I see advertisements where I live for a course titled "Instant Piano for Hopelessly Busy People". While I am sure the title is exaggerated to attract attention - it seems to imply that the student would be exposed to a learning method that could have them "playing" piano with far less time invested than the traditional weekly lessons for many years approach that is commonly used.

While I have no delusions that one could "instantly" learn much of anything, much less how to play piano, I am guessing that there is more than one approach to learning to play piano and that some may get a student up to speed faster than others.

Let us assume a person did not find it absolutely necessary to sight read music notation (unless it would help them learn faster or easier), but wanted to be able to play popular songs with both hands for their own enjoyment and to entertain their friends and family. Let's also assume some reasonable ability to maintain basic rhythm and general aptitude to learn music (not tone deaf and can hear the difference between a minor and major chord etc.).

What are some plausible alternative learning methods that could potentially have someone playing some basic popular songs on piano (or keyboard) within a matter of a few months while devoting somewhere between 10 - 20 hours per week? What resources are available (in print or on line) for the methods you suggests?

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    Up to 20 hrs a week is about 3 hrs per day. That's a lot of practice time! I'd have thought with that amount, anyone would get pretty good, pretty soon. If there was a rapid way, the majority of teachers would be using it, I think. Apart from - we all learn in different ways (which is why schools don't work that well!!) - so one method won't work best for all. A shame, really... The best way I found to get better on a new instrument was, apart from practice, playing on it with others, in public being the most productive.
    – Tim
    Mar 6, 2016 at 10:12
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    Practice five hours a day seems the easiest solution.
    – Neil Meyer
    Mar 6, 2016 at 12:14
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    Those ads might be very much exaggerating. There's a Ted talk where a guy says you can learn anything more quickly. He "proves" this buy showing how he "learned to play ukelele" in like two months or something. Then he proceeds to play the exact same four chords over and over again for five minutes as if that demonstrates he has competence on the ukelele. Now imagine someone texting you just four chords in a single key on the piano and then saying "see? You're a great pianist already!" Mar 6, 2016 at 14:29
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    That should be teaching four chords in my last comment. My point being I'm convinced that there are no shortcuts but the upside is if the only thing you have to do to improve every day is play every day. If you're doing it for fun, then that's like saying you just have to remember to have a little fun every day and you'll become great. Why would anyone want a shortcut that prevents them from having a little fun every day? Mar 6, 2016 at 14:34
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    @RockinCowboy I just want to be clear, I did not down vote because I don't have an answer or even because I don't think there is a good answer (it's true that I don't think there's a good answer, but that's not why i downvoted). I downvoted because I think the question is unhelpful, and I think it's unhelpful because it promotes the idea that there are ways to shortcut the learning process. I'm sure I don't have to remind you that I have a lot of respect for you, and my down vote isn't about you, it's just about the concept that the question is based on. Mar 7, 2016 at 1:51

5 Answers 5


Really, the answer to this is entirely dependent on the individual. However, I'm getting that you have the ability already to play guitar fairly well by ear. You can probably hear a melody and put a few chords together for it, and you know most of your basic guitar chords. That's a good place to start.

If I were your teacher, I would strongly suggest that you learn to read music halfway decently if you can't already (because yes, it will help you learn faster and easier). Once you get a working knowledge of notes, you can begin leveraging your guitar skills by working on your own arrangements, picking up fake books, and the like. Reading notes is a skill that will expose you to a whole lot of new musical ideas, just as literacy exposes you to a whole lot of general ideas. Sure, it's easier to play by ear than to read music, but it's easier to learn to understand speech than to learn how to read as well. Musical literacy has analogous benefits to "book learning."

If you'd like to look into this further, I like Alfred's Adult All-In-One Course. (Here's a link to a pdf someone uploaded, although I would suggest that you buy the book and do all the theory exercises.) You can blow through the first 30 pages quickly, probably in a couple or three days. Make your goal to be to play all those silly songs perfectly (don't obsess over the stuff about how to sit and how to hold your hands; those are good basic ideas but there are all sorts of other opinions on this stuff). As you improve your play, you'll find more interesting material to work on. (If you blow through the entire book, you'll probably find that your $10 or so investment gets you to at least the place that that $75 investment for "Instant Piano etc." would get you. And there are several more books, if you like the approach enough.)

You'll notice that all the songs are spelled out. You need to be able to play as written, but you will find it interesting to work out your own arrangements of the music. By the time you get to book 2 (or perhaps before), the chords are written over the music, and you should see a song or two that you can play that is sufficiently interesting to get you thinking about how you can change the voicings of the chords and experimenting with altering the harmony. Once you get to that point, I think you'll be where you want to be.

What's nice about all that is that you'll find that your guitar playing improves along with it. The piano is like a map; every note looks the same for each octave. For example, on the guitar, if you want to play the lowest B it's the first fret on the A string. An octave higher, and it's the fourth fret on the G string. On the piano, every B is the note immediately to the right of three black keys (and conversely, every note to the right of three black keys is a B). So, it's much easier to figure out how to play a chord on the piano, without having to resort to learning it by rote as you generally do on the guitar. As you do that, you'll get a clearer picture of why you play the notes you do on a guitar chord, and this will allow you to invent alterations in your chord voicings on the guitar as well.

  • As a person who has suffered from a repetitive motion injury because of poor technique, I have to mention my disagreement about downplaying "the stuff about how to sit and how to hold your hands". Not only are posture and body geometry important for preventing injury, they also are foundational for being able to execute even basic techniques. Mar 7, 2016 at 2:30
  • I like your comments on how learning to play keys better may foster a deeper understanding of guitar music. Mar 7, 2016 at 7:42
  • @RockinCowboy When I was a music major in college, all the majors had to get a certain proficiency on the piano as part of their degree requirement.
    – BobRodes
    Mar 14, 2016 at 22:16
  • @BobRodes I can see how that would be a great idea for music majors. My question is more about folks who are interested in recreational music for enjoyment and may not be as dedicated as a music major. Mar 14, 2016 at 22:27
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    @ToddWilcox Well, that's true, and I didn't mean to suggest otherwise, so perhaps I overstated. However, there is a good deal of variation in what will not injure and what is foundational for basic technique. A lot of very fine pianists don't curve their fingers more than sometimes: youtube.com/watch?v=ZK6DxupkUPQ . Some lean forward towards the piano, some sit straighter. Compare Rubinstein with Horowitz for an obvious example. But, in defense of your point of view, neither of them slouch. Perhaps I should have said to take those pictures with a big grain of salt.
    – BobRodes
    Mar 14, 2016 at 23:02

I would check out the music courses on udemy.com, especially by Rosa Suen. There are basically two types of music lessons -- one is for classic music which is what many piano teacher teach, but the other is to play by ear. Rosa teaches you how to take a "fun melody" and how to harmonize it on the left hand.

Most popular music sheet music shows the melody and gives the chords for the left hand. She has a bunch of lessons on how to harmonize the melody with both basic and fancy chords, etc.

The electric pianos give you some great rhythms to go with the melodies, and some will even play the chords as well.


Playing piano quickly depends on what you want to play and why you require it to be quick, I think. :-)

If you want the feeling of your hands moving up and down the piano, lots of scales might get you there quickly.

If you want to learn specific classical piano pieces, there are many altered scores for beginner pianists that are simpler than the originals and therefore faster to learn.

If you want to learn jazz or blues quickly, your route to playing could be completely different, as different as playing chords on guitar for rock music vs finger picking and reading individual notes. I think you could learn chord recognition quite well without reading music and that would shorten your time.

If you want to learn pop music quickly, the rhythms can be surprisingly difficult to replicate and you'd need simplified versions which probably wouldn't feel like they did the songs justice.

All in all it just depends what direction you want to take and then we could help you with a more detailed approach. :)


You can probably go with the piano teacher through the key sequence of the particular song and learn which keys to press. Then the teacher could play the melody to you and you would get an impression on the note duration.

This allows to skip all music theory.

From experience, it is not difficult to learn to play a few pieces this way (as long as they are not very long and the fingering is not difficult). The problem is, if you do not play daily, you may easily forget one or another key you need to press - and your capability to play that whole piece is gone.


Right hand plays random notes in Blues escale in c:


Left hand plays C mayor chord, F mayor chord and G mayor chord.


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