Learning to play an instrument like the piano when you live in New York City might initially seem like an easy goal. After all, you live in the city that never sleeps, and there must be classes and teachers for all levels and skill of budding musician.
Where can you learn the piano in New York City? In this article we’ll talk you through all our ideas for piano classes in NYC…
3 Questions to consider before you sign up for piano classes in New York
Before you go gung-ho and start signing up for classes at some of the best conservatories in the country, it’s a good idea to take a minute to sit back and think about your reasons for learning piano, and your learning style.
There are three factors you should consider:
- What are your objectives in learning piano?
- How much time are you willing to dedicate to music classes?
- And how motivated are you?
The goals of a piano class
When thinking about your goals, it’s important to be honest with yourself - do you want to learn for fun, or to play to a professional standard? Do you hope to join a performance group? Do you want to perform on stage one day?
Dedicating time to your piano classes
When you’re thinking about how much time to dedicate to your goal, it’s important to acknowledge that the piano is not an easy instrument. It will take you much more than a few months in order to perfect your playing.
You will have to learn how to play with your left hand, your right hand, and how to coordinate both hands to play in harmony.
You’ll also need to work on your sense of rhythm, music theory, reading sheet music, learning the notes, etc.
Are you ready to dedicate your time to learning the piano? How many hours per day or per week are you ready to spend in music classes - instrumental practice, and music foundations combined?
You also need to know when to play the piano. It’s important in New York, of course, but also if you’re taking piano classes in Chicago or Seattle.
Your motivation to learn to play the piano
Finally, to reiterate what we said above, learning piano is a long process and your motivation, self discipline, and enthusiasm will all play a large factor in whether you succeed at learning your new instrument.
Of course, you’ll get stuck and face problems from time to time: learning music, especially on an instrument like the piano, is never an easy, linear process. You’ll experience highs and lows, phases of euphoria, and discouragement.
After you’ve reflected on your answers to these three questions, you should have a better understanding of your own intentions and how best to approach your piano lessons.
Get help learning to play the piano
Besides having the self discipline and motivation to play the piano, and knowing your personal objectives, we’d also strongly recommend signing up for piano lessons with a teacher.
The most important thing is that your classes are regular (once a week, or once every 15 days). Music lessons will be essential for you to learn the basics of music theory and your instrument.
The more you go to piano classes, the better your playing will become. You’ll begin to see real progress and learn new techniques so you can play any piece of music your little heart desires. You’ll be fluent in different piano playing styles and methods, and begin to improvise.
After all your long hours of practice, you can be sure to see results. You’ll find joy as you learn to express your feelings through music.
To get to that stage though, first you need to find a teacher who’s a good fit so you can quickly learn to play the piano in Boston or New York City.
Should you learn the piano by yourself?
Unless you’ve been born with an instrument in your hand or are a music genius like Beethoven or Mozart, you’ll need to get some help from a teacher, even if it’s virtual by using videos or internet tutorials.
Some musicians are lucky enough to be able to have a real ear for music and will be able to break down and play a song just from hearing it. However those people are rare.
Most budding pianists will need to painstakingly practice to improve day after day and week after week for years.
There are some tools - paper and virtual books - that can help you learn to play the piano, but they can only really supplement your learning.
It’s key to have a professional teacher by your side to correct you, keep you improving and learning, and gain new skills.
If there is one place in New York City to learn to play the piano, it would have to be Julliard.
Located at Lincoln Centre, the school was founded in 1905 as an American centre for musical studies that could rival the European music schools. Past alumni include Charlie Albright, Greg Anderson, Jonathan Batiste, and Margaret Saunders Ott.
Julliard brings together world renowned teachers and the piano division of the music school represents about one fourth of all students.
Piano students perform regularly in concert halls in New York, including the Alice Tully and Carnegie Music Halls, and also have the option of joining ChamberFest and the Piano Performance Forum.
At Julliard, students have a range of degree options, and can study piano at the Bachelor, Master, or Doctor level as well as for a diploma certficate.
The application process is intense and requires several rounds of taped and live auditions. Julliard requires you to play certain piano pieces from a repertoire of music by Beethoven, Chopin, Haydn, Mozart, Stravinsky, and others.
The curriculum focuses on music theory and ear training as well as playing and performance, and also incorporates some liberal arts classes.
It's worth noting that there are also multiple other schools in New York City offering formal piano education. Those include:
- NYU Steinhardt - based at the university's Washington Square campus
- Mannes College, The New School for Music - located near Greenwich Village
- City College at City University of New York, on Convent Avenue
- Manhattan School of Music - located on Claremont Avenue
Many of the other large cities have well respected music conservatories of their own. Why not consider the Berklee School of Music if you're interested in learning to play piano in Boston?
In each New York Borough there'll be at least a handful of community centers offering creative and performing arts courses and where you can learn to play the piano.
Some of the best are:
- 92nd Street Y: This uptown community center located on Lexington Avenue offers a mix of private and group classes, and piano lessons are taught by well known and highly respected professionals.
- Hamilton-Madison House: this settlement house first opened its doors to improve the life of New York City's poor in 1898. Based in Chinatown, it boasts a music school which offers affordable piano lessons to young children and adults.
- Harriet and Robert H Heilbrunn Music School at the Bronx House offers music lessons similar to the Hamilton-Madison House. They have children's group piano classes for beginners, as well as private and semi-private lessons.
- Greenwich House Music School - another neighborhood house, the music school at Greenwich House offers piano lessons for children as young as 5, as well as more general classes meant to give children an early appreciation for tonality and rhythm.
New York offers many different high quality music schools where you can learn to play piano.
No matter what you're looking for, your budget, and your availability, you'll be able to find it at one of New York City's music schools.
- Manhattan School of Music
- Kaufman Music Centre offers piano classes for children and adults, in group or private lessons, and prides itself on understanding the individual goals and needs of each student.
- Brooklyn Conservatory of Music offers private and ensemble classes for budding musicians. They also offer early immersion classes to introduce children as young as 18 months to the joy of music.
- NY Jazz Academy - if you're interested in working on playing jazz on the piano, this is the school for you. Located on the West Side, they offer a full roster of lessons, ensembles, and electives focussing on techniques like music theory.
There are, of course many other music schools in New York City (and more conservatories and piano teachers in Boston). Unique options such as Dubspot DJ institute or Scratch DJ Academy will get you playing a keyboard in a very different style. Universities like Fordham also offer a wide range of performing arts classes.
You can also contact your local borough or check with your child's school for local piano classes. It might also be worth visiting a few music stores to see any ads for private piano teachers (who will help you work through your goals for piano lessons).
Private lessons can be an excellent alternative to group classes, because the curriculum will be completely personalised. The teacher will adapt to your level and can help you reach your piano playing goals.
You can also continue your musical education with singing lessons.
The project Play Me, I’m Yours
The project Play Me, I’m Yours saw 60 pianos distributed across the five boroughs for individuals to share their love of music.
Even if you aren't Alicia Keys, Stevie Wonder or Billy Joel, there are still many talented individuals who can play Chopin, Polnareff or the Super Mario Bros theme tune.
New York City and its environs have inspired songs such as 'Breakfast at Tiffany's,' 'Empire State of Mind,' Frank Sinatra's 'New York, New York,' and Billie Holiday's 'Autumn in New York.' New York is a great setting for a cultural art installation celebrating music.
And that's why the project, “Play Me, I’m Yours” - which installs and maintains pianos to be freely played around the city, in 2010 plopped down over 60 pianos in places like:
- Fordham Plaza,
- Brooklyn Bridge Park,
- Battery Park,
- Lincoln Center
- Staten Island Ferry Terminal
- and Jackson Heights Post Office among others.
The project was begun in 2008 by the British artist Luke Jerram in the English city of Birmingham, and quickly became immensely popular among musicians and amateur music lovers.
Plus, without any prerequisites of age, level - beginner, amateur or virtuoso, or knowledge of the keys, notes, or music theory, anyone who passes by is invited to play!
In June 2010, the project arrived in New York City in partnership with Sing for Hope, and although the pianos have now been donated to local community centers and organizations, the website remains a record of the joy of discovery as strangers sat down to play the piano in their city.
Public places where you can play the piano in New York City
In the years since Play Me, I'm Yours, Sing for Hope has continued to distribute pianos throughout New York's parks and public spaces for anyone to play.
The pianos are designed by artists, and appear each summer, before being donated to different New York public schools each fall. In 2017, the number of public pianos placed reached 400, and it's estimated that over 2 million people either play or benefit from the joy of music in these pianos each year.
To play a Sing for Hope Piano in 2017, you can go almost anywhere in the city. Download their free app to find the piano closest to you, or visit some of our favorites:
- The 'All That Jazz' piano decorated by the cast of Chicago and located in Tompkins Square Park a few blocks over from Webster Hall.
- The 'Rhythm of NYC' piano by Kate McKinnon, located in the heart of the New York Stock Exchange.
- 'Soft Place to Land' piano from the cast of Waitress is located at the Lincoln Center - who can pass up an opportunity to say you've played the piano at Lincoln Center?!
- 'EVOLVE' piano decorated by Lance Johnson and located in Prospect Park in Brooklyn.
- 'L'amour est l'espoir de ce monde' piano by Lady Jday is located in Plaza de Las Americas in Washington Heights, and has been painted with an artistic take on the Yes We Can woman.
While the pianos are out this summer, we warmly recommend visiting one of the sites for an impromptu recital, or to show off your sight reading and improvisation skills. Music is something that is meant to be shared, and as you play the ivory keys far from the piano studio, it's hard to resist a sense of joy and buoyancy.
The Sing for Hope Project also features multiple pop up performances by music professionals, piano lovers, and local music groups. You can check out the Sing for Hope website for more details about this scheme.
Meanwhile, if you're looking for a more of an evening piano experience, here are some of our favorite piano bars in New York City:
- Marie's Crisis, a gay bar located in the West Village where professional pianists run through their show-tune repertoires,
- The Duplex, also in the West Village, and home to pop, Top 40, and Broadway tunes, with a special focus on Sondheim numbers on Friday nights.
- Brandy's Piano bar on the upper East Side will take requests for you favorite classic rock and pop songs
- Uncle Charlie's Piano Bar is a popular gay bar near Grand Central Station featuring piano tunes in its lounge
Buying a piano for the best price in New York City
Roland, Yamaha, Casio…what brand of piano should you buy when you’re playing piano in Paris?
Because of course, if you want to learn to play the piano, you'll have to spend lots of time practicing until you're familiar with how to place your fingers on the keys, which keys make which notes, and how the pedals change the chords.
Even given the awesome Sing for Hope program, getting enough practice might be a bit difficult using public pianos and at your piano classes. Unless you want to constantly be borrowing a friend or a neighbor's piano, it'll probably be necessary to invest in one of your own in order to really develop your playing.
New York City hosts a large selection of music and piano stores where you'll be able to find anything you need - whether you're looking for budget or expensive, used or new, whatever brand or model, you'll be able to find what you need in New York.
Music students generally look at used pianos when they're shopping for an acoustic piano. However, although this is a good option for beginner pianists with a limited budget, they may struggle with the quality.
It's difficult to know too much about used pianos. Each will have its own history, condition, and prior use, and if you prize quality over budget this might not be the option for you.
If you're looking for a piano from the Japanese Yamaha company, we recommend starting wth a store and then going from there:
- Faust Harrison Piano, with stores in Manhattan, Long Island, Connecticut, and Westchester, is the city's only factory authorized Yamaha seller
- Absolute Piano NY does piano rentals from thier Brooklyn shop if you aren't quite ready to buy
For other piano brands like Casio, Roland, or Kawai, it's good to find a New York City piano story who will offer services like free delivery and installation, guarantee, and maintenance. Prices are more or less the same throughout the city, and you can find these pianos in any music store in any of the 5 boroughs.
For those who are looking for an electronic piano, such as Korean brand Dynatone, there are two official dealers in New York, one in Garden City, and one in Port Jefferson Station.
As you consider compact versus baby grand pianos, acoustic versus electric, finding your first piano teacher and learn how to read music, please don't hesitate to leave me a comment in the box below.