Teaching Yourself Piano

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Question: I’m 13 years old and I’m currently learning to play “River Flows in You” myself and I don’t have experience in playing keyboard. My goal was to master playing piano. I don’t have a great teacher to teach me. I don’t know what to do yet. I don’t have much patience so I was so annoyed because I can’t play the first part right yet. So I always stop when I practice. Will I be able to master piano even though I don’t have a teacher?

– Drex Calibara (Taguig, Philippines)

Albert’s reply: The short answer is no. There are simply too many areas involved in playing the piano, too many skills that need to be integrated for anyone to master them on their own. Most piano students are unaware of what these skills even are, or they fail to recognize their true depth.

Further, many principles of piano technique are outright counterintuitive. They are so detailed, yet so subtle, not to mention the product of decades and even centuries of oral tradition (amidst a changing instrumentarium), that no one could intuit them without any serious classical training any more than they could stumble upon the laws of physics without any mathematical training.

That said, I certainly believe that you can at least become competent at playing the piano on your own – likely enough to play popular music such as that which you mentioned. Even if it’s not one-on-one with a teacher, you’ll need as much guidance as you can get, such as the advice and tools this website provides, and you’ll need a lot of disciplined work.

Teaching yourself piano is not a viable path to those whose goal is piano mastery. For example, practicing with poor habits does more harm than not practicing at all. Additionally, you’ll need a skilled teacher to help you develop good rhythmic and listening skills.

I can’t stress enough the need to find the best teacher in your area. An artist teacher can show you how to practice, how to listen and will guide your overall development.

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