Help me learn piano on the cheap!
January 25, 2009 4:21 PM   Subscribe

Help me learn piano on a budget. I have always wanted to learn, and now I am 31 and tired of just wishing! Problem is, money is tight, so I am looking for suggestions on how to teach myself on the cheap (if that's possible).

So, if you are able to suggest some affordable equipment (I own no piano), that would be great. Preferably a keyboard I could connect to my computer, as opposed to a full, traditional piano (space is tight as well). And any resources for learning, would be much appreciated.
posted by scarello to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I saw you're from Toronto, I'm sure there are a decent amount of universities there? Maybe try finding some local college music students and get cheap lessons. We have a music school in my town and the practice rooms are open to whoever wants to come in and play, pianos are expensive but a totally different experience than playing on a keyboard. As far as cheap keyboards I'm sure the hive mind could come up with some great suggestions, maybe try asking in Musictalk also once it's back up.
posted by BrnP84 at 4:53 PM on January 25, 2009

Also try Craigslist, in the past year my roomate has gotten two free pianos. One was a real fixer upper but the other one is in surprisingly good shape.
posted by BrnP84 at 4:55 PM on January 25, 2009

I learned how to plan growing up, stopped and wanted to learn again. I started with easy sheet music from popular songs that I liked and listened to - Alicia Keys and Regina Spektor are really good for piano. I would start just buy learning the basic chords from books and charts and such. Then pick a song you love and use your ears. You can hear if a chord sounds wrong and singing along will help with rhythm. Also you'll still like the song after the 300th play, most likely.

Basically, learn the basic chords. Find chords and tabs online for some of your favorite piano-heavy songs. Just jump right in. Mark up your pages. Practice over and over.

ps. everyone loves the Beatles... Let It Be has four chords total and is a great starter. The chorus goes: A minor, G, F, C, G, C, F.
posted by jay.eye.elle.elle. at 8:06 PM on January 25, 2009

I"m going to threadjack for a minute:

Anyone have any good sites to recommend for chords and tabs to songs?
posted by ryecatcher at 11:35 PM on January 25, 2009

It really depends on your motivations and where you want to get to. If you want to play classics, learn some sheet music. I've always thought those light up keyboards would be really useful for learning piano. Some of them even import midi files!

If you want to go the improvisational route, learn your theory, start with pentatonics, go into major / minor scales, then move around your root note.


PS: At this point, getting a freaking PIANO is very ill advised. Things weigh a ton.
posted by emptyinside at 11:44 PM on January 25, 2009

Additionally. has some GREAT resources for learning chords and scales for piano or guitar.
posted by emptyinside at 11:46 PM on January 25, 2009

I bought a nice USB keyboard and practice piano using Garage Band and I find it to be an acceptable alternative. It was cheap and it doesn't take up a lot of room.

Find yourself a piano teacher in your area. When learning an instrument nothing, in my opinion, can substitute for real instruction. Get someone for at least the first 6 months who normally teaches beginners. It will be a long while before you can reap the benefit of college level instruction. A beginner's teacher will probably put you on a method that they use.
posted by Foam Pants at 1:28 AM on January 26, 2009

Best answer: A USB keyboard should be inexpensive (around $200). I have an older version of this and it works fine. As with anything you buy, be sure it's compatible with your computer (what version of Windows or OSX, etc.), and that you can return it if it doesn't work.

Now you need software on the computer that will respond to the keyboard and produce sound, plus teach you at the same time.

Jalmus is pretty good music learning software - free and open source. With some discipline and a few hours a day, you can get started reading music. I used it for about 3 days before getting bored, but if I stuck with it I'd probably be reading music by now (about 6 months later).

From there, buy a few introductory books. Stuff like "Three Blind Mice" that every student is forced to learn, etc. and work your way up from there, you can probably use the books in tandem with the software, depending on where your mood is at the time.

And get a piano teacher, who can teach you proper finger positions, how to properly move up & down the keyboard, etc. and a bit more music theory than the books probably cover.

Learn the basic chords - there's only a few, and with that you can start to play songs - someone already mentioned Let It Be.
posted by Muffy at 12:43 PM on January 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

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