It’s no surprise you want to learn to play the piano. This instrument is used in almost every genre of music from classical to hip-hop. You don’t need additional equipment such as reeds, mouthpieces, or bows to make a sound. You just press any of its keys and that’s all it takes to play a note. The standard piano has 88 keys, giving it the broadest range of any common instrument. This means that there are virtually no songs that cannot be performed on a piano. Here are some things new piano students should know.
Starting in the Middle
While playing the piano is different from typing on a typewriter or computer keyboard, there are some tips that can help. Typewriters have home keys that serve as the default position for your hands. Similarly, a piano has a home key of sorts. It’s called “middle C” and it sits roughly in the middle of the keyboard. The thumb of your right hand should rest here. The pinkie of your left hand should be at the C one octave or 8 keys below middle C. While there are many piano pieces that span the entire length of the keyboard, this “home position” is a great default placement for your hands.
Giving Your Hands and Fingers a Workout
Peak athletic performance requires regularly working out certain muscles and body parts. Just as an athlete does exercises and training for strength and stamina, piano players must also perform exercises to develop their dexterity. Musical exercises such as scales and other studies (called “etudes”) increase strength and flexibility in your hands and figures. It’s impossible to master any instrument without practicing musical exercises regularly and consistently. Muscle memory is important when it comes to mastering difficult pieces. The adage “practice makes perfect” is all about muscle memory.
Embracing the Harmony
Unlike wind instruments such as flutes and trumpets, pianos can play several notes at once. These tones can be harmonious or dissonant when played together. This is one of the fundamental aspects of playing the piano, either as a soloist or accompanying another instrument. Chords are groups of notes played together that provide color and character to the music. As you develop as a pianist, you will learn the relationships between notes that produce these chords.
Building a Repertoire
The good thing about learning an instrument is you don’t have to wait until you’ve reached an intermediate or advanced level to play the songs you love. Whether it’s picking out the melody of a favorite pop song or playing a simple arrangement of more complex music, you can start building your repertoire. A repertoire is a collection of songs a musician can play on demand or as part of a performance. You can start with easy piano songs for beginners for an audience of family, friends, and other musicians.
Finding Time To Play
It’s ideal to set aside several hours to practice fundamentals, learn new techniques, and work on new music, but that may be difficult with a busy schedule that often includes family, work, and other duties. When it comes to playing the piano, it’s better to practice for several minutes daily than block out a few hours once a week. Hitting the keys regularly helps your hands and fingers get comfortable with playing. You’ll also be aware of your progress which is often the best inspiration for sticking with it.
Doing Your Own Thing
Improvisation refers to deviating from the music that is written and “doing your own thing.” This is a big part of playing piano, especially in genres such as jazz, rock, soul, and pop. You can go online and pull up videos of legendary pianists and singers improvising as they play. The good news is that you don’t have to play piano like Elton John, Stevie Wonder, or Alicia Keys to improvise. As you learn the mechanics and basics of music theory, you’ll be inspired to play with melodies, chords, and other song elements to make each performance your own.
Making music is a fun activity, and learning how to do so should also be fun. One of the ways to keep your enthusiasm high is to mix it up. Once you get going, set a goal to learn a new song that you like each month. You might consider learning how to improvise on a song you’ve mastered. Shorter practice sessions on a daily basis are usually more enjoyable than hours of playing once or twice a week.
The piano is one of the most versatile and complete instruments. As you master the piano, you’ll find yourself growing in your understanding of music theory, ear training, sight reading, and learning chord voicings. Make sure you have plenty of good music to feed your love of your instrument. When you play the piano, you can play any type of music.