Music brings people together. And musical instruments help create the art of music. It provides a helping hand to individuals to build confidence, enhance their memory, and widen their cliques.
However, learning to play an instrument is not a piece of cake at all. To produce even a decent single note, it might take a couple of days or even weeks for beginners in the case of some instruments like violin or the trumpet. But there is one instrument that is advantageous to beginners from day 1 itself and that is the "Piano".
Before jumping into learning a new instrument, beginners need to know about the benefits that come along with learning the particular instrument. Just like any other instrument, playing piano has its benefits. Some of the benefits of playing piano are listed below:
- Improves mental health by minimizing stress, anxiety, frustration, and depression, and brings calmness.
- Hone your concentration and focus.
- Boosts your confidence and self-esteem.
- Improves the body by sharpening fine motor skills and refining hand-eye coordination.
- Helps build good habits like persistence, diligence, and creativity.
You can make haphazard sounds on a piano effortlessly but converting those sounds into an intricate melody takes hard work and consistency.
Here, we will provide you with a detailed description of how to play piano melodiously as a beginner. We will guide you step by step through the process of Choosing a piano or keyboard followed by Piano Learning Methods, Proper Piano Technique, Reading Piano Music Sheet, Piano Goals and Notes, and finally end our guidance with Piano Practise.
How to Choose a Piano or Keyboard
Buying your first instrument can be overwhelming. So before buying a keyboard or a piano, you will need to do thorough research on them. The process can be mind-boggling if you are new to the market as you will find a great variety of pianos and keyboards, all ranging from different prices.
Your budget and the space in your home also play a crucial role in your purchase decision.
Now let's take a look at the three kinds of pianos:
- Digital Keyboard: The most affordable, convenient, and portable. However, the sounds and the texture of digital keyboards cannot be compared to acoustic pianos. Primarily for entry-level, but are convenient and useful as they can be connected easily to any device to produce melody through the help of software, piano learning apps, and so on. Their feature depends on the model of the keyboard. But, your experience with a digital keyboard depends on two factors: key count and key touch. A full-size piano keyboard has 88 keys with 7 octaves. So when you are looking for a digital keyboard, ensure that your keyboard has maximum keys, at least 76 keys, and no less than 6 octaves. Try choosing a digital keyboard with weighted keys that produce a quality sound as weighted keys help in building finger strength and technique. Ranges in between 200$-500$. make sure to purchase a keyboard stand and a bench so that it teaches the person about good piano posture. In the case of digital keyboards, we recommend you go with either for Yahama PSR Series (Yamaha PSR-EW310 or Yamaha PSR-EW410) or the Casio PSR Series (Casio CT-X700, Casio CT-S200, Casio CT-S400) as per your preference.
- Digital Pianos: Larger than Digital Keyboards, but mimics the sound of an acoustic piano pretty well. If you are a beginner and have the budget and space, digital pianos would be the perfect choice for you. You will have the playing experience of an acoustic piano while possessing the convenience of the Digital Keyboard. They have weighted 88 keys with the touch of an acoustic piano. They come with a MIDI connection and can be easily plugged into different devices and used with software and apps. Yamaha Arius series, with model numbers beginning with ‘YDP’ (YDP 143, YDP-163, YDP-103), or Casio digital pianos with model numbers beginning with ‘PX’ (PX-130, PX-150, etc.) could be your choices if you are looking for Digital Pianos. Price usually ranges between 1000$-2000$ depending on the model.
- Acoustic Pianos: Pretty expensive and requires a large space. The sound and feel of acoustic piano are of the next level and are mostly preferred by professionals. They require maintenance and tuning from time to time as they react to even small changes in moisture and temperature. But the powerful sound that it makes vibrates through your fingers, and the space around you and the playing experience is wonderful. You will find many good brands such as Yahama U1, Kawai, Boston, and Schimmel in the market if you intend to buy an Acoustic Piano. There are two types of Acoustic Piano namely: Upright Piano and grand Piano and the price ranges from 4000$- 8000$ depending on the model you want.
Piano Learning Methods
Learning methods vary from person to person. The learning approach used for one may not be suitable for the other person. So, one should realize their kind of approach, and act accordingly. The best methods for learning how to play a piano are:
- The Suzuki Piano method: Mostly focused on younger children rather than adults. Also known as the mother tongue approach. Uses listening, repetition, and imitation to help people learn to play an instrument. This technique requires group playing, listening to music extensively, memorizing, and repetition. This technique emphasizes learning music by ear rather than notations.
- The Alfred Method: Position-based piano learning method. Educationally sound and fun for beginners. The technique believes that if apprentices have fun while learning, they are likely to stick to the instrument for a longer period of time and enjoy the benefits. This method promotes moving freely around the keyboard and offers amusing piano instruction for students of all ages.
- Bastien Piano Method: Suitable for someone who prefers learning theories substantially while practically learning to play the instrument. Imparts a deep understanding of all concepts. The method consists of fun-filled piano lessons and prominent themes as it is the perfect mixture of performance, lessons, and music theory.
- Faber and Faber Method: Consists of pieces for students of all ages and with different types of learning abilities and emphasizes note recognition, reading interval, and understanding of the keys as essentials for reading music. This helps students learn about the ideal hand positions as they familiarize themselves with the instrument.
Other types of piano learning methods are:
- Traditional Lessons: In this method, the teacher physically teaches a student to play the piano. If you have the right teacher, learning will be very effective as you get guidance and instant feedback so, mistakes can be corrected right away. A bit expensive and may or may not be flexible, depending on the teacher.
- Video Tutorials: Learning via YouTube has become quite popular as it provides you with the flexibility of timing and pace. However, you may find professionals, along with amateurs giving debatable advice. Video learning may lack consistency and cannot provide feedback making it less effective.
- App Learning: Flexible learning process with feedback. Contains a structured learning path designed especially to track the progress and consistency of learners.
Proper Piano Techniques
Proper piano techniques help in playing the piano keys smoothly whereas, improper techniques make playing more strenuous and put unnecessary pressure on the body. Bad posture can cause stiffness in the back, neck, and shoulder area. Improper hand techniques can make your fingers rigid and limit your agility even outside the keyboard.
Here we will go through the components of proper piano techniques required to play a piano with smoothness.
- Bench and Lower Body Position: Sit on a comfortable and solid bench, stool, or chair at the correct height for you. Keep the stool aligned to the center of the keyboard and ensure that your finger reaches all the keys while keeping the hand position comfortable. Make sure your sitting position allows your feet to easily move up and down on the pedals. Your elbows should also be parallel to the keyboard so that your fingers can glide over the keys easily. Don't put your feet inside the bench or towards the sides, place them flat on the ground below your knee. Later it will be important to move your feet freely from the resting position to use the pedals. Certain pieces require a lot of pedal work so we need to be very careful while being extra comfortable with our feet.
- Correct Posture and Upper Body Position: Sit upright with your back straight and relax your shoulders. Be comfortable and lay your hands on either side of the center of the keyboard. Make sure that your fingers are parallel to the keys, hovering somewhere close to the beginning of the black keys and above the middle of the white keys. Bent your elbows outward, at a comfortable distance from your body so that it can move up and down on the keyboard smoothly. Your arms should open up to a comfortable playing position when they move apart to reach for the ends of the keyboard. To avoid pressure when reaching towards the inside maintain flexible wrists and allow the hands to turn towards each other. Flexible wrists allow you to play the keys smoothly as the pressure of the arm is converted into energy. Fingers should be curled downwards so the keys can be easily tapped. Keep your little finger curled, even though you won't be able to bend it much, just make sure the tip is touching the key. Keep your thumb straight and let it rest on the side edge of the key close to the tip.
- Perfect Key Technique: Make sure your elbow, wrist, and little finger form a straight line. Now keep your wrists loose and drop your fingers lightly without hitting the key. Let your wrist reposition itself as you lift your fingers off the key. This will allow you to play more smoothly, leniently, ensuring greater dynamic range.
Reading Piano Music Sheet
Like any other language, Music also has its own written form of language called "notations". Knowing how to read music helps you communicate with musicians all over the world, without meeting them for real. It helps widen your horizon in the field of music.
Here's how you can read the Piano Music Sheet as a beginner that will help you practice your note reading in your initial days.
In order to understand and read the music sheet, you need to be able to understand the musical alphabet. The musical alphabet uses the first 7 letters of the English alphabet, ABCDEFG. Once you reach G, it starts all over again from A.
On the music sheet, you will see two groups of five lines, each called staff. A grand staff is created when a brace connects two staff. The grand staff often has a trouble clef at the left side of the top staff and a bass clef at the left side of the bottom staff. The treble clef gives an indication that the right hand will mostly be playing above the middle C and the bass clef indicates that the left hand will mostly be playing under middle C. A set of sharp or flats can be seen after the clef, known as the key signature. Key signature lets you know which key will you playing, G and F majors have one sharp each, and C majors have neither flats nor sharp, and so on.
The musical alphabet is intended to be concurrent with the staff. When the names of the notes are moving ahead in alphabetical order, it means the notes on the staff are stepping up. Similarly, when the notes on the staff are stepping downward, the names of the notes are moving downward in reverse alphabetical order.
Memorizing certain notes on the staff called ground notes helps in reading music sheets more easily. Learn the placement of Middle C, Treble G, and Bass F as they are easy to recognize. After being familiar with these notes, count up or down from the closest guide note to know other unsure notes. Keep in mind that, as staff steps up, the alphabet moves forward, and as staff steps downward alphabet moves backward. You need to count both lines and spaces or you may end on the wrong note.
Practice the rhythm first, by clapping or tapping the rhythm. Figure out the notes on the page with the help of guide notes. In order to play the notes on the piano, identify if the notes are stepping, skipping, or making a leap.
Number in music sheet: Time signatures are the numbers that pile up on one another such as 4/4, 2/4, and 3/4. It informs you of the number of beats in each measure and the type of note that makes a beat.
The quarter note is represented by the bottom 4, which equals the beat. 4/4 times signature notifies that there will be 4 beats in each measure.
The video will guide you more on how to read notes.
Piano Goals and Notes
Making plans for what you want to achieve is an important aspect. You need to set goals and work towards achieving them in a systematic manner.
- Set realistic and specific long-term goals that are achievable. Break down your long-term goals into daily goals.
- Take things slow. Find out what you want to achieve each day and ensure that your goals are realistic. Don't make plans like learning piano in a day.
- Get feedback to make sure that you are moving in the right direction. Make sure you get help from some professionals, and rectify your mistakes immediately.
- Reward yourself after achieving your targeted goals to motivate yourself.
- Track your progress. Tracking your progress allows you to know your level and how far have you come.
We have already learned about how to read a music sheet above. Here we will learn about the 12 notes of Piano Keys.
12 notes of Piano Keys
A, A#/Bb, B, C, C#/Db, D, D#/Eb, E, F, F#/Gb, G, G#/Ab called the chromatic scale are the twelve notes that repeat on a piano keyboard.
A#/Bb, C#/Db, D#/Eb, F#/Gb, and G#/Ab known as enharmonic represent the black keys on the keyboard. Their name depends on how they are written on the staff.
For example, if a treble G has a sharp in front of it, that note will be called a G#, but if the same note is written as an A with a flat in front of it, it will be called Ab. Depending on how they fit within the melody, they are written accordingly.
The white keys are simple A, B, C, D, E, F, G.
If you want to be a good Pianist, you need to be consistent with your routine practice. You need to develop the habit of practicing piano from the start if you want the maximum benefit. Make a practice routine and structure your practice routine to take utmost advantage.
- Start with 20 minutes of the practice session, and limit to 40 minutes of the session at a time. If you feel productive then keep going, but usually effective human concentration limit is 40 minutes.
- Warm up your hands and fingers before starting your daily practice session. Loosen your wrists, fingers, and hands and stretch them out, or try arpeggios, scale, or some Hanon exercises.
- Break the music down and group it into small fragments. Practice one row at first, then move to the second one, and finally to the third one. Then try practicing two rows at once so that you get familiar with longer phrases.
- If you want to make your finger muscles remember the pattern, repetition is the only way to do it. Repetition will help you learn the tune, harmonies, and fingering swiftly and more precisely.
- Listening to recordings helps beginner pianists get a clear understanding of the tempo and general nuance of the music as they can visualize the tone, surroundings, and sound of the music beforehand.
- Practice piano with both hands separately as people mostly tend to make mistakes with the non-dominant hand more frequently. Practice frequently with both hands individually to master the art of the piano.
- Try practicing in different tempos. From really fast to slower tempos, enjoy practicing each one of them.