How To Learn The Piano – 8 Essential Steps For Beginners

checklist clipart

Have you always dreamed of learning the piano but never had the time?

Do you have an old keyboard or piano at home but aren’t sure how to get started?

Learning piano is easier and more accessible than ever thanks to an abundance of online resources. Anyone can learn this beautiful versatile instrument at little to no cost.

someone playing grand piano on stage

Whether you’ve tried another instrument in the past or don’t consider yourself musical at all, piano is right for you. It’s more intuitive than many other instruments and also a great way to learn more about music theory.  There are even great programs designed for children!

Here is everything you need to know to learn piano!

1. Decide on a Piano Learning Method

There is more than one way to learn piano. You could take traditional lessons with a teacher or you could learn online, which often yields faster results.

Many online song tutorials are free to watch. These are especially helpful if you want fast results or have a particular song you want to learn. Online tutorials get right to the point and show you how to play specific songs step by step. (1)

If you’re serious about learning the piano, it’s best to supplement song tutorial videos with other online lessons on music theory and technique.

girl in plaid shirt playing colorfully painted piano with "play me, I'm yours" written across it

2. Familiarize Yourself With the Keys and Notes

The musical alphabet goes from A to G. That’s right, only 7 letters! There are also sharps and flats involved, but it’s not as complicated as it may sound. Before you can begin playing piano, you’ll need to know the note names of the keys.

Start by sitting in front of a piano or keyboard. You’ll notice there are black keys and white keys. The black keys are positioned in groupings of two and three. Find a grouping of two black keys. The note directly to the left of the first black key is C.

Try playing the white keys in order, starting from C. Next will come D, then E, then F, then G. Then you’re back at A and B. Before you know it, you’ve already played your first C major scale!

When you’re first starting, it’s okay to place stickers on the keys with note names written on them. Eventually, you won’t need them anymore.

What Are the Black Keys?

grey dirty piano keys

The black keys are where sharps and flats come in. Play C and then try playing the black key directly to the right of C. That’s what we call C sharp. It is a half step higher than C, whereas D is a whole step higher than C.

Now try playing a different white key, such as A. The black key directly to the left of A is called A flat. It is a half step lower than A, whereas G is a whole step lower than A.

Certain melodies will require the use of sharps and flats, but don’t worry about that too much when you’re just starting out.

3. Use Proper Technique

Utilizing proper technique will help you play the piano better. There are plenty of online resources that can give you a crash course in piano technique. Here are the most important basic technical tips to keep in mind when learning the piano.

kid playing piano with sheet music black and white

Sit With Proper Posture

Your chair or piano bench should be positioned parallel to the center of your piano. Sit a comfortable distance away so your arms aren’t cramped. You should be able to comfortably reach all the keys.

Perch on the front half of your bench or chair. You should not be leaning back or slouching. Place your feet flat on the ground in front of you. For younger and shorter students, you may need to place a box or other item under your feet. Your feet should not be dangling in mid-air when you play.

Sit up straight and relax your shoulders. Holding tension in your upper body or arms will make playing more difficult.

Keep Your Hands Curved

When placing your hands on the piano, imagine you have a little ball under each hand. Your fingers should be curled downwards so your fingertips rest gently on the keys. Your wrists should be lifted rather than resting on the edge of the piano keys.

When you are first starting out, your pinky finger will be a little weak. You may be tempted to keep your pinky finger flat, which collapses your hand. Strive to keep your pinky finger curled like your other fingers. Your thumb can remain straight and relaxed.

Girl playing white keyboard

4. Learn to Play With Dynamics

Dynamics in music refers to variations in volume. You may want to play quite loud for certain songs and softly for others. Playing with dynamics may take time as it requires ample control over how your fingers are hitting the keys.

To practice dynamics, place your hands on the piano with your fingers curved and wrists lifted as previously mentioned. Practice lifting one thumb up slightly and then letting it fall down to press the key. Don’t hit the key forcefully; simply lift your thumb and let it drop, pressing the key down gently.

Experiment with this natural movement of your thumb, trying to press the key down softly for a while. Then try pressing the key down slightly harder for a louder volume. Over time, you will gain control and be able to play with a wide dynamic range.

sheet music

5. Learn to Read Music

You don’t need to read music to learn to play songs from online tutorial videos. However, reading music will only increase your understanding and help you to learn more songs on your own.

Piano players read two different musical clefs: treble clef and bass clef. There are plenty of free apps and online videos that will help you learn to read music. You can easily quiz yourself on note names, musical terms and symbols, and key signatures.

6. Learn to Play Chords

In all forms of music, there is melody and harmony. A melody is a sequence of single notes played or sung one after the other. Harmony occurs when two or more notes are played at the same time.

When you play at least three musical notes at once, you create a chord. Major chords are typically described as sounding happy, while minor chords sound a little more melancholy.

As you go about learning songs, you may hear chord names mentioned in online video tutorials. Although you can always just look at the notes being played in the video, it will be easier if you begin to learn which notes comprise different chords.

For example, a C major chord is made up of the notes C, E, and G. Something that’s great about the piano is that all three-note chords are equally easy to play. You’ll just need your thumb, middle finger, and pinky. Unlike the guitar, there is no basic chord that is challenging for a beginner to play.

woman in white dress looking up from piano at camera

7. Take Advantage of Free Online Resources

Whether you decide to take formal lessons or not, free online resources can be a great way to supplement your musical education. YouTube is a treasure trove of song tutorials. You can also find videos teaching you to play scales and other exercises.

Free apps such as Yousician can help you with music theory and reading music. (2)

8. Practice, Practice, Practice!

As with any new skill, the best way to ensure progress is to consistently practice. If you’re lacking motivation, try focusing on a song you’re really excited to learn or a song that isn’t too difficult.

Be sure that each time you practice, you are practicing with good habits. Keep your posture and hand position in mind. It’s easier to start off with good habits than to break bad ones down the line.

blue light over keyboard with many knobs and gadgets

Practice With a Metronome

Once you feel like you can play a piece decently well, try practicing it with a metronome. A metronome is a device that marks time with a clicking noise. You can download free metronome apps or find online metronomes. (3)

You want to strive for a steady tempo when you play, following the click of the metronome. You can set it to any speed you like. Using a metronome is a great way to incrementally increase your playing speed.

A common mistake with beginners is to play as fast as they can, while sacrificing accuracy and consistency. Start slow and don’t increase your speed until you can play the piece perfectly, with appropriate dynamics.

Final Thoughts

Anyone can learn to play the piano. You don’t need to have a musical background to get started. There are many ways to learn, but online lessons or piano learning apps help yield the fastest results.

Thanks to the plethora of online resources now available, you can become a pianist from the comfort of your own home. From music theory quizzes to song tutorials to metronome apps, there have never been more tools available to make learning piano from home easy.

Don’t wait to start learning this beautiful instrument!

long logo

Want To Improve Your Piano Playing Fast?!

Taking a good course is vital to becoming a better pianist.  It will make your piano playing improve faster than you ever thought possible.  Check out some of the best options for learning to master the piano! Show Me The Best Piano Courses!