Piano lessons. Two words capable of striking fear into the heart of any child who’d much rather be playing football or hanging out with friends than struggling through a fumbling rendition of Frere Jacques in the foreboding presence of a stern-faced music teacher. Luckily, thanks to today’s technology, it no longer has to be that way. In 2020, if you want to learn piano - or have kids who do - the best online piano lessons deliver much more varied and palatable options for all budgets.
All joking aside, one-to-one piano lessons are still arguably one of the most effective ways of starting your piano journey. If you find a good local teacher you get along with, you’ll learn in a structured, progressive way, most likely taking a weekly lesson and practising at home in between. However, the cost and inconvenience of committing to a regular weekly time slot can be a disadvantage for many.
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Many potential pianists turn to YouTube for help. It’s free after all. There’s a vast amount of video content online, and it’s more than likely that you’ll be able to find lessons for the songs you want to play pretty quickly. However, there’s no guarantee as to the accuracy of the videos, and the quality of the teaching on offer can be extremely variable. With so many to choose from, picking the right lessons can be a shot in the dark.
This is where the best online piano lessons services here come in. They combine the best of both worlds – the freedom offered by the internet to learn at your own pace in your own space, with dedicated software providing the structured learning and educational gravitas of a real teacher.
With Black Friday on the horizon, it could be worth holding off on signing up to a new online piano lessons service until the Black Friday music deals start emerging. We'll be reporting on the best offers right through to Black Friday itself.
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Being primarily web-based, most online piano teaching solutions will run quite happily on both Mac and PC platforms, and most are also compatible with iOS and Android devices. If you plug a MIDI keyboard into your computer’s USB port, the software will be able to determine which keys you’re pressing and which you’re missing, so you’ll be able to see how well you are (or aren’t) doing, and the site will be able to grade your progress and keep score, often in a trophy-led manner akin to a video game.
So if you’re a budding Bach or suspect you might have one in your circle, check out our guide to the best online piano lessons available today.
Our pick of the best online piano lessons
Playground Sessions is an online piano lesson site that wears its musical credentials with pride, and with legendary producer Quincy Jones credited as co-creator and jazz icon Harry Connick Jr as a tutor, that’s not surprising. They even have their own-branded MIDI keyboard available to buy for use with the software.
The lessons are fully interactive and are produced in a video-game style to keep things fun and addictive. Plug in a MIDI keyboard and you get visual feedback to keep you on the right track – play a note right, it turns green; play it wrong, it turns red. Earn rewards to level up and unlock extra content, and record and play back lessons to see where you went wrong and how to improve.
There’s plenty of solid music theory in amongst the content, but the lesson plans are aimed at getting you playing songs quickly without getting too bogged down in theory initially.
There’s a large song library (although the more popular songs may require additional fees) and three payment structures to choose from; monthly or annual subscriptions or a lifetime membership.
Overall, Playground Sessions represents a fantastic option for learning the piano with your computer or iPad.
Produced in collaboration with Yamaha - who, let’s face it, know a thing or two when it comes to pianos - Flowkey works well with either a MIDI keyboard or acoustic piano, providing accurate visual feedback and progress tracking with either method. In fact, if you buy a Yamaha piano, you’ll also get a three months’ premium Flowkey membership thrown in.
The idea is to learn to play your favourite piano songs via a selection of intermediary lessons. Your skill level is assessed during the setup process so you can jump into the lessons at the correct starting point. The software has a user-friendly interface that’s easy to navigate, whether you want to pick a lesson plan or simply skip to a song you want to learn, and you can slow things down or pause the lesson for the difficult bits.
You can choose either a monthly or yearly subscription plan, and there’s also a 30-day free trial period to allow you to check things out, during which you can view the full list of songs and lessons, but only actually access a limited number of them.
If you’re new to the world of the piano, Skoove has interactive Beginner and Intermediate courses to get you up and running, after which you can continue with further tuition either in a Pop or Classical direction.
The ‘listen, learn, play’ approach adopted by the software helps you quickly master new playing skills, plus there’s basic advice on how to begin to improvise, all with a healthy emphasis on the importance of good technique.
The interface is well laid-out and easy to get to grips with for young and old alike, and you can either use a MIDI or conventional keyboard – the system recognises either type quite happily. All-in-all, Skoove embodies a simple and effective method for learning piano online.
If classical piano is your thing, probably the best online piano lessons for learning classical music come courtesy of ArtistWorks’ Piano with Christie Peery program. Featuring hundreds of lessons for every level of expertise from novice to advanced, the site is part of the ArtistWorks Video Exchange platform, meaning that as well as access to the Video Exchange Library archive, you can submit videos yourself and have them personally reviewed by Christie, a renowned concert pianist and teacher, who then passes on feedback on your performance.
These interactions are shared with other ArtistWorks users (and you can see theirs, obviously), so a library of personalised advice is being built up all the time
3, 6 or 12-month subscription plans are available, with the price dropping the longer you subscribe for. For instance, 3 months works out at $35 a month, dropping to $23 a month for a 12-month subscription. As well as a keyboard, you’ll need access to a metronome and video recording device (you can just use a smartphone for this) so you can capture and submit your own practice sessions for review.
The clue to ArtistWorks’ MO is in its title – this is a teaching site that puts the credentials of its tutors to the fore. Piano is just one of many instruments you can learn, and as well as classical there are also jazz and pop piano courses available, so if you like the idea of one-to-one learning, you can sign up for a free lesson to test the water.
Pianoforall is a video-based online piano teaching site that differs slightly from the rest, not just in that there’s a one-off payment of $79 for lifetime access to all of its content (plus free future updates), but that it aims to teach you to play by ear, improvise and compose, rather than taking a more traditional route.
There’s a strong emphasis on chord shapes and how to use them to play popular songs quickly, so if you’ve struggled with more traditional piano lessons, Pianoforall might well end up being Pianoforyou!
Including loads of video content and an online app, Piano Marvel is designed to be used with a MIDI keyboard so that you can receive instant feedback on your progress. The library is geared towards popular songs, with over 1,500 to choose from across multiple genres, and the game-like lesson plans include thousands of exercises to work through.
Your playing is graded as you go along, and to keep your motivation going you can win trophies that can then be shared via social media, all of which makes Piano Marvel an excellent choice for kids and young adults.
There’s a free account option to try things out, but the subscription includes full access to the video lesson library, and a bonus is the included SASR sight reading challenge, an innovative way of tracking and assessing your sight-reading skills over time.
Primarily based on video content, Piano With Willie is probably more suited to adults than young children. Part of the jazzedge.com umbrella site, it consists of thousands of lessons from Berklee Music School graduate Willie Myette, available for purchase on a monthly or annual subscription basis.
Here you’ll find a ton of content to help you progress on your journey into the world of the piano, whatever level you’re currently at. A diverse range of additional microsites covering a wealth of different genres including jazz, blues, gospel, Latin, funk and rock are also available, and you’ll come across lessons on improvisation and arrangement, the kind of topics rarely found in other online piano lesson sites.
Weekly live group Skype sessions are also an option if you’re still keen on the type of coaching that face-to-face lessons would provide.
Putting the focus squarely on video tuition, Music2me currently offers more than 150 tutorial videos and includes more than 75 songs. Each lesson is presented with the piano keyboard at the top and the score at the bottom; these play in sync so you can make sure your fingers are playing the right notes at the right time. You can reduce the tempo in order to practise difficult sections, and it’s also possible to loop tricky parts so that you can practise on repeat.
Music2me can run on any internet-connected device - phone, tablet or computer - and scales to fit your screen. There’s not a lot of interactivity or feedback here, but if you’re happy just to watch and learn, there’s plenty to get your teeth into.
What’s so great about learning piano online?
Learning to play the piano at your own pace in the comfort of your own home is a great option if you’ve always wanted to learn but never found the time or found traditional, face-to-face lessons too expensive or difficult to fit into a busy schedule.
The brilliant thing about the best online piano lesson services available to budding pianists today is that they combine the best of both worlds - an affordable, practical alternative to traditional lessons with recourse to one-on-one coaching should you need it.
Above all, many of the bespoke apps used by these services have been designed in a video game-style format, with progress tracking and added motivation in the form of trophies, bonuses and unlockable extra content that are great for keeping kids interested. The easy accessibility of this approach means that even the greenest of novices should be able to learn to play a beginner song in about an hour.
The apps make use of your device’s built-in microphone or USB-connected MIDI keyboard to listen to your performance, then analyse your progress and grade you accordingly, with some sites even offering personal feedback from your tutor.
What should you look for in online piano lessons?
The answer to this really depends on what you want to get out of the experience. Can you already play a bit and just want to learn a few songs to impress people at the next office party? Are you a complete beginner who wants to progress through the ranks to a high standard? Or are you just looking for a good way for your kids to learn the basics of the piano?
Truth be told, almost any online piano teaching site worth looking at will cater for the whole range of abilities and aspirations, from complete novice to advanced player. The best sites offer a combination of archived video content, usually structured as courses according to skill level, and bespoke software to deliver structured learning with progress tracking and instant visual feedback. Flexible, good value subscription plans are important, and many sites offer a free trial period or introductory content so that you can see if the system works for you, or even if piano is the right instrument for you in the first place!
Whether or not the site works with a MIDI keyboard and/or acoustic piano or non-MIDI keyboard with built-in speakers is another important consideration, based on the equipment you intend to use with the service. For instance, if all you have is the upright piano in your parents’ front room, you’ll need a site that offers good note recognition via your device’s microphone, but if you have a basic MIDI controller keyboard that makes no sound on its own, MIDI compatibility is a must-have.
How does the cost compare with face-to-face lessons?
Most sites offer monthly or annual subscription plans that break the cost of the lessons down into manageable chunks. Compared to a rough average price of $20 for a traditional, 30-minute, person-to-person lesson, online sessions range from $15-50 per month depending on the length of subscription and array of content on offer.
Based on this estimate alone, the cost of online lessons works out considerably less expensive over the course of a month than one 30-minute traditional lesson per week.
What are the best MIDI controllers for use with online piano lessons
MIDI controller keyboards use a single USB cable connected to your computer to both power the keyboard and transmit the MIDI data that tells the computer what keys you’re pressing as you play.
Because they’re normally designed to work with DAW’s and software instruments that generate sound within your computer, many controller keyboards make no sounds of their own, but for use with online piano teaching sites they’ll work just as well as a MIDI-capable digital piano or keyboard with its own onboard sounds and built-in speakers.
The best keyboards will have a socket on the rear for a sustain pedal, an important consideration when learning proper piano technique. Listed below are a few choice examples of MIDI controller keyboards that will help you get the most out of your online piano learning experience.
Playground Sessions PG-150
$160 including 1 month Playground Sessions Membership
If you’re taking out a Playground Sessions membership, why not consider a keyboard specifically designed to be used with the service? This 61-key, five octave keyboard has semi-weighted keys, built-in speakers for practicing and an audio input so you can connect your computer or tablet’s headphone output and hear the app’s sound through the speakers as you progress through the lessons. With a slot for a tablet built into the top panel, a USB connector, sustain pedal input and five of its own onboard sounds, it comes bundled with membership to Playground Sessions starting at $160 for a month’s subscription, rising to $400 for a lifetime membership.
This bargain-basement 49-key MIDI controller keyboard from Alesis is a great option if you only need a solution for playing the kind of simple tunes you’ll encounter in beginner lessons. 49 keys is realistically the minimum you can get away with for learning piano - any less and you won’t have room for both hands - but just because it’s low-cost doesn’t mean that the Q49 is low-quality, as Alesis are one of the best-regarded brands in the business. Everything you need, nothing you don’t, cheap as chips – what’s not to like?
Yamaha Piaggero NP12
All new Yamaha keyboards now include a free, three-month Flowkey Premium membership, and this particular 61-key model is also available bundled with a Playground Sessions subscription, headphones, sustain pedal and USB cable from the Playground Sessions store. The NP12’s compactness makes it easy to move around, and it features built-in speakers, a velocity-sensitive keyboard and sounds sampled from a Yamaha concert grand piano.
Roland GO-61P GO:Piano
Something a little different, this compact, 61-key digital piano from Roland features Bluetooth connectivity so it can communicate wirelessly with online piano tuition apps and stream audio through its built-in speakers so you can play along. It can also be battery-powered if you’re on the move, contains a wide variety of piano, electric piano and organ sounds and comes with a music stand that works well for supporting a tablet on the top. Throw in a digital metronome and an onboard recorder to capture your practice sessions and you’ve got almost the perfect partner for your online lesson plan. There’s also an 88-key version - the GO-88P - available if you fancy it.
M-Audio Keystation 88 MkII
For an authentic piano-playing experience, you can’t beat a full-size, 88-note controller with fully-weighted keys, but this often comes with a hefty price tag to match. The keys on this affordable piano-sized controller are semi-weighted, but are expressive enough for beginners and way more authentic feeling than many synth-action controllers in the same price bracket. If you want all 88 keys for not much cash, M-Audio has you covered there too - for the full piano experience, you can splash out £400 for the M-Audio Hammer 88, a fully-weighted version that comes with a three-month subscription to Skoove, or if you don’t mind a synth-action keybed and don’t need as many keys, the extremely reasonably-priced Keystation 61 MkIII is an excellent choice too.