Sonja Joubert is a master pianist classically trained by the late master Mr Josias Van Der Merwe and the late Adolph Hallis. She is also an excellent piano teacher with over 40 years of teaching experience specialising in both jazz and classical piano.
Yes, it is absolutely possible, especially today with Google and YouTube’s accessibility where one can find everything you need in written format and on video which makes learning easy.
This information is easily accessible and one can learn wherever you are, on the tube, in a coffee shop or in the privacy of your own room at any time available. No booked time slots needed, nor monies to pay for a teacher or travelling to go for piano lessons.
One can quite easily find the “right” teacher on YouTube e.g. for learning e.g. Monk’s “Straight No Chaser” as quite a few videos are uploaded which one can follow.
You will find that some “teachers” have done the trouble to show you step by step the know-how so that one can quite easily learn a new piece.
There is the problem though that some who uploads videos do not have all the correct words or correct chords or notes for the pieces you would like to learn. The problem comes in when you do not have enough training or background to be able to discern which video is good or not good to follow and in the process, you probably will have to unlearn or re-learn the piece later with much difficulty.
Finding songs or music that one wants to learn can often be quite easy to find on Google and it helps the already learned student to hear and see others perform and thus incorporate tips and info from them.
One of the problems of self-teaching is consistency and motivation.
Teaching yourself can work if you are a very motivated person with a plan and a vision of how and what you want to teach yourself. It can work for those who already have the basic training and technique needed just to play a simple song. It all depends on where you want to go with your playing.
If you really want to progress and are serious about playing I would suggest that you do the trouble to find an excellent school that can help you develop your piano playing seriously.
I personally find learning from the YouTube pleasing and easy to learn by seeing and hearing by the ear, rather than learning by reading notes. Classical pieces, however, are quite a different story and reading of notes needed, although I have come across a high school student that developed his ear ability to such an extent that he worked out the whole Beethoven Moonlight sonata slow movement totally by ear – which was quite remarkable. But very few are able to follow this route. (There are also serious issues with these methods – you may pick up a lot of wrong habits!)
Now to come to the question: Can you teach yourself piano?
Of course, you can. The only problem is that most people will only do their own teaching ever so often, and never really develop or finish any piece of music unless they are highly motivated and disciplined!
I would however not recommend teaching yourself unless you are far away from town either on the moon or far from humanity and no teacher close by. Of course, if money is an issue self-teaching will be handy but “where there is a will there is a way“ as the proverb says.
It makes a huge difference when one can find a good teacher to teach you the skills needed, the correct hand position and seating position for your particular instrument.
Things like technique need to be trained properly. A good teacher or music school will help you with basic needed knowledge, skills and development.
Having a teacher helps with planning and structuring lessons and pieces you want to learn so that there is much more development and especially – the correct development for the student.
It’s important for a student to learn the right technique from the start.
Personal training though a teacher helps you to learn the right notes, the right fingering needed for passages to play – which has a huge impact on the capability to play passages effectively and with great speed where needed.
A student can also perform much better if they have the correct background and information about a specific pierce provided by the teacher.
The homework that a teacher assigns helps greatly in development on your piano, voice or whichever instrument you choose. It helps structure your development.
If you really are serious about your music – going for lessons will and can only help you much much more than trying to do it yourself.
Most people trying the “do-it-yourself” method in anything in life – struggles and they do not get the desired outcome, because they are not experts in that specific field.
Have you ever tried to build a “do it yourself “ brick wall etc?
It’s a mess unless it’s something easy like a do-it-yourself Ikea table with four simple screw-on legs!
Personally I have always found that going for a lesson or lessons from expert teachers, has only benefited me greatly and catapulted me forward with great motivation and skill!
A teacher is able to guide, correct, help and give you the know-how and materials you need to grow in your piano playing, making it better and more enjoyable. It always helps to have people helping one forward than trying to struggle on your own.
There is great benefit from being trained by professionally trained teachers or if one can train at a professional music school. The company of other students is great and sharing notes and frustrations can help too.
At a music school, there is the advantage of attending courses or group classes which many students find pleasurable and a lot of fun. It creates the opportunity of meeting others with common interests while learning.
Once again, I can not more underline the great benefit that one can get from finding a good teacher. It is vital for any serious piano player.
Here are some points or advantages of getting professional training from a good teacher:
By taking piano lessons with an excellent piano teacher, you will benefit from the following:
The correct posture while studying your instrument
The correct hand position
The correct fingering needed
The correct notes, reading and theory around your desired piece
The correct technique used in executing the music saving you hours of re-learning or ratherI’m-learning what was learnt wrongly. (It’s much more difficult to in-learn incorrect fingering than to learn it correctly from the start. That means saving you hours of time not having to first remove the groove made in your memory and then having to replace it! Learn the right skills from the start!
Faster development with the correct technique
Learn the correct interpretation of a specific genre
Have the advantage of feeling safe and secure in your playing and progressing
It might cost you in time and money to take up piano lessons but it will be well worth the time and effort. If you have a set time booked for a piano lesson one is much more likely to practise – even when you do not feel like it – and that means development!
If you are paying for your lessons it’s also much more likely that you will do more effort and develop.
Finding a good teacher might be tricky though, but you have to start with someone.
Being tutored by the best!
I had the great privilege to have been tutored and trained by the late Mr Josias van der Merwe for a period of approximately 6 years.
It changed my playing forever, bringing it up to the standard of concert performance. Without training from this master teacher professor, my playing would never have reached the standard it did.
I am forever grateful and indebted to this great teacher!
Also to the late Mrs Estelle Hudson who started my training as a young child and taught me the basics of music and the love of piano playing! Thank you!
She showed me a new technique concerning “touch on the piano”, as well as movement around the black keys and practising the lightning-fast movements in preparation of jumping from chords to chords in a very difficult passage. Just this one lesson with a master pianist changed my whole way of playing by making difficult passages easy and producing a beautiful sound. For this, I thank you, Celine!
With this as my personal testimony of well trained personal gifted classical piano tutors who helped me reach my goals, I can only but recommend that you do invest in personal training and lessons on a regular basis if you are serious about your playing.