Learning a new skill such as how to play the piano will always be a challenge, especially for those of us who are a little older. As they say, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks… but this isn’t strictly true. If you have made some New Year’s Resolutions and one of those is to learn how to play the piano, these are some of the steps you can take to get started.
1. Immerse yourself in music
Before you place fingers on keys it is important for you to get an ear for music and understand how piano music flows. Take the time to listen to songs and find the piano music, or even listen to pianists such as Ludivico Einaudi for inspiration. You will begin to identify with music in a more soulful way and this can really help you when you start to practice.
2. Don’t worry about notes
One of the most daunting aspects of learning the piano is reading sheet music in real-time. But before you worry yourself with this skill, it is easier to start learning without it. Sit down at the piano with no music in front of you and think of a song or a theme tune that you are familiar with and try to play it. Improvising in this way is a good chance to gain knowledge of your piano and navigate where the keys are before putting them to notes.
3. Understand your body
One of the biggest things you will notice if you watch a pianist play is how flexible they are. Playing the piano is about following the flow of the music and this includes being relaxed at your seat and also sitting up straight. Practice your posture and ensure that you aren’t sitting rigidly when playing because this will hinder your ability to move fingers from key to key.
4. Know the keys
Learn the names of the piano keys and your finger numbers. A great idea when starting out is to place small stickers over each key so that you can see where they are on the piano. Often you may find that the black keys are a little more confusing to learn about as they will often serve as a sharp and flat simultaneously. Take your time and don’t worry too much about it to begin with.
5. Pick a piece
Now that you have the keys labeled and you have a general idea of the sound the piano makes, it is time to practice a simple tune. You can either choose one of the classics such as Green Sleeves or Chopsticks or choose a song you know such as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. This piece, in particular, is a good one to start with because you can learn the one-handed version and eventually move onto the two-handed version of it once you are comfortable.
6. Observe how a melody moves
Sit down and listen to a piece of music while you are reading the sheet music for it. You will soon notice the patterns in the melody, how it goes up and down, and where new sections begin. Understanding how pieces are structured and which notes on your sheet music mean what will help you learn.
7. Play five-finger patterns
The key to learning the piano and being able to play flawlessly is training your fingers to coordinate with each other. Practice playing five-finger patterns all over the piano and use the black keys to get your hands used to play multiple notes at the same time. As well as this, try to reach keys that may be far apart on the piano because finger flexibility will make playing the piano a lot easier!
8. Learn steps
Half a step, one step, two steps… these are all timings you need to learn when you play the piano. Learn the difference between a quaver, crochet, and semibreve by listening to music and practicing.
9. Practice volume
Playing a note on the piano might seem like a cut and dry thing, but you can play a note either loud (forte) or soft (piano). Practice pressing lightly on the key and pressing hard and learn how you can use this difference in a piece to convey drama.
10. Start with C
C is the base for most pieces in major and this is why learning this first is usually the easiest method for piano. Learn to play a C major scale in one octave first in both hands, and then practice playing C major scale on both hands in different directions at the same time. It will test your coordination and is a great introduction to using both hands.