For some reason, whenever you search for anything free online, you are inundated with sites created solely for collecting email addresses or for selling a product. This is especially true when it comes to sites on the Internet that offer free piano lessons. Unfortunately, almost 90 percent of the websites with “free piano lessons” in the title only offer one or two very basic lessons.
Ultimately, they want you to sign up for paid full-length piano lessons. Thankfully, there really are legitimate websites out there that do offer legitimate, free piano lessons. MakeUseOf has always offered some of the best resources for music lessons, such as the review of ZentaoGuitar lessons for learning the electric guitar or Laurence’s list of essential free guitar playing online tools. Focusing on piano music, I offer MUO readers the following list of the top 5 free piano lesson websites online.
The Top 5 Websites for Learning Piano Online
This year, we are signing my youngest daughter up for piano lessons. In order to get her through the summer before lessons start, I decided to scour the web for free piano lessons. The problem, I quickly discovered, is that it’s extremely difficult to find legitimate free piano lessons. However, after spending several days sifting through most of the online offerings, I came up with a list of five of the most useful and educational piano lessons around. My criteria for classifying a website with piano lessons as useful and “top-ranking” was the following.
- The quality and skill level of the website author’s music expertise
- The “intent” of the website – does it only exist to sell you something or to actually teach you about playing piano?
- The technology – are there flash or java applications that let you actually play music based on the lesson at hand?
Using these criteria, I was able to isolate five very useful and high-quality piano lesson websites that anyone could use to teach themselves how to play piano.
Zebra Keys: Everything You Need on One Site
Zebra Keys is probably one of the best sites for piano lessons. Each of the lessons are professionally written and cleanly laid out so that they’re very easy to follow. Best of all, an interactive piano keyboard is built right into the lesson articles so that you can practice what you’re learning directly on the lesson page.
Each key is clearly laid out, and the letter of each note shows up just underneath the key – making it much easier to learn which note goes with each piano key. Once you’ve progressed through a few lessons and you want to try your hand at playing a song – Zebra Keys offers Z-Board V1.0, a virtual keyboard with all notes and chords displayed on it.
This makes it far easier to play music at the beginning, because you aren’t struggling so hard to remember where the correct notes are. While this feature is definitely fun to use, probably the most useful and effective resource at the Zebra Keys website are the list of “trainer” tools that can help piano students with certain aspects of understanding music.
The example above is the interactive “note trainer,” but other web applications available include the keyboard trainer, interval ear trainer, scale ear trainer, and a chord ear trainer.
PianoNanny: Better Than the Real Thing
One of the best sites for learning piano online is PianoNanny. This is one of those rare sites that offers the most detailed, expert piano lessons for absolutely free. Just reading through the lessons, you get the sense that you’re sitting beside an actual piano teacher who really knows their stuff. Each session includes text, keyboard images to help you visualize what the teacher is talking about, and even mini-apps like a “student note pad” to take notes.
Another cool mini-app that you’ll find in the middle of some of these lessons is a “12 note companion” where you can try the lesson that you just learned.
As you press each piano key, the note is automatically displayed. This approach forces you to try to remember where each note is, which of course encourages better memorization and faster learning than the approach ZebraKeys uses. Featuring 13 starter, 11 intermediate and 10 advanced lessons, PianoNanny is the most thorough of all the piano lesson websites listed in this article.
Plern Online Piano Teacher and Composer
The Plern Piano is easily one of the most addictive and, believe it or not, fun online tools that you can use to learn how to play piano. The Plern Piano tool has dual uses; music composers can create a song from scratch, or piano students can import music from a MIDI file to learn how to play a song. Plern Piano plays through the song and as it scrolls across the music sheet, it provides you with a graphical representation of which key you need to press as well as the duration of the note. Think Tetris in musical form.
BerkleeShares – Free Piano Lessons From the Berklee College of Music
Starting in 2003, the Berklee College of Music started offering free music lessons online. The lessons include guitar, brass, bass and even DJ & turntable training. When you click on the “keyboards” section, you’ll find a list of 12 lessons in either YouTube video format or as a PDF document. The videos are about one to two minutes, and the PDF documents are an average of about 2 pages with embedded music clips.
For the most part, these lessons are very short, and feature a lot of promotion for the paid Berklee online certificate programs. However, they do offer excellent tips and useful content. This website is a good supplement, but don’t count on teaching yourself how to play piano by using these very short and simple lessons alone.
Ricci Adams’ MusicTheory Teaches You… Music Theory
MusicTheory is another very useful (and free) website that can teach you to play the piano. This website has 37 lessons, 10 “trainer” applications and 3 music utilities. The trainer applications on this website are exactly identical to those available at the Zebra Keys website but there are many more of them offered here. Best of all, the lessons are very thorough and offer a small keyboard app so that you can test some of the techniques you learn in each lesson.
The lessons are reminiscent of a Powerpoint presentation and you step through them in much the same way – by clicking an arrow on the screen. The lessons are clearly written by an expert and after going through these 37 piano lessons you’re sure to advance in your piano playing with a very thorough awareness of music theory.
Have you ever found or used, a legitimate and useful website to learn how to play piano online? Share your own favorites in the comments section below.