Can you learn how to actually play the Piano online? Interesting question! And one, I may add, that is something I feel I can authoritatively answer, having taught in private music education for almost 10 years, as well as creating educational online content myself. In short, this is going to be a “Yes, but no…it depends” type of answer, I’m afraid!
So let’s start with why deciding to self-teach any instrument via online medium is an option you’re considering. The MAIN point is probably that it’s free. There is an absolute abundance of information and video tutorials available to you, so you must be able to learn at least something, right? CORRECT! Of course you’ll learn something, and as there are so many websites/youtube channels available, you should eventually find a layout/structure that you find you learn from most effectively, and then you’re set.
BUT. Try to honestly answer these following questions;
How far can this channel/website take your progression? You’ll learn some notes, a bit of theory, maybe some scales and some chords and may be able to play many songs/pieces you know. But how can you be sure you won’t develop bad habits? Can this medium you learn from clear up every question or concern you may have? Will you hit a dead-end and find you’re no longer progressing at the rate at which you began?
This is where seeking out a reputable Piano teacher to propel you further will be the resolution to the above questions. A teacher can answer any questions you have immediately, and can explain a subject of confusion in alternative ways until you fully understand. A teacher can recognise and understand your learning aims and learning style. A teacher can whip any bad habits (such as hand/body posture position) out of you, and instantly correct any mistakes there and then. A teacher can give bespoke advise on what you need to focus on between lessons, and how to effectively practise. A teacher knows what logical order to introduce topics in a way that links seamlessly together…see my point(s)?
If you don’t have your sights set on becoming a competent musician, and are content with just being able to play a bit of piano and some tunes you know, then you can absolutely solely learn that online. How I feel about [today’s] online musical education, is that it should be supplementary to your learning. Equally, ONE teacher (a human person), can’t teach you everything there is to know, and they themselves will have their strengths and weaknesses.
Self-teaching anything in itself is very commendable, and takes some good self-discipline. If finances are the main issue hindering your musical development, I’d suggest seeking out tuition with a music student, who (should!) charge a little less than the standard going-rate, and in return they gain valuable teaching experience (I’ve been there!). Aim for at least twice a month, so you’re regularly put back on the right track.
If finances aren’t the issue, you may be interested in this article about “What to look for in a Piano Teacher” here.