How to play the piano

 

Step 1: Get to know the keyboard with notes

If you look at the keyboard for the first time you might think that there are a lot of notes to learn.

Unerlässlich zum Klavier lernen: Verständnis für die Klaviatur

But it is actually easier than it seems:

You really only need to learn 12 notes!

The grey area on the keyboard shows you the notes you should know.

Klaviatur und Notensystem mit Note C

The notes on this keyboard are grouped into 6 groups of 12 notes. Each group consists of 7 white keys and 5 black keys. Look at the graphic above – the group is repeated to the left and right several times. Each group starts with a “C” note (see mark), which is located to the left of two consecutive black keys.

Let’s take a closer look at the “C” notes. Remember how you can find them on the keyboard? They are always to the left of a pair of black keys. This is important to remember, because before playing any song you have to find the “C” on the keyboard first.

Exercise: As a little exercise, try to find all “C” notes on the keyboard.

Since it might be a bit difficult to find the “C” notes at the beginning, just concentrate on middle “C” for now. As the name suggests, it is located at the middle of the keyboard, right in front of you when you sit at the piano. Take a look at the picture above. You will see lines, symbols and numbers. This is a notation system. Middle “C” is located in the middle of this, as well.

If music is a language, the notation system is like written text. Like any language, music is based on rules and uses special symbols. The notation defines which notes have to be played at a certain point in time. The above score shows a note – middle “C”. Let’s get to know some more notes in the notation system and learn how they relate to the keyboard.

Here you can see further “C” notes and how they are represented in the notation system. Do you recognise middle “C” in the shaded area?

Klaviatur und Notensystem mit allen C Noten und mittlerem C markiert

To the left and right of it there are additional “C” notes.

If you count the white and black keys on the keyboard, you can see that there are 12 keys (notes) between the “C” notes. In the notation system, on the other hand, there are 8 lines and spaces between the “C” notes.

This sequence of notes (12 on the keyboard, 8 in the notation system) is called an octave. In the above picture you can see the octaves on the keyboard and in the notation system – from one “C” to the next. We will learn all the notes in one octave (1 group) – focusing on the octave that contains middle “C”.

Note: Keyboards come in different sizes and with different numbers of keys, so don’t panic if you count more “C” notes than in the picture. Just look out for a pair of black keys; the next white key to the left is always a “C” note.

Now that you’ve learned the “C” notes, it is time to learn the other 11 notes in an octave.

Learning an instrument always represents a certain challenge – regardless of age and musical background.

We at music2me want to help you find the optimal introduction to playing the piano. Here, you can learn, try out, and practice the basics – all in 13 easy steps!

The piano lessons show our piano teacher from your perspective. This makes it a lot easier to place your fingers correctly – and you doneven have to know all the notes. Please try learning how to play the piano with us!

We have tried to make this beginner tutorial for piano as easy as possible.

All you need is a small portable keyboard. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a real piano – a small Casio or Yamaha keyboard with built-in speakers and touch-sensitive keys will do just fine.

So – get to the keys and let’s go!

Step 2: Half steps on the keyboard

In the previous chapter you learned where the “C” notes on the keyboard are and where middle “C” is. You already know the other notes on the white keys and should be ready for the black keys.

The notes on the piano are divided into “half steps“. Look at middle “C” on the keyboard – the distance in pitch from here to the first black key on the right is a half step. The step from this black key to the “D” key is again a half step. A black key is therefore always a half step interval away from the next white key.

Next, look at the “E” and “F” keys – the distance between them is also a half step. This may sound a little confusing at first, as there is no black key between the keys. We don’t want to delve too deeply into music theory at this point yet, so just note the following for starters: From one key to the very next (whether it is black or white) is a half step. This knowledge is important in order to later understand the concept of sharp and flat notes.

Now that you know about half steps, let’s take a look at sharp notes. A sharp note is a semitone step above a note – the # symbol (called sharp and not hashtag!) is used to identify it. Whenever you see the sharp next to a note, the note is played a half step higher. The word sharp is added to the name of the note.

For a better understanding look at middle “C” on the keyboard above. If you raise it by one half step, you will land at the first black key to the right which is called “C sharp”.

But what does this look like in the notation system?

Look at middle “C” in the notation system above. As you can see, it is combined with a sharp and should therefore be played a half step above the middle “C”. The note played is called a “C sharp” and corresponds to the first black key to the right of middle “C”.

Now, look at each note within an octave and find the sharp notes on the keyboard. There are five in total – one for each black key. Their names are:

C# – D# – F# – G# – A#

The same concept applies to flat notes. As you might have already suspected, every black key has two names. Don’t let this confuse you – the reason for this will soon make sense to you.

Now, we look at the flat notes. A flat pitched note is one half step lower than the note – the letter b is used to identify a flat note. Whenever you see a b next to a note, the note is played a semitone below the note shown. The word flat is added to the note name.

For a better understanding, look at the “D” on the keyboard above. If you lower it by one semitone, you land at the first black key to the left of middle “D”. The key is therefore also called “D flat”. The black key can be called “C sharp” or “D flat” depending on the perspective.

Let’s take a look at this concept in the notation system.

Look at the note “E” in the notation system above. As you can see, there is a b next to it, so it should be played a half step below the “E”. The note played is called “E flat” and corresponds to the first black key to the left of the “E”.

Now, look at each note within an octave and look for the flat notes on the keyboard. There are five in total – one for each black key. Their names are:

Db– Eb– Gb– Ab– Hb

Congratulations, now you already learned the concept of sharp and flat notes!

Recap:

  • “C sharp” is the same black key as “D flat”
  • “D sharp” is the same black key as “E flat”
  • “F sharp” is the same black key as “G flat”
  • “G sharp” is the same black key as “A flat”
  • “A sharp” is the same black key as “B flat”

This symbol # stands for sharp and this one b stands for flat!

It’s best to practice this 15 minutes each day before you start playing songs. It makes sense to pronounce the name of a note while playing and listen carefully to the pitch of the note. Remember, however, that the black keys (and even some white keys) have two names each.

You are welcome to test your knowledge in this little quiz.

Quiz

Is “F flat” a white or black key?

  1. a) white
  2. b) black

Is “B sharp” a white or black key?

  1. a) white
  2. b) black

Is “E flat” a white or black key?

  1. a) white
  2. b) black

Is “C flat” a white or black key?

  1. a) white
  2. b) black

Solutions

a), a), b), a

Step 3: Learning note values on the piano

You have already made great progress in learning the piano and speaking the language of music – a language that all people can understand. It reaches directly into the heart of the human being and has its own special meaning for everyone. With the help of music, you can relieve stress or express something for which you cannot find words. It’s both an art form and a way of thinking. Music is a form of mathematics and also a science. By making music together you learn to work with others and to achieve a shared creative goal. Performing in front of an audience helps to reduce inhibitions when giving a presentation to a group of people.

Now, the time has come to get to know the concepts of beats and bars. You can already name every note on the piano, and you know its location on the keyboard.You know the white keys and black keys – now we want to learn where the notes are placed in time so we can make music together!

To make music, instead of just playing notes in random order, you need a kind of map that shows you which note is to be played when and for how long. Reading music sheets is similar to reading a hiking map. The hiking map shows the destination, the route you need to take, where you can rest, and for how long, in order to reach your destination in time. In the music, the sequence of notes provides the route; the bars and beats tell you where in time the notes are to be played.

You can see the route of a piece of music in the notation system. The note lines are divided into small sections called “bars”. The bars are divided into even smaller segments called “beats”.

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