How to Learn a Piano Song in Three Steps

Whether you're a beginner or an experienced pianist, you can learn to play any song on piano by following this three-step process.

Last updated on 10 July 2024

Learning new songs on the piano can be daunting, but it’s worth it for the amazing feeling of finally being able to play a song you love. Luckily, you don’t have to start from scratch — there are plenty of resources available to you, including videos, method books, apps, and articles like this one.

When playing a new song on the piano, it’s important to keep in mind your learning style. For some people, it’s easier to learn by watching someone’s hands on the piano. Others benefit more from listening and following along with the sheet music. These preferences should inform the way you approach working on your song. In this article, we'll show you a strategy that you can apply to whichever resources or methods you choose.

The three steps to learning a song on piano

Below you'll find a step-by-step outline of how you can learn a song on piano in three steps. Here's a quick breakdown of what to expect:

Step 1: Choose a song that excites you

Step 2: Practice in pieces

Step 3: Play the whole song

With this process, you can learn a new song on the piano within three weeks if you practice consistently. Step 1 can take anywhere from a minute to a few days of reflection, and we recommend spending about a week on Step 2 and a week on Step 3. However, you’re welcome to move through each step at your own pace — the most important thing to consider before moving on is whether you're confident with the current step.

Tip: Turn practice into a habit

Set yourself up for success by choosing a song that both excites you and fits your level. This will help keep you motivated while practicing — especially during the song's more challenging sections. How often you practice is more important than how long you practice. Learning piano is based on creating muscle memory, and the part of the brain responsible for creating these memories is mainly triggered by repetition and habit. The best way to get better at piano with a busy schedule is to commit to playing for a small amount of time every day — even 10-15 minutes a day is enough to see progress.

Step 1: Choose a song that excites you

The most important thing about the song you choose is that it excites you. This excitement will give you the motivation to practice consistently, so take your time to find a song you really love.

Not only should you be excited about learning the song, but it should be at a level that feels attainable for you.

man playing piano

Step 2: Practice in pieces

In this step, you’ll be playing recognizable pieces of the song you’ve chosen before putting them all together in Step 3. You should take as much time as you need to get confident with each part of the song. We recommend you spend about a week doing this, but it could take more or less time depending on how often you practice and the song's complexity.

Divide your chosen song into sections and start learning each section one hand at a time. A good rule of thumb is a section should be about two to four bars — or four to eight seconds. However, this is just a suggestion from which to start. It’s best if you can divide the song into sections that feel self-contained, so that each section you learn feels like its own complete musical phrase. 

With the flowkey app you can break all of the songs above into manageable — and loopable — parts, slow them down and even adjust the difficulty, making them easier to play and practice. 

Once you’ve divided your song into manageable pieces, practice it in the manner described below.

Learn your song step-by-step  

Each session, practice at least one two-to-four-bar section of your chosen song following this pattern. First, learn the right hand. Then, learn the left hand. After that, you'll learn with both hands together, but at a slow and steady tempo. Finally, increase the tempo – gradually.

Once you feel confident with a section, move on to the next one. When you feel confident with a string of sections, you can start combining them. If you're practicing daily, you'll find that after about a week you’ll be able to play the different sections — and maybe even the whole song. Don’t be concerned if the tempo is slow or unsteady here, just begin to get the feel for the whole thing.  Once you can play the whole song, move on to Step 3.

man playing white piano

Step 3: Put it all together

Now it’s time to practice the whole song! In this step, you’ll learn the meaning of “practice makes perfect.”

Start by playing through the whole song and noticing the parts that challenge you — for example, parts where you pause, miss the notes or lose the rhythm. You’ll want to work on practicing these parts specifically. 

Repeat these little sections until you can play through them with a steady rhythm, then play through the whole song again — and again, and again, as many times as you need to. Flowing through the song without pausing or changing speeds is more important than getting to full speed right away, so just keep it slow and steady. It may seem counterintuitive, but you’ll be able to play at full speed sooner if you spend more time playing slowly. 

And remember, it’s okay to play with mistakes — even the best piano players in the world make them. Just keep on practicing and having fun playing music, and eventually they’ll iron themselves out. Practicing can be a satisfying end in itself, so be sure to find moments to enjoy the journey as you get closer to being able to play the whole song! 

Again, we recommend spending a week on this step — or however long it takes until you’re ready to perform the song by heart.

Learn more songs with the flowkey app

From pop to classical and everything in between, flowkey has thousands of song tutorials in a range of difficulty levels. You can practice songs at slower tempos or learn to play one hand at a time, making learning new songs easy and fun. Find your favorite song on flowkey and start learning today.

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Learn piano at your own pace

With flowkey, you can learn piano with the songs you love. Download the app to explore thousands of songs and step-by-step courses to help you achieve your piano goals.

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