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Playing the Piano

Updated on January 29, 2014

The Best of the Best


Play to Your Heart's Content

Above you see one of the greatest entertainers who ever lived. But Liberace also loved people, was a humble and all-accepting person, and did not expect everyone to have had his remarkable talents.

Not all of you will attend a conservatory, and yet many people are wondering how to play the piano because they would love to play their favorite tunes that keep running through their heads every day.

Without reading music, you may, and probably can, pick out the basic tune of the song with one finger through trial and error. This is harder than you may think, but try to start anywhere in the song, not necessarily at the beginning. If you get lucky and stumble upon one part in the middle of the song, and it sounds right, then keep playing it over and over again. (Incidentally, over and over again is how you will learn, so please remember so I don't have to say it over and over. It's called practice.)

Now that you have a bit of the song mastered, you can keep working on other parts. Each part will be hard to come by unless you have an excellent ear and a talent for playing by ear, just from the memory of the tune.

For most of us, it will be difficult to learn any tune, even one that we like, so do not get impatient. When you get tired and worn down, stop. You can start up again later. If you are like me, the things you learn will sink in after a good night's sleep; the next day, you will find yourself playing the song more effortlessly.With your first tune, don't expect to learn it in just a day, or even a week.

Finally, let's say you have mastered the one-finger approach to picking out the basic melody of your tune. Now you have to use your common sense as to where to position your fingers when you play the tune. If you are starting with a low note, you have to be ready to use different fingers to reach the next note, which is higher up, moving to the right on the keyboard.

So work until you can play the song without missing a beat, keeping your fingers logically positioned to move from one note to the next, up and down from higher to lower and back again. Do not expect to jump quickly, several notes away, without practice and carefully thinking out the best fingers to use for each note. It's a little like learning to type.

Now add the finishing touch by sometimes playing what are known as chords, that is hitting more than one note at the same time. If you are puzzled, try hitting another key on the piano along with the note you are certain is right to play.

You will realize that some combinations sound sad, others scary, and others ominous. Work until you get the emotion and the spirit you like in the song. It will be trial and error at first, but later you can study chords and look up suggestions on the Internet for your favorite tunes.

You are wondering now whether it would be easier to learn to read music, so as to eliminate all these steps. Remember, this is how-to learning, without lessons. It is my opinion that if you love a song, you will enjoy learning it and will master it faster than you would, if you were forced to play it, or read the music so as to play a certain arrangement of the song.

My way allows you to play the song the way you like to hear it played, maybe slowly, maybe jazzy, or maybe emphasizing certain parts or creating your own nice chords that sound right to you.

People will tell you that famous songs were written a certain way, and that you must read the music and play them exactly as written. Agree with those people, change the topic, and then proceed to try it my way.

Best of luck. This is my recommendation for how to start to learn to play music you love, but play it softly for the sake of everyone else in the house or nearby, because the music that's running through your mind might not be the same for them that day. Happy honky tonk.


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