How to Play Piano

Learning to play the piano is a skill that all newcomers can achieve despite having no prior knowledge. It can be a little intimidating and frustrating to play at first, but with adequate practice – whether it’s a keyboard or grand piano – you too can learn how to play piano with ease.

Essentially, learning to play the piano boils down to some core fundamentals that will help guide you as a beginner on the path of playing the piano. Learning the piano is like learning to walk. It’s a slow process the develops one step at a time. But with sincere commitment and discipline, you’ll be playing songs on the piano in no time. So let’s dig in!

Learning Piano

Like all skills, the piano is an instrument that requires a lot of patience for you to see a growth in your piano skills. Understanding the key notes, progressions, chords, sheet music, scales as well as finger placement techniques will all require you to have a good amount of patience. Learning these basic skills and committing them to memory takes time, but it’s important to build a solid foundation that will set you on a path of musical mastery.

It can be easy to get frustrated and give up but all beginners need to know that similar to all abilities in life, learning to play the piano needs some time and dedication. The harder you work at it, the better your results will be. So be patient and realize that becoming a great pianist takes years, not days.

Consistent Practice
Practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes progress. It is well recommended to take time to practice the piano daily, even if it’s only 30 minutes. In order to internalize the basics and make them a part of your thought process, you must practice them regularly. Things like keynotes, chord progressions, and finger placement exercises only become natural to you if you make them part of a regular routine. It can get monotonous and probably even wearisome and dull but the basic building blocks of the piano set you up to learn the next steps. So take the simple parts seriously and it will pay off in due time.

Piano or Keyboard?
Obviously, you will need a piano if you want to know how to play one. What beginners need to understand is that you don’t need a $100k grand piano to begin learning. If you’re looking for a suitable budget-friendly piano, an electronic keyboard is the best choice because they are inexpensive and give you access to the piano keys, which is most important at the beginning stage.

Some electronic keyboards also feature a variety of digital functions and onscreen tutorials that will help you learn and play common songs along the way. It is a great way for beginners to learn the ropes with ease. Electronic keyboards also do not require tuning and are usually portable. Users also have access to a selection of different effects and enhancements to alter your music sounds. It is a fun, cost-effective and easy way to learn the piano.

Steps to learn the piano

1. Familiarize Yourself with the Keys

First things first, you need to familiarize yourself with the basic structure of keys and notes on the piano. This is essential to understanding the piano better as different keys produce different pitches. Keys running down the left produce a more deep pitch than those moving up toward the right side of the piano.

Every key on the piano has a name. It is important that you memorize the names early so you won’t have to think about it during more complex lessons.


2. Spot the octaves

Let’s breakdown the piano into simple comprehensible chunks. The keyboard is compromised of 12 notes in repeating groups. These are the white and black you see on the keyboard. Looking closely, you will notice that on the keyboard, you will spot keys that repeat themselves after a sequence of twelve notes. This sequence is known as an octave. Octaves are the same keys at different intervals. For example, C# can be found repeatedly on the keyboard. There are 7 octaves on a piano of 88 keys. Practice spotting octaves across the entire keyboard. This will become more important as your playing develops.


3. Learn how to name the notes on the keyboard

Naming the various notes on the piano is crucial in understanding how to play the piano. If you look closely, you will find that the black notes are grouped into sections of 3’s and 2’s in between the white notes. This pattern will stretch throughout the keyboard. The lowest white key that is next to a group of 2 black keys is known as the “C” note. The C notes can be found to the left of the black keys that are paired in 2’s.

Now from the C note, I want you to ascend upwards, playing only the white keys step by step slowly until you reach the next octave(in this case it would be the next C note). With each step, and note, you will progress from C to D, then to E, F, G, A, B and finally C on the next octave. Congratulations! you have successfully identified the white keys.

Notice how they progress from C to G and not H like you would assume alphabetically? These are some of the beautiful wonders of the piano. Note: there are no keys that go beyond the name G. From G it goes back to A. Be sure to memorize this fact.

4. The Middle C

The middle C is home to learning the basics of the entire instrument. You will discover that many tutorials start from the middle C octave. It is the fourth C note from the bottom(left) of the keyboard. Now that you can identify the notes and find the middle C, let’s get down to some practice techniques.


Piano Practice Techniques

1. Finger Placement on Piano Notes

To begin playing the piano, you will need to know how to number your fingers. This provides a way to accurately build up on your finger placement (which finger goes where) which is crucial in playing the piano, especially when it comes to sheet music. In piano lingo, we do not recognize fingers in terms of words but in numbering.


For both hands, from thumbs to pinky fingers, the labeling is as follows:

  • Thumb is is #1
  • Index finger is #2
  • Middle finger is #3
  • Ring finger is #4
  • Pinky finger is #5

2. Playing Piano Scales

Moving on, having understood the method of numbering your fingers, you will now progress to playing some piano scales. The basic scale we will cover is the C major scale. To play this scale, simply begin from any C and progress to the next octave(from C to C), so the notes are C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. To get this done, you will need to use correct finger placements that will achieve playing the C major scale.

You don’t want to overly stress your fingers as you do this. To achieve the correct finger placement for the C major scale on the right hand use the following pattern 1,2,3,1,2,3,4,5 to press the notes C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. Confusing right? don’t worry…what this simply means is that you use the #1 finger to play C, #2 to play the D note, #3 for E…so on and so forth.

After the E note, as you progress to play F with the #1 finger, what you need to do is to slide your thumb underneath your middle finger that is held on E before striking F and releasing it. Continue the finger placements as mentioned until you reach C. Congratulations! you have just played your first piano scale. Sing along with the notes as you play them and this scale will instantly sound familiar. The correct fingering ensures that notes are played with fluidity. Don’t worry about timing at this step. Just concentrate on pressing the correct notes with the correct fingers.

Scales played on the left hand are governed by the mirror rule of the right. This means that it will be the backward version of the right-hand finger placement. For the left hand, the finger placement pattern will be 5,4,3,2,1,3,2,1. Between note G and A, your middle finger will cross over your thumb to play A while the thumb is rooted on G. Release and continue till the end at C.

3. Playing Piano Chords

Chords are three or more notes pressed down together to produce harmony. For beginners, the easiest piano chords to learn is one built on only three notes. These types of chords are known as “triads.” They are built on the 1st, 3rd and 5th note of a scale.

The first chord you will learn is the C major triad, as it is the simplest and builds upon what we’ve already learned. We learned that the C major scale is C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C to play the major triad, we will play only the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of the scale, which would be C, E, and G. To play this, press the notes 1, 3, and 5 at the same time. Your thumb will press C, your middle finger will press E and your pinky finger will press G. You did it!

The left hand will follow the mirrored rule(5,3,1). So your fifth finger will be placed on C, the 3rd(middle) on E and thumb on G.

Always remember to make it a habit to practice with proper technique and form. It will really help you as a beginner to better understand how to play the piano. With consistent practice, these basic piano techniques eventually become engrained into your long term memory and you will automatically find yourself using these techniques like second nature.

Piano Theory

As you can see, each step in learning piano builds upon the previous step. Notes are used to create scales. Scales are used to create chords. Chords are used to create songs. As you develop your piano skills, you’ll find that many popular songs use the same chords and scales. Therefore, once you learn the basics and commit them to memory, you will see your future progress move much faster than your initial progress. That’s why patience is so important in the beginning. Playing the piano eventually becomes easier!


When it comes to learning how to play the piano, you should realize that with the right mindset goes a long way. Adequate practice and mastering the basic techniques will help make your journey to mastering this beautiful instrument a possibility with ease.

Hang in there, no matter how frustrating it might be repeating the same things over and over again…the beginning is always the hardest. Don’t lose hope. Keep pushing forward and soon will you see the fruits of your labor. Good luck!

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