Keyboards, and keyboard-related instruments like pianos, are some of the most popular instruments to learn, and rightly so.
A keyboard could be the best way to learn musical theory properly. Though it’s often recommended, not everyone can (or want to) take physical lessons with a tutor.
So is it possible to learn to play the keyboard on your own?
It is possible to learn to play the keyboard, and other keyboard instruments, on your own. There are even some advantages to learning it on your own that you won’t get from a tutor. You can use tutorial videos, guidebooks with CDs, or various other study methods to learn to play the keyboard.
A keyboard is a simple instrument to learn to play, but that doesn’t make it easy. In fact, it involves some complex musical theory and complicated chord combinations.
These factors are the reason why many people prefer to get a tutor. But it’s not impossible or overly difficult to learn the keyboard on your own. Let’s look at the process of teaching yourself keyboard in more detail.
Is It Possible To Learn Keyboard On Your Own?
It is possible for you to learn to play any keyboard instrument on your own. Keyboard instruments could include piano, organ, or a modern electronic keyboard.
You can learn all of these at home without a tutor or instructor. Most professional players will say that it’s best to have a tutor, and though there are excellent reasons for them saying this, it isn’t an absolute necessity.
In fact, learning the keyboard on your own doesn’t even have to be difficult these days.
With the mass of technology that we have at our fingertips, not to mention that most of it are free, almost nobody has an excuse anymore.
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Is It Good To Teach Yourself To Play Keyboard?
Knowing that you can do something is essential, but sometimes you have to ask yourself if it’s a good idea to do it, even if you can.
So is it a good idea to learn to play the keyboard on your own? Well, there are some pros and cons:
Advantages Of Learning Keyboard On Your Own
The first advantage of learning keyboard on your own is the cost. Some instructors and tutors can cost you hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars over a few years compared to the low-cost or free options available to you if you teach yourself.
Secondly, teaching yourself allows you to go at your own pace. Sometimes an instructor can be too pushy, wanting you to become better, faster.
But the opposite could also happen; sometimes, we may want to learn more, but the instructor feels that we are not ready yet (though they are usually right).
Teaching yourself allows you to learn at your own pace, as fast or as slow as you like.
Third, we tend to pick up the bad habits of those who teach us. It often happens that a student will have the same limitations as their tutor, and this is because they subconsciously pick up the tutor’s bad habits.
Teaching yourself could eliminate this aspect completely, allowing you to build your own habits (for better or worse).
The fourth advantage is that you can structure your lessons the way you want to.
If you get a formal tutor or instructor, you will be subjected to their course material and study process, which could involve things that you really don’t care about, like music theory.
If you teach yourself, you can adjust the course to suit your needs and desires, so you can only learn the parts that you care about.
The fifth advantage is that you have no shortage of information available.
Keyboard instruments are some of the most popular instruments to learn, not just for kids but for people of all age groups, which means that there is a wealth of guides and tutorials for people with various skill levels.
You should have no trouble finding the information you need.
Disadvantages Of Learning Keyboard On Your Own
There are also some negative sides to learning the keyboard on your own, though.
First, you don’t have someone to point out your mistakes. If you’re flexing your hand the wrong way as you’re playing a chord, a tutor can help you by showing you the right way.
If you’re learning on your own, this won’t happen as quickly, and you may develop a ton of bad habits that could make you a less-than-perfect keyboardist.
Secondly, you must invest in the equipment yourself. Though it’s generally advisable that you should own a keyboard when you want to learn to play the keyboard, most tutors or instructors will let you use their equipment during lessons.
This is not the case if you’re teaching yourself, so it’s even more crucial to get your own musical instruments if you’re learning the keyboard on your own.
Thirdly, as with anything, learning on your own requires exceptional levels of commitment and self-discipline. Many people simply lose interest, get distracted, or even give up without the guidance and encouragement of a tutor.
Only you will know if that’s a problem you might face, but it’s crucial to remember that this is a possibility.
The fourth disadvantage is that you might be missing out on a lot. A tutor or instructor will notice the areas where you’re lacking and help you to fix that.
They can also teach you more about the technical side of music, leading to a greater understanding of how to play your instrument more creatively.
The fifth disadvantage is that you may be tempted to go too fast. When you go to a tutor for keyboard lessons, you will usually have a week between classes to practice what you’ve learned. This practice is crucial to developing your skills properly.
If you’re learning on your own, you may be tempted to skip the practice and move on to the next lesson, leaving you less than perfect.
Music is an exciting mixture of math and art. Musical notes follow a logical, mathematical path, and knowing the math behind the music can help you play better.
But simply playing music mathematically feels bland; you need creativity to bring out the art.
A tutor will be able to guide you to find the balance between the mathematical and artistic aspects of music.
How Much Will I Be Able To Learn On My Own?
There’s no actual limit to how much of playing the keyboard you will be able to learn on your own. The only limits are dependent on you.
The basics of a keyboard are easy enough to learn, for example. You can start playing “Mary had a little lamb” flawlessly in a few minutes by watching a YouTube video and “Twinkle little star” just a few minutes later.
You can learn to identify the locations of notes, the positions of octaves, and even a few basic multi-note chords within the first few days and weeks.
Even the intermediate skills are not too difficult to learn by yourself. You can even excel at these skills with regular (and frequent) practice.
Unfortunately, it isn’t always that easy to continue. You only have to listen to some of Beethoven and Chopin’s masterpieces to hear how complicated playing a keyboard can get.
That moment when your hands both have to do their own things, at different paces and in different places, you can start to understand that playing the keyboard isn’t for the fainthearted.
It is still not impossible, though. True mastery of the instrument may come easier with a tutor, but you can achieve it on your own if you are willing to work hard enough.
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What You Won’t Get By Learning On Your Own
The only thing that you definitely won’t be able to get when you learn the keyboard on your own is a musical qualification.
Teaching yourself the keyboard is not the best option if you want to achieve something formal, like a certification or even a bachelor’s degree in music.
Very few people go into music to get a qualification, though. For most musicians, it starts as a hobby, and sooner or later, they find that they are really good at it.
At this point, they may be asked to play for others, form part of a band or orchestra, or give lessons, which could turn into a career that way. You don’t need a formal qualification for any of these.
If you wish to make your musical training formal – for example, if you want to teach music at an educational institution at some point in the future – you will be better off getting formal lessons with musical exams and eisteddfods right from the start.
Proof That You Can Learn Keyboard On Your Own
Some people won’t believe that there are great musicians who are entirely or largely self-taught. One example of such a musician is Sviatoslav Richter, a 20th-century pianist from Soviet Russia.
Richter learned some rudimentary musical theory from his father and uncle at a young age, after which he kept on playing and practicing.
He tried different things that he heard other pianists doing. When he listened to a style that he did not know, he would go home and try to do the same thing until he got it right.
His perseverance made him one of the greatest pianists of the 20th century, with a repertoire that was second to none.
Perhaps a more well-known self-taught musician from modern times is David Bowie. He managed to teach himself various instruments from a young age, including the guitar, harmonica, koto, percussion, and piano.
We should also mention Elton John, who’s been playing piano since the age of three without receiving a single lesson.
If you decide to learn the keyboard on your own, you will be in excellent company.
If these examples don’t prove to you that you can teach yourself to play any keyboard instrument, then nothing will.
What You Need To Start Learning Keyboard On Your Own
As with anything worth learning, it’s crucial to have the right resources from the start. Some of these are expensive but easy to get, while others are free but difficult.
Get A Keyboard
It should be obvious, but one of the first obstacles to overcome is to get yourself your instrument of choice. Whichever keyboard instrument you would like to learn, it’s good to get that same instrument.
Musical instruments are expensive; there’s no getting around that. A very basic electronic keyboard could cost you a few hundred dollars, while a simple piano easily costs ten times as much.
There is some good news, though.
First, chances are that you can get your hands on an instrument relatively easily. Pianos and organs are often handed down from generation to generation, and younger generations often don’t want to play on the instruments anymore.
There might even be a dust-covered piano hiding in your attic right now. If not, it’s easy to find other people who have those dust-covered pianos in their attics who just want to get them out of their house.
The point is if you search long and hard enough, you will probably be able to find something at a bargain price (or perhaps even for free, if you go and collect it).
The second piece of good news is that these instruments are all very similar.
Though an electronic keyboard may have fewer octaves than a full piano, with a bunch of knobs and buttons thrown into the mix, the basic principle is the same, and you can just as quickly learn the basics on either one of them.
If you want to learn piano, but you only have a small electronic keyboard available, it’s good enough to begin with, and there’s no need to spend more money until you’ve saved up a bit for something proper.
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Find Your Style
You probably won’t be able to play your preferred type of music right from the start (unless that type of music is “Twinkle little star”). But knowing what style you like gives you something to aim for.
For example, there’s a vast difference in playing styles between jazz and classical music, so knowing which one you prefer will help you determine which style to focus your learning time on.
Choose Your Learning Method
There’s a wealth of excellent resources available that can help you to learn keyboard on your own, like:
- YouTube videos that teach keyboard. Some YouTube content creators focus all their time and effort on building tutorials and training for beginner musicians. An excellent example is the YouTube channel “Piano From Scratch,” and especially the video on “How to start playing piano or keyboard,” which is a great starting point.
- Udemy Courses. Udemy has some excellent courses that teach keyboard and piano for musicians with different skill levels. Some focus on raw beginners, while others are more for people with some experience who would like to develop their skills a bit more. For example, Udemy has courses for beginners, or focused on electronic music, or even pop and jazz.
- Guide books. There are some excellent books, usually with accompanying CDs or MP3s, that can teach you to play the keyboard or piano. These books are available at any store that sells musical instruments, but it’s important to always check for reviews online to see if a book is worth the money and recommended by the pros.
- Playing by ear. This is a more complex way for many people to learn (especially in the early days). Still, many people have managed to learn to play keyboard instruments simply by listening to music (or watching musical performances) and trying to duplicate what they hear.
Perseverance And Self-Discipline
Unfortunately, this is the downfall of many aspiring musicians. Because it is something that often starts out as a simple hobby, some people fail to take their musicianship seriously, which means that they don’t put in the required effort and time.
You have to understand right from the start that being a musician is not easy. It’s not something to do just to pass the time.
It can become an all-consuming passion and an expensive part of your life in terms of money and time.
Before you begin, ask yourself where you would like to go with your keyboard skills. Is it simply something to keep you busy or to break the loneliness?
That doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but you will have to decide now to keep at it even when something else comes along that changes that aspect.
You will only succeed at learning to play the keyboard if you put in the necessary time, not just to learn but also to practice what you’ve learned.
Follow the principle you would have followed if you had a tutor: take one lesson for an hour or two, then spend at least ten hours practicing before tackling the next lesson.
It will help if you make this process a part of your daily routine.
Professional musicians often state that anything less than 30 minutes of practice per day is actually moving backward, and 30 minutes will keep you at the same skill level; so, in order to improve your skills, you must practice more than 30 minutes per day.
Are you willing to invest that time to learn and practice playing the keyboard?
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You can learn to play any keyboard instrument on your own, and it’s possible that you could even become a maestro in the process.
The only limit to what you can learn by yourself is whatever limit you place on yourself.
If you get the right equipment and you’re willing to invest the time to sharpen your skills, you have everything you need to become a great keyboard player.