Help me learn to play the piano using modern technology
September 22, 2014 11:29 AM   Subscribe

I've got a Macbook Air, an iPad, an iPhone, and a USB-controlled MIDI keyboard. What's the best way to use this technology to help me learn how to play the piano? I know absolutely nothing about playing the piano apart from chopsticks.
posted by wordsmith to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Synthesia is like Guitar Hero for MIDI keyboard - you could use that with your Macbook or iPad. It probably wouldn't cover playing technique, but it could be good for practicing or learning particular songs.
posted by pocams at 12:29 PM on September 22, 2014

Apple's GarageBand on the Mac has a set of lessons for piano. GarageBand itself is free but you have to pay $5 for access to the lessons (it also comes with a bunch of additional instruments, loops and drummers). Not real sure about the latest version but previous versions were actually quite good, IMHO, about teaching technique and stuff. (I doubt the lessons themselves have changed but it's been a bit since I last gave up on trying to do that.) It's also got a store built-in that sells access to additional lessons by famous musicians, where they teach you how to play a song they wrote. (Again, not real sure who's part of that list these days but I do recall Ben Gibbard being in there.) Plus, you'd get a pretty decent recording studio out of it. GarageBand also works on the iPad and iPhone but the training bits aren't there.
posted by mrg at 4:27 PM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Side note: Does your midi keyboard have weighted keys? If not, you'll have a hard time trying to get the dynamics correct if you ever move to an acoustic or digital piano.
posted by TrinsicWS at 6:35 PM on September 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you want to play an actual piano later, you need a weighted keyboard. Otherwise you're learning how to play on an electronic keyboard which is totally great as an instrument but not the same as a piano. The way you hold your hands when playing matters - you need to either watch a lot of videos or have a piano teacher show you how to hold your hands at the start to get your hands in the right positions, otherwise you'll have to work really hard later on to break bad habits.

I tried using a similar set-up but I have gotten much more satisfaction and progress with a printed music book (Alfred's!) and a low-end digital piano with weighted keys. I use my ipad to hold some scores as well which is nice.
posted by viggorlijah at 7:02 PM on September 22, 2014

Apart from YouTube videos, where there are tons of good lessons for beginners, I think computer devices are of limited utility when it comes to learning an instrument. That said, here's a little snippet of Scott Houston, the Play Piano in a Flash guy, showing what his system is about.

What it's about, is a simple approach to learning songs that you like. He has a DVD package that's like $90, but you can get his book that explains the whole system from your library for like 0 dollars.
posted by PaulBGoode at 7:04 PM on September 22, 2014

As to the whole "weighted key" thing, I wouldn't worry about that. Don't let it stop you from using what you have now. You want to have fun and learn some songs, right? So do that. Let's face some facts here, probably 90% of the people who start out trying to learn the piano quit, which you'll probably do as well.

Try and make it fun, that's what learning music should be about. Would you need to learn some different skills moving to an acoustic piano, yeah. But if you already know how to play a keyboard you'll still be miles ahead.

I understand where the other commenters are coming from, I know they're trying to be helpful. But if you want to avoid picking up any bad habits that might need to be unlearned down the road, then you really need to start out with a teacher. There's nothing to stop you from picking up bad habits if you're teaching yourself on an acoustic.

If your question was, what's the best way for me to become an accomplished musician on the
piano, then sure, start out playing a real piano. But I don't think that's what you're getting at.
posted by PaulBGoode at 7:33 PM on September 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Previously, -er
Sorry I only know Android music training software but I'd use the search terms: ear training, sight reading, music note flash cards, piano teacher/tutor.
posted by yoHighness at 12:10 AM on September 23, 2014

Ahhhh and Capo 3! That is incredible.
posted by yoHighness at 12:11 AM on September 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

In response to PaulBGoode, I agree somewhat. However there's also this: How Popular Musicians Learn

... young musicians largely teach themselves or "pick up" skills and knowledge by watching and imitating musicians around them and by making reference to recordings or performances and other live events involving their chosen music. This book is based on the outcomes of research from interviews which took place between October 1998 and May 1999 with 14 popular musicians living in and around London, aged from 15 to 50. Informal learning practices and formal educational experiences over the last 40 years of the 20th century were studied.
posted by yoHighness at 12:43 AM on September 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

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