How to Play the Piano: A Beginner’s Guide

Are you ready to learn how to play the piano? Great! Because let me tell you, it’s a classic instrument that’s both versatile and super fun to play. And the best part is, anyone can learn how to play it, regardless of age or gender, and even without any musical background. All you need is a bit of patience, determination, and motivation.

Now, some people might say that you need a whole lot of focus and self-discipline to teach yourself how to play the piano. And while that’s definitely true, it’s not the only way to go about it. In fact, if you want to progress faster, it’s usually better to have a teacher who can guide you and focus your learning. But hey, if you’re up for the challenge, go ahead and give it a shot!

How to Choose a Piano or Keyboard

If you’re keen on learning how to play the piano, having your own piano or keyboard at home is a must. It’s tough to keep up with daily practice without one, after all. But with so many options available, how do you choose the right one for you? Here are some tips to help you get started.

Acoustic pianos come in a variety of styles, sizes, and price ranges. A brand new beginner-friendly piano typically costs between $2,000 and $5,000 in the US. But if that’s too expensive for you, a used piano could be a great alternative.

If you live in a small apartment or dorm room, an electronic keyboard might be the best option for you. Not only are they easier to store, but they also have a full-sized keyboard, which is essential for learning proper technique. Beginner electric pianos with 88 keys usually cost around $300 to $400, while midrange models go for around $600 or more.

One of the advantages of electronic keyboards is that they usually come with a headphone jack. So if you don’t want to disturb your roommates or neighbors, you can practice to your heart’s content without worrying about noise complaints.

But be careful when buying a used piano – it’s a bit like buying a used car. Without an inspection, you might end up with a lemon. Make sure to ask the seller if you can have a professional inspect the piano before you buy it. If they refuse, that might be a red flag.

Some music stores sell used pianos that have already been inspected by staff, but it’s still a good idea to have an independent technician take a look before you make a purchase.

Set Up Your New Acoustic Piano: Tuning & Tempo

So you just got a new acoustic piano, huh? First things first, make sure you get it tuned once it’s in your place. Whenever a piano moves, it’s gotta be tuned. If you bought it brand new, the initial tuning might be on the house. But if not, you’re probably looking at around a hundred bucks.

It’s worth it to find a Registered Piano Technician (RPT) who knows what they’re doing with pianos like yours. Head to the Piano Technicians Guild website and use their global search to find an RPT near you. If your piano’s seen better days and needs some TLC, you can search for techs with experience in specific services.

Now, about that tempo – grab yourself a metronome. These handy gadgets help you keep a steady beat by ticking away at a set speed. You can find them online, in music stores, or even as apps for your phone. If you’ve got an electronic keyboard, you might already have one built-in. So keep it groovy and make beautiful music with your new piano!

The Correct Posture for Piano Playing

Getting started with the piano can be an exciting journey, but it’s crucial to start off on the right foot with proper posture and finger placement. Here’s a casual guide to help you play with ease and avoid bad habits that could hold you back later on. For more information, you can check out our tips to help you maintain good piano posture.

Get the Right Seating: Adjustable Bench or Stool

Invest in an adjustable bench if your piano doesn’t come with one. This allows you to sit and play with proper posture at the correct height. Regular chairs just won’t cut it. If you’re more into stools or using an electronic keyboard, consider getting a stool or a stand for your keyboard. Adjustable stands can be folded up and stored when not in use, which is great if space is limited.

Adjust Your Bench for Perfect Posture

Position your bench at the center of the keyboard, and make sure you’re sitting at the edge. Adjust the height until your elbows are roughly level with the keyboard when your fingers are on the keys. Ensure that you can place your fingers on the keys with bent elbows. If you need to extend your arms, the bench is too far away. Both of your feet should be flat on the floor, and you should be able to reach the pedals comfortably. If your bench isn’t high enough, use a pillow or cushion for extra height.

Master Your Foot Placement

As a beginner, you might not use the pedals much, but it’s essential to have proper foot placement. Sit close enough to the piano so you can reach the pedals without straining your legs. If necessary, adjust the bench position to achieve this.

Learn Correct Finger Placement on the Keys

When playing the piano, imagine holding an egg in your hands and press the keys with your fingertips, not the pads. Avoid playing with flat fingers, as it can make playing faster and more complex music difficult later on. Using a small stress ball as a guide can help with finger placement when starting out. Make it a habit to check your finger placement regularly and adjust as needed until it feels natural.

The Basic Techniques of Playing Piano

Find Middle C on the Piano Keyboard

If you’re just starting out on the piano, finding Middle C is an important first step. Don’t worry if you’re not sure where to begin – it’s easier than you might think! Middle C is located in the center of the keyboard, and it’s the first white key in a group of three. You’ll notice that there are two black keys in between the three white keys.

To get started, place your right thumb on Middle C. This will serve as your anchor point as you explore the rest of the keyboard. Once your thumb is in place, let your other fingers fall naturally onto the white keys to the right of Middle C.

When you’re ready to play, simply press down on the Middle C key with your thumb. This will produce the note Middle C. In piano fingering notation, your thumb is often labeled with the number 1.

After playing Middle C, you can move on to the next note in the C Major scale. To do this, use your index or 2 finger to play the white key next to Middle C, which is the note D. Your middle or 3 finger plays E, your ring or 4 finger plays F, and your pinky or 5 finger plays G.

Jammin’ with the C Major Scale

Ready to rock the C Major scale? Start by playing those first 3 notes you found at Middle C: C, D, and E. When it’s time for F, slide your thumb under your other fingers, and bam! You’re all set to play the rest: F, G, A, B, and C an octave up.

Set your metronome to a chill tempo and practice till it’s smooth as butter. No mistakes, no peeking at the keyboard. When you’re feelin’ good, crank up the speed and give it another go.

There are two cool ways to play this scale: Similar motion and Contrary motion. For similar motion, place your hands an octave apart on the lower half of the piano and groove right, then back to where you started.

Wanna try Contrary motion? Put your thumbs on Middle C, and let your hands go their separate ways: left hand left, right hand right. After 1 or 2 octaves, hit reverse and head back to the starting line.

Sure, it might seem a bit dull, but mastering these basics will make tackling complex tunes a breeze. Scales help your fingers remember and give you a better sense of the keyboard, so you can play notes like a pro without even looking!

Dive into More Scales

So, you’ve mastered the C Major scale on the piano? Awesome! Now, it’s time to move on to other scales and improve your piano skills even more!

There are plenty of other scales you can try out, and they come in different shapes and sizes. Some scales use only the white keys on the piano, while others make use of both the black and white keys. The good news is that practicing other scales will help you get better at playing in all the keys on the keyboard.

To get started, set your metronome to a slow tempo, just like when you were practicing the C Major scale, and gradually increase the speed as you get more comfortable. You can find diagrams of different scales online or use a smartphone app to help guide you along the way.

So, don’t be afraid to try out new scales and challenge yourself to improve your piano playing skills. Who knows? You might just discover a new favorite scale that you love to play!

Get Your Left Hand in on the Action

If you’re looking to take your piano playing to the next level, it’s important to not neglect your left hand! Practicing scales with your left hand may seem daunting at first, but it’s an important part of building your overall piano skills.

When playing a scale with your left hand, you’ll be using the same notes as when you play with your right hand. The only difference is that everything will be reversed. This means that your left hand will essentially be the mirror image of your right hand.

Just like when practicing with your right hand, it’s important to start with a slow tempo and gradually increase the speed with a metronome. It’s important to keep in mind that if you’re right-hand dominant, your left hand may progress at a slower pace. But don’t worry, just be patient and avoid the urge to rush the process.

By practicing scales with both hands, you’ll be able to develop your overall piano technique and achieve a more well-rounded sound. So, don’t forget to give your left hand some love and attention during your practice sessions!

Identify Octaves on Your Piano

If you’re new to playing the piano, you might be wondering how to identify the octaves on your keyboard. Don’t worry, it’s easier than you might think!

First things first, let’s talk about what an octave is. An octave is the distance between two notes with the same letter name. For example, C to C, or A to A. When you play a C Major scale, you’ll notice that the scale begins and ends on the same note, one octave apart. Congratulations, you just found your first octave!

Now, take a look at your keyboard. You’ll notice that the same key arrangement pattern repeats itself over and over. That’s because the same 12 notes repeat themselves from one end of the keyboard to the other. There are 7 white key notes (C, D, E, F, G, A, B) and 5 black key notes (C-sharp/D-flat, D-sharp/E-flat, F-sharp/G-flat, G-sharp/A-flat, and A-sharp/B-flat).

When you play notes in a different octave, they have the same pitch, but they’re simply higher or lower than each other. So, for example, you could continue playing the C Major scale from one end of the piano to the other, starting with the lowest C on the keyboard and ending on the highest C on the keyboard. And you can do the same thing with any other scale you want to play.

Read Sheet Music for Piano

Learning how to read sheet music can help you become a more versatile pianist and expand your repertoire.

The basics of sheet music notation involve a staff with five lines and four spaces, with each line and space representing a different note. When you see a note head on a line or space, that’s the note you play.

For the treble clef (which represents notes played with your right hand), the five lines from bottom to top are E, G, B, D, and F. To help remember these notes, try the mnemonic “Every Good Boy Does Fine.” The four spaces from bottom to top spell out the word “FACE,” representing the notes F, A, C, and E.

The bass clef is used for lower notes played with your left hand. The five lines from bottom to top represent the notes G, B, D, F, and A. To remember these, try the mnemonic “Good Boys Do Fine Always.” The four spaces from bottom to top spell out “All Cows Eat Grass,” representing the notes A, C, E, and G.

Remember, reading sheet music is a skill that takes practice. Don’t get discouraged if it feels difficult at first – with time and patience, you’ll be reading and playing music like a pro!

Play Some Basic Melodies on the Piano

If you’re just starting out with piano lessons, it’s common to begin by learning simple folk tunes like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” or “Hot Cross Buns.” But did you know that there are other easy-to-play melodies in popular, modern songs?

For instance, if you’ve already mastered the C Major scale, you could try playing the “Do Re Mi” song from “The Sound of Music.” This song was actually written to teach the C Major scale to the children in the movie, and it’s not too hard to figure out the notes of the melody on your own, even if you don’t have a great ear for music.

So why not give it a shot? It’s a fun way to practice your piano skills and you might just surprise yourself with how quickly you can pick it up.

Add some depth to your music with chords

Chords are created by playing 3 or more notes simultaneously, and they can really enhance the richness and complexity of your music.

One of the most common types of chords is called a triad, which is made up of 3 notes. To create a major triad, simply play every other note in the scale, starting with the first note. For example, if you’re familiar with the C Major scale, try playing a C Major chord. 

All you have to do is place your thumb on Middle C (just like you would when playing the scale), put your middle finger on the E key, and your pinky finger on the G key. Press down on all three keys at the same time, and voila! You’ve just played a C Major chord.

If you want to explore more chords, there are plenty of resources available online. For instance, you can find a free online chord chart at Online Pianist. You can also check out our guide on piano chords

Alternatively, you could download one of the many smartphone apps that feature chord charts for piano. Most of these apps are free, though they may display ads from time to time. If you prefer an ad-free experience, you can typically pay a small fee to upgrade to the premium version.

Get Your Fingers in Shape with Hanon Exercises

If you want to build strength and dexterity in your fingers, you might want to give Hanon exercises a shot. Piano teachers have been recommending these exercises since the late 1800s to help their students become better pianists. Lucky for us, you can now download them for free from

If you really want to see results, daily practice is key. So, try dedicating 5 or 10 minutes of your practice time just to Hanon exercises. This way, you’ll get the most benefit out of them and soon notice an improvement in your finger dexterity and strength.

6 Tips For Improving Your Skills

1. Learn Some Simple Songs

Playing piano can be an incredibly rewarding and enjoyable activity, but it can also be challenging. If you’re just starting out, it’s important to focus on learning the basics before moving on to more complicated pieces. Begin by practicing scales to get a feel for the keyboard. Once you’re comfortable with scales, you can start learning simple songs. 

There are plenty of beginner arrangements available, and you can find sheet music online or in books. Look for beginner sheet music that includes the name of the note inside the note symbol to help you start reading music more easily. Keep in mind that downloading sheet music for free is not legal, especially for newer or more popular music. 

Consider buying sheet music collections that are arranged for different levels. You can also download sheet music from websites like Musicnotes, which allow you to access it on all your devices. If you have a tablet, you can display the music on it instead of printing it out.

2. Practice Every Day

Another key to improving your piano playing skills is to make a habit of practicing every day. Daily practice is essential to progress more quickly and get the most out of your training. Even young children can start with 10-15 minutes a day, while older students or adults should aim for at least 30 minutes. 

Professional musicians practice many hours every day. To make it easier, try practicing at the same time each day. Eventually, practicing piano will become a habit, just like brushing your teeth or taking a shower. You won’t think about whether you want to practice or not, you’ll just do it. Set small goals for each practice session and reward yourself when you achieve them. 

This will help keep you motivated and engaged in your practice. Remember that progress takes time, so be patient with yourself and enjoy the process of learning and improving your piano playing skills.

3. Use Music Theory Books to Learn to Read Music Notation

Learning to read music notation is a fundamental skill for any pianist. Music theory books can be an excellent resource to help you advance your understanding of music and improve your ability to sight-read music notation. You can easily find these books online or at music stores. There are also websites with music theory exercises that can help you improve your skills at reading music. Remember, if you check music theory books out of the library, be sure not to write in them. Instead, complete the exercises in a separate notebook or make photocopies of the exercise pages.

4. Try a Piano App

If you’re learning to play the piano on your own, a piano app can be a helpful tool to guide you in your practice. There are various piano apps available for download on your smartphone or tablet that can teach you how to play the piano. Some of the popular apps include Yousician, Simply Piano, and Piano Academy.

Most piano apps are free to download, but some offer limited usage unless you buy a subscription. Therefore, it’s best to try out a few different apps to find the one that best suits your needs. Some apps are more structured and have a curriculum to follow, while others are more casual and allow you to learn at your own pace. Also, keep in mind that some apps are geared towards younger children, so you may want to choose an app that is appropriate for your age group.

5. Add Use of the Pedals

If you have an acoustic piano, using the pedals can enhance the sound and improve your overall playing experience. There are three pedals on the piano: the damper pedal, the sostenuto pedal, and the soft pedal. Each pedal has a unique effect on the sound produced by the piano.

To use the pedals, place the ball of your foot on the end of the pedal and keep your heel on the floor. The damper pedal is played with your right foot and produces a fuller resonance. The soft pedal is played with your left foot and creates a muted and less vibrant sound. The sostenuto pedal, located in the middle, is used to sustain selected notes, particularly lower bass notes, to create a drone as you play.

If you have an electronic keyboard, you can purchase pedals as accessories and connect them to your keyboard. However, most electronic keyboards have knobs or buttons that you can adjust to achieve the same effect.

6. Hire a Piano Teacher for More Focused Instruction

Working with a piano teacher can help you make faster progress in your piano playing skills. An experienced piano teacher can identify and correct little problems before they become ingrained. 

Additionally, piano teachers can provide motivation and encouragement to help you succeed. When looking for a piano teacher, it’s a good idea to interview several teachers before settling on one, especially for private lessons. You’ll be spending a lot of time with your teacher, so make sure you like them. 

Some teachers specialize in particular methods of instruction, while others focus on teaching particular types of students. For example, some teachers use different techniques with adult students than with children. Also, some teachers are focused on training students who want to become concert pianists, while others are willing to teach less serious students.


To sum it up, playing the piano is an incredible experience that’s definitely worth your time and effort. Each aspect of this journey brings its own set of challenges and rewards. From selecting the right piano, getting the hang of the basics, taking those initial steps to play, to enjoying the health benefits that come with learning to play, you’ll never regret making the decision to learn.

Whether you dream of becoming a pro pianist or just want to tickle the ivories for fun, the team at Sage Music is here to support you in achieving your goals and becoming the best pianist you can be. So why wait? Let’s start playing!

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