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 presence of a stern-faced music teacher. Luckily, thanks to today’s technology, it no longer has to be such a daunting experience. 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.
While many budding pianists head straight for YouTube to find lessons - it’s free after all, we get it - the vast amount on offer can actually hinder your progress. As videos can be uploaded by anyone there’s no guarantee as to the accuracy of the videos, the quality of the teaching on offer can be extremely variable, and finding a sensible path through your learning journey can be tricky. Plus, 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. What's more, online lessons usually work out far cheaper than face-to-face lessons. Let's take a closer look.
Best online piano lessons: Our top picks
Our number one pick for the best online piano lessons has to be Playground Sessions. This virtual learning platform is brought to you by titans of the industry, with Jazz legend Harry Connick Jr walking you through essential piano techniques.
One of the newer services on the block is Pianote, launched by Musora - the company responsible for award-winning online drumming lessons site Drumeo. Pianote is aimed mostly at beginner to intermediate players via friendly tutors, great quality video and a structured approach to learning. It's one of the freshest approaches to piano lessons online right now.
If it's app-based learning you'd prefer, Simply Piano has established itself as the go-to service for beginner pianists and keyboard players who prefer to learn in a gameified fashion through their smartphone or tablet. It's fun, inclusive and loaded with content.
We also have to give a shout out to Flowkey. This incredibly intuitive app is well designed, well presented and perfect for beginners and returning pianists.
Best online piano lessons: Product guide
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.
Pianote takes the web-based, video-driven format and expands on it with access to highly trained professionals that are just a click away. In addition to two fully-structured learning paths, not only are you able to have your questions answered by real-life piano teachers, but you also gain access to weekly live-streaming video lessons, along with the ability to connect with teachers and students in the community forums.
The well-shot, high-definition videos and relaxed, informal teaching style let you know that Pianote is a premium product and a cut above the piano content readily available on YouTube. There’s no bespoke software to download, only lesson content like song charts and backing tracks, so you can use Pianote with any keyboard or piano, acoustic or otherwise.
The videos themselves are easy to follow, well presented and engaging, and there’s a library of over 100 songs to play along to. There could be more content for advanced players to dig into, but with its well-structured Method curriculum that spreads lessons over ten levels, Pianote is a fantastic resource for beginners or intermediate players to develop and grow.
Read the full Pianote review
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.
JoyTunes’ Simply Piano is an iOS/Android app for mobile devices aimed at getting newcomers up and running quickly and easily on the first few steps of their piano journey. That doesn’t mean that it’s only for newbies and kids though.
With an appealing, game-like interface, you simply plonk your mobile device on top of your piano or keyboard and you’re ready to go. The app either receives MIDI data from a connected keyboard as you play or listens to your instrument’s audio output through your device’s microphone.
The animation, sound effects and the way the courses are paced contribute to that ‘just one more go’ factor particularly well, and there’s enough content here to keep you interested well beyond the beginner stage, with plenty of intermediate lessons and a generous library of current songs to play along with.
Read the full Simply Piano review
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.
The Hoffman Academy’s mission is to ensure you become a “well-rounded musician”. The virtual learning platform utilises a series of kid-friendly video lessons, ear training exercises, sight-reading puzzles, and interactive games to achieve this.
All the lessons are led by Mr Hoffman and are short and easily digestible - especially for young children - featuring a satisfying camera angle and on-screen visual aids that help to illustrate the techniques discussed in the lesson.
The course is broken down into 15 units, each consisting of 20 lessons, plus a popular music section which includes stand-alone lessons for everything from the Star Wars theme to Amazing Grace. However, it has to be said that while the lessons here are undoubtedly high quality, older students may find the repertoire a little basic. On the plus side, as this is not an app-based learning system - it simply uses any device with a web browser - it will work with any piano, acoustic or digital.
Best online piano lessons: Buying advice
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 you've found 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 keyboard song in about an hour.
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, some software can even 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.
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 - at least 7 days, often more - 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.
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.
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