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Learning to Play the Piano: Using Both Hands Independently Generally speaking, when you play the piano, your right hand tends to play the melody while the left hand harmonizes with said melody. Put simply: melody on your right hand, chords on your left. However, it’s not always that simple. Contrapuntal music, for example, doesn’t tend to follow this pattern. If you’re right-handed, you’ll probably also notice that it’s much easier to play with your right hand than your left. Your left hand is pretty useless and weak. Right from the start, you’ll tend to only use your right hand. It’s not a problem if you start out like this. The melody is what you’ll usually learn first, anyway. However, to really play the piece, you’re going to have to incorporate your left hand. Anyone who’s started out by teaching themselves a few things will have also started out in this way. Once you’ve got the melody down, it’s time to start working on the chords. There’s no right way to do this. Everyone learns a bit differently, after tall. However, you’ll have to use both hands eventually. Before you’re able to play using both hands, you have to be able to use both hands. How can you play the piano with your left hand? Or rather, how can you learn to play the piano with your left hand? To overcome this first challenge, you’ll need to start playing with just your left hand (by practicing scales, for example). You need to be doing this as soon as you start learning to play the piano! Don’t wait two months before you start using your left hand. Don’t waste any time! Once you’re beginning to feel more comfortable with your left hand, you can then move on to using them both at the same time. The key here is to master using both hands and then bring them together. Learning to use both hands at the same time can be a nightmare! (Source: Jason Plant) When you first start, just work on playing the same notes with one hand at a time. Then do it again with both hands. Then learn to play a very simple piece where each hand has a different part. As always, learn each part independently. This is the first rule to follow: never start by trying to use both hands at the same time. Deconstruct the piece and think about the sound. Over time, your brain will start doing this automatically. Believe me! You don’t need to rush. You’ll see that playing different parts with both your hands is getting easier and easier. This may take some time, but eventually your hands will remember their individual parts. At this point you’ll be able to start playing pieces with both hands from the offset. Don’t forget to pick easy pieces in the beginning. Make sure they’re suited for beginners. You’ll probably need at least a year before you start getting comfortable with playing using both hands independently. Don’t get discouraged at the beginning. You won’t become the next Mozart overnight. Learning to Play the Piano: Understanding Theory The second problem you’ll come up against is music theory. Learning to play the piano requires a good understanding of music theory. This isn’t usually the most fun part of learning to play an instrument but it is incredibly useful whether you’re playing a keyboard, electronic, upright, or grand piano. You could learn to play the piano without learning any theory, I suppose. However, you’ll quickly find your abilities limited, especially when it comes to playing classical pieces or creating your own. Fortunately, there are plenty of books dedicated to the subject. There are plenty of piano tutorials on YouTube to help you get started. However, they can only take you so far without any understanding of music theory. Music theory can be difficult when you’re first starting out. However, it’ll help you learn pieces much more quickly in the future. There are two things you should know about music: notes and rhythm. You need to learn about both of them. You’re probably familiar with the notes in one way or another. There are seven of them. A to G. You’ll need to be able to read them on a staff. You might even remember some of these from school. Being able to read these notes is usually quite simple. You’ll see that you only need a few minutes (or hours) to work them out. However, rather than working them out, you should be able to recognize them the second you look at them. If you have some music in front of you, you should be able to name every note you see as you look at it. By learning about music theory at a music school or with the help of a private tutor, you’ll progress much more quickly. Understanding music theory is the quickest way to mastering your instrument. However, you should probably also be familiar with music terminology when you’re talking about it. Don’t forget that the piano is an instrument that uses both the bass and treble clef. This means you’ll need to be familiar with both. The notes on one clef are different to the notes on the other. This means that a “C” on the bass clef won’t be in the same position as a “C” on the treble clef would be. Learning to Play the Piano: The Rhythm Once you understand the notes, you’ll need to move on to studying the rhythm. Music is basically notes in a particular rhythm, after all. You can’t separate the two. Without rhythm, there’s no point in learning to play the piano. (Source: TecnoVortex) Rhythm is also an important part of music theory. You need to be able to read what the notes are but also how long they should be played for (you can use a metronome to help you, too). This means you need to know the note value: whether it’s a whole, half, quarter, eighth, etc. We recommend working on the note value without thinking about what note it represents. You need to have an understanding of the different values before you can move on. You can’t just learn their values, you have to learn how they interact with one another. You need to know that a whole note lasts the same as four quarter notes. This is important when practicing. You should also make sure you’re familiar with measures. A piece of music is divided into units known as measures. Generally, a measure is four quarters. However, this isn’t always the case. This might seem completely alien to you at the moment but once you get started, the idea of time signatures will become second nature to you. The time signature will tell you exactly how you need to read each measure. Once you’ve mastered this, you can even play around with it a bit. It’ll be great for improvisation. Learning to Play the Piano: Reading and Playing at the Same Time Once you’ve mastered your music theory and reading music, there’s one more thing you need to do. You’ll have to play the music. This is something that’s really difficult in the beginning because you’ll need to do a lot of things at the same time. You’ll have to work a lot in order to be able to read and play at the same time. This will require a lot of practice and a lot of training. It’s a lot harder than it looks. It’ll be difficult to coordinate your hands at the start. (Source: Piano Learning) Here’s some advice: read the notes and don’t even touch the piano. Then work slowly with each hand individually. Your hands and your brain need to get used to recognizing the notes on the paper. Another piece of advice: start doing this with slower pieces of music. Don’t even consider doing this with faster pieces. Bit by bit it’ll become second nature. Keep this in mind every time you type something on the computer. Remember when you used to peck and seek with your two index fingers (I hope you still don’t do this!). Just by using your computer every day, you probably don’t even look at the keyboard anymore when you’re typing and probably use all your fingers when you do. The piano’s the same. Just be patient! Working on your scales is a good way to do this as you’ll associate the notes on the keyboard with the notes on the page. We’ll talk more about scales later on. There’s no other secrets: you’ll need to practice to get better. It’s normal to make lots of mistakes when you’re a beginner. Stick with it and you’ll soon start progressing faster and faster. Learning to Play the Piano: How to Position Your Body You don’t just use your hands when playing the piano and you don’t just use your mind, either. Playing the piano uses your entire body. To play the piano, you’ll need to be sitting comfortably since a good posture is essential for playing the piano as well as you can. You need to be well positioned in front of the keys. Sit directly in the middle of the keyboard in front of Middle C. Your arms need to be almost perpendicular to the keys. Your elbows need to be at the same height as the keys or slightly above this level. Of course, this depends on how tall you are. A private tutor will be able to help you work on your posture and decide on the best way for you to be when you play the piano. Poorly positioning your elbows and your fingers is not only detrimental to your playing but also your health. If your elbows are too low, your wrists won’t be in the right place and you won’t be able to press on the keys as much as you’d like to. Make sure to get a piano stool to ensure you’re sitting in the right place. On the other hand, having your elbows too high is also a bad idea. Your forearms will be above your fingers. Your back must be straight. Beginners tend to lean towards the piano. This can result in back pain. Make sure your stool is big enough so that you can comfortably turn towards the highest notes and the lowest notes. Your body also needs to be in the center of the piano so that you can reach the pedals more easily. The pedals are located right in the middle of the piano. Become a piano expert by playing with both your hands. (Source: Superprof.ch) Being in the center also means you can reach all the keys more easily. This also means you can play with four hands (using two pianists, of course). In this case, the piano is split into two. The first pianist plays the chords on the lower end of the piano while the second plays the melody on the higher end. And, of course, your hands need to be on the keys. It’s suggested that your fingers are curling slightly downwards. Imagine you’re holding an apple in your hand. However, this will depend on how big your hands are. A pianist with big hands won’t adopt the same position as a pianist with small hands. It’s best to ask your tutor about the best position for you or even have a look on the Internet for examples. Make sure you’re also doing breathing and relaxation exercises to help you. Think about loosening up your body (especially your wrists and shoulders). You need to make sure you don’t have any stiffness. You’ll play much better if you’ve taken the time to loosen up and warm up than you would if you’re stressed and tight. Playing the piano is a bit like dancing. Your entire body is involved musically. Your feet are using the pedals while your fingers are touching the keys. Relaxation is important because playing the piano can also be “tiring”. Playing the piano is like exercise for some. Make sure you also relax your muscles after having played the piano (and after your lessons). You don’t need to keep pressing down on keys that are already pressed down, either. It doesn’t change how a note sounds and it means that you’ll save energy. Learning to Play the Piano: Working on Your Scales We mentioned them earlier in the article. Scales are one of the most popular piano exercises in the world. In addition to being used as a warm up, scales can be used for a number of reasons. In recent years, scales have become decreasingly popular to the point where some teachers completely avoid them altogether. So what are scales? Scales are a series of notes played in succession with a predefined interval between said notes. A scale usually gets its name from its first note. The number of notes in a scale can also vary. Some have ten notes while others only have five. Scales can be used to improve how quickly you can play. Most songs are built around them, too. Scales have another use: learning to play in time. Using scales can help to develop your rhythm. They can also help you when it comes to positioning your hands and fingers. Scales are also useful when you first start out as they can help you recognize different harmonies. If used correctly, scales can help you understand music theory better, recognizing the elements that make up a major scale or a minor scale, for example. A student learning a piece in a certain key will learn it much more quickly if they’re familiar with the scale. In fact, it’s highly recommended that students learn a given scale before they start learning any piece utilizing it. There are plenty of resources on scales, too. If you’ve already learned to play another musical instrument, you’re probably already familiar with a number of scales. How Long Does it Take to Learn to Play the Piano? This is an important question. Like we said before, learning to play the piano can take a lot of time. How many hours a week should it take? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. This depends on a number of factors and which methods are being used to learn to play. Firstly, not everyone can practice two hours every day and also study music theory. You need to take into account their other commitments. Furthermore, it completely depends on why you’re learning to play the piano: if you’re wanting to master Liszt in two years, you’re going to have your work cut out for you. You could commit several hours a day. Some people can get better at the piano by spending only a few hours a week, too. Whether you practice ten hours a week or two hours a week, you need to practice regularly. Make sure you always put aside some time to practice playing the piano. It’s important to take the time to consolidate your music lessons. (Source: PB Security) Starting out isn’t going to be pretty. You might think you’ll learn an incredible piece in a few weeks but you probably won’t. Don’t get frustrated! You’ll get there. You just need to be patient and get used to playing regularly. Don’t forget to practice technique as well as playing. Alternate between playing a piece and practicing scales and techniques, etc. This will help you to progress much more quickly. You’ll go from beginner to intermediate in no time. There are other things you need to take into account, too: how you work, your concentration, and how often you practice. Don’t forget that you only need to practice for four or five hours a week. That’s one hour a day, not including the weekends. However, it’s difficult to get any better at the piano if you’re only practicing one hour a week. Learning to Play the Piano as a Child A lot of parents ask: “What age should are child start learning to play the piano at?” On the other hand, adults ask: “Am I too old to learn how to play the piano? How long will it take?” So is this important? Age is an important factor given how hard your brain has to work when playing the piano. Brain development slows down with age. Let’s have a look at different age groups and their growth. From 0-6: Perhaps a little young. Let them discover it naturally. Music can act as a supplementary stimulus for babies and young children. Every parent should have a good collection of piano music, orchestral music, piano and violin concertos, and operas, etc. and let their child to listen to them in their room or around the house. Lots of parents tiptoe around and whisper while their baby is sleeping even though they really shouldn’t. Babies will learn to sleep in a normal environment (complete with various noises). From 6-12: Learning music in stages. This age group usually undergoes significant brain development. Learning seems almost effortless at this age. From 13-19: The age at which pianists mature. This is the age at which pianists can delve into advanced music theory and play complicated pieces. A pianist at this age will start developing their own styles and tastes, make sure you’re encouraging them! What if You’re an Adult? Lots of adults who want to learn the piano are asking this question. Adults don’t learn as quickly children, right? In some ways that’s true. We memorize things more quickly as children and this works as much for learning languages as it does for playing the piano. However, if we delve a little deeper, you’ll see that you needn’t lose all hope! You can learn to play the piano at any age and become an excellent pianist by starting at 30, 40, or beyond. Some start learning to play the piano when they retire and become surprisingly-good pianists a few years later. Age isn’t important, motivation is. That’s what drives you towards becoming a better pianist. Even at 90, you can start having piano lessons. (Source: Steamline 365) No matter how old you are, you need to be motivated in order to learn to play the piano. It requires a lot of work and effort. If you’ve already learned to play another instrument, you’ll know how much hard work it can take. Getting better takes time so don’t get discouraged. On the other hand, it is true that adults tend to have less free time to dedicate to this pursuit. Our working lives take up so much time if can be difficult for adults to practice as often as they should. The only way to get better at playing the piano (and learning without getting bored and giving up) when you’re an adult is to give yourself goals, schedules, and stick to them. Regularly practicing is the most important thing. Even if you’re up to your neck in work, you can always find 30 to 40 minutes to practice playing the piano. Especially given that the average American watches over 5 hours of TV per day! Practicing the piano is an even better way to relax. Music is great for your brain. It improves your concentration and alleviates stress. In fact, music can also alleviate stress from our bodies. Do you need another reason to start playing the piano when you get home? Should you learn on your own or with a tutor? There are several ways to learn how to play the piano: alone, with a private tutor, or at a music school. There are no wrong answers. Some people learn brilliantly on their own. However, others may need structured lessons and advice in order to improve. It really depends on your goals. If you just want to learn how to play a few songs for your friends, without studying any theory, learning on your own is more than possible. If you want to learn how to play some of the world’s most difficult pieces, you’re probably not going to manage that without outside help. Don’t forget that you can also look for resources and tutorials on-line. If you’ve decided to learn on your own, you should probably get the right tools for the job. There are a number of ways to learn how to play the piano without the help of a tutor. Once again, perseverance and motivation are going to be key. Without a tutor driving you forwards, it can be very easy to cut corners or even given up as soon as you encounter any difficulties. It’s very difficult to stick to a schedule when you’re the only person telling you that you have to. Not having a set time to practice will also make it harder to get into a routine. If you’re great at procrastinating, it’s probably not the best idea in the world to teach yourself. In this case, you should already be looking at hiring a private tutor to help you. This may be costly but it’s better than buying a piano and giving up. A piano tutor is so much more than just somebody who tells you how to play the piano. They’ll also motivate you, give you a study and practice schedule, and help you fall in love with learning about music. A piano tutor loves their instrument and their passion for it is usually contagious, meaning that sooner or later, you’ll end up loving the piano, too. Don’t forget that you can find plenty of piano tutors on Superprof! Going to a music school is also another option if you don’t feel like getting a private tutor or learning on-line. There are plenty of different classes available: beginners piano private tutorials theory musical awakening jazz piano classical piano music training music history singing lessons Taking a class could help you find private tutors. They’re often cheaper if you’re working to a strict budget. Whether you’re working on your own or with the help of a tutor, you have to work in order to improve. It’s worth it in the end. If you want to play your favorite pieces, you’re going to have to regularly sit down in front of your piano. With Superprof you can find a tutor that works for you. As well as helping you discover new types of musics, your private tutor can adapt the lessons to suit you and make sure you get the most out of every hour together. Some tutors love classical music, others love cinema, and some prefer jazz or blues piano. Make sure to check out which before you make your decision. If you get along, it’s probably a good idea to keep having tutorials. Private in-home tutors are often fantastic teachers who might even teach another instrument you’re interested in. For them, teaching is a way to share their passion with their students. They use classes to delve deeper into their passions while exploring techniques they love. Before you start learning in a particular way, you’ll learn to enjoy learning about music. Why should you learn the piano? Your lessons will quickly become one of the most enjoyable things in your life. If you’re motivated and determined to learn to play the piano, don’t waste any more time! Playing the Piano with YouTube Videos! This certainly isn’t the best way to learn to play the piano or read sheet music but it is worth mentioning. Why not check out the thousands of videos available on YouTube? Every day thousands of pianists all over the world upload video tutorials of them playing their own versions of famous pieces by Bach, Chopin, and Mozart, etc. Can you become a pianist with YouTube? (Source: YouTube) You’ll come across two main types of piano videos on YouTube: Synthesia: where you can watch the color-coded notes play out on the screen. It looks a bit like Guitar Hero if you’re familiar with video games. Videos where the pianist films themselves playing the piece. Neither of these are ideal for beginners. Why? Simply because neither of them technically tell you how to play the song. They don’t tell you the rhythm, the rests, or the phrasing: things which have taken these pianists years to master. However, that doesn’t mean they’re any less fun: you can learn without the sheet music, it’s a new interpretation of the original piece, you can learn modern songs like TV or movie themes, or songs from current singers, You can take inspiration from the way the song is played in order to drive your own creative. If this seems interesting, we should also recommend that you use YouTube for help with your music theory. Remember: you can’t skip any steps. You need to start with a strong foundation. Remember that we’re recommending YouTube tutorials here for those who can’t take private tutorials. Furthermore, the Synthesia videos are useful for showing budding pianists where they should be putting their hands. This is very useful for those visual learners. These videos also open up a whole host of possibilities. Once you’ve found one of these videos, a whole heap of suggested videos will be there on your right. You might find yourself spending hours practicing. Make sure you check out different genres and styles, songs that you wouldn’t normally listen to or learn how to play. Go explore YouTube. Listening to different styles of music is great for encouraging creativity and giving you some inspiration. Don’t forget a simple search is all it takes to find plenty of resources on how to play the piano. You can also search how to play a particular song, too. You’ll no doubt get plenty of interesting results! Learning piano on-line isn’t always the easiest thing. While you may enjoy the freedom of learning whatever you want, it’s hard to establish the routine and discipline you need to really improve when it comes to playing the piano. For this you’ll need a private tutor or lessons at a music school, especially when you’re first starting out. No matter what instrument you play, having your own personal tutor gives you an opportunity to ask questions and clarify things you don’t understand. You don’t get this from in front of a screen. One Last Thing… The best way to learn the piano, I believe, is with the help of a qualified piano tutor. Tutors are always available to guide you better than any book or YouTube video ever could. However, I understand that you might still be asking the following question: “How can I learn on my own?” If your mind is made up, then here’s something I’d recommend: Follow Andrew Furmanczyk on YouTube. He’s a piano tutor who’s produced around 200 free videos on how to play piano and music theory. He starts with the basics and things you should know about the piano and music theory. He’s a good tutor who explains everything for beginners. However, if there’s something you don’t understand, the only thing you can do is watch the video again (as many times as you want). At least it won’t cost you a penny.
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