Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” —Plato
The human love affair with music goes back to Plato and well before - new studies report primitive humans were singing before they could speak! Throughout our history and across every culture, we've used music to celebrate, to grieve, to wind down, to communicate, to excite and entertain. And the best way to truly understand and experience music is by making your own - so it's no surprise that you harbour dreams of playing piano.
However, learning to play the piano can mean committing big chunks of your precious time and money. You don't simply become a virtuoso pianist like Ludwig van Beethoven or Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart overnight! Trust me when I say the investment in achieving your musical dreams is worth it. But what can you do if you've tallied the numbers and learning the piano is still out of reach?
If learning the piano seems like a financial impossibility, take heart - in this article, we'll offer a few tips on how to keep your costs down and make your dreams affordable.
Finding the right instrument for your piano classes
The first big cost associated with studying the piano is purchasing an instrument. Unfortunately for us aspiring pianists, our instruments tend to cost much, much more than the humble guitar or ukulele.
Perhaps one day you'll have the funds to purchase a majestic grand piano, but for the moment, you've got your sights set on an electronic keyboard. That's a great start!
Luckily, decent electronic keyboards and digital pianos are becoming more and more affordable, and often have slimline designs that won't take up too much space in your home - you could even fit one in your bedroom!
If even an entry-level keyboard is still a little beyond your budget, here are our tips for getting set up with a quality instrument at little to no cost.
Borrowing a keyboard from a friend
See if anyone in your circles has a keyboard or piano collecting dust in their basement somewhere that they may be open the loaning you. You'd be surprised how many of your friends have an unused keyboard or piano lying around! Perhaps they inherited a piano from a family member, or bought one themselves and gave up on playing. Often the owners will be glad to loan their neglected instrument to someone who will actually play it!
The best way to find an instrument to borrow is through word of mouth, so put the call out through your social networks - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter - or mention you're looking to borrow a piano at your next family gathering or drinks with friends.
But before you get too excited about borrowing your friend's acoustic piano they inherited from their great aunt Maggie, keep in mind that you'll need to hire a truck and professional movers to get it to your place, and you'll need to hire a piano tuner to retune the instrument when it arrives. All this can cost upwards of $400!
We advise asking around for a digital piano or keyboard - then there's no need to worry about moving or tuning fees. Most electronic instruments can be dismantled and driven around in your car.
Playing in practice rooms
If you're learning piano through a music school or conservatorium, you'll likely be able to take advantage of their practice rooms. Practice rooms with quality instruments are standard for university conservatoriums and many high schools, but your local music school may be open to letting you play in their practice rooms as well. They may charge you a small hourly fee to use the space, or they may offer it for free, especially if you are already taking classes with one of their teachers.
If you have friends who are pianists, perhaps ask if you can play on their instrument at times that they may not be using it - say, while they're out at work. If your friend is generous enough to loan you their instrument and their space on the regular, make sure to say thank you and perhaps offer some chocolates, flowers or a bottle of wine in return!
Hiring A Keyboard
Pianos aren't cheap: even an entry-level keyboard for beginners may cost hundreds of dollars. For an upright piano, you're looking at thousands! This poses a problem for the aspiring pianist on a tight budget, and also for parents who don't want to pay big money for an instrument that their child might lose interest in after just a few weeks.
Luckily, music shops have stepped in to solve this problem. Many shops now offer keyboard rental programs starting from as little as $40 per month. If that sounds more within your budget, head down to your local music shop and see which keyboards they have for rent. The staff can also advise you on which model will suit your needs.
Many shops also offer a rent-to-buy scheme, where you pay off your instrument over a longer period. So if you choose an $800 instrument, you may be offered a plan where you pay off your purchase in monthly instalments over a year.
Learning The Piano By Yourself
The high fees at private music schools can drive many students towards alternatives, including striking out alone to teach themselves.
Thanks to the marvels of modern technology, these autodidacts now have more resources than ever at their fingertips for learning the piano.
Youtube, for example, has become a hub for music education videos. There are videos explaining music theory concepts, videos offering tips on correct hand and finger positioning, play-along videos that show you the notes you need to hit to play a specific song, tutorials and masterclasses where a teacher demonstrates a particular song or technique... the choice has become somewhat overwhelming. Some channels even offer free sheet music!
There are also lots of method books, websites and apps designed to help beginner pianists teach themselves how to read music and play.
However, keep in mind that these resources can vary wildly in quality, and it can be hard for the beginner pianist to know which educational resources are doing more harm than good. Ultimately, nothing beats having a real, live teacher in the room with you - especially when it comes to perfecting your technique.
We recommend using these resources sparingly and in moderation. Videos or books might be excellent for picking up the basics of chord theory and playing your favourite pop songs, but as you progress from true beginner to intermediate, you'll need a real teacher to help you learn how to perfect your turns and trills.
It's also important to have a piano teacher at the very beginning of your piano journey to help you set up the foundations of good technique. Bad habits picked up early can be very hard to break later on!
So how can you use these resources to save money? One idea might be to ask your teacher for fortnightly lessons and then commit to consulting these resources at your usual lesson time on your off week. For example, you might have a lesson on a Friday 4 pm every two weeks, and any Friday where you don't have a lesson, you can make a date with yourself at the same time to sit down and spend an hour learning from YouTube or a teach-yourself-piano method. This way you keep a regular weekly learning schedule while spending half the money on lessons.
Bringing Down The Cost Of Piano Lessons
As we discussed above, you could ask your teacher if they might offer a fortnightly piano lesson instead of weekly lessons, and then commit to spending time teaching yourself the piano on your week off. This will effectively halve the cost of your piano lessons!
Taking advantage of the 10-pack discount
Many teachers on Superprof also offer a discount if you buy a 10-pack of lessons in advance - helping you save money.
Budgeting your lessons monthly
If you're on a strict budget, it can help to think of piano lessons like any monthly expense. Begin by asking yourself: how much can I afford to spend each month on piano lessons?
Once you have this number, take it to your desired teacher. Be open and honest about how much you can spend and ask how many lessons they could offer each month for that amount.
Keep in mind that teacher rates vary depending on experience and expertise. To keep your costs down, approach a teacher with less experience - perhaps someone still studying at a local conservatorium. But teaching experience generally means better-quality lessons and quicker progression for you - the old adage "you get what you pay for" definitely rings true here.
For example, if you allocate $100 in your monthly budget to piano lessons and approach a conservatorium student, they may be able to offer 4 x one-hour lessons per month for that amount. On the other hand, a teacher with years of experience may only be able to offer 3 x half-hour lessons.
Teachers often work in school terms, and may not be able to offer a monthly plan. If you can't work things out with one teacher, don't be discouraged! At Superprof we have a range of teachers offering lessons at different rates, so you're sure to find someone who can meet your budget.
A final word...
At first, your desire to learn to play piano may seem like an expensive pipe-dream, but here we've shown you that with just a little resourcefulness, flexibility and a willingness to negotiate, you can be well on your way to making beautiful music - whether that means classical piano, jazz improvisation, playing the chords to your favourite pop songs...
So what are you waiting for? If you're ready to learn piano, it's time to source a keyboard, crunch the numbers and get searching on Superprof to find your perfect teacher!