How To Learn Piano By Yourself: The Non-Scary Approach

This post contains affiliate links. We earn commissions if you purchase products from retailers after clicking on a link from our site. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

Learning Piano is not easy! And learning by yourself has its own unique challenges. Fortunately, there are more resources than ever and chances are there’s a way you can learn that will fit you.

Learning the piano by yourself includes these two steps:

  1. Set your learning goals
  2. Get Prepped by Scheduling your practice and getting a piano

And after that may include some or all of the following:

  • Learning From Apps
  • Learning from YouTube
  • Learning From Books
  • Learning From Online Courses
  • Learning By Ear
  • and maybe… a piano teacher?

Step 1: Set Your Piano Learning Goals

You can’t start a journey until you pick your destination–what is it you want from your own piano journey?

Your goals are personal–there are hundreds of ways to approach learning the piano and it’s important to know what you want. If you want a certain outcome, you can choose how you learn so you reach your goals faster.

Are you over 30 and starting to learn the piano? Don’t be intimidated! I give you a simple plan to get started in my article here.

By the way, looking for recording equipment and musical instruments? Check out for microphones, monitors, audio interface or any other recording gear that you could ever need. (Affiliate Link)

So what types of goals are there? Let’s talk about them.

  • I Want To Play Classical Music
  • I Want To Play Popular Songs
  • I Want To Play Jazz Music and Learn To Improvise
  • I Want To Compose

I Want To Play Classical Music

If you want to play classical music, you need to learn some music theory, which includes learning how to read sheet music.

If you want to go the self-taught route, you can jump to these sections in this article so you can get an idea of some places to start:

I Want To Play Popular Songs

Popular songs can be approached with two mindsets:

  • Classical mindset: Have a really strict interpretation of the exact notes that are played in an album version of a song
  • Relaxed Mindset: Have a loose interpretation where you can play the main melodies and fill in the rest as you want.

This means that the ways to learn are many! You can learn via the classical approach (see above), or you can open yourself up to modern and more relaxed styles of learning:

I Want To Play Jazz Music And Learn To Improvise

Jazz is a special class of music, because although it’s not reading sheet music–In fact, the musician may play a song differently every time they play it–it’s not as loose as you might think! Jazz music can actually get extremely technical.

Developing a strong sense of music theory is super important to a budding jazz musician. At the very least you should thoroughly understand the circle of fifths and understand chords and scales.

Some of the most amazing Jazz musicians didn’t know how to read music, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t understand music theory and at least an intuitive understanding of chords and scales.

These learning routes can work amazing for you if you’re wanting to learn jazz:

Do You Want To Compose And Write Your Own Music?

If you want to make your own music, then really any learning method will help you on your journey–but the most important part is to start now. Anytime you have an idea, record it. I like to record my ideas on my smartphone by singing into the microphone.

Cataloging your ideas will make more ideas come.

Composing can be spontaneous, and it can be structured–don’t avoid learning music theory… music theory is just another tool in the toolbelt.

I’d recommend reading the entire article if you’re interested in music composition as it will all help in your journey to make music.

Getting Prepped

Sometimes just getting started is the hardest part. Let’s make this easy. There are three things to do if you’re ready to start learning the piano: Schedule, Posture, and Get a Piano.

Scheduling Your Practice: The Secret Sauce To Learning Piano

Learning an instrument is difficult, and the piano is no exception. Don’t get too worried, though, in some ways, piano is easier to learn than other instruments! See how quickly you can learn the piano by reading our article here.

The secret to learning the piano is regular practice.

I didn’t say 2 hours a day of practicing. I said regular. 10-20 minutes of practicing the piano can bring great results. If you can create half an hour of really focused time that’s a great start.

Many recommend a practice session with the following:

  • Warmup -> 2-5 minutes
  • Practice Fundamentals (Scales, Chords, Etc) -> 5-10 minutes
  • Practice Songs -> 10-20 minutes
  • Have Fun! (Play the songs you already know and love to play) -> 5-10 minutes

Whatever learning route you take will change how this practice schedule looks. Whether you warm up or not is completely your call, just align your practice schedule with your goals, and you’re already winning!

Posture: Start With Good Habits

I won’t harp on this too long, but piano can take hundreds of hours of practice to reach your goals. (see here for an idea of how many hours of practice you need here), so you should make sure you’re practicing in a way that will ensure your body is healthy so you can enjoy playing for longer.

  • Keep your wrists parallel to the keys
  • Keep a soft bend in your fingers so you aren’t pushing the keys with straight fingers. Piano teachers often say to imagine there is a bubble under your hand.
  • Ensure your back is following its natural curve and you’re not hunched over.
  • Take breaks: 30 second breaks like getting a drink of water can help your body not hurt while playing.

Additionally, since you are wanting to learn piano on your own, you need to be extra mindful of your own posture. There isn’t a teacher who can see you and tell you about any bad habits. Make sure to check in with yourself and make sure you are addressing your posture.

Getting A Piano To Match Your Goals

We bought an expensive electric piano from Kawai, and we love it. It’s got super realistic keys and feels natural to play. It was expensive in comparison to other electric pianos, but when compared to acoustic pianos it is actually pretty inexpensive. Time to check-in with your goals.

If you are in the trial period of whether you want to commit to a multi-year journey with piano, get an inexpensive electric piano with weighted keys.

Here (on Amazon) is the infamous Yamaha P45 with weighted keys.

By far the cheapest way to get any type of piano is to get one used.

If you’re planning to learn piano with Lumi Keys, don’t buy a piano just yet, they have a special piano they use that helps you learn the piano.

Ways To Get a Piano Cheap

If you want an acoustic piano, you have to look no further than at your classifieds app (Offerup, Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist). You can find decent acoustic pianos with all the keys working (often out of tune) for less than $500. You will likely want to tune it after you move it to your house, which can be $100+.

The problem with acoustic pianos and the reason they are cheap used is that they are incredibly heavy. You will need at least 3-4 strong dudes to move it, or you can hire professional movers.

Honestly, though, I recommend getting a used electric piano. They can be really cheap (under $200) and you can get a really nice piano.

A lot of people say they want to learn piano, and then buy a piano and don’t touch it after that, so buying used is a great option. Let’s hope this isn’t you!

Absolute Cheapest Way To Get a Piano

Ask your friends if they have an electric keyboard they’re not using–chances are you have a friend that has one! Borrow one so you can decide for yourself if you want to keep moving forward.

Learning From Apps, Software, and Systems

Technology has stepped in a big way to help people learn the piano. Through a combination of software and traditional teaching methods (and sometimes even hardware), there are more tools to learn piano then there ever have been. Let’s talk about a few:


Yousician is a popular learning platform that supports Guitar, Piano, Singing, Ukulele, and more. It listens to your playing and gives you instant feedback on whether you are in tune, and whether your rhythm is correct.

Yousician Piano - Yellow
This is an example of Yousician in action

Lumi Keys

I actually received a Lumi Keys keyboard and a free subscription in exchange for a review that I put up on YouTube here:

Lumi Keys Review - Genius Or Gimmick?

Lumi Keys is a combination of hardware and software learning where the keys will light up to help you learn the notes and play the keyboard.

In my review, I analyzed the learning system extensively and I came to these conclusions.

Lumi Keys is a good fit if:

  • If you are interested in learning popular songs
  • If you have a casual interest in music
  • If you absolutely don’t want to learn how to read sheet music

It’s a fun way to learn specific songs, and the learning course will help you get started–but really the best part of the Lumi Keys system are the songs.

You can see more detail about Lumi Keys on their website, here.

I would say though, that Lumi Keys is not a good fit if:

  • You have serious musicianship goals
  • You want to understand music theory
  • You want to learn to sight read sheet music
  • You want to play at the level where you can perform in front of an audience
  • You want to learn how to compose music

Essentially Lumi Keys is really geared towards learning the muscle memory necessary to learn songs.

Simply Piano

Simply Piano is similar to Yousician but its learning content is structured differently. Here’s a great demonstration of Simply Piano in action:

1 Year of using Simply Piano

And here’s a comparison video between Simply Piano and Yousician:

Simply Piano vs Yousician - Honest and Non Sponsored

Flow Keys

Flow Keys is another popular alternative to the previous two apps, you can check out a comparison video here:

Flowkey vs Simply Piano - Honest and Non Sponsored

Overall, learning from an app is a great choice if you’re interested in learning songs, and I’d recommend Yousician or Simply Piano over Lumi Keys if you want to get a hang of sight reading. Lumi Keys does have sheet music modes, but it’s definitely built for its cascade view.

Learning From YouTube

We live in an absolutely astonishing time. The FREE resources available to everyone is mind-boggling.

YouTube is a fantastic resource–some of the world’s finest teachers are there, and of course some of the world’s most average teachers. 😂

However, is learning from YouTube a good idea?

Is Learning An Instrument On YouTube a Good Idea?

This is my hot take–if you want to really get into an instrument, YouTube videos should supplement whatever else you are learning, whether it’s a course, a program, or a book. YouTube has fantastic stuff, but the problem is that it’s beholden to its own algorithm.

In other words, you are limited by what YouTube thinks is important–and what is often important is what grabs people’s attention. “These 3 Tips Will Transform Your Piano Playing”. Not to say that these aren’t good tips, but you’re learning the most attention-grabbing tips, rather than the fundamentals.

Here’s an example:

5 Concepts Piano Beginners Must Understand To Learn Fast
Great video, this guy makes great content, but it’s difficult to get the big picture with a several videos with similar content.

You may find yourself bopping around from channel to channel and not feeling like you’re progressing because the top 5 tips are the same from teacher to teacher.

Here’s the thing–learning an instrument can be BORING and TEDIOUS (in a good way). And boring and tedious things on YouTube don’t get very much attention and you may not find those resources easily.

A learning course, program, or book is walking you step by step through a challenging process (learning an instrument)–I highly recommend following a structured learning system and picking up tips from YouTube along the way.

TL;DR: YouTube is great for the occasional tip! But make sure to follow a course, book, or learning program.

That being said, if you aren’t interested in deeply learning an instrument and just want to play songs, then YouTube may be exactly what you need! And I totally support that. Music should be about appreciation and joy, not about mastery.

Learning From Books

Often piano teachers will use books to supplement your learning. You can skip the piano teacher part and just use the books that they use to teach piano!

For example, Alfred has several book series meant for teaching kids or even adults. For example, here is a list of the adult course books from Alfred.

Alfred’s Adult Learning Book series is a great resource with everything you need to know to learn the piano. You can find it here (on Amazon). And the nice thing is that if it doesn’t work out for you, you don’t have to buy all the books at once, and the book is much cheaper than other learning resources.

Okay, here’s the bad about piano books–in today’s day and age, it’s hard to compete with other learning resources (like the interactive apps) because books can feel boring. It’s totally okay if apps work for you and books don’t, but a good book can be intensely rewarding.

I’ve found in my experience that a book can be the BEST teacher (that isn’t a teacher), because the book will move you through song by song which is what music is all about, and you can practice as much as you need. Furthermore, when you are reading sheet music from the book, you are the timekeeper, you are the source of the music, and that’s powerful.

When you’re always playing along with something, then you are always supplemental. There’s a different feeling.

Learning From Online Courses

One of my favorite ways to learn is through online courses. In many ways, it’s like having a teacher, and they can be highly engaging.

Unlike YouTube, in an online course, the teacher can walk you through it at the exact pace that’s necessary to teach.

One of my favorite online piano courses is PianoForAll. I felt like I learned an incredible amount in a short amount of time. It’s a non-traditional curriculum that teaches you sheet music a bit more indirectly, but it focuses on chord competency.

If you are interested in playing songs you love or in a group of people singing or something like that, learning the chords is dynamite. It’s incredible! It’s similar to that gal who knows guitar and plays songs that everyone can sing around the campfire.

You can see my experience with PianoForAll in my review here:

Pianoforall Review After One Month

Learning By Ear

Another popular way people learn is by ear. There are some who are talented enough to be able to hear something and just pick it out on the piano and figure it out.

I’ve personally noticed a couple problems with this approach:

  • Learning by ear can make it difficult to understand rhythm.

I once heard a hobbyist musician play the drums who clearly learned through ear training, and the beats he was doing were very technical and difficult, but he had no sense of rhythm–you couldn’t play along with him because he would speed up and slow down and speed up again.

Another experience is a relative of mine who learned how to play piano by watching YouTube videos and listening, and it was a similar thing–he could play a complex song, but the notes didn’t have the right rhythm.

So if you see someone learning by ear, make sure to figure out the fundamentals of rhythm–you can figure out the rest as you go.

Now, it needs to be said that if you’re playing for your own enjoyment, then it doesn’t matter, and that’s correct. You may not be able to play with other musicians easily, but you should follow what interests you.

When To Get A Piano Teacher

This is the big question, do you need a piano teacher?

Well, no. You don’t need one. But you may want one.

Here are some things to think about:

  • You can only grow as far as your mentor: If your mentor is a book, you won’t be able to surpass that book.
  • You can learn faster because it’s more uncomfortable to have a teacher: A teacher will push you in ways you might not like, but that will help you grow much more quickly. Discomfort is good!
  • You may have some blind spots: Whether it’s the way you hold your hands, or that you subtly speed up while playing, or that you aren’t holding a dotted quarter note long enough, or you are playing staccato instead of marcato. All these things can be helped by a teacher. An app will not be able to give you the granular feedback that a teacher can
  • Motivation to practice: This is different for everyone, but I know for myself, if I have someone I’m accountable to, I’m more incentivized to practice. You can work around this by posting your learning on a social media network, regularly, though.

For myself, I’ve learned a lot through online resources and books because of time restraints and my attitude is definitely more DIY than others. When I have had teachers they have been very helpful.

So, don’t rule them out. 😀

Good luck to you.

Peter Mitchell

Founder of this website. Lover of sound, music, hot sauce, and technology.

Recent Posts