Learning another instrument is a beautiful way to deepen your connection to music. With its linear layout, broad musical range, and huge popularity among musicians and music lovers alike, the piano has a lot to offer. In other words, you've made an excellent choice!
We know you already have what it takes to learn an instrument, so our goal with this article is to help you shape your own piano-learning journey. By understanding which skills you can use and which you'll need to learn, you'll be able to choose a fun and motivating path for yourself.
With regular practice, you could be playing beginner-level arrangements of your favorite songs within weeks—or even days—of starting.
You're not starting from scratch
If you’re used to playing another instrument with ease, you might be wondering if you can skip some of the beginner stages of learning piano. The answer is yes and no. What exactly you can skip depends on what you already know, and could also depend on which instrument(s) you already play.
Perhaps you can already read music and coordinate your hands to play complex chords and rhythms. This is an excellent starting point. Playing by ear or with both hands may come easily to you, and your focus may be more on finding the right posture, hand positions, and keys on the piano. You may even find that the things you do need to learn come more quickly to you than they would to a complete beginner.
In short, you don't have to start from scratch, but making sure you know the basics will give you a strong foundation to build on as you grow into the piano player you wish to become.
You can use what you know
Identifying common themes between the instrument you know and the piano can lighten the load as you learn. Drawing comparisons will help you understand more about how the piano works, too.
For instance, if you already play guitar, you can coordinate your hands and play chords, but you may be used to reading tablature instead of sheet music. If you're coming from a brass or wind instrument, on the other hand, sheet music will be relatively easy for you, but combining notes into chords may be new.
No matter which other instruments you play, some items on your to-learn list will remain the same—for example, finding the right posture and hand positions on the piano, and discovering how to use the keys to create the dynamics you desire (more on this below).
Once you're confident with your posture and hand positions, your learning options grow. If you can already read music and understand theory, our courses on Scales and Arpeggios could be a motivating next step—meeting you closer to where you are musically.
A Note on Reading Music
It's possible to play beautiful songs on piano without being able to read music. You can learn songs by ear, or you can follow along with the hands of another player—which is a feature we offer in our app. Learning to read music broadens the possibilities of what you can play, because you're not dependent on someone else to show you how to play it. It doesn't have to be one or the other, though.
If you choose to learn a song with flowkey, you'll see a split screen that shows both the sheet music and the hands of a professional pianist. This is also a great way to ensure you're using the right fingering and hand positions as you play.
Find out which gaps you need to fill
Working out where you need to build your skills will help you spend your time wisely in practice to make the best progress. Below are some skills that feel more piano specific, plus tips for how to hone them.
For a more complete list of beginner piano skills, you can read our Beginner's Guide here in our magazine, or check out the Introduction to the Piano course in our app. You can try the first couple lessons for free.
Many (although not all!) of us haven’t needed to use our feet while playing an instrument before. Pedaling on the piano may feel like an optional extra—after all, the pedals don’t make the sounds, do they?
While it’s important to feel comfortable with the absolute basics before introducing the pedals, they certainly shouldn’t be forgotten. Depending on when and how they’re used, the pedals can transform the emotion and overall sound of a piece of music.
Coordinating your feet with your hands can take time, but like any other skill, it's just a matter of practice. If you want to give it a try, start with a song you can play confidently with both hands, so you can focus on your feet. First you'll press down on a key (or keys) with your fingers, then you'll press the pedal. Be sure to place the ball of your foot on the pedal's rounded end, keeping your big toe parallel to the pedal's long edge. Then, pivot down in a smooth motion, keeping your heel on the floor.
There’s a lot to think about when it comes to pedaling, from choosing a pedal for digital keyboards to working on timing and reading notation, and more. You can read about all of this in the pedaling chapter of our beginner’s guide. We also offer a pedaling course in our app.
You might find that playing the piano feels very different from what you’re used to. The way each instrument works affects how your hands, eyes, and other parts of your body coordinate.
For example, saxophonists usually play one note at a time. They use two hands to produce that note. So, a saxophonist starting to play piano will need to learn how to coordinate their fingers and hands to play separate notes simultaneously, across clefs.
If you're new to playing different notes with two hands, start by practicing with your right and left hands separately. It's common to learn the right hand of a piano piece first, then the left, and then put them together only after you're confident playing both separately. Our article on playing with both hands will help you work out where to start improving your coordination. You can also learn how to do it through flowkey's Playing with Both Hands course.
You likely already know about using dynamics to capture a song's emotions. A fun exercise is to simply explore the piano. Don't worry about playing something that sounds perfect—just touch the keys, try out the pedal, and see what sounds they make and feelings they spark as you play them.
Press down on the keys, get a feeling for the sounds they make. Are they weighted? If so, how hard should your fingers drop onto the keys for a soft note, and how much does the volume change when you press harder? How does it feel when you build from quiet to loud, or vice versa?
How long you leave your fingers on the keys will also affect the vibe of what you play. Quickly press your finger into a key, lifting it off the moment it hits, for a staccato note. Or, let your finger rest on a key for a note that lingers.
The pedal is also in your toolbox here.
Choose a simple song that you like and play around with the dynamics. You’ll get a much better feel for the keyboard the more you practice!
Craft your own journey
A good understanding of your current skills, how you can use them, and what you need to improve are all fantastic tools to bring to your piano practice. What's more is you already know what it's like to learn an instrument. Maybe you even know which learning style works best for you, or how often you like to practice, what keeps it fun and motivating, etc.
In short, you've learned an instrument (or instruments, plural) before, and you can do it again! Use your wonderful, existing knowledge to craft your own piano-learning journey.
We recommend starting with basics such as posture, hand position, note names, and rhythm. Practice these a little each day and you'll quickly notice an improvement. We have a lot of beginner-level arrangements of songs in our library, too, so choose a fun song to learn. But you know yourself best, so shape your practice sessions how you see fit.
Of course, we'd be excited to have you learn with flowkey. With thousands of songs and step-by-step courses to choose from, you can easily select the course materials and songs that you feel would be best for you. And you won't have to spend hours scrolling through YouTube or other websites to find good teachers with content that inspires you.
Whatever you choose though, we're grateful that you've read this article and made us part of your piano-learning journey. If there's anything we can do to support you further, please always feel free to reach out.
How Long Does It Really Take to Learn the Piano?
Practicing the piano is something you can enjoy for a lifetime, but how long will it take until you can play your first song?
10 Easy Piano Songs for Beginners
You don't need tons of practice to play piano songs that you love. Here’s our selection of easy-to-play pieces for beginners, plus a few key tips to set you up for success.
10 Fun Piano Songs to Start Playing Today
From video game soundtracks to viral YouTube hits, we've rounded up some of the funnest music to learn on piano in this beginner-friendly list.
How to Play Piano with Both Hands
Learning to play with both hands is one of the toughest hurdles you'll face as a piano player—but with time, practice, and these five tips, you'll be able to lift your two-handed playing to a whole new level.