As the world gets more and more technologically advanced, it seems like there's nothing we can't do online. We can order food, shop, entertain ourselves, play games, learn languages, read books, and talk to each other--all without leaving the comfort of our screens.
Software to learn the piano has actually been around for much longer than the average smartphone. But these programs have become more advanced and in-depth as time goes on. You can plop down in front of a screen and learn the keys, the notes, and the techniques.
So is piano learning software actually useful?
To answer this question, we might need to break it down. If piano learning software is useful, can it give you everything that a traditional teacher does? Or are there some things that a computer truly can't teach you?
Different Types of Learning Software
It's important to understand that there are different kinds of software. The more advanced ones have high price tags to match. Meanwhile, the inexpensive and free ones might teach you the basics, but they won't have as many robust features as their expensive counterparts.
Regardless of the learning software, though, the goal is to teach you to play a digital piano. You'll be able to tap the keys on your screen and make music happen.
Now, that causes some issues right away. The digital skills you learn won't necessarily translate to the physical piano. You won't know about the right posture, technique, or how to push down on real keys to get a precise volume.
Some of the piano programs can be purchased as a one-time payment, and others require an ongoing subscription. Depending on the cost of the subscription, those payments can add up just like regular lessons would.
These are some of the features you can expect to find in an advanced piano learning software package:
- Interactive games and leveling tools for learning about the piano
- Information about history, music theory, and how to read music
- Libraries of songs to learn
- Narrated lessons from beginner to advanced
Some software even comes with electronic composer features. You can use these to create and record your own digital piano music.
Gamification is a big aspect of these software options. But you can gamify real lessons, too.
What You Get from the Software
The quality of the software makes a big difference in how potentially useful it is. You will always have some limitations if you aren't playing on an actual piano because certain techniques need to be learned by doing.
With that said!
The programs often incorporate the same learning tools that people use to learn languages online. They bring you through a course step by step, with a full curriculum that goes from beginner to expert.
You want to strike a balance with the program you pick: It should be engaging enough to keep you interested, but informative enough that you're actually learning.
Game-heavy designs might be tempting because the leveling and rewards are super fun. But are they actually helping with the development of long-term skills?
Software can teach you the following:
- Scales, notes, chords, rhythms, and chord progressions
- How to read music
- How to play music by ear
- How to build upon your skills to start playing more complex pieces
Some people gravitate toward piano software because it is more affordable than lessons and it allows you to play on your own time.
That approach often works very well for adults, as older people have developed self-discipline. They know how to make a habit out of their hobbies and stay motivated. And if they aren't sure they want to commit to the instrument, then they haven't invested too much money.
When it comes to kids, though, it's a different story. Kids might enjoy the gamification aspects of piano software, but they usually don't have the discipline to stick with it as a habit. On top of this, kids need a teacher to correct their technique and help the lessons stick in their brains.
What You Get from Hands-On Lessons
With so many free lessons available online, plus inexpensive software available to teach you the basics, you might think that in-person lessons are obsolete.
But there are important aspects of the piano that you can really only get by connecting with a good teacher.
First of all, you get to learn on an actual piano. Pianos are much more tactile than the screen of your tablet. You'll get to feel the weight of the keys and the reverberation of the pedals. You'll get to experiment with sound and sharp staccato notes and different chords.
If you do choose to use piano software instead of a real teacher, consider investing in a keyboard. Keyboards are much more inexpensive than traditional pianos. At the same time, they allow you to practice on real keys, work on your posture, and make traditional music.
The benefits don't end there, though. The biggest advantage of a teacher is this: Your lessons are tailored exactly to your unique needs. If you're struggling with a concept or a chord, your teacher can help you through it. You can even design your lessons around your favorite music.
Regular lessons are a commitment. You need to show up at a specific time, and you need to practice in between. If you're a parent, reminding your child to practice might sometimes feel like a chore.
But your piano teacher will match your pace as you go through the lessons. You'll get comfortable with each aspect of your education before you move on to more complicated things. Like with learning algebra or a language, you'll build upon a foundation with each new lesson.
Piano software can't yet create lessons that are perfectly suited to you. It can't reframe confusing concepts or help you practice or encourage you not to give up.
And there is no piano software advanced enough to make you a completely proficient musician by itself. That's something that takes extended study, discipline, and practice.
So Is Piano Learning Software Useful?
We'll say that piano learning software can be useful... if you're using it correctly.
Do you want it to teach you everything about playing the piano? Do you expect to become a proficient musician without ever touching a piano or any other supplemental materials?
Then you'll find yourself disappointed. The software can't take the place of a more disciplined study.
But do you want it to help you learn piano basics on your own time, so you can make more efficient use of your lessons?
Then you might find it extremely helpful.
Piano learning software was developed to reach a wide audience of people who might not have access to pianos or the ability to have one-on-one lessons. In that regard, it has accomplished its goals extremely well.
Many people who weren't sure about committing to the instrument have started with the inexpensive software, and then they've moved on to real lessons after falling in love with the music. Like languages, books, and other educational tools, the internet has made it much easier to access the basics of this knowledge.
If you do use software to learn the piano, here are some tips to get the most out of it:
- Schedule one-on-one lessons with a teacher if you can. If you can't, try supplementing the software with free lessons online.
- Study the music you love outside of the software by printing your favorite songs and marking the chords.
- Invest in a keyboard so you can play on actual piano keys instead of tapping on a flat digital screen.
- Practice a little bit every day, even if you don't learn anything new.
For parents with kids who want to learn, getting a proper teacher is critical. That teacher will teach your child discipline, technique, and motivation. They can also make piano lessons a lot more fun than an unfeeling piece of computer code!