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How to Play Piano - The Basics

Updated on October 26, 2011

Do you want learn how to play the piano? These simple tips will get you closer to the amazing musician you may always have dreamt of being

When starting to play the piano, it can be very hard to know what to do. "Should i learn some scales? Maybe is should learn all the chords? Or maybe is should..." There a lot to learn when learning an instrument and if you want to avoid to much frustration (which is normal) then remember these tips

  • Do some scales
  • Learn a few chords
  • Learn to play with to hands
  • Learn sheet reading and playing by ear

Do some scales

Scales are very important when playing any instrument but some musicians have pulled it off becoming incredible without scales. But I will still advise you to learn the basic scales. Learning scales will make you able of seeing the notes in "groups". Each different scale combine the notes in the scale which will give a special sound. If you can play scales you'll be able to play a simple melody and it will be an extremely effective tool to playing by ear. But how do we learn scales?

The 2 basic scales are the major scale and the minor scale. The major scale is more like a "happy" scale if you can say it and the minor scale is more of a "sad" scale and quite melancholic. The first scale you should learn, should be the major C major scale because it's the most basic scale to learn. A C major scale has the notes C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. I'm sure you can play it right away. It's very simple, just begin on the middle C and continue going to the right on the white keys, and stop on the C you'll land on.

But just to avoid starting bad habits you should use fingering which means you move you hands on the keys so it'll get easier to play. You don't want to play C, D, E, F, G with you fingers and then stop and lift your hand to the A and continue. When you play from middle C to the upper C you'll want to use the fingering 1 2 3 1 2 3 4 5 (where 1 is the thump and 5 is the pinky). That means you will play C with you thump, D with your index finger and so on. When you got that down you have the fundamental which you'll be building on.

Learning some chords

After or before you are able to playing a C major scale you should learn some basic chords. Like you have major and minor scales, you will also have happy major chords and sad minor chords. But let's just start with the c Major chord. It is made by the notes C, E and G, that is called a C major triad. Again you will want to have proper fingering to avoid bad habits therefore use your thump, middle finger and pinky when playing the chords. Thump on C, middle finger on E and pinky on G for the right hand, and for the left hand i suggest Pinky on C, Middle on E and Pinky on G. When you have gotten that down and the scales, you are close to playing a song with to hands.

Learn to play with to hands

Playing with to hands can be very difficult in the beginning because your focus needs to be two places at once. But if you keep on practicing it should get easier. In the beginning you may want to start playing a C major chord in your left hand and play the C major scale in the right hand. The way you could practice is by playing a C chord in the left hand and a C scale in the right hand, when you reach the upper C then play the C chord in the left hand again and play the C scale from the upper C to middle C with the same fingering so you end where you started. Then you can try to switch so the left hand plays scale and the right plays chord. When you are finding that easy you can try using some sort of rhythm to the scale and playing a melody with C scale but again with fingering. And when you get good at that or if you get bored then try learning some new chords in the C scale. The most regular chords would be C major, F major, G major, and A minor. Then play the C scale in the right hand or play melody in the scale and alternate between the 4 chords I mentioned. When you get that down with melody that fits in the right hand, you'll even be able to try some songs with those chords. You could play the chords in both hands and sing or play chords in your left and melody in your right hand.

Learn sheet reading and playing by ear

If you can read sheet music, you don't have to make your own arrangement of all the pieces you want to learn even though you want to learn how to make arrangement later. Learning to read sheet music is not something you do over night, but you can learn it fast with some tutorials. I'll recommend searching for Lypur on Youtube for some good tutorials.

On the other hand you can learn a lot of the "play by ear technique" by yourself. If you don't know what play by ear is, it is basically playing the notes you hear on the instrument. A lot of people either read music or play by ear, for becoming and all-round pianist I would recommend doing both, to a certain degree where you may find that one suits you better because even though practice may not be fun, it's done to get you where YOU want. Always remember that practice should make you go where you want to go.

To be able to play by ear you'll have to train you ear to recognized the melody. But it would be boring to only have a melody, so when you get the melody down, try to find the chords by ear without searching for them on the net at first. When you got the melody and the chords and are able of playing them together, then we get to the fun part. Start getting creative! Use some of the chord in the melody, play a cool rhythm in your left and and try to maybe not always use all of the notes in the chord. It may be hard at first but it can actually also get difficult when you have done it for a while because you may tend to do the same ideas a lot of which makes you stock there. But the solution is as simple as trying something new.

These tips should help you while you build the fundamentals for playing piano and the tips have different difficulties so try out what seems to fit your capabilities.


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    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      7 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Welcome to hubpages! I'm a piano teacher also. Enjoyed your hub. Hope to read them all. Keep up the fine writing! Vocalcoach

    • Dawit T profile imageAUTHOR

      Dawit T 

      7 years ago from Denmark

      Dankendk: Thanks! I don't play any specific genre, if something sound good in my ears then I want to play it :)

      RNMSN: Thanks, you'll get better, just enjoy your skilles and continue developing them

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      hey, we have cool pianist here... welcome to hubpages!!! what genre do you play in the piano?

    • RNMSN profile image

      Barbara Bethard 

      7 years ago from Tucson, Az

      very nice hub

      I play 'at' the piano :) and love it but am not good at it...if I can get hubby to go "oh thats"....and name the right tune I consider that I have done well :)

      welcome to HubPages!!!


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