Piano Technique - How Effective Are Online Piano Programs In Building Technique?

Thank you for sharing your piano journey. I find your advice interesting, honest and real. Keep up the good work. I am a late starter at piano playing and loving it hugely. It's been only seven months since I discovered my passion for it and am very impatient to play well. I'm learning via a wonderful interactive piano software tutorial program Piano Marvel and a piano teacher twice a month. If I may, I would like your opinion on the effectiveness of learning piano from an interactive online piano program. Your thoughts on this subject will be much appreciated.

- Siew Spicer, Perth, Western Australia


Hi, I am of the opinion that online piano programs, DVDs and computer softwares are not helpful in infusing the necessary piano technique and skills needed to become a great pianist. They may prove useful in teaching you how play at a basic level but not more. I must stress here that I have never tried any of them and this is only my opinion and most certainly I could be wrong.

Why? …Because you need a great teacher to acquire the piano technique, skills and musical knowledge that paves the way towards becoming a superb pianist.

I can say so with absolute confidence because I am learning from such a teacher.

A real person standing next to you, meticulously observing your every finger movement on the piano is able to point out the mistakes you are making immediately. He could then show you how to play correctly and improve your piano technique. 

Every mistake you make on the piano is an experience, one that will be remembered by the teacher, he would be able to anticipate similar mistakes that you would most probably make when playing other piano pieces. Therefore he is better prepared and becomes a better teacher to you and in turn you gain more from him.

A tone emanating from the piano can differ significantly depending on the way the key is touched. The subtle nuances of a piano sound can only be identified by a human being. A great piano teacher would moan at the slightest deviation in the tone of a note in a piano piece he is teaching. You would be forced to correct your touch, either by adjusting your hand, arm or body motion – a computer software is unable to offer such advice on piano technique.

Apart from the mechanics of playing the piano i.e fingering, pedalling, sight-reading and body movements, there is the artistic element to it. 

Articulating a musical line and expressing it through your piano playing - Playing triplets sweetly, chords magnificently, end of phrases softly; these are expressions a pianist has to feel in his heart and convey them with his music making. A teacher with his own beating heart shall hear your expressions whether or not you are articulating them in a proper manner.

Learning the piano in itself is already an isolating process. We have to spend hours alone practising to improve our piano technique. I would rather have someone with me once a week even if it is just for one hour telling me how to play better. 

Life experience has taught me that the thing that makes me truly happy is a stimulating interaction with another person – a great piano teacher will share stories about a famous pianist, play one of his favourite songs, glow with pride when you play well and if you are lucky, with matching personalities it feels like you are best friends.

Up until now I have learnt almost about 100 songs. Each of them has been a joy to play. Every song was given to me by my piano teacher. I have always been amazed by his good taste, everytime he gives me a new piano song to learn; I like it. Musical taste can not be programmed into a computer software.

When I first set out to learn how to play the piano, I was already filled with passion. I knew it would be hard and it will take a long time. I was lucky to have found a teacher who was even more passionate about teaching the piano, his passion was infectious - it multiplied my own. I practise everyday for hours willingly, never miss lessons, always arrive an hour early to practise some more beforehand, I was not even this hardworking in school – the piano changed my life.


Nizar,

Your thoughts to my query are spot on. Having said that, I do find interactive online learning highly effective for me at this stage where I am still learningthe mechanics of playing. Online is excellent for sight reading, note accuracyand timing. For artistry skills, I've a tutor, who comes to me at home (veryconvenient) but it's still early days learning from her. I've seen her no morethan half a dozen times. How well I'll learn from her remains to be seen. I certainly look forward to the day when I can say to myself "Hey I'm pretty good at the piano". It may not come for a very long time. The important thing is that I'm enjoying the musical journey. How long have you been playing the piano and did you learn from scratch? Did you have other tutors before you found this excellent teacher? I gather from your writing that you're an adult learner. I am more than an adult learner, I'm a retiree learner ... I find it's a good phase in life where you can devote your time to a hobby.

Best wishes,

Siew

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