Do I have to learn classical if I want to learn pop and Broadway songs?

March 24, 2021

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There are many different styles of music to choose from when learning a musical instrument. So what happens if you like Broadway music and want to learn to play it on the piano? Do you have to learn classical piano in order to learn songs from Broadway? 

Different music teachers answer this question differently. There are so many different methods for piano lessons out there! When selecting a piano teacher, it is important to weigh pros and cons of each and decide for yourself which one is best for you. Keep in mind that we are talking specifically about the scenario where you want to learn to play in a style OTHER than classical. You actually do not have to learn classical in order to learn other styles!

Method 1: Study music theory and work on simple classical piano pieces before trying a non-classical style that you like:

When you begin with classical piano lessons, it will take a little longer for you to get to play the Broadway songs that you really enjoy, but you will have better music skills when you do. The benefit of this method is that it will be easier and faster for you to learn the songs you want to play. The reason for that is that simple classical music and music theory is extremely logical and transparent.

When you understand classical music with the help of an experienced teacher, you can look at a piece and clearly intellectually understand what is going on. You will learn how to read the notes, how to coordinate your hands, and you will understand why music works the way it works.

Believe it or not, music is science and not an abstract collection of notes that magically gets into the artist’s heads. There are rules and patterns that exist in all music styles! When you understand these basic rules and can identify the patterns, you can apply this to ANY style you like to play.

Studying classical music takes a bit of extra time but it’s a perfect investment in your own future. Everything you will do after that will seem much easier. And hey, you might totally learn to appreciate and love a new genre of music along the way!  After all, who wouldn’t want to know how to play Für Elise?

Method 2: Study the very basics of music notation and music theory and go right into the “fun stuff.”

Learning to play the music you want to play rather than classical music is totally possible.Many piano teachers work with this option with no problem. You will still have to learn to read  notes (at least for the right hand). It will also be necessary for you to know how to build  chords and read the chord symbols for the left hand.

This basic approach to learning piano can get you through many songs, but eventually you’ll likely begin to feel the need to know more. This is when you start catching up on better note reading, rhythmic notation, and traditional technique. Eventually, you can get to the same place as with the first approach, just doing things in different order. 

Method 3: Start playing your favorite songs by copying the teacher or by ear.

While a very rare scenario, this is actually possible. Some students just absolutely don’t want to learn how to technically read music but still want to be able to play the songs they love. You can copy and memorize what your teacher shows you and you can try to figure some parts by yourself playing the notes “by ear.” This approach will yield the slowest progress in music lessons overall, but for some students this might be the only way to learn how to play the piano and still have fun with it! 

In conclusion, no! You don’t have to learn classical music if you would like to play other styles of music! Pick your strategy and give it a try!

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