There are essentially two ways to learn piano - note reading or chords. For those who want to spend years learning how to play other peoples music, note reading is the way to go. For those who want to create their own special music, chord understanding is a must - and much easier to learn. It is far better to learn how to make music first than it is to read it on a piece of paper.
Imagine a writer forced to copy another novelists work. Insane right? But that's essentially what people do when they recreate another composers work. It is not a creative act but a recreative one because while the pianist's interpretation may be artistic, it does not mean that he created something original.
I'm not saying that great composer's works should not be recreated for others listening pleasure. I am saying that it's a good idea to understand that there is quite a difference between Beethoven composing something and someone else playing it.
Having said that, the benefit of learning how to make music first is that you understand the underlying principles of the thing. For example, let's go back to our fiction writer. If he looks at another novelist's work and the structure of the work, then he is beginning to see how the thing is made. This is entirely different than what goes on in the classical music world where a performer can read music, but does not know the principles that go into it's making.
Learn piano the easy way first. Learn how to first improvise, then compose your own music. This skill is invaluable even if you do read music because you begin to see how the thing is made and once you can see this, your appreciation of it will increase tenfold!
Edward Weiss is a pianist/composer and webmaster of Quiescence Music's online piano lessons. He has been helping students learn how to play piano in the New Age style for over 14 years and works with students in private, in groups, and now over the internet. Stop by now at http://www.quiescencemusic.com/piano_lessons.html for a FREE piano lesson!