There are different ways to learn how to play piano; here I am comparing my experience with learning piano with chords vs. learning how to sight read sheet music.
Me – Learning Piano With Chords
I started my piano learning journey a few months ago, mostly from a great online course I came across called Piano In 21 Days. This course teaches you to play modern songs on the piano very quickly by teaching you how common chords are constructed (so you can figure them out on your own) and how to “spice up” your playing by using various improvisation techniques around the chords you are playing.
Me – Learning Piano By Sight Reading Sheet Music
I want to learn everything I can about piano, so I do work on sight reading sheet music, mostly using the Simply Piano app (which is a great app), but my ability to sight read is still at a pretty basic level.
So . . . Do I NEED to be able to sight read sheet music well to be able to play the piano?
The video below is me using what I learned from Piano In 21 Days (learning piano with chords) to improvise over a common chord progression – I made this piece of music up as I went along. You can see my iPad above my piano with an app that is recording what I am playing.
After recording this, I used another app to take the recording and convert it into sheet music (very cool!) – that way I can see the sheet music version of what I just played:
So if I was handed this piece of sheet music and asked to play it . . . could I? The answer is a resounding no, at my level of sight reading; I could try to learn it but it would take me a long time.
So the answer to the question “Do I NEED to be able to sight read sheet music well to be able to play the piano?” is quite clearly a NO; by learning piano with chords, I just played this piece of music – as a matter of fact I even made it up as I was playing.
There are lots of extremely talented pianists out there who have worked very hard for years to be develop strong sight reading skills that COULD sight read this music quite easily (and even sheet music that is much more complex) – and I am super jealous of those people; I have tons of respect for that ability.
So What Have I Learned?
Without belittling the skill it takes to sight read sheet music – what IS “sight reading music?” To me it seems very similar to reading a written poem out loud; reading some type of notation and knowing how to interpret it and duplicate it. So when you play piano this way, you are training yourself to be able to play a piece of music exactly as written, and exactly as someone else played it. The Simply Piano app that I use for sight reading training is interactive, and does provide feedback to help keep it “fun”, but the goal is still the same – playing something exactly as you are supposed to. This is not an easy task, and I know it will be a time consuming one.
My experience with Piano In 21 Days has been very different from this – instead of concentrating on duplicating the original piece, you are taught how to play the chords of a song (basically the “structure” of the song) and then improvise around those chords with extra notes and techniques to basically make the song your own; still very recognizable as the song, but it may sound a bit different every time you play it. This approach gets me playing songs so quickly, it makes the piano learning experience SO much fun.
So will I keep working on sight reading? Yes! It is something I want to be able to do better. But I am so glad that I found Piano In 21 Days because it gets results so quickly in being able to play the modern songs that I like, and this makes my piano playing journey fun and sustainable.
If you would like to check out Piano In 21 Days further, please click my affiliate link below to get the first 5 days of the course for free so you can try it out for yourself: