The piano is one of the most common instruments people learn to play. Whether you play the piano for its romanticism, the beauty of the pieces that can be played, or because your parents are forcing you to do it (lucky you), you need to keep in mind that playing an instrument requires hard work and dedication.
The standard piano is made up of 88 black and white keys. While a keyboard follows the same basic rules you use to play the piano, keyboards often have less keys and achieve a different sound. Nevertheless, if you have to get something smaller due to your current living accommodations, a keyboard will suffice for basic learning purposes and practicing requirements. If you follow the steps in this guide, you will also learn to play the keyboard.
This article contains tips and advice for those who wish to learn how to play the piano. Whether you plan to teach yourself piano, or attend lessons, this guide can help. For in-depth piano lessons and tutorials, check out Rocket Piano.
- Learn the essential elements of piano playing. You should have a piano or keyboard at your disposal. It is recommended you use a keyboard with 88 keys, if possible. That way, you can still play the keyboard as you learn the piano keys.
- Middle C. Everyone has to start somewhere when learning to play the piano; we are going to start with Middle C. Your keyboard should have a row of white piano keys interrupted by alternating sets of three and two black keys. The white key to the left of the first black two-set is known as C. On the standard keyboard, count the C keys from left to right. The fourth C to the right is Middle C.
This page contains an illustration of how to find Middle C: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_C.
- The notes of the piano. Now that you've identified Middle C, you can find the natural notes on the piano. As you learn to play the piano, try not to get overwhelmed. We are going to walk through learning the keys and the notes slowly. The natural notes are the white keys on the piano. From C, move to the right one white key to find D. Then move one white key to the right again to get E. Continue moving one white key over to get F, G, A, B, and you will find yourself back at C again.
The move from one white key to the next is called a full step if there is a black note between them. You will notice that E, F, B and C have no black notes between them. These notes only move a half step instead of a full step because the black key is missing.
This illustration shows the standard notes on a keyboard: http://www.music-mind.com/Music/Srm0038.GIF.
- The black keys. The black keys on the keyboard move the note up or down a half step. When a natural note moves a half step forward (up), it is sharp. Sharp notes are depicted by an italicized pound sign (#). When a natural note moves a half step backwards (down), it becomes a flat note. Flat notes are depicted by a small b-shaped symbol.
The following illustration shows the flat and sharp notes on the piano keyboard: http://www.ronsplace.net/images/piano.jpg.
You may notice some notes are not mentioned. This is because some sharp and flat notes are actually played on the same key as natural notes.
Determining which notes are sharp and flat. Determining whether the keys you play will be sharp or flat can be done in a few different ways.
- Natural E = F-Flat
- Natural F = E#
- Natural B = C-Flat
- Natural C = B#
- First, the key signature, which is located between the time signature and the clef sign, can let you know whether notes will be natural, sharp or flat.
Here is a picture of an F key signature: The Key of F-Major.
Notice the flat on the B line. Throughout the entire piece, the B will be flat unless otherwise noted by a natural or a sharp sign will be located next to the specific note. This occurs if the note is only played natural or sharp a few times. Otherwise, the entire key signature will change .
In the example above, the key signature is F Major. This is because the F Major scale is what determines what the key signature is going to be. The F scale is played as F, G, A, B-Flat, C, D, E, F. Notice that the fourth note is flat. Every scale after F will have a new flat in it. The fourth note of the scale will be the new flat note.
The major flat scales are:
- F Major - F, G, A, B-Flat, C, D, E, F.
- B-Flat Major - B-Flat, C, D, E-Flat, F, G, A, B-Flat.
- E-Flat Major - E-Flat, F, G, A-Flat, B-Flat, C, D, E-Flat.
- A-Flat Major - A-Flat, B-Flat, C, D-Flat, E-Flat, F, G, A-Flat.
- D-Flat Major - D-Flat, E-Flat, F, G-Flat, A-Flat, B-Flat, C, D-Flat.
- G-Flat Major - G-Flat, A-Flat, B-Flat, C-Flat, D-Flat, E-Flat, F, G-Flat.
- C-Flat Major - C-Flat, D-Flat, E-Flat, F-Flat, G-Flat, A-Flat, B-Flat, C-Flat.
You can remember the order of flats by spelling out BEAD then adding GCF to the end.
The only natural major key signature is C Major (C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C).
Sharp keys follow a similar pattern. However, you may notice notes that were flat last become sharp first. Instead of the fourth note being flat, the seventh note of every scale, used to determine the sharp key signature, will be a sharp note.
The major sharp key signatures are:
- G Major - G, A, B, C, D, E, F-Sharp, G.
- D Major - D, E, F-Sharp, G, A, B, C-Sharp, D.
- A Major - A, B, C-Sharp, D, E, F-Sharp, G-Sharp, A.
- E Major - E, F-Sharp, G-Sharp, A, B, C-Sharp, D-Sharp, E.
- B Major - B, C-Sharp, D-Sharp, E, F-Sharp, G-Sharp, A-Sharp, B.
- F-Sharp Major - F-Sharp, G-Sharp, A-Sharp, B, C-Sharp, D-Sharp, E-Sharp, F-Sharp.
- C-Sharp Major - C-Sharp, D-Sharp, E-Sharp, F-Sharp, G-Sharp, A-Sharp, B-Sharp, C-Sharp.
For more information on key signatures and scales, check out this page: http://www.empire.k12.ca.us/capistrano/Mike/capmusic/Key%20Signatures/key_signatures.htm.
- The other way to determine if a note is going to be sharp, flat, or natural was mentioned above. A sharp, natural or flat symbol will sometimes appear before a note to indicate how you should play it.
Take Lessons. The best way to learn piano - or any instrument - is by taking lessons. You can learn from a seasoned professional. Depending on your instructor, the price may cost anywhere from $10 dollars to $30 or $40 per lesson, or even more. In your piano lessons, you should learn the following things:
- The piano's notes, about which you've already gained some knowledge by reading this article.
- How to play scales.
- How to read music.
- How to play with both hands.
- How to transpose music (in more advanced classes).
In your piano lesson you should also receive critiques of your technique, playing ability and progress.
You can find a qualified piano teacher through your local university, college, church or publication, or perhaps you know a family friend who may be interested in teaching you how to play the piano. If you have no idea where to find a teacher in your area, then check out the following website: http://www.musicstaff.com/.
Learn to read music. There are many websites, which can help you learn how to read music. While some people are able to play the piano by ear (this means they can hear a song and can sit down and play it without knowing how to read a note of music), most people cannot do this. Therefore, reading sheet music becomes an integral part of learning to play the piano for beginners.
The following articles and web pages can help you learn to read music and, in the process, learn how to associate the keys on the piano with the notes on the music.
Practice makes perfect. Any type of instrument you play requires practice in order to improve. Between lessons, or if you are teaching yourself, you will want to practice as often as possible. Even seasoned piano players consistently improve and learn new techniques, so do not expect to learn everything right away. These things take time and the learning will never end as you constantly strive to improve your sound, skill and ability.