We get a lot of questions from beginners all the time asking for some piano tips and tricks so we decided to write this post to help more people out. There are plenty of tricks depending on your level (beginner, intermediate, advanced), however, since this blog is geared towards beginners, we will only cover a few applicable beginner-friendly tricks.
Alright, so let's start with the first one:
Eliminate your mental limitations right at the outset
You can start learning the piano at any age. Your level of virtuosity is a function of how long you play and learn, not the age at which you start.
Each of the various approaches to learning to play the piano has its pros and cons. The one that you choose, as a beginner, should be the one that best suits your temperament and is fun to you. The fun factor is important because it is what would help you to keep at it long enough to master it.
Your piano teacher doesn't have to be human
Taking traditional lessons from a (human) piano teacher would help you learn music notation and open the way to eventually access some of the world's best music. But finding a good teacher is hard. Also, this route may not be much fun at the beginning, as you may not be making much music. So, few people can persevere to reap the rewards.
On the other hand, a non-traditional piano teacher may have you making music from day one, rather than learning music notation. This is more fun and often elicits a life long love for music. But it may handicap you with a limited exposure to deeper music study. So I suggest you try to pick up and integrate elements from both approaches.
Then there are the approaches that don't involve the presence of a human teacher. These include learning with video lessons or with computer software instruction.
Video lessons can give access to high quality piano tuition at a low cost. But without a human taskmaster, what you get out of them depends on how disciplined you are. You may get bored and you may settle for a low level of musicianship.
Piano learning software may be good for learning drills and sequences interactively for a low price. Still, the nuances of playing the piano are better communicated by a good music teacher.
If you would like to know more about learning through modern technology, then you must read this review which compares 3 of the very best piano courses today.
Locate the middle C
When you play piano by ear, the easiest, and best place to start, is in the key of C. This is because there are no flats or sharps in the key of C. The only keys you need to use are the white ones. Once you establish where middle C is located, it will help you determine where all the other notes are located on the keyboard.
A good method of finding middle C is to go by the number of keys on your piano. By counting only white keys going from the far left of your piano, you can determine where middle C is located. Not all pianos or keyboards have the same number of keys:
- If your piano has 88 keys, middle C is the 24th white key counting from left to right.
- With 76 keys, it would be the 20th white key.
- With 61 or 49, it will be the 15th white key.
- And finally, with 24 keys, it will be the 8th white key.
Another way of finding middle C is to look pretty much right in the middle of the keyboard. It is usually located just beneath, and slightly to the left of, where the manufacturer's name or brand label is. Locate a grouping of 2 black keys. Now, directly to the left of those two black keys there is a white key. This is middle C.
Probably the best, and easiest way to find middle C, is have an experienced player show you. But if you don't know any expert, you can just check out the video below:
Learn the 7 notes
Once you start playing piano by using middle C as a beginning point, it will be quite easy to learn where the other individual piano notes are located.
There are 7 notes in music. The notes are A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. Of course middle C is a C note. Going to the right, the next white key is D, and so on.
Learn your first 3 chords
A very popular chord progression is C, F, and G. To play your first C chord, place the thumb of your right hand on middle C. Next, place your middle finger on the E note. Then place your little finger on the G note. Now, play all three at the same time. This is a C Major chord. Move everything exactly 3 white keys to the right, and you have an F chord. Move everything one more white key to the right, and its a G chord.
Try playing the C chord four times, then four F chords, and finish with four G chords. You are now playing an important chord progression, used for thousands of popular songs. You could even write your own song by using this exact chord pattern. This is an efficient and fun way to play piano.
The starting point to becoming a musician is to take the time and learn your first few initial chords. You need to practice them over and over again. Practice the C, F, and G chord progression until you can do it automatically. After a while, try playing it with both hands at the same time. If you start playing piano this way, soon you will be quite happy with your results.
Check out this video which discusses the chord basics:
Learn to practice consistently
When you first sit down at a piano, it can be quite overwhelming. It is not an easy instrument to learn, especially if you intend to achieve an advanced level. The piano takes a lot of effort and time to master, but if you do, it is more than worth it. The piano is one of the most beautiful sounding, and versatile instruments ever created.
Playing the piano is no simple feat for budding pianists. It's not only about learning to follow the music sheet from memory, but also learning what to do in case of stumbling through a couple of notes in a live performance.
Beginners often freeze up, which makes the mistake so glaring to the audience, but a well-trained pianist knows where to begin again and continues playing the music.
Apart from this training objective, students taking piano lessons should take heed of additional tips.
When to Practice and How Many Times in a Week?
Most students taking piano lessons are advised to practice every day - around five to six days a week. An optimal schedule for practicing is to schedule piano lessons every other day during the week. However, encourage students to take short sessions at the piano during the day. Around 10 to 15 minutes of intense concentration in playing the piano is better than sitting through 30 minutes or more of piano practice, which fatigues the mind and body sooner. Piano practice doesn't have to be a chore, or students might lose their enthusiasm over the prospect of playing the piano.
Like learning to ride the bicycle, a skill like playing a musical instrument is honed and tested until it becomes part of the student's psyche. Losing a day of practice won't ruin a student's progress.
Actually, it encourages the student to play the music away from the piano and without the sheet which requires hard mental work to accomplish. Students must have total recall of every page of the sheet music.
For those asking how long it would take you to learn the piano, check out this post: How Long Does It Take To Learn Piano.
Practicing on the Piano With or Without the Music
Learning to play and practice piano through sheet music can be difficult, but once students memorize the notes, they don't have to play them on autopilot. On the contrary, students should exercise their brain while practicing and analyze the music they're playing.
Beginners may need to practice at the piano with the music sheet while those who already memorized it can play the piano without the music sheet. Meanwhile, advanced learners can improve their skills by playing the keyboard in their head while reading the sheet or while remembering the music.
Record Practice Sessions and Identify Parts Needing Improvement
A good way of identifying sections of the music where a student may need to work on their skills is to record practice sessions and listen to them. It's best to break up the piece into overlapping sessions, which students can rehearse repeatedly until they refine their skills with the notes in that section before moving on.
After honing one's skills through several sessions, play through the length of what has been learned so far, and identify personal strengths and weaknesses.
In time, the student becomes attuned to his piano playing that refining it becomes second nature like a writer editing the phrases and sentences as he wrote them.
Miscellaneous Piano Tips and Tricks
- A quarter hour of daily practice is better than several hours of occasional practice. Frequent practice prevents learn from scratch again after each long absence.
- Slowly learn the correct fingering, hand position and eye movements before trying to speed things up.
- Practice exercises with each hand separately, slowly building muscle memory, before combining both hands.
- Don't keep learning a song from its beginning. Rather, after mastering the beginning, concentrate on just the difficult parts - and then put things together.
- Give time for newly learned skills to sink in - give your fingers adequate rest before the next practice session. Ideas take time to be assimilated too.
- Memorize the shape of a new chord by first placing your fingers in the right position; then take off your hand from the keyboard and place back your fingers straight into position, without sliding. Do this over and over.
- Learn to play a song in all twelve keys. This would open up your musical vocabulary, help your co-ordination and understanding of tonic centers.
- Players with small hands can still play complex chords that involve stretching simply by breaking them up into a fast arpeggio, while pressing the sustain pedal.
Need even more piano tips and tricks?
If you want to know more piano tips and tricks as well as ideas on how you can practice piano effectively, you should read this post:
If you want to read some more relevant piano practice posts, check out these links: