I've been obsessed with piano for as long as I can remember. I've always wanted to play but it cost too much money and I can't afford to pay for lessons. I have a keyboard and I know the basics in music. I play clarinet and know a little bit about guitar. I also know the very basics of piano. I just cant find a way to improve on piano and its hard to find songs my level to practice. How can I find a way to teach myself? Please give some suggestions.

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    Have you searched the site? This question has been asked and answered many times, for example here, here, here, here, here.... – ex nihilo Nov 9 '18 at 1:04
  • In my opinion, sacrifice something else and get the $ for lessons. A good teacher is worth it and will get you on the right track fast. You run the risk of developing many bad habits when you self teach. If you insist on not doing this then the best you could hope for is get a classic beginner method book (even a kids book) and do the exercises and read the text. – ggcg Nov 9 '18 at 17:00

Additional notes to Bruce's answer.

The problem with learning without a teacher is understanding whether your posture, finger technique and interpretation of the music score is correct.

As an older starter I am mindful of acquiring a physical injury as I do not want to stop learning to recover. Recently, I have used Murray MacLaughlin's book on The Foundations of Piano Technique, particularly the early chapters on finger independence, thumb and the importance of removing tension while keeping the knuckles to fingertips firm/strong. I have also watched some 10 year-old YouTube videos from the Edna Golandsky Institute who teach the Dorothy Taubman technique which aims to avoid injury by removing stretches and awkward movements (e.g. Thumb technique). They overlap but don't agree entirely with each other (e.g. Is the Thumb under technique - good or bad?). They both seem to draw on the Alexander Technique (which I have not studied) to an extent.

Depending on the repertoire you like to play, a teacher will provide insight into the shortcuts in writing down of music notation, the rhythmic emphasis that were made. This particularly applies to the Baroque period (JS Bach, Handel, et al) - played as written can sound rather dull, but with the right articulations (nothing clever) a piece can come to life. Try to find good sources on performing a piece that help you interpret the music scores correctly (i.e. as the composer would have expected the music to sound).

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My experience before answering: I am a self-taught pianist to around a grade 8 ABRSM standard. My sight reading is not up to grade 8 (probably around 5 or 6) however given time I can learn most pieces. Note: you will not have perfect technique, that is simply an unavoidable drawback of not having a teacher.

  • Learn to read sheet music if you do not already and learn the notes on piano.

  • Print out scores of a hard(ish) difficulty - do not bother learning basic tunes as my method will progress your skill at a much faster rate I promise.

  • A good starter is Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata movement 3 (the fast one). This is good because it immediately gets you playing arpeggios (specifically broken chords) which gives you a useful grounding in harmony and the beginning is actually very repetitive once you get used to the pattern. Then if you need to, write out the note letters beneath the score.

  • Start learning. Just take it at a very slow tempo (speed). Make sure you try and use all the fingers on your hands (do not do the basic mistake of trying to play everything with your index and thumb!).

  • It will take time. I probably spent about 2 hours learning the first phrase of moonlight sonata however it was so incredibly rewarding and really encourages you to play and learn more. You do not get the same satisfaction nor want to learn more after accomplishing (eg) Mary had a Little Lamb.

  • You should learn to play major and minor scales (firstly C, G, F major and their relative minors Am, Em, Dm for which you can easily find the notes as well as the fingering patterns online.

  • If you get bored with a piece (I only initially learnt the first page of moonlight sonata) then move onto another piece in a different key. A classic example would be River Flows in You and repeat the same process.

  • My final tip is (as much as you may not want to), learn music theory. I cannot stress how crucial it is to your playing and improvisation. Simply knowing your key signatures and how major and minor translate with each other. Particularly flattening the middle note in a major triad to get the minor version. It is all about building your musical vocabulary.

Within about a week or 2 you will see real progress. Being able to play the first line of to moonlight sonata mvt 2 will seem like such an achievement against your contemporaries who spent the same time learning Mary had a Little Lamb and it will encourage you to keep learning.

I really would discourage "youtube learning" unless it involves you reading and interpreting sheet music as this is what turns you into a solid musician with individuality. The theory you learn gives you the ability to create music yourself, as you understand what is happening in the greats (Bach, Beethoven, Mozart for example).

Give it time. Picture your progress as an exponential graph. The longer you spend learning the faster the process gets.

Good luck.

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  • Learn piano fingering technique from internet (try searching piano fingering technique lessons probably on youtube )
  • Start to play diatonic scale degree on your keyboard
    • Start in the key of C Major, and them move on to other keys including minor,pentatonic scales.
    • Start with one octave C4 to C5, and then cover all range in your keyboard.
    • Start to play each note in whole note time rhythm, once familiar, reduce note time to half/quarter/eighth/sixsteenth note time.
    • Add scale runs starting from range C1 to C6
    • Adjust speed and repeat scale runs in daily practice
  • Play chords from a select scale degree.
    • Play chords harmonically(together) and melodically(arpeggio)
    • Start with 'I' major chords, and then add IV and V major chords from the major scale degree and then cover remaining chords.
    • Add chord runs starting from range C1 to C6
    • Adjust speed of chord runs and repeat chord runs in daily practice
  • Select your favorite song and start to play the melody and accompaniments to the song.
    • Record the song in your voice and re-play the song as you play your keyboard to add accompaniment to your voice.
    • Add your own styles and learn more styles from internet
    • Take Sheet music score for your song from internet and start to play the song.
    • Try 4 part SATB songs in your practice.

Some example piano lessons here

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