The answer is yes, but……
Most of the time, piano students are children. Almost every piano teacher has their student’s parents purchase a piano lesson book or series of lesson books. Each week the student comes to the teacher’s home and the teacher walks the student through three or four pages of the book and then tells the student to practice those pages at home.
Let’s now assume that you’re an adult and are wanting to teach yourself to play the piano. OK, recreate for yourself a professional lesson except without the piano teacher. Purchase a lesson book, pick one day a week to step through the next three or four pages of the book and then, for the remainder of the week, practice those lessons diligently. Simple right? Not at all.
The real difference between taking lessons and teaching yourself is money and accountability. If learning to play the piano costs you something, i.e. your hard earned money, you’ll be much more committed to learning and sticking with it. Furthermore, when there is someone to whom you have to explain why you didn’t practice, you’re much more likely to do the practicing in order to avoid that uncomfortable situation when you realize you’re teacher is going to know you didn’t practice.
But……..if you can discipline yourself to practice consistently while reading through your lesson book carefully, than yes, you can teach yourself to play the piano.
But I would also add these recommendations: Come up with a plan. Create a well rounded practice plan that includes not just the drudgery of learning to sight read but also includes goofing around on the piano having fun, and also includes activities off the keyboard such as attending piano concerts where you can receive some inspiration, listening to piano music in the car while you drive, reading books about the lives of famous piano players such as a book by Harold C. Schonberg. Buy some sheet music for your favorite song and learn how to play it, even if you learn only a few measures of the introduction or the chorus. The point is for you to mix in some fun and inspiration along with the hard work. Try also to meet and make friends with some other piano players who are better pianists than you are.
Speaking of hard work, try also to diversify. Learn a little theory, then practice some sight reading, then learn some scales. Keep it fresh. But the one thing that’s most important is consistency. If you practice one day for an hour but then don’t touch the keys again for a week, you’re merely starting over again. By being consistent you build up momentum, adding each time to what you learned last time. It won’t take long before you’re a very talented piano player.
And here’s some inspiration to get you started. This is one of my favorite piano songs.
Photo credit: flickr Creativ Commons, Piano fingers by Brian Richardson