Learning to play the piano is far from straightforward.
All aspects of piano training – solfege, reading sheet music, posture, dexterity, head-hands-feet coordination, method – are difficult, technical and process-driven.
Although certain student pianists learn quicker than others (remember, we don’t all have the same cognitive and musical predispositions), all beginner pianists go through the same phase of feeling handicapped at the keyboard!
To become a fluid player and feel at ease with your piano, you must be motivated, determined, perseverant and strict, while also taking pleasure from playing those piano chords and arpeggios!
Here, Superprof presents you with 5 steps to remember as you learn to play piano. You’ll be playing like Mozart in no time!
Our first advice for learning to play the piano
Before you even touch those keys, you must adopt proper posture for piano playing.
First, sit in the middle of the keyboard, where the middle octaves are found. Your main benchmark for positioning your left hand is the middle C. Make sure your seat or piano stool is at the right height: not too high or low.
The classic posture taught to every beginner pianist to play the piano correctly is as follows:
- Your elbows: they should be at the same height as the keyboard.
- Sit on a bench: better than a chair, a bench will allow you to move yourself easily from side to side, towards the low notes or the high notes, whatever the piano song calls for!
- Your back: it must be straight and not curved forward.
- Your shoulders: they must be lightly behind you to avoid pain, open up your thorax and allow for easy breathing while you play.
- Your hands: your 10 fingers should be slightly bent, so that they press the keys with the tip of the phalanx, almost at the nail.
- The palm of your hand should be somewhat lifted, which will give each hand speed, range and fluidity.
- Your feet should be placed firmly on the floor, in parallel to each other.
To learn to play the piano, begin by playing the keys separately and lightly. Generally, the key of F is played with the left hand (the 5 lines at the bottom of each measure) and the key of G with the right hand.
Play the rhythm separately from the melody.
When you play a piano piece, try to avoid mixing up the steps, and play a song at the speed noted in your sheet music. This will mean that:
- Your brain will memorize the chord sequences correctly
- You will improve your dexterity
- Your technique and fingering will get better
- You’ll understand the piece’s nuances, and make it your own!
So progressively increase the tempo as you attain a more advanced level. Remember that if you are taking piano lessons, your piano teacher should be guiding you and giving you all these directions.
Can you play with small hands?
Some people who aren’t blessed with big hands consider themselves unable to play the piano and believe that their physique is incompatible with the keyboard. The same goes for those who think their fingers are too fat for guitar playing. These two misconceptions are excuses! All you have to do is take a glance at the hands of jazz pianist Michel Petrucciani to see that this argument doesn’t hold!
Hand size or finger length and width won’t affect the playing quality of the pianist. What’s more, having small hands will help you do those chromatic movements (C-C#-D)!
Now that you know the right positions, let’s move on to the question of piano courses: can you learn by yourself or are piano lessons necessary?
How to learn to play the piano
Teaching yourself, taking private lessons, attending music school, playing on the internet, learning with friends… everything is possible depending on your way of working, your budget and your music experience and level.
Teach yourself to play the piano
If you are reticent about taking a piano class and prefer to do it on your own for whatever reason, you’ll need to assemble a bunch of resources:
- A metronome
- A manual for beginner piano
- A music theory manual to learn solfege
- A book of sheet music for absolute beginners
- A lot of determination and will
The big advantage of creating a beginner piano method when one is self-taught is that one learns to read notes by producing automatic reflexes.
As you progress you may need to:
- Purchase more learning materials that correspond to your level
- Download free piano music on the internet to learn to read music
- Look at piano tutorials on Youtube and Dailymotion
- Consult online piano courses
- Train yourself to play a song that you hear: this will improve your musical ear and help you play by ear
But everything has its downside. Here are some disadvantages to teaching yourself to play the piano as opposed to taking a piano lesson:
- You aren’t structured or supervised, so no one will correct your errors
- Your solfege attempts wont be listened to by a professional
- You risk taking up bad habits
- The risk of frustration and discouragement is higher
It’s therefore possible to learn the piano alone, but you don’t have the best chances on your side. Taking music classes is the preferred means of learning and making regular progress on the keyboard.
Take piano lessons with an instructor
Your private piano teacher will provide a structure for learning, while observing and encouraging you. He or she will teach you how to surmount challenges, something that may also benefit other situations in your daily life! Piano classes are an exchange of positive energy and music appreciation that feed the beginner piano player’s motivation.
Different formulas are at your disposal: private lessons (like the ones you’d book at Superprof, for example), a music school or a conservatory for higher education students.
And since you’ll be spending a lot of time with your piano teacher, at least an hour per week depending on the method you choose, it’s very important that you get along with one another. So choose a teacher who corresponds to your personality and objectives. And if you don’t find the right match at first, try again!
I found my ideal music teacher on Superprof, after several fruitless Internet searches for piano lessons London.
Is it necessary to learn solfege to play the piano?
Contrary to what countless frustrated students think, solfege is not just an evil game devised by piano instructors.
It’s a language one must master, and it works for all musical instruments. With solfege you’ll be able to read a piece of sheet music just as you would a novel.
Solfege training is a fundamental aspect of piano lessons: 15 minutes of solfege often precedes playing, as it’s the basis for reading, playing, arranging and composing music.
So when and how should you learn solfege?
- Learn solfege as a child: children learn new things faster than adults
- Practice solfege exercises throughout your lesson: at the beginning, a little in the middle and again at the end.
- Learn solfege to distinguish between different rhythms
- Solfege will improve your global understanding of music
- Mastering solfege will boost your self confidence when you play
- If you are comfortable with solfege, you’ll be able to learn other instruments much faster and easier.
What are the basic piano chords?
A piano has 88 keys. That’s right, Beethoven’s favorite instrument has 52 white keys and 36 black keys.
While we’re on the subject, perhaps you want to know the main piano chords? Why spend time working on all the chords if you’re an amateur pianist who is learning piano songs for beginners? Mary had a little lamb, anyone?
The 4 main piano chords are:
- A minor
- C major
- F major
- G major
All you need to know to get your first record deal with Universal! Well almost…
How to learn piano scales
All beginner musicians, whether they are pianists, guitarists, or…, must ceaselessly repeat their scales to begin to master their ear training become more advanced.
For the piano, this often means repeating the C scale: do-ré-mi-fa-sol-la-si-do-si-la-sol-fa-mi-ré-do and again… and again… and again. We do this for two reasons:
- So that the musician will automatically recognize the proper sounds of each note.
- To work on finger placement and movement.
- Scale of C major,
- Scale of D major,
- Scale of E major,
- Scale of F major,
- Scale of G major, etc…
And while we’re on the subject, the minor scales are: the natural minor scale, harmonic minor scale, ascending melodic minor scale and the descending melodic minor scale! You’ll need to learn all these piano basics before you can think about things like chord progressions and improvisation!
You’ll also have to think about what music style you want to play. There are different methods for classical piano and others for jazz piano, for example. Or what about blues, pop-rock or variety piano? In every case, you must work with regularity, being even stricter with yourself if you are self-taught! If you are taking piano lessons, tell your music instructor what songs you’d like to play and he or she will guide you on the best method to use to get there.
You’ve now mastered your posture, read sheet music, and learned some piano chords and scales. Time to play piano!