Playing the piano is an undoubtedly great skill to have. Really, I cannot imagine anyone saying «Playing the piano is bad for ya» or anything of that nature. First of all, when you learn to play the piano, you develop fine motor skills, which is definitely a good help in physical development both for kids and adults. Secondly, playing or creating music for personal entertainment is a good cure for psychological stress and anxiety. Finally, your friends will be both delighted and impressed once they find out that you play the piano, so that could be a good boost for your ego. There even were a couple of related studies done to prove that statement, but after reading the reports I find myself thinking that the combination of Western research methods (DNA and blood test etc.) with broad statements ultimately leaves the impression of a fraud or at least an agenda.
I myself often find playing the piano stressful, but that might be due to the fact that I was a reluctant student and had deadlines and parental pressure, which made the process much less entertaining. You won't know until you try, though; so I've had a quick look at which programs can simulate the piano so you can use either your regular keyboard or a MIDI keyboard in order to practice. And don't worry, I'll elaborate on what a MIDI keyboard is later on.
Virtual MIDI Piano Keyboard
This application comes free of charge, and its main purpose is to imitate piano sounds while you play it using the computer keyboard. It was my first experience playing the piano on a computer keyboard and it certainly did not feel the same as the real thing. I do not want to get all «profound» on you, it just quite honestly is not the same, simply because of the inconvenient key positioning on the computer keyboard compared to that on a piano. I wasn't surprised to find that out, not by any stretch of imagination, but I can't help mentioning it. The program does the job very decently, though, and can process up to 6 keys pressed simultaneously, which was a welcome change after I tried out a couple of free programs that were constantly bugging out and could not even play two keys at once. All in all, if you have never played the piano in your whole life — why not at least get that feeling of making a piano sound and see if you are into it. Virtual MIDI Piano Keyboard has a couple of options regarding the output sound that you hear: you can pick Acoustic Grand Piano, Bright Acoustic Piano, Electric Grand Piano, and some more instruments, including various drum sounds and weird effects as well. Overall, this one is free, lightweight, easy to pick up, and quite fun.
Virtual MIDI Piano Keyboard has a couple of modification concerning the type of output sound: Acoustic Grand Piano, Bright Acoustic Piano, Electric Grand Piano and a lot more, including various drum sounds and weird effects as well. Overall, this one is free, light-weighted, easily-installed, and fun application.
I'll start off with an explanation of what a MIDI keyboard is. It is typically a piano keyboard look-alike device that sends signals over a USB or MIDI cable to other devices that work with the same MIDI protocol and, as a result, can produce various sounds, including piano sounds, depending on what device or software you hook it up with. Pianissimo is an application that works with the MIDI protocol and provides a convenient graphic interface so that you can play on your MIDI keyboard and feel like you're playing on a real piano. You can also use the computer mouse to play a virtual piano, which you can see in the picture below.
I am still using the trial version of Pianissimo (you get to use it for free for one month) and it works just fine for my needs. As you can see in the picture, it has a couple of options you might find helpful: recording, tone controls, hammer sounds, metronome, time signatures, and a number of presets. I found the recording option to be quite helpful: not because I am an artist, it simply improves my skills through showing how my playing really sounds like. I think I am going to purchase it after all, although the asking price hardly makes it a bargain: $68.95 USD for a download-only version and $79.95 for the boxed product (which the company will ship directly to your home address). Both options include unlimited email support, which is always a nice thing to have.
I strongly suggest you try these applications: if anything, playing the piano will bring you a lot of joy and satisfaction. And after the excitement wears off, it's your choice whether or not to continue learning.