How to play a tune on the piano

Learning the basics of playing the piano is a little like learning to touch-type. Once you have the position of the keys at your fingertips it's as easy as A, B, C, D, E, F, G.

How to play a tune on the piano

Get to know the keyboard

One of the advantages of learning to play the piano is that, unlike wind and reed instruments, it's easy to produce a pleasing note right from the start; you just press a key. It takes a little longer to learn the principles of scales, chords and tunes but, as with all instruments, practice makes perfect.

  • A full keyboard consists of 88 black and white keys that form a repeating pattern.
  • The black keys — the sharps and flats, or half notes — are grouped in twos and threes.
  • The white notes are named alphabetically A, B, C, D, E, F, G.
  • At the centre is middle C, so the preceding keys are A and B, the following are D, E, F, G — then you start over at A again.

Play the scales

The underpinning of popular and classical music, the scales are a series of eight ascending or descending notes, always ending on the starting note — otherwise known as "tonic".

  • Play the C major scale: Do, re, mi, fa, so, la, si, do — C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C.
  • Play it up, play it down. Keep your mind focussed on the notes as you strike them. This is just an introduction.
  • There are 12 major scales to learn, but you're getting a feel for your piano.

Learn the chords

Of course, to make music on the piano requires more than picking about with the digits.

  • Look at the C major scale (see above).
  • Play C, E and G together. Hear how much more depth it has. That's your C major chord.
  • Playing the first, third and fifth notes from any major scale gives you a major chord with the same name as the scale you're using.
  • Practise the major chords at the same time as you practise scales.

Play your first tune

Alright, it's only "Chopsticks," not beautiful music, but it helps to get you used to the keys.

  1. Index fingers on F and G — play it six times.
  2. Left finger on E, right on G — play six times.
  3. Left on D, right moves up to B — play six times.
  4. Move each finger out one note to the next C — play four times.
  5. Moving your fingers back towards each other, play D-B and E-A once each.
  6. Index fingers on F and G — six times and you're off again.
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