What to do when you don’t have a piano yet.

So you love listening to piano music and you’ve always wanted to play, or maybe you never thought of playing piano ever before but it seems like it would be fun to learn (it is), but, you don’t have a piano currently so you may as well just end the dream there, right?

No way!

There is so much you can do in beginning your piano-learning journey that does not involve a full-sized, heavy-ass piano hauled up three flights of stairs into your lounge!

I’ve done that, by the way. I had to bribe my co-workers at the time (five grown men + husband) to help lift it from the trailer into my lounge. I enjoyed my time playing it immensely (a 2nd hand, beautiful walnut-wood Ronisch) but wouldn’t you know it, 12 months later I was selling it in favour of a nice, portable, electronic stage piano named ‘CP33P0’ (it’s model name + Star Wars reference). The moral of the story is do not get a piano that weighs five tonnes before you’ve really decided to keep it, forever and ever. But I digress – some acoustic pianos are not that heavy and some stage pianos are HEFTY, so don’t let that put you off!

My point is that there are many easier, lighter ways to begin learning the piano. Let us explore:

Exhibit 1: the piano app

There are a ton of free and paid piano apps on the market and some have all the bells & whistles, but what you want is a simple app that has one octave (8 white keys, 5 black) so you can navigate around the notes of the keyboard and get the fingers working a little.

You’ll be able to find the best one for your needs and budget, but real quick here are my recommendations:

Android device: Perfect Piano – great option for Android devices and even has the capability for recording MIDI if you’re so inclined.

Apple device: Virtuoso Piano Free 3 - generally the more recommended of free, simple piano apps. Really does well to mimic the piano-playing vibe.


 
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Exhibit 2: a roll-out keyboard

I’ve seen people use these for finding their note in singing instead of using a tuning fork. It rolls up and fits in your bag easily and is great for casually practicing melodies – don’t expect much polyphony though (when a bunch of notes are sounded at the same time) and the feel will be a bit weird to get used to, but it’s STILL a great option to have for a little plink, plonk, plunk on the go. You can pick them up on Amazon pretty cheap. Watch this chick rocking it.

Exhibit 3: the second-hand keyboard

Too many people get caught up in buying the ultimate keyboard or piano and forget that when you’re starting out all the extra buttons and sounds AREN’T great, they’re distracting and can be overwhelming. You need something simple, with a few octaves (I’d say a 37-key minimum), and you’re on your way. You can pick up something grotesquely retro on eBay, put some stickers on it and call it a new 80s flashback trend! Here’s your inspiration.

It is so often the case that someone you know has an old keyboard they aren’t using.

Exhibit 4: phone a friend, or make friends with the local elderly folks

It is so often the case that someone you know has an old keyboard they aren’t using. Case in point, when I moved back to New Zealand from living in the UK I had not a key to my name let alone 88. So I put the word out to my facebook bubble and lo, I was offered a semi-weighted keyboard that actually cleaned up quite nicely. Use your friends, they love it! Also, often community centres and retirement homes are great places to seek out a public piano. People love listening to someone else playing piano so as long as you make some grand performance gestures they’ll think you’re a pro who’s come to entertain them!

Exhibit 5: draw a picture

I’m serious! Sometimes, when you just need practice on moving your fingers around, or familiarising yourself with the notes, a picture will do. Your best bet is to trace it from a real keyboard/piano so that you get the rough key widths correct. Practice stretching your thumb and little finger out as far as they’ll go and see how many keys it reaches over, great training method!

Any other ideas of how you can practice piano without actually having a piano? It’s not as abstract as it seems!