One of the hardest parts about practicing piano is that you must have a piano to practice on. Acoustic pianos are not portable, and even digital pianos are often bulky, heavy and expensive.
While I was looking into this problem, I came across dozens of virtual, online pianos. These aren’t MIDI keyboards, they are typically websites containing apps. They allow you to play keys on the piano by using the QWERTY keyboard.
Now, these pianos are not going to turn you into a virtuoso. They lack any dynamics and the QWERTY layout doesn't correspond to a standard keyboard setup.
That said, these sites can help you learn and practice sight reading, note association and even simple songs.
These virtual pianos all work a little bit differently, and some are much better than others. I tried them all, and I've given my feedback on each below.
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Recursive Arts – Best Virtual Piano Online
I love this Virtual Piano. It’s my favorite out of all of the ones I have tried.
Upon opening the website, the piano takes a while to load. It is clear that this program has a bit more going on. Once it loads, it takes about 15 seconds for the piano to respond to my commands.
Once the piano is fully loaded, it's responsive and is one of the better sounding pianos available. I love that it is laid out like a digital stage piano.
On the right, you can record yourself and play it back. You can also press the “Keys” button and it will give a keyboard guide – showing which QWERTY key corresponds to which piano key.
You can control the key mapping as well. When it is set to “Real”, then the keys are distributed just like on a real piano, and three octaves are available. When it is set to “Max”, you have access to five octaves, but black keys are accessed using the shift key.
I thought this was great way to respond to the octave problem, because a lot of the time people are just playing in C anyway!
My favorite part about this piano is that it has four sounds, and they are all good. The harpsichord sounds great, the organ is a church-style organ and the harp also sounds good. If they added in an Electric Piano sound, I would be over the moon!
This piano comes highly recommended as my top pick!
Apronus.com Digital Piano
Apronus.com has Virtual Piano Online Keyboard Simulator. It’s the third highest ranking Google result, and I must admit that it's good.
Upon opening it up, the piano works immediately and it sounds good. Above the keys, you can easily see which QWERTY key corresponds to which piano key. The black notes are accessed by playing the logical keys above and between the notes.
Below the QWERTY keys, the ASDFGH keys play full chords, a feature I love. Basically, the Caps Lock key plays a C major chord, the A key plays a D minor chord, the S key plays an E minor chord, and so on all the way up the C major scale.
I thought this was a great feature – it is so much easier than trying to play full chords on a computer keyboard.
The only downside of the keyboard is that website design is simple to the point of being ugly. And, the website itself looks like a high school HTML project.
That said, it works, it’s intuitive, has some great features and it's not trying to sell you anything.
Pianu Virtual Piano
This Online piano keyboard works well. Like many, it’s laid out with the ASDFG keys corresponding to the white keys and the QWERTY keys corresponding to the black keys.
It sounds good and it loads right away. You can easily turn on the note names, which can help you learn songs.
I liked the modern, fluid design of the website. The site is mostly based around online lessons, and considering how good the piano looks, I would bet the lessons are well-designed too.
I tested out one of their basic piano lesson songs, and it looks like a MIDI piano roll in a Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) or Guitar Hero lesson – the notes (bars) appear above the keys, and then you play along. It works great!
Pianu is a great virtual keyboard, I would have ranked it higher, but for all the lesson buttons everywhere. They're a little heavy on the sales side of things.
If you want lessons, check out this site! If not, go elsewhere.
This Virtual piano isn't overly popular based on my findings, and I can see why. It’s not bad, but it's not great.
It loads up quickly and starts working right away. It also has a good explanation of how the piano works written up below it.
But the piano doesn't sound great. It sounds a little too attack-y and has little by way of sustain or dynamics.
But what I didn't like was the way the keys are mapped to the QWERTY keyboard. For example, when you press Z, X and C, the low C, D and E notes will sound. But when you press V (the key next to C), it suddenly jumps to the highest D note on they keyboard.
Apparently, “the top row corresponds to white keys, and the numbers correspond to black keys”. This explanation is partially true but entirely insufficient. Either way, it’s counter-intuitive and hard to play.
Musicca also has a virtual guitar, bass, drum machine and metronome. They are all similar, but I thought they were cool enough to mention!
This Virtual Piano simulator is the first result on Google, but to be honest, I’m not sure why. I found this piano to be slow and unresponsive at times.
It seems that this piano is part of a larger website that sells sheet music and music lessons. I don’t know much about those operations, but they could be useful. All I know is that I didn’t love the virtual piano.
It has a full range (88 keys), but since you must use your entire keyboard to be able to play all the notes. Remembering all shortcuts is near impossible.
When you first pull it up, there are no guides or anything telling you which key corresponds to which, and to turn them on, you must go into the “Menu” guide. This is one too many steps.
In general, I didn't find this keyboard to be overly usable, despite it being the first result on Google. Let me know if you have better luck!
The OnlinePianist virtual piano is one of the first ones to present on Google, and I must say it's ok. On my computer, it loaded up quickly and I was able to play it right away.
The piano has a limited range of three octaves. This is somewhat limiting, but at the same time, on a virtual piano, you don’t need the full 88 keys.
My favorite thing about this piano is how nicely the keys are laid out. The piano is visual, and on top of every note, it tells you which QWERTY key to press to sound each note.
It doesn’t immediately tell you if you are playing an A, B or C, but if you already know that, and just want to play, you can figure out how to use this piano fast.
If you don’t know the notes, you can press the “Letter Notes” button in the top directory and turn on the note names in red. You can also turn sustain on and off and zoom in and out.
This piano is simple, but it works. The minimalist design and overall efficacy earn it one of the top spots on this list.
imusic-school Online Keyboard
This Online Piano isn't great, but it is a good learning resource.
Unlike most virtual pianos, it doesn't map to QWERTY keys. You must play the keys with your mouse. This is brutal. You can’t make chords while playing with a mouse, the app lags and keeping a steady rhythm is close to impossible. The piano also sounds bad.
That said, it’s not useless. Unlike many of the virtual pianos I tried, it has a great explanation of the basics of piano playing.
It takes you through learning the notes on the piano step by step. Based on these instructions, I feel like the online lessons they offer are good.
I would never use this piano for writing, recording or performing, but if you just want to learn the names of the notes and what they sound like, you can do that.
Final Thoughts, Virtual Piano Are Good For Practice & Fun
I would never want you to play a virtual piano all day. That would be depressing. But if you are just learning the notes, or practicing for school, then there's no reason you can't take advantage. And at least you don't need a dedicated piano light. 🙂
As you can see, the top Google result is not necessarily the best piano. I hope you enjoyed my picks, and let me know if you find a virtual piano that's better than the Recursive Arts app!