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More people than ever are learning to play piano online - here’s how you can, too

How to learn piano online
(Image credit: Getty)

If you have taken up a new hobby as a result of coronavirus lockdown, you’re not alone. Perhaps you had a go at learning how to bake, or you tried out some at-home exercise like yoga. For many though, stay-at-home orders have led to many learning how to play the piano online. Google searches for online piano lessons rose fivefold in March and April, with STORAGECafé finding that 21% of people sought out creative outlets such as art and music during lockdown. That includes the best online piano lessons and best guitar lessons online, to name just a couple. 

Online piano learning software Playground Sessions told us that this trend has continued past the initial spike as lockdown conditions ease. “The increase began once "stay at home" orders were put in place and the increased activity continues through today” said David Sides, Playground Sessions Co-Founder. “With parents and children staying home and looking for productive things to do, it's clear that we were a consideration for many of them.” 

Even before stay-at-home orders, many were turning to online music lessons to learn from home. As in-person teaching became impossible, though, many turned to software packages to either continue learning or take up a new hobby. 

“I think that music, in general, has been a popular hobby to pick up throughout the pandemic because many people aspire to learn how to play instruments but feel that they don't have the time to properly devote to it,” said Sides. “Once actions were put in place that provided many with extra time via stay-at-home orders, this created the perfect scenario for them to finally dive into learning instruments.” 

How to learn piano online

Kids and adults have embraced piano learning online during lockdown.  (Image credit: Yamaha)

To meet the trend of new hobbies and pastimes, many online learning services, from photography to workouts, offered free sessions to help those with extra time on their hands hone their skills from home. 

One such offering came from Playground Sessions itself, which made its tutorials on how to play "You Raise Me Up" by Josh Groban free for new users. It offered 30 days of learning ahead of an online recital, which turned out to be the ‘world's largest virtual recital’. 

“We felt it was the perfect song to teach the world as it's one of hope and inspiration, things that many around the world were longing for,” Sides told us. “The initiative ended up being a hit, receiving 7,000 participants from all around the world.” 

“The challenge with this project was that we wanted to teach the song in a way that would allow people of all skill levels to perform it as a community, providing a connected experience to juxtapose the disconnection we were all feeling.”

The benefits of taking up an instrument 

How to learn piano online

Playing an instrument is a great way to boost mood and relieve stress.  (Image credit: Getty)

Learning music is well known to be a great reliever of stress, not to mention important in cerebral development and cognitive functions. However, one of its key benefits throughout stay-at-home orders was its potential for independent study. For parents seeking distractions for homeschooled students, online piano lessons offered some vital respite (and one of the major advantages of MIDI keyboards is the fact that they can be plugged into headphones, meaning only the player can hear as they learn).

David Sides told us “In general, there are many benefits to taking up an instrument - including health benefits and emotional benefits. Learning to play an instrument is especially valuable in times like these because it's great for relieving stress, great for bringing joy, and great at delivering a sense of achievement and productivity - all of which are things that help keep people positive during challenging times.”

How to learn piano online 

1. Get a keyboard 

Surprise surprise, if you don’t already have a keyboard or piano to learn on, this needs to be your first investment. It doesn’t have to be a big investment though. In fact, you can often find MIDI keyboards for well under $100. It’s worth checking out Amazon to find out which keyboards are on sale or trying second-hand sites such as Facebook Marketplace to see if you can spot a bargain. To help find the right keyboard for you, check out our guide on electronic piano vs acoustic piano: which should you choose?

If you do already have an acoustic piano at home, there are some online piano services that can still help you learn. To name just one, Piano with Christie Peery is a great introduction to classical piano which won’t require buying a new keyboard. 

2. Set your goals 

For some, learning to play the piano is just a hobby to pass the time. However, if you want to take your piano skills in a specific direction, you should set your goals in advance. Do you want to write your own music, for example? If you do, it’s worth checking out the best music notation software to give you a place to jot down your ideas when inspiration strikes. You may want to learn to play a very specific genre of music, for which some software is better suited than others. All of this will influence how you move forward when you do start to learn. 

Musician on laptop

Music notation software allows you to create your own scores on piano.  (Image credit: Getty)

Another goal to set may be time or qualification related. Even setting an intention to know an entire song by heart in a month is a great place to start and keep yourself motivated as you learn. It can also allow you to make the most of free trials for some online services.

3. Choose how you want to learn

There are plenty of online piano tutorials that are totally free. We’ve rounded up some top piano apps to advance your learning, but it’s also worth checking out YouTube and other online resources. For example, Playground Sessions even has some tutorials available on YouTube, teaching you to play all sorts of songs on the piano. 

For beginners, though, it’s absolutely worth paying for piano learning software. To find one you like, check out where you can find a free trial. The best way to learn will vary depending on your age and existing musical abilities. There are plenty of services that offer incentives and badges to encourage continued learning. These can be fun for adults too, but the motivational factor means these services will also resonate with children.

Online piano lessons come with levels of membership and options for the length of period you intend to subscribe for. Whether you just want some online piano lessons to tide you over until you’re able to see your teacher or again, or you’re ready to commit to a lifetime membership, the online piano courses we reviewed come with a variety of commitment levels, from a few months to a one-off lifetime subscription. 

4. Start with technique

You might want to jump straight in with your favorite songs, but it will be a struggle without a grasp on the proper technique and could cause you to form some pretty bad habits. Everything from the way you position your body to your hand spacing can impact how easy you find it to pick up the piano, so sit upright and with your shoulders back, before familiarizing yourself with Middle C. Any program you choose should ground you in the basics of piano playing before you even lift a finger. 

5. Get playing! 

Once you’ve covered the basics of technique and set your intentions, it’s time to learn how to play your first song. The learning method you choose should support you along the way, helping you to learn both how to read music and how to play in tandem. Don’t try and run before you can walk, and don’t be afraid to re-do any steps that you don’t fully understand before moving on. Taking the time to really understand the basics will help you later on as you learn increasingly difficult songs.