Robert Estrin - piano expert

What is the Best Way to Learn Piano?

is there an answer to this basic question?

In this video, Robert discusses what's the best way to learn piano... is there actually a "best" way?

Released on September 11, 2019

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Hi. Robert Estrin at, your online piano store, with a viewer question. What is the best way to learn to play the piano or how to learn to play the piano? What a basic question is this, but it's not such a simple thing to answer, is it? Well, you know, in a perfect world, you grow up in a household, and as a young child, you're exposed to music, you have a beautiful grand piano to practice on, your parents are nurturing and loving and they find the best teacher they can for you who's good at dealing with children and inspiring, and your parents encourage you and have you play for company. You have all of this wonderful exposure from a young age and training. That's one ideal situation, but one size does not fit all.

For example, oftentimes I encounter people who contact me, who their whole lives, they've wanted to play the piano and maybe they're finally retired and they have the time and they want to invest in a piano and put time into it. Is that a good situation? Well, absolutely. Because the key to being able to be successful at the piano is immersion. You want to immerse yourself into the piano in every way possible. Not just practicing the piano, but listening to concerts, getting together with other people, talking to the piano, reading about the piano, everything around the piano. The more involved you are mentally with the instrument as well as physically playing it, the better off you're going to do.

Now, what about this whole idea of finding a good teacher and studies from a young age? Is this really necessary? Well, if you want to be a concert pianist and you decide to start in your 30s or 40s or later, chances are you're not going to achieve that world class level of, supreme technique on the piano. However, I wouldn't want to discourage anyone from trying. It just it tends to be harder, just like learning a language later in life, although there are some people who do that amazingly well, as well.

But there's a whole other aspect of this, which is the style of music you want to play. If you want to be a classical player, particularly a concert level player, absolutely get a first-class teacher to show you the intricacies of stylistic differences of the period styles, how to deal with ornamentation, how to practice particularly thorny sections, all of that. You're going to want to have the help.

But suppose you just want to play popular music. Maybe you like to improvise a new agey kind of stuff or you want to play country music or ... Are lessons really necessary for that? Well, not necessarily. A lot of people can pick things up on their own. Some people watch YouTube videos and are able to figure out music and I've seen people do surprisingly well with that method. Now I'm not talking my kind of YouTube videos. I'm talking about the type that shows you the keyboard, every note you need to play. Some of them are almost like a video game with things coming down that you play with the fingers. While I can't even imagine learning the piano that way, I've encountered people who can play relatively well, who've learned from YouTube that way.

There isn't just one way to learn the piano, particularly if you're playing popular styles. Playing by ear is really necessary. To give you an extreme example of how important it is to be able to play anything by ear, a classical background is not necessarily going to help you in that regard. Years ago, we were having a birthday party for somebody and it was in my dad's studio. We had a bunch of people over. One of my dad's former students was there and she had graduated from Julliard in piano performance, was doing her master's work, studying with Sascha Gorodnitzki, one of the top teachers there, working on Rachmaninoff concertos. A very accomplished pianist. Well, my father said, 'Lori, play happy birthday." At that point, Lori broke in a cold sweat. "What note does it start on?" Can you imagine somebody who could play virtuoso piano music who couldn't play the simplest song by ear?

Because there's a kind of myopic way of looking at piano in conservatories. It's all about the classical traditions. They, for the most part, ignore all styles of music that you're likely to encounter in the real world. After graduation, most of the work playing piano is accompanying. Sure, your reading is good for that, but what about if you're going to play events, play parties, or weddings, or things of that nature? You've got to be able to play and be able to make things up and be able to groove with other people by listening. Playing by ear is a lot of fun. It can be richly rewarding. You don't necessarily have to start young and you don't necessarily have to have formal training in order to do that.

Indeed, there's more than one way to learn how to play the piano depending on what your goals are. That's the lesson for today. If you immerse yourself in it, no matter how you go about it, you're going to learn how to play their piano in one way or another.

I hope this has been enlightening and helpful, as well as inspiring to those of you wanting to learn to play the piano. If you thought you'd lost your opportunity, I say to that, nonsense, it's never too late. Give it a whirl. As long as you enjoy it, it's worthwhile for you.

Once again, I'm Robert Estrin here at, your online piano store. Thanks again for joining me.
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