You may be so unfamiliar with the instrument that you do not even know the difference between a grand piano and an electronic keyboard, let alone your allegros from your arpeggios!
So where does one begin when the desire to play piano is strong, yet you don’t know the first thing about music?
In this brief article I will present to you a basic introduction to the piano and keyboard, directions on how to play piano yourself without the expense of a one-on-one piano teacher, some basic exercises for practice and a simple tune you can play right away.
Types of Pianos
The piano is a fascinating instrument, but it can be confusing and a touch daunting to beginners! Pianos tend to come in two basic varieties; grand pianos, which are the horizontal type that takes up a lot of space in the family home, ranging from 5 to 9 feet in length! The other type of piano sits vertically upright, and takes up far less space, making it more commonly found in homes. Most pianos you find in homes or concert halls are called acoustic pianos. Music is produced on an acoustic piano via a hammer striking a string at high tension when you press a key. A popular alternative to acoustic pianos is the digital piano, which can simulate the sound and action of an acoustic instrument when you play it.
Digital pianos can in addition to replicating the sound of a piano, produce a wide range of different sounds. Being more versatile, a digital piano can useful for professional players, but as there is no mechanical hammer striking actual strings, the digital instrument usually lacks the genuine “feel” and “action” of a normal piano, although some of the more expensive models do feel somewhat like the genuine article and will produce a louder note when you press a key harder for instance.
A more practical variation of the digital piano, (although with many of the same capabilities) is the digital keyboard or synthesizer, which does not try and replicate the action of a normal piano. Instead it that generates electric signals which are converted to sound giving it the ability to “synthesize” new sounds entirely. The digital keyboard is smaller and more easily transported making it more practical for bands than it’s bulkier ancestors.
We can only briefly scratch the surface of the extremely wide variation of pianos and keyboards you will find out in the real world. There are also organs, harpsichords, electric pianos and electronic pianos and many others which all feature the same keyboard layout.
Getting Accustomed to Your Instrument
If you have never played the piano before (or have not played for some time), it is important that you become acquainted (or re-acquainted) with the basics of the instrument. On a piano you will find a row of white and black keys laid out in a consistent arrangement. Eighty-eight keys in total to be precise will be found on the standard acoustic piano.
This jumble of keys may make no sense at first, but if you look closely you will notice the pattern of keys repeats itself as you move from one end to the other. This pattern is made up of seven white keys and five black. On pianos, keys are divided into octaves. What this means is that the pitch of any given note is repeated an octave higher or lower when twelve keys to the right or left of a given note is played.
If you are sitting at an acoustic piano, there will usually be a rack where you can place sheet music. Often this is simply made out of wood and hinges that folds outwards, however some pianos have more elaborate arrangements.
Finally, most acoustic pianos have two or three pedals. Pedals can be used to either mute or sustain the sound being produced by the keys. When you’re just learning it is probably easier to just forget the pedals and focus solely on playing the right keys. As you become more experienced then using the peddles will augment your piano playing abilities, but for now don’t be too concerned about your feet.
A Word About Posture
When you sit down to play at the piano, you should be conscious about maintaining a good posture and seating position. Try to maintain your hands a comfortable distance from the keyboard with a nice straight back. Most pianos have an adjustable piano stool, so if you are feeling awkward when you play, feel free to adjust it to your height. Ideally you should feel free with your hands uninhibited.
Playing for extended hours can result in a stiff back and cramped hands. Bad posture can lead to more serious problems like carpel tunnel syndrome, so ensuring you’re relaxed and comfortable from the start can help a lot in avoiding these kinds of problems. When seated, your feet should be firmly on the floor. Your hands should have a nice arch directly over the keys.
Learn How To Play Piano Without A Tutor
Your approach in finding the best way to learn how to play piano will depend largely on your goals. If your goal is simply to learn a particular song for a school play, event or simply your own enjoyment, then, assuming the song you wish to learn is not complicated, you probably don’t need to learn complicated theory and hours of advanced scales. If, however, you wish to become proficient and would like to be part of an orchestra one day or join a band a band, or you simply wish to expand your repertoire for whatever reason, then a more structured, focused regime of practice exercises will be necessary.
If your goal is to get good at playing the piano or keyboard as fast as possible, then I highly recommend the piano teaching system, Pianoforall by Robin Hall, which is a structured piano course suitable for novices who are just starting out. The beauty of an electronic course like Pianoforall is that you can literally learn how to play piano by yourself without the added expense of a personal piano teacher. For around the price of a single private lesson you get taken, step by step through an entire process that covers all you need to know! The disadvantage of such a course, however is that you must remain motivated enough to follow the lesson plans and practice on a regular basis, so this option is suitable for those people who can motivate themselves and do not need personal assistance. In short, those who are serious about getting good and who are prepared to do the work to get good.
The course features 10 interactive eBooks with embedded audio snippets and videos that allow you to listen to how songs and exercises should sound as you progress. It really is one of the quickest way to become an accomplished piano player. You will still need to practice a lot, but provided you stick to the course it and put in the effort to practice continuously, you WILL get good fast!
On the topic of adopting the right attitude needed to learn how to play piano in the most effective way… when it comes to people wishing to learn piano, many of them would just love to know how to learn piano quickly, but most don’t really wish to ‘learn’ piano as much as they just want to ‘play’. Playing is fun, while learning is a chore. Stuck in our minds is the image of a kid stuck inside practicing piano scales while looking out of the window and watching the other kids play outside.
Unfortunately without regular practice you will find yourself stuck to playing familiar tunes and your progress will be somewhat stunted. Proper structured practice can result in rapid improvements. Not only will you improve at playing those old family tunes, you’ll also be pushing yourself to new heights in playing ability.
The golden rule of piano practice then is to practice what you CAN’T play, not what you can play already. So the takeaway lesson from all this is, while it’s definitely possible to learn how to play piano quickly at a competent level, you will only get there if you are willing to move outside your comfort level and practice playing new material that is challenging to you and that you cannot already play!
A Simple Chord Sequence To Begin With
So let’s start playing something!
To start you off here’s a simple sequence of chords that you can start playing right now!
The following chord sequence is a very common progression used in many Gospel songs and in slow songs such as Let it Be.
The following sequence uses 6 basic chords.
(Don’t worry about WHY a chord is the shape it is or why it is a ‘major’ or a ‘minor’ chord – worry about that later. For now just PLAY!.)
PLAY FIRST – ASK QUESTIONS LATER
Play these chords SLOWLY at first. Repeat them over and over until you gain more confidence.
C, G, Am, F, C, G, F, Em, Dm, C, G, Am, etc . . . (you may recognize the sequence)
If you find that this hurts your hands at first, don’t panic! This is normal for beginners and won’t last forever.
If you find this happening, take short breaks and try again!
Make sure you use the right fingers: 1st, 3rd and 5th fingers.
(For each chord you should play three notes together at the same time.)
(Click to enlarge)
And there you have it, a simple straight beat gospel style chord progression.
How easy was that?
Where To From Here?
You now have a basic understanding about the most popular types of pianos and if you followed the exercise above you can even play a simple sequence of chords to show your friends. No matter where you are in piano playing skills, now is the right time to learn how to play piano from a fresh new perspective.