Most of the best pianists are self-taught

I hope I won’t offend anyone when I said this – most of the best pianists are self-taught!

Rewsnat is a good example. I think he would say the same thing to me too. We don’t consider ourself as the best. But we do play the piano better than 95% of the population (probably higher). Most of the techniques and skills we have, we acquired through self study.

  • we practice the songs we love
  • we work on the drills mostly alone in our own room
  • we learn important tricks from other musicians and gurus (note that they wouldn’t have taught us if we didn’t ask on the first place)
  • we read books on improvisation techniques
  • we asked help on certain things in an online forum
  • we watch the masters play on video and live,  to learn their stuff.

I don’t mean that the piano teachers play no role in nurturing a student to become a virtuoso. All I want to express is that a person’s burning desire to master the piano is the key and ultimate reason that will make him one of the best.

Since you are reading this blog, I bet you are heading to the right path —– teaching yourself! Congratulations!

About The Author


Online Musician, Pianist, Song-writer, Vocalist, Music Arranger


  • A Self-Taught Pianist

    Reply Reply April 1, 2009

    What are you, fourteen? Get over yourself!

  • rewsnat

    Reply Reply April 1, 2009

    In my humble opinion, i think that everyone has their own way of learning. Some needs the constant guidance of a mentor, and some prefer to study and learn by themselves. Neither is better than the other.

    What’s important is to quickly acknowledge which type are you, and act accordingly to master your craft in the most efficient way.

  • forex-tiwisue

    Reply Reply April 6, 2009

    I interpret your thought to self-motivation brings success. I agree to you. Self-motivation is important in doing anything and he/she gets success very fast.

  • CliffMN

    Reply Reply April 9, 2009

    I agree with you… up to a point. Its been my experience as a 35 year professional pianist and teacher that self-taught players may play great on the things they love, but will always have a ceiling to their playing in the area of versatility.

    It also depends where the student wants to go. If its just hobby, or playing with their group, or playing solo, again, self-taught may be fine.

    But, if the student is perusing a pro career as a pianist that may have them playing in any one of a hundred different venues, he/she must learn all the different genres that this entails. (to many to list).

    Self-taught players will always have to work harder to overcome many flaws that would have developed, if they ever overcome them. A professional teacher, one who has paid dues, can catch and correct them early on.

    So much more can be said…. just thought Id put my 2 in.

    BTW, love your sight. I link to it through mine… and…. you guys play great!


  • hatta

    Reply Reply April 14, 2009

    I like all of ur comment.
    in my humble opinion, ourself is the only one person who known well ourself.

  • Jennifer

    Reply Reply May 1, 2009

    Ive always had a little of both…ive always tried to take lessons but always end up having to teach myself because I never practiced! What is it about formal lessons and resistance to doing homework!?

  • Anynymous

    Reply Reply May 31, 2009

    Im self taught when it comes to the piano. Although everything the article said is very true about self taught pianists, people should know that its also very difficult in terms of learning.

    Instead of having someone overlook and point out your mistakes, its you that has to look for and correct them yourself. It takes a lot of time as well, because youre not counting levels or grades, in other words there is a lot of commitment because of the lack of direction.

  • Ben

    Reply Reply September 12, 2010

    MONK! LOL. Hey, I agree with everybody here almost. I’ve always felt that way about music because I’ve heard a lot of soulless people play mechanical renditions of written music who couldn’t create something on the fly over changes to save their lives! Sad…Anyway, definitely not the responses I expected so interesting a title for an article. I agree, thought, that there is no “better” – few people have the ability to play like Bill Evans or Herbie Hancock (Herbie on Miles Davis’ “Circle” – my gawd, what a perfect solo – and yet THIS, I think to myself as I listen right now, came out of his HEAD???), and these two pianists ARE classically trained. I believe it is simply a question of love, perhaps obsession, and then of course, talent – the talented student might progress at a rate exponentially faster than the self-taught simply because they have a mentor to carry them through thing more quickly – at the same time, the teacher MAY hamper the gifted musician’s progress with needlessly stiff material or habits – and at the SAME time…Well, I guess that’s just an ominous bag of scenarios, isn’t it? Point is, no one’s “self-taught” since example is example – it’s just that some people require less guidance or motivation than others, which is really the admirable thing. But, dear author, you will find as you mature in your critical faculties that it’s best to avoid generalizations and quantifying or qualifying in the worlds of the arts – there is room for a wide variety of “bests”.

    That being said, I applaud you – I’m self-taught on bass, sax, and now I’m moving to piano, the most versatile of all instruments, eh? I love the linear conception of the layout – pure simplicity. Those of you who excel at the piano are enviable folks!

  • Angie Ng

    Reply Reply August 30, 2011

    Great article! I am a self-taught pianist too! Haha! I play what I love, I keep improving myself because I love piano! And I love to improve my skill without stress! 😀

  • SeNg

    Reply Reply February 19, 2013

    I would like to know how to play the piano, but I am very glad that I was not forced and beaten into playing the piano well. I would rather maintain my status quo than to have learned piano the tiger mother or wolf father way.

  • annupamaa

    Reply Reply February 5, 2015

    any tips for a singer who is not very good at playign the piano butwants to arrange her own songs? say on the software thru midi??how do qe go about this?i have learnt classicla piano ages back but never practsied in eyars and feel iam very rusty and my fluency isnlacking:(

  • Francesco D'Arcangeli

    Reply Reply March 16, 2020

    I think self-taught vs “trained” are only the two opposite of the spectrum.
    If one takes lessons to get the fundamentals then goes off by him/herself and maybe takes one lesson every now and then, what is he/she? Half self-taught?

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