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What Is the First Thing to Learn on Piano?

By Hoffman Academy Team
What is the first thing to learn on piano?

There’s so much to learn about the piano, it can seem a little overwhelming at the start. Let’s hit a few basics to get you going!

The Piano Keyboard

The first thing to learn on piano is that it has a truly fantastic feature: the keyboard! The piano keyboard makes it super easy to learn to play the piano as well as to visualize and understand the relationships between musical notes. The clear, pattern-driven layout of the piano keyboard is one of the things that makes the piano a wonderful first instrument for anyone to learn.

piano keyboard

So how does the piano keyboard work? Music is made of various notes, sometimes called pitches, which can be higher or lower. The piano arranges all the pitches in order from the lowest on the left of the piano to the highest on the right. Every time you move one key to the right (black or white), you’ve gone one “half step” higher in pitch. If you have a piano at home, try starting at the far left and playing every key one at a time. You’ll hear the pitch getting higher and higher as you move to the right.

The Musical Alphabet

It may look like there are a million different notes on the piano, but there are really only twelve! The seven white and five black keys make a repeating pattern of twelve notes. Each of the white notes has a letter name. These letter names make up the musical alphabet, which is one of the first things a piano player should learn. The letter names of these notes link the piano to all other instruments and also to written music. To help you learn the letter names of the keys, watch Mr. Hoffman’s “Piano Street” videos, C D E, F G,  and A B,  for a simple story that will make the names of the keys easy to remember.

The piano keyboard is made of only twelve tones that repeat as you move up the keyboard

So what about the black keys? Those keys are named for their relationship to the white notes around them. For example, the white note G has a black key just to the right of it. That black note is called G sharp. There’s also a black note to the left of G. That note is called G flat. You might have already figured out that all black keys have two names. For example, G flat can also be called F sharp. You sometimes hear the whole collection of black notes on a piano called  “the sharps and flats.”

Now that you’ve met the keys and know their names, it’s time to make some music!

It’s Easy to Learn a Song

The next thing you should know is that you can learn to play a simple song on the piano in only a few minutes. Give it a try! With this video lesson, you can learn to play “Hot Cross Buns.” Hoffman Academy’s ear-based method makes it easy for beginners to learn songs and start making music right away. If you’d like to try learning some more fun and easy songs for beginners, here’s a list of super easy popular songs to get you started.

Express Yourself with Improvisation

Another really fun thing you can do right now on the piano, whether you’re a beginner on the piano or you have more experience, is to improvise! When you improvise, you play something new that you’ve never heard or played before. Don’t worry if it’s going to sound good or not. You just do it, like you’re having a casual conversation with a friend. 

Try this improvisation activity. Put the damper pedal down and play only on the black keys. To get you started, you might want to think of an emotion you want to convey, like happiness, or maybe anger, or something in nature you want to imitate, like waves on a beach, or a thunderstorm.

The Hoffman Method encourages improvisation from the very beginning as a natural way to explore music and express yourself on the piano. Check out this video lesson where you’ll get a chance to improvise a melody with Mr. Hoffman.

Anyone Can Learn to Play!

Finally, the last thing for you to learn right now is that ANYONE can learn to play the piano. Don’t let the negative voices in your head talk you out of trying to learn. Voices like:

  • I’m not very musical
  • I have no sense of rhythm
  • I don’t know if I have a talent for music
  • I’m too old to learn piano
  • I’m not coordinated enough
  • I feel clumsy with my fingers

Instead, tell yourself:

  • I enjoy music
  • Anyone can make music
  • It’s fun to make my own music
  • It’s never too late to learn something new
  • Doing something always makes it easier
  • If I play the piano today, I’ll be better at it tomorrow!

You’re learning the piano so that you can have the deep satisfaction of making music for YOURSELF. It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. Set all those negative voices aside and commit to the JOURNEY of learning to make music at the piano.

At Hoffman Academy, we want everyone, everywhere to be able to learn the piano. We will teach you good posture, technique, how to sight read, play by ear, compose, improvise, appreciate music, play beautifully, be awesome, you get the whole deal! Give lesson one a try.

All the best to you as you begin your piano journey!


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