How to Play the Piano – A Complete Tutorial Overview


Whether or not you think you are musically talented, everyone would love the ability to play music for the friends, family or for the world. And regardless of your current ability it’s very possible to learn how to play the piano fairly quickly. The piano is usually a good instrument to start your musical education because it is very common and straightforward. Although there are some intricacies to the theory of music, learning to play the piano can be fun and not overly complicated.

The first thing you’ll want to do when learning to play any type of music, including the piano, it to at least grasp the very basics of music theory. What you want to learn about is how music works in terms of time and rhythm. It’s also good to learn a little about the types of notes (quarter notes, etc.) there are, how music is notated and read and other basic concepts. These will help you accelerate the progress you make on your piano lessons.

Piano Notes

Once you’ve learned a little about music theory, it’s time to dive into learning how to play the piano. The first thing you’ll want to learn is the different notes or keys available on any keyboard. If you look at a piano you’ll probably notice that there are a set of 12 keys (black and white) that seem to repeat over and over again across the entire keyboard. These are your 12 basic piano notes. The names of these notes are taken from the first 7 letters of the alphabet – A, B, C, D, E, F, G. Those are the names of the white piano keys.

When it comes to the black keys, things are modified slightly. Because the tone or pitch of the note is altered only slightly when comparing the black keys to the white keys, they still take their names from the 7 alphabet letters. However, they are modified with what are called “accidentals.” These accidentals are known as either sharps or flats. Sharps occur when you move UP the keyboard, while flats occur as you move down. For instance, if you start on a C and move UP (to the right of) the keyboard to the very next black key, it would be called a C sharp (notated C#). If you were on a D, however, and moved down (to the left of) the keyboard, it would be called a D flat (notated Db). This goes for all the black keys on the keyboard, thus they will always have one of two possible names.

Piano Scales

After learning piano notes, you’ll want to get into learning about piano scales. Scales are a group of notes that sound good together when played in succession one after the other. There are many different types of scales when it comes to music. There are major and minor scales, blues scales and even things like the Arabian scale. Each scale has a specific number and types of notes in it and any melodies or chords played in a song are usually taken from that scale. The most basic scale is the C Major Scale which is simply C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C.

Piano Chords

Once you have memorized your piano scales it’s time to learn how to play piano chords. Piano chords are a group of two or more notes that sound good together when they are played at the exact same time. These notes are in harmony with each other and sound pleasing to the ear. Chords are generally easy to build in popular Western music. Usually they work on the idea of thirds. That is, you start on a note and add the third tone from that initial note on top of it, and so on. So, for example a C Major Chord consists of the notes C-E-G. If C is the root note, E is a third above C, and G is a third above E. There are also many different types of chords, from major/minor chords to 7th chords and suspended chords.

Chord Progressions

Once you know all the different types of chords at your finger-tips you’re ready to move on to building chord progressions and full songs. Chord progressions are simply groupings of chords that are played in a certain sequence that make sense musically. To build chord progressions many players (expert and novice alike) use what’s called the Circle of Fifths. This is a diagram that visually describes how music moves and how to move from chord to chord without it sounding bad or off. This is really an advanced topic and you should only move to this step once you’ve mastered all the others.

If you commit yourself to learning these various steps you will be able to master the piano in no time. It’s important to remember, however, that practice is key. The difference between learning to play in 6 months rather than 2 years is the amount of practice time you put in. Make sure you’re practicing at least a little bit every day and you’ll be a professional pianist in no time!


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