. That said, chords tend to oversimplify music. A song’s distinctive melody, or a signature run of notes that lend to a song’s popularity, cannot be expressed in a chord. Put another way, you could mix together bits of steak, potato, green beans and a dinner roll; compress them into bar form; and eat the conglomeration for dinner. You would get most of the nutrition of the ingredients, but wouldn’t enjoy the bar nearly as much as you’d enjoy all the elements of the entrée separately on a plate.
This learning method teaches you shortcuts that supposedly mimic most popular music. I say supposedly because some argue the pattern-based method disregards the actual nuances in a song that differentiate it from other songs. Yet, it is another popular way to reach your piano playing goal more quickly than more traditional methods because you can learn a few key playing patterns and then proceed to sound like a professional with little other training. It’s more complex than the chord method, so it enables you to sound more like the original artist. However, like the chord method, it tends to oversimplify the music, and a trained ear in your audience will pick that up.
As you probably discovered, if you want to learn to play the piano, you can take your time or you can be up and running by dinner time. Think about the kind of player you want to be, choose your method, and then proceed to other pages on this site to get to the next step in becoming a great musician!