Learning Piano from absolute zero

IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
So I'm planning to get a keyboard with any birthday amazon money I get this year.
This is the keyboard I've been saving for: https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/out/link/28017/145584/4/80026?merchant=Amazon

But after that, I'll be starting from square one. I cant read music, I'll be leaning on youtube and books and such. Ultimately, I would love to be able to play songs from the final fantasy piano collections, but I'm not in a rush. This is purely for fun/hobby, so I'm really not concerned about taking real lessons right away (not going to happen with the pandemic, anyway). I already know that its just going to take a long time for me to get anywhere. Learning new art skills still pushes me to monetize them, and I want to learn something that wont have that buzzing in the back of my head.

Are there any online resources/books that music folks would recommend? Doesn't have to be free, though some cheap resources would be nice to get started with.


  • 38thDoe38thDoe lets never be stupid again wait lets always be stupid foreverRegistered User regular
    I don't know your financial situation but you might want to go with a cheaper keyboard until you are sure how much you want to stick with it. Learning as an adult is not as easy apparently. I took some piano electives in college to try and learn it as an adult. I didn't learn to read music while playing at tempo but it was enough to allow me to slowly get the song into muscle memory and play it. I'm not sure if its possible to reach reading music at tempo when starting as an adult. If you are interested I can dig out my old coursebooks for piano I and II. They were not typical super expensive text books.

    The final fantasy piano books are amazing but range from difficult to having so many sixteenth notes in a measure you can barely see the paper. Also rarely are they in the key of C so you have to deal with a lot of sharps and flats. I love hearing myself play the music from Final Fantasy VI, but there is only one I can play fluently with both hands, and the vast majority I gave up on learning.

  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    I can afford the piano, and I'll be more discouraged if the equipment I get is cheap and toy like. Don't really need to be talked out of it, I've been considering, budgeting, and saving specifically for this for a couple years. I'm not expecting easy, fast, or fluent here, that's not really the point. If it takes 30 years for me to bumble through a single final fantasy song, so be it.

    Hopefully that doesn't sound combative, but I'm really hoping for suggestions and resources and don't want other people to get stuck on the "have you really thought about this" and "it's going to be hard" part. The answers are yes, and that's what I'm looking forward to.

    I'd be interested in knowing more about your texts books!

  • metaghostmetaghost Registered User regular
    While I never developed any great capability at the Piano, I really enjoyed hand independence exercises derived from Bela Bartok's Mikrokosmos.

  • ElvenshaeElvenshae Registered User regular
    I chatted with my wife (former instrumental music teacher) about this, and she had a couple of thoughts.

    First thing she said was that some piano methods will encourage / require you to put stickers on the keys with the note names, and that you should very much resist doing this. It will give you bad habits, even if it slightly accelerates your early game. Basically, you need to learn to feel the keys, not look at them. Compare touch typing to hunt-and-peck.

    Second, she didn't have any specific recommendations, but noted that especially in These Trying Times (TM), you can probably find someone who is conducting online piano lessons. While it won't substitute for the ability of the instructor to help physically place your hands, point to places in the music, etc., it might be worth looking into.

    Third, you should plan to practice for about an hour at a time, several times per week. Developing muscle memory is a super important part of learning to play.

    Fourth, intro-to-piano books aimed at kids work just as well for grownups. :D They tend to chunk things up into very bite-size amounts that are perfect for people learning to play and read music simultaneously.

    Fifth, she is (and I am) really, really excited for you!

    Steam: Elvenshae // PSN: Elvenshae // WotC: Elvenshae
    The Disappearance of Inigo Sharpe: Tomas à Dunsanin
  • metaghostmetaghost Registered User regular
    As Elvenshae alludes to above, it's very important that you have a comfortable space for setting up your keyboard such that you have the ability to sit at it and maintain appropriate arm/hand posture. Of course, that assumes you can readily identify "appropriate arm/hand posture", but I expect you'll have a reasonable sense of that due to your visual arts background.

    And going back to recommendations for instructional materials, a somewhat interdisciplinary approach to developing my sight-reading involved starting with practicing rhythms from books of percussion rudiments (of which there are many).

  • djmitchelladjmitchella Registered User regular
    edited July 3
    I've been doing exactly the same thing since the start of the year -- I'm using Piano Marvel ( http://pianomarvel.com ) and it's been great so far, it has a decent balance of gamification -vs- teaching, and enough videos to explain the details to get started. There's a lot of other options out there but it's the one that worked best for me so far of the not-with-a-real-teacher ones.

    You can also take existing MIDI piano arrangements, convert and import them with various bits of free software, chop them up into chunks, and use the same teaching system that they have for their teaching songs -- I've been working on the Gravity Falls theme, for example. The people that work at Piano Marvel are helpful, too, when I've asked questions there's been a real person there to respond and help.

    (I have the Casio CDP-S100, because it was the cheapest/smallest 88-key option with reasonably real-feeling keys; it's small and light enough that I can use it on a folding stand and tuck it away on some brackets on the wall when I'm not using it, because I have fairly limited practise space).

    djmitchella on
  • ThundyrkatzThundyrkatz Registered User regular
    Hey Iruka, I have done this very same thing over the last year. Different, cheaper, keyboard though.

    I started with a bunch of self study, YouTube stuff, and that was a lot of fun. Turns out I am super good playing piano with my right hand, but real bad playing with two hands! Its super hard!

    I then went and got some professional lessons, and that was a blast. I really enjoyed playing while someone was watching and offering in the moment advice. I leaned a lot about hand position, but still was not picking up the left hand part very well. Also, this is where I started to learn to read music, which is hard too. Trying to force my left hand and right hand to do different things, while looking at music and translating notes to letters to key locations was HARD. but satisfying.

    I found this website that actually helped my site reading https://www.musictheory.net/exercises/note Just lots of practice is what it takes.

    In the end Covid hit and I could no longer meet with my teacher and that was a bummer. So, I tried one last thing. The keyboard that I bought came with a free app for my iPad to help me. This is the keyboard I got, and here is the app.

    The app listens as you play and provides feedback, it works very well for me. Except when my daughter is around as she is apparently a G Note? seriously though, practice in a quiet space. But the app starts you slow and builds notes and chords one step at a time. Its been really good, and is self paced.

    Good luck Iruka, its very rewarding to hear yourself make music!

  • azith28azith28 Registered User regular
    I took a beginners class in piano in college. you may want to visit a local colleges bookstore and see if you can pick up an actual lesson book to get started.

    Stercus, Stercus, Stercus, Morituri Sum
  • 38thDoe38thDoe lets never be stupid again wait lets always be stupid foreverRegistered User regular
    Sorry I wasn't trying to sound discouraging. I tend to be overly thrifty. Anyways, the book I had was Alfred's Basic Adult Piano Course Lesson Book Level One Amazon has it for 9$ or so.

  • Local H JayLocal H Jay Registered User regular
    This gonna sound crazy, but I found I gained interest in piano after learning guitar via tab. Tab guitar was super easy to wrap my head around, and kinda helped me learn the chords. I used to sit at the keys with the guitar in my lap so I could try to find the same sound on the keyboard without looking it up.

    I'll say this, actually playing piano (and guitar beyond just strumming at tab chords like I do) just takes practice, as much as you can get. I fell out of practice and it's something I always wanted to get back to.

    XB1/360 - Local H Jay
    PS4 - Local_H_Jay
    Sub me on Youtube
    And Twitch
  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    This is all a great help, I appreciate it!

    @38thDoe no worries, I just wanted to make sure the advice went in the right direction! H/A has a tendency to see a point and focus on it.

    I'll look into all these books and tips. @Local H Jay its funny you say that: Part of the reason I'm picking up the piano is because my fiancee has been, successfully learning to play guitar for the last 2 years. We're both going to be newbies together, but I got to witness him go from nothing to playing through songs! We'll be motivating each other.

    @Elvenshae Does your wife happen to know anything about this Hoffman academy service? Seems like following along with something geared at little kids might be a good place to start, but hard to know if it would be effective: https://www.hoffmanacademy.com/

    The hardest thing will be finding a spot where the keyboard can hang out permanently, we have been weighing our options, but the apartment is small.

  • PaladinPaladin Registered User regular
    Unlike most instruments and daily activities (aside from typing), the piano requires you to have a minimum level of endurance and dexterity in all five fingers independently. Now, you can practice those Hanon or Czerny exercises old school, but without physical instruction from a piano teacher or lots of visual studied reference, these exercises are pretty much piano stress tests that will identify if your technique is wrong and hurt you for it.

    I learned technique far before the advent of youtube and therefore can't really recommend a good series for you to look at, but if you're not being taught personally, I earnestly encourage you to study well vetted videos of good technique and then practice a few exercises using that technique: doesn't matter which as long as it reinforces the use of the 4th and 5th fingers and general coordination of your non-dominant hand. Mark your scores with proper fingering of difficult sections prior to practicing the piece so you don't develop bad habits and practice like you're lifting weights - practicing without good technique doesn't count, so try another section or call it for the session.

    Playing with both hands is very difficult for a beginner and the number one thing that prevents people from progressing is frustration. Getting your brain out of the way and trusting your muscle memory is the eventual solution to this, and there is no sure and easy way to get there other than to develop fundamentals early and continually challenge them. Beginner books with assign chords to the left hand and the melody to the right, but without an instructor it's easy to get trapped in the doldrum of this technique, especially if you try to play pieces you actually like once you get sight reading down. Practicing simpler pieces or sections of your desired piece that are fundamentally not complex or fast but give both hands exciting things to do may help bridge the gap between a brain dead single hand dominant piece to something more like anything from Bach.

    Marty: The future, it's where you're going?
    Doc: That's right, twenty five years into the future. I've always dreamed on seeing the future, looking beyond my years, seeing the progress of mankind. I'll also be able to see who wins the next twenty-five world series.
  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    edited July 6
    Thanks Paladin, that seems like good insight! I'll probably look for lessons in the future too, its just hard to know when I would be comfortable, especially at the rate things are going here in Texas. I'll be considering online lessons, but it feels like this would only give me a slight benefit over pre-recorded videos, and will cost a ton more. Maybe next year things will look brighter and I can use austins robust music scene to find a decent teacher.

    Till then, Im just looking around for lists of youtubes and will start going down the rabbit hole.

    Pulling this list from reddit just for my own reference, might add to it for easy looking later:
    From: https://www.reddit.com/r/piano/comments/8w18h8/best_piano_youtube_channels/

    Glenn Gould. Lots of amazing material being published here. Great video and audio quality.

    Daniel Barenboim. Interesting material, but not too much being published.

    Great classical recordings (Not just piano music, more classical music in general).

    Classical Music / Reference Recording.

    RS3D Archive.

    AVROTROS Klassiek. High-quality videos of live performances.

    10pianists in comparison. Terribly interesting channel. Takes one piece and picks the performance of 10 different pianists. Performed by Rachmaninoff through Trifonov. Most enjoyable with pieces you're familiar with (so you can spot all the intricacies and differences).

    I would mention Paul Barton, but his channel has already been linked to.


    Cedarvillemusic. Perhaps the best educational videos on piano playing. While aimed at higher-level students, beginning students can get a lot out of these videos as well.

    Josh Wright. Mostly does videos on piano technique, the majority of which is aimed at advanced players. The videos which are aimed at beginners are great and very useful to the beginning student. The more advanced videos are best to stay clear of as a beginner. At least in my own experience watching these leads to more confusion than anything else.

    PianoTV. I'm not super keen on her videos about teaching pieces, though that's probably a personal thing. Her videos on history are great, and her thoughts about how to practice are worth hearing if that's something you struggle with.

    Bill Hilton. His videos are amazing, and many are specifically aimed at beginners.

    UIPianoPed. Lots and lots of beginner pieces performed by piano professors. Great resource both for finding new material and for listening to things you're learning.

    Piano Music. Performances of all the yearly exam pieces by Trinity and ABRSM.

    Nahre So. Just makes amazing content, lot of fun to watch. I specifically recommend her Practice Notes.

    Iruka on
  • djmitchelladjmitchella Registered User regular
    Paladin wrote: »
    Now, you can practice those Hanon or Czerny exercises old school, but without physical instruction from a piano teacher or lots of visual studied reference, these exercises are pretty much piano stress tests that will identify if your technique is wrong and hurt you for it.

    [types "hanon" into piano marvel library search box]



    Something about trying this is very familiar-feeling but somehow in more of a QCF-HK-HK sort of way. Looking up Czerny, that seems more like actual music, though it gets harder as you go on. (piano marvel has two sorts of lessons; 'method' which is tunes-that-get-harder, some of which I already knew and some of which they made up, -vs- 'technique' which is just raw scales and chords and whatnot, so I'm a bit used to this sort of thing already)

  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    yeehaw, its my birthday.

    thanks again for all the advice, I start the journey this weekend.

  • dispatch.odispatch.o Registered User regular
    I'm hoping you give a couple of updates. This is a thing I've kinda always wanted to do.

Sign In or Register to comment.