How to Play the Piano: A Basic Guide for Beginners

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The piano is an intimidating instrument. Notorious for its steep learning curve, the overwhelming number of keys may make you wonder where to even start learning how to play the piano.

Fortunately, a few simple tricks can help you learn your way around the keyboard, no matter how old you are when you get the urge to start. Let’s take a look at the fundamentals you’ll need to know.

Understand Key Groupings

First, the 88 keys on a piano keyboard can be broken down into more manageable chunks called “octaves.” Traditional pianos will have 7 octaves in total.

There are actually 12 keys per octave, though as the name suggests, 8 of them are white keys. The black keys come in alternating groups of two or three, allowing you to more easily recognize each octave.

Each repeating white and black key is named for a letter to identify it. The 7 letters range from A-G, with the black keys used as sharp or flat notes. Grab a piano chart to see these letters at a glance, or consider adding removable stickers or labels to your keyboard until you learn your way around.

Find “middle C,” which is the fourth C from the left side of the piano. This key and the keys around it feature in the majority of songs, making it a good home base for you as you start learning.

Start Playing Basic Scales

Scales are one of the first things you’ll learn in music lessons, but you can teach them to yourself for a bit of a head start.

Scales are collections of notes that have been grouped by sound. Depending on the key, you’ll include different white and black notes in the scale. This may sound confusing, but you’ll start with the basic C major scale.

The C major scale includes the 8 white notes from one C on your keyboard to the C above. Because you only have five fingers, you’ll need some fancy finger work to make this happen.

Specifically, this means doing a “thumbtuck,” which means tucking your thumb under your palm so you can reposition your hand and continue the rest of the scale. It may feel awkward at first, but this finger technique is one of the keys to future playing.

Practice until you can perform your scales smoothly with both hands. At this point, you’re on your way to playing the piano!

Keep Working to Learn How to Play the Piano

From here, you’ll probably find it helpful to continue with beginner piano lessons, either online or in person, to learn the next steps for how to play the piano. Alternatively, you may want to try teaching yourself using the notes and finger pattern above. Whatever you decide, prioritize good technique and keep practicing to see success as you grow your skills!

Curious about the skills and techniques you’ll need to know for your favorite hobbies and crafts? Check out our other articles to learn more.

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