Can You Learn the Piano by Playing Songs? - Sing Music Studio (2024)

Have you wanted to play the piano, but you prefer learning with pop songs, rock anthems, top 40 hits, and other contemporary genres? Our piano lessons in Mississauga allow you to do just that. Keep reading to learn how you can play the piano without classical music or traditional etudes, and please get in touch for more information about online or in-person lessons. We would be happy to hear from your regarding guitar lessons and voice lessons as well.

Can You Learn Piano By Playing Songs?

Yes, you can learn the piano by playing songs, although this approach won’t equip you to play scales, arpeggios, or advanced classical repertoire like concertos and sonatas. If your goal is to be able to read notes, learn chords, and play music off lead sheets or by ear, you can start with your favourite songs and take it from there.

Before we continue, note that we do offer lessons with Rockschool curriculum, which uses top 40 hits to teach music theory, note reading, contemporary playing, and more. You can become a well-rounded modern keyboardist using the music you love – let us know if you have any questions.

Three Options: Sheet Music, Lead Sheets or Ear Playing

Learn To Play The Piano By Ear

Learning music purely by ear is doable, although you won’t be able to read music or lead sheets this way. You can start by picking out tunes on your own, or copy what you hear while listening to a recording.

Begin the process by listening to a tune or reviewing one in your head that you already know. Then, with your right hand, trying to “sound out” the tune on the keyboard. Listen for upward movement, downward movement, steps and skips, and keep going until you can play the tune.

Then, once you have that down, practice playing a bass note (in the left hand) that sounds correct alongside the melody you are playing in your right hand. The left hand notes can repeat themselves – you don’t need to play a different left hand note alongside each note in the right hand.

Thirdly, fill out your bass line with chords. Generally, you can create a filled-out left hand accompaniment with triads, or three notes stacked on top of each other in thirds. Here’s a visualization, courtesy of the University of Indiana:

Can You Learn the Piano by Playing Songs? - Sing Music Studio (1)

The drawback is that you won’t necessarily know the names of the chords or notes you’re playing unless you learn the notes on the piano.

Learn To Play Songs on the Piano With Sheet Music

If you visit or a similar sheet music aggregator, you can download the sheet music for your favorite rock or pop songs (often for free). If you don’t know how to read music though, it will take some time.

Your first task will be to learn the keys on the piano keyboard. You need to be able to identify middle C, F, G, and so on. You can learn this on Youtube, from flashcards, or in a book.

Next, you must learn to read notes on a musical staff (both the bass and treble clefs). This takes some time, but reading music will allow you to download any sheet music you want to and learn how to play it.

You can even use the sheet music from your favorite songs to drill your knowledge. Simply pencil in the names above each note on the staff in both the treble and bass clefs, erase it and do it again until you are fluent. Then put your knowledge into practice by reading the sheet music and playing the notes on the keyboard, one hand at a time. Putting your hands together is a challenging leap, and you should learn your music hands separately first.

Last tip for this section – you must practice your music very slowly and carefully. This applies to every instrument, whether you are taking violin lessons in Mississauga or something else. Each time you play a wrong note, you introduce a new bad habit. So play the music no faster than you can play it accurately.

Learning Songs on the Piano From Lead Sheets

Lead sheets (or reading a “fake” book) are different from ear playing or reading sheet music. You are given fragmented pieces of the melody (only repeated in the music when something changes) and symbols for the accompanying chords. Generally, you would only successfully read a lead sheet for a song you are already familiar with. Here’s an example from

Can You Learn the Piano by Playing Songs? - Sing Music Studio (2)

You will need to be able to read music and have a strong knowledge of chords and inversions to read lead sheets, so this is not the best way for a beginner to learn how to play the piano. You are given chord symbols on the page (like F7, D9, etc.) then build the actual chords on the keyboard on your own.

Learn To Play Your Favourite Songs on the Piano With a Skilled Teacher

If you want to become a confident pianist, your best bet is to work with a teacher in person or online. At Sing Music Studio, we can help you read music, play chords, improvise, read lead sheets, and more, and we want you to play the music you love. Get in touch regarding music lessons in Mississauga today.

Can You Learn the Piano by Playing Songs? - Sing Music Studio (2024)


Can you learn piano just by playing songs? ›

Can You Learn Piano By Playing Songs? Yes, you can learn the piano by playing songs, although this approach won't equip you to play scales, arpeggios, or advanced classical repertoire like concertos and sonatas.

Can you learn piano just by listening? ›

You prefer to simply stream your favorite tune then figure it out by ear. The beauty of piano is that there's no 'correct' learning method, and learning songs by ear just by listening and repeating is just as valid as the more scholarly routes.

What is the best way to learn a piano song? ›

Segment the music into bite-size chunks, i.e. initially just take a small segment of the song, say 1-2 bars and, going as slowly as you like, practice the left hand about 5 times just in that segment. Then, when you can comfortably play the left hand, do the right hand about 5 times until you can comfortably play it.

Can you get better at piano just by playing? ›

Absolutely. When you sit down to practice a piece of music, instead of simply playing it from start to finish, first look through and find the parts that are going to be challenging for you. Take one of these parts and play it very slowly, as slow as you need to in order to play accurately.

Can piano be self-taught? ›

Can I teach myself piano? There are many self-taught musicians, so the answer to this question is most definitely YES. There are many excellent books, videos, blogs, and apps to learn from. If self-learning is your goal, do the research to find out which materials and methods will work best for you.

How long does it take to learn a full song on piano? ›

For instance, a beginner may be able to learn a simple piece in a matter of weeks, while a more complex composition could take several months or even years to master.

Is playing piano by ear a talent? ›

It's actually something we can all do – at least to some extent – and, like any skill, playing piano by ear is any ability that can be developed over time. What you may not realize is whenever you learn to play a piano song, you are actually learning it both ways – both by ear and by reading the sheet music.

Can you learn piano just by memorizing? ›

Yes, it is possible to memorize piano music quickly. An advanced musician may be able to memorize an easy piece in a day or two, and if the piece is more intermediate or early advanced, a couple of weeks is not entirely out of reach.

How long does it take to learn piano by ear? ›

How long it takes to learn playing piano by ear will depend on the individual and how much time they are willing to commit to practice. However, most people can learn the basics within a few weeks. Those who want to become more skilled players may need to dedicate several months or even years to practice.

What is the best method to learn piano quickly? ›

To Learn Fast, Start Slow

Let's face it, you want your fingers to fly. Playing fast is fun, but a consistent, tight run at a slower tempo is always better than a fast and sloppy run. So, drill your fundamentals. Practice at a slow tempo, then increase your speed only when you can master the current tempo.

How do pianists learn pieces so quickly? ›

Understanding a piece of music

Pianists typically start memorising a piece by learning the musical periods and then breaking down the major parts to the number of bars that they are formed of. This process should happen consciously and in most professional cases by just sight reading the notes.

Is playing piano a talent or skill? ›

So we've learned that you don't need a jaw-dropping amount of talent to be a great piano player. All you need is to have a love for your piano, practice diligently, and fix your mindset on your end goal. Really, that's all it takes to become a great piano player.

What is the hardest thing about playing piano? ›

There are several factors that make piano uniquely challenging. These include playing with both hands, reading both treble and bass clef, and accessibility.

How many years does it take to get good at piano? ›

Stages of Piano Playing
Level of PlayingDuration of StagePractice Required
Beginner3-12 months0.5-1 hour daily
Intermediate1-3 years1-2 hours daily
Advanced5-10 years3-4 hours daily
Expert12-20+ years5-8 hours daily
May 10, 2023

Is it possible to learn piano without reading music? ›

If a student is going to learn to play the piano without reading music, they will need to do it by relying completely on their ears. This is much more difficult because musical pitch is not the same for everyone.

Can you take piano lessons if you don't own a piano? ›

So, yes: you can learn piano if you don't have one

Yes! Can you make music for fun, to experience joy, and to learn more without the pressure that we've come to expect from music lessons and classes? Yes yes yes!

Can I teach myself piano without a piano? ›

However, there are certain tricks and tools you can use to start learning before investing in your own piano: Try a mobile or digital keyboard: Digital or virtual keyboards are the best way to learn piano online. Use a website like Online Pianist or an app like Garageband that has a built-in keyboard.

Can I learn piano without talent? ›

Don't believe what people say about being naturally talented – this is why anyone can learn to become a great piano player. “Natural talent.” It's the idea that some people are born with an incredible ability or they learn faster than everybody else.


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