How to Play the Piano the Right Way

Many Opinions on Learning the Piano

playing the pianoThere will never be a lack of arguments, discussions and theories as to what the best path is when learning how to play the piano. It has been 24 years since I took my first piano lessons and I have heard just about every school of thought. I’ve also tried many approached on the best way to learn how to play piano. Let me take a moment to share a few of those I agree with and some of which I don’t. I have had the pleasure of playing on stages performing anything from classical and jazz to leading my own band through countless tours and live performances so I have met a lot of musicians and had lots of discussions on the matter.

If it’s one thing we musicians like to do is to talk music. All day and every day. Whether it’s learning new techniques, talking about new gear or sharing our experiences about a particular venue, musicians can’t get enough. I am guilty of this as well so I speak from experience. When I first starting learning the piano, I would try and get my hands on anything and everything that had a piano sheet music. This was pre-internet days so you had to do some digging in order to find the hidden spots that had great piano music. One of those places was Patelson’s in New York City. They had every piece of classical music I could ever want. I also picked up a few technique books such as Hanon and Czerny as well. I was going to be the best pianist I could be and that meant getting technically proficient. At least I thought that’s all I needed.

Beyond the technique

I soon came to realize throughout college that there was another element when it came to becoming a great piano player. Behind the technique, there had to be interpretive skills as well. How well could a pianist convey the emotions of a piece. I wanted to get better so I listened to a lot of music, went to a lot of great concerts in places like Carnegie Hall and immersed myself in every style I could think of. Classical, jazz, rock and latin. If a new pianist came out on the scene, I would listen and try to pick up something new.

Becoming a well rounded pianist has always been my goal for me as a player and my students. You may meet some who solely relies on playing by ear while someone else cannot play unless there is sheet music in front of them. The truth is that all skills are needed in order to be the type of piano player that can play in any situation. Whether it’s reading chord charts, picking something up off the radio or playing a Mozart Piano Concerto, a well balanced pianist can and should be able to do all of those.

In my opinion if one is looking to learn how to play the piano and be able to play across a variety of genres, then I feel there has to be a good balance of:

  • Technique
  • Theory
  • Sight Reading Ability
  • Ear Training
  • Knowledge in Various Genres
  • Good Daily Practice Routine
  • Listening to Other Pianists
  • Passion

What do you think it takes to become a great piano player? What is the best way to learn to play the piano?

how to play the piano