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How to Play Piano in 8 Easy Steps
Posted on September 26, 2019
Have you always had a secret desire to be able to sit at the piano and roll out a great song to an admiring audience? If you feel that the work to get to that point is too overwhelming, read on.
It’s possible to learn how to play the piano quickly and easily. You can play using chords, which you can learn very fast while singing the tune. Or, you can play the chords with the left hand and learn to play the tune with the right hand. Learning the tune without reading sheet music is a bit harder, but if you have a good musical ear and can pick out a tune on the piano, you’re halfway there.
If you want to go on to play lots of different songs, then you should consider learning a lot of chords, as well as how to read music (at least the right-hand notes). This will open up a whole world of possibilities for your piano playing skills.
Of course, you can find a teacher and take piano lessons. This is always a good thing to do, but it’s a big commitment of time and money. If you’re short on time, try the following steps when learning to play. You can start with these easy steps and then take piano lessons at a later time.
So here’s how to play piano in just 8 easy steps. Be sure to spend some time on each step.
Table of contents
- Step 1: Learn the layout of the piano keyboard
- Step 2: Start to play piano with the right hand
- Step 3: Practice playing piano with your left hand
- Step 4: Play piano with two hands
- Step 5: Learn to play piano chords
- Step 6: Start learning a piano song with chords
- Step 7: Play the tune
- Step 8: Learn to read the right-hand notes
- Putting it all together: Learn how to play piano in 8 easy steps
- What’s next?
- Learn piano with Yousician
Step 1: Learn the layout of the piano keyboard
This is quick and easy to do. Notice the pattern of the black notes. They’re in groups of two and three, all up and down the piano. Find a group of two black notes, then find the white note immediately to the left of them, and you have the note C.
The piano notes are named like the alphabet: A, B, C, D, E, F, G. After G, the alphabet pattern starts again. Notice how the notes are always in the same place in relation to the set of black notes: every A is between the top two black notes in a set of three, and so on.
Your first step when learning how to play the piano is to play and name all the notes, getting quicker at finding them as you go. A good way to do this is to find all the C notes first, then all the G notes, and so on. You’ll be surprised at how fast you remember where they are on the keyboard.
Step 2: Start to play piano with the right hand
This is just to get some more experience finding your way around the keyboard. It is much easier to learn how to play when you are familiar with the keys. You’ll also be getting some finger dexterity practice along the way.
Number your fingers 1 through 5, 1 being the thumb and 5 being the pinky. Find the C that’s in the middle of the keyboard and place your right thumb on it. Let the other fingers fall over the other notes naturally. Now you should have 1 on C, 2 on D, 3 on E, 4 on F and 5 on G.
Lift your wrist so that you could balance something on the back of it. Next, round your hand a little bit so that you’re playing almost on the tips of your fingers, rather than with flat fingers. This makes it easier to play, and also makes it easier to change into hand positions that come later.
Now, to play your first song, play the following finger numbers. Whenever there is a — dash line next to a number, hold the note a bit longer:
3 2 1 2 3 3 3— 2 2 2— 3 5 5— 3 2 1 2 3 3 3 3 2 2 3 2 1—
Pretty simple, right? Trust us—it is!
Step 3: Practice playing piano with your left hand
To learn piano properly, you want to play with both hands. Place your left pinky on the C below middle C (8 notes lower). You should have 5 on C, 4 on D, 3 on E, 2 on F, and 1 on G. Now try playing these finger numbers:
3 4 5 4 3 3 3— 4 4 4— 3 1 1— 3 4 5 4 3 3 3 3 4 4 3 4 5—
If you heard the same tune, you got it right!
Step 4: Play piano with two hands
Now play the same song with two hands, each hand in the same position you’ve just practiced. The top line here is the right hand and the bottom line is the left hand. Notice that your hands are moving in the same direction the whole time:
RH: 3 2 1 2 3 3 3— 2 2 2— 3 5 5— 3 2 1 2 3 3 3 3 2 2 3 2 1—
LH: 3 4 5 4 3 3 3— 4 4 4— 3 1 1— 3 4 5 4 3 3 3 3 4 4 3 4 5—
Now that you have an idea of how to play piano with two hands, we can move on to the next step.
Step 5: Learn to play piano chords
Chords are three or more notes played together at the same time. Because piano chords involve playing multiple keys at the same time, they can feel quite intimidating to beginners at first. However, knowing how to play at least the most basic piano chords is one of the essential piano skills for all beginners.
If you’re still unsure, don’t be afraid — we’ve added some helpful piano chord charts to help you learn how to play. The chord charts highlight in green the notes you should play as well as what the notes are named.
Build a chord by playing the note with the same name as the chord you want to play. For instance, if you want to play a C chord, you start by playing C. Now skip over the next note (D) and play E. Then skip over the next note (F) and play G. You should have this pattern:
Now build an F chord. Start by playing F, skip a note and play A, skip another note and play C. Play all three notes together and you have an F chord.
Now try a G chord. It should look that this:
Now play a D minor chord, like this:
Can you hear that it has a different quality than the other chords? It sounds kind of sad. This means that it’s a minor chord. The other chords you played were major chords, and they sound happy.
If you use all white notes, an E chord also comes out minor:
And so does an A chord:
Any minor chord can be made into a major chord by moving the middle note up one step. In the case of the A chord, the C moves up to the nearest black note, C sharp:
Can you hear the difference between the A minor and major chords? Like with the A major, any major chord can be made minor by moving the middle note down one step to the nearest black note. We already looked at C major. Here is C minor instead:
Spend some time finding these chords and try listening to whether they’re major or minor. In every case, the note you build the chord on is the one that gives the chord its name.
Step 6: Start learning a piano song with chords
You can find the chords for almost any song you want to play online or in a book of songs, whether you want to play classical music or a popular pop song.
Let’s take the Beatles song “Hey Jude”. The first four chords are:
G, A, A, D
The first word of the song, “Hey”, comes before you play your first chord. The next four chords are:
G, D, A, D
and then the whole pattern repeats.
You’ll find that most popular songs only have five or six chords in them. Usually, most of the song has a repeated pattern of four chords.
A lower case “m” indicates the chord should be minor. If there is nothing after the letter name, then the chord should be major. In other words, if the chord is written as “A,” it’s the major A chord. If the name is written as “Am” instead, it’s the minor A chord.
How are you doing so far? Practice these chords a lot, and then try singing along. If singing isn’t your thing, try asking for a friend to accompany you.
Step 7: Play the tune
Play the tune or just a few notes of it to guide you as you sing. You can either pick these out by ear if you can or learn to read the right-hand notes and get the music notes. This depends on how good your musical instincts are. It’s not necessary to read sheet music to learn how to play piano, but it does help to learn more songs.
Step 8: Learn to read the right-hand notes
Notes are written on five lines and the noteheads (the round bit) alternate with the line going through the middle of them (line notes) or sitting in between the lines (space notes). Like this:
It’s easiest to learn the lines and spaces separately. When working out what letter the note is, just use F A C E for the space notes and E G B D F for the line notes.
Notes can be written below and above the staff. The note just below the five lines is D and the note below that with its own line through it is middle C. The space note that sits on the top of the staff is G and the next note up is A:
There are two more important symbols that you need to know: A “flat” (represented with a little b) which flattens the note down to the nearest black note and a “sharp” (#) which pushes the note up to the nearest black note. Sharps and flats always appear in front of the note they affect.
Once you have the hang of reading the right-hand notes, try reading the music for a song you like and putting the chords in your left hand. If you want to learn how to play a song on piano, it’s good to start with something you’re already familiar with.
Putting it all together: Learn how to play piano in 8 easy steps
Okay, we have covered a lot by now. Let’s recap the steps that’ll help you when learning to play:
- Learn the layout of the keyboard
- Start to play piano with the right hand
- Practice playing piano with your left hand
- Play piano with two hands
- Learn to play piano chords
- Start learning a piano song with chords
- Play the tune
- Learn to read the right-hand notes
So do you think you can learn the piano easily? I hope you’ve got the hang of it. Learning piano isn’t something that happens overnight, so keep practicing and don’t get discouraged.
Get together a selection of a few songs or piano pieces that you can play and make your dream of becoming a skilled pianist a reality. Show your friends and family what you can do!
If you think that you have the basics of playing the piano all figured out, start expanding the repertoire of songs and musical styles you know how to play. Learn new concepts of music theory and see yourself developing and getting better every time you play.
Learn music theory
Knowing music theory isn’t a requirement if you’re looking to just play for fun and to have a good time with your favorite piano songs. However, in order to get a deeper understanding of the piano as an instrument (not to mention music in general), you might want to start exploring music theory. The Knowledge theme in Yousician is a great place to start. It teaches you many aspects of music theory, such as scales, chords, musical terminology, and more. You can expand your musical vocabulary with our Musician’s Glossary as well.
Get familiar with reading notes and sheet music
Yousician’s Knowledge theme is also a great way to start learning how to read sheet music. Once again, knowing how to read sheet music isn’t a requirement, especially if you’re more into playing pop songs and other similar genres. After all, many well-known musicians didn’t know how to read sheet music. However, reading sheet music, or sight-reading, is a valuable tool for those pursuing music seriously or looking to play classical music. Yousician has three different styles of notation to choose from depending on your skill level.
Get your own piano or digital keyboard
To make playing the piano more convenient and possible in the comfort of your own home, consider purchasing an acoustic piano or a keyboard. However, buying an acoustic piano isn’t possible for everyone, whether it’s up to your budget or the lack of room that the large instrument takes. In that case, a keyboard or a digital piano is a great alternative for an acoustic instrument. Not only can you get quality keyboards for less when compared to acoustic pianos, but they’re also much smaller as well as portable. Check out our keyboard buying guide for great beginner-level keyboards and digital pianos. There we’ve listed what to look for when buying a keyboard as well as a few great instrument recommendations for piano beginners.
Try writing your own song
Although you can play the piano by using songs written by others, try your hand at songwriting yourself once you’re skilled enough. Trying your hand at songwriting is a good way to practice scales and how to use them in improvisation. Read our guide to songwriting if you’re looking to play songs of your own making.
Practice and have fun
Many things may seem confusing at first when learning piano. Learning how to read sheet music and understanding concepts such as the bass clef, treble clef, flats, sharps, and key signatures may get your head spinning. However, don’t get discouraged. You can’t know everything immediately. Just find the best learning method for you, and soon you’ll be playing piano like a pro. All the better if you have friends and family to share your piano playing with.
Learn piano with Yousician
Piano apps can be a great alternative for live piano instructors. Not only is a reliable learning app a more affordable option, but it also allows you to learn and practice playing whenever and wherever you want. Playing music and learning shouldn’t be tied to a particular time and place. That’s where Yousician comes in.
Whether you’re a beginner piano student or a more experienced pianist, Yousician is the piano app just for you. Piano learners can get started by exploring the basics while more intermediate players have a great time learning piano with Yousician’s extensive song library.
Yousician is your personal piano teacher as it listens to you play and gives real-time feedback. It works both with digital keyboards and acoustic pianos. Get Yousician on your computer or mobile Android and iOS device.
Unleash your inner musician with Yousician. We offer thousands of songs, exercises, and teacher-crafted lessons all in one app. Learn more