Can You Learn Piano Online?

Online piano lessons are an easy way to introduce yourself of your child to music and playing the piano, but are they the best way to go?

Playing the piano is a skill that takes knowledge, technique and understanding, not just of the piano but of music theory and listening skills. Unlike mathematics which has a set of rules that can be followed to get the right answer, music is very different. As a performing art there is no one size fits all approach. Music goes beyond getting the right answer (in this case hitting the right notes on the piano) and can be complex to learn alone.

The Good Points for Online Piano Lessons

Learning to play piano with online lessons is very convenient. You don’t have to travel and can have ‘lessons’ at any time you would like. It can also be cheaper than learning music the traditional way. Most older children, teenagers and adults should be able to learn some of the most important notes on the piano. They should also be able to gain an introductory understanding of written music. (I don’t like to encourage online piano lessons for children under 11 or 12 years of age because children learn differently than adults.) If these points fit into your goals for learning piano online lessons may work for you. If you are starting online piano lessons with the idea of going to a teacher later to learn more I would suggest you think very carefully about online lessons as they can make it difficult to succeed at higher levels of music.

The Bad Points with Online Piano Lessons

As a previous piano teacher I would cringe when I heard a new student had ‘learnt’ piano in any way other than in traditional lessons. This was because it was much easier for me to teach someone who had no knowledge or experience of piano than someone who had gained bad habits.

Bad habits become automatic and take a lot of time and hard work to change. They can happen in the physical technique of playing piano, the understanding of written music or in listening skills. Bad habits can therefore totally undermine a students ability to play and learn piano. Teaching methods where there is little or no direct supervision by someone who can take the role of a teacher (such as with online lessons) means that misunderstandings, mistakes and bad habits are not picked up immediately and corrected. It is important that the teacher is present during the lessons in the traditional way so they can observe, listen and examine what is going on so the student can be helped.

Basically, we can say when learning music a piano student is trying to cut a path through a musical jungle. It is very easy to go down the wrong path. A traditional music teacher shows a student which is the best path for them to take to get through the jungle. This is why if there is any possibility that a student may want to learn more than just being able to play a couple of notes (especially if the goal is to play classical music) it is best to start with a qualified teacher in the traditional way. This will save a lot of frustration in the future.

Photo: Beyond the Piano Keys by miamism – Flickr Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)