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How Do You Start Playing the Piano?
Getting Started with Playing the Piano
Have you ever wanted to learn how to start playing the piano?
“But I’m too old!” you might say. Well, that is not true! You are never too old to learn something new and it might even be easier than you suspect. Regardless of age, there are always new and fun challenges waiting to be explored, met, and conquered.
Learning to play the piano can be just as challenging as learning any new skill, but if you know how to get started and what to look for in tools and resources to help you develop your soon-to-be-had piano prowess, it is more likely to help in making the challenge fun and, best of all, fulfilling. As a beginner pianist, you start playing the piano through introductory foundations such as proper posture and finger positioning. It becomes familiar with the layout of the keys and musical notation, as well as the most basic music theory knowledge needed to start.
As you improve, your skill set for the piano will expand to sight reading, learning about dynamics, and supplementing your theoretical knowledge with increasingly advanced concepts. Before you know it, you will be playing along to your favourite songs and perhaps even writing your own. A better you is calling from a brighter future and they want you to play piano!
You will know how to play an instrument. How can that help your daily grind?
Studies have proven a variety of benefits to playing a musical instrument, such as reduced stress levels, improved ability to focus, and an increased attention span. Some studies have even concluded that musicians are generally more capable at problem-solving than their less musically inclined counterparts and even develop stronger memorisation and arithmetic skills. In other words, scientific studies on the human brain and our mental and emotional capacities have proven the many benefits of learning and knowing how to play a musical instrument. Being more resilient to stress and having the capability to focus on what you need to for as long as you need to is vital to healthy well-being.
Why learn to play, you ask? Because you are worth it! Are piano lessons necessary to learning how to play?
While lessons are not necessary to learning how to play the piano, they are highly recommended, especially for children. Having an instructor who is knowledgable and experienced helps give your own learning valuable structure and guidance so you avoid common pitfalls and mistakes that can potentially stunt your development or, at worst, discourage you from progressing. While there are plenty of self-taught pianists out there, most find the challenge made easier with the help of an instructor.
Now that you have decided to look into lessons, it is time to find an instructor.
What should you look for in a good instructor?
Whether you are reading this out of your own interest or that of your child, it is important to research what instructors are available in your area and which might be best for your circumstance. Some instructors, for example, may only provide lessons to a specific age group, while others, though willing to teach all ages, may have other restrictions or limitations. While the cost of lessons may vary, there are a few key things to keep in mind as you search for an instructor:
Both children and adults require active, fun engagement in activities to truly absorb material and learn from the experience. Finding an instructor that is both knowledgable and has the ability to present material in a way that clicks with you is important for your own success.
Exercising your discipline to practise daily and attend lessons weekly or monthly can feel like a chore if you do not feel secure, supported, and inspired. A good instructor will not only hold you accountable for your progress but actually inspire you to do the same for yourself.
Since you will be spending time, money, and effort on developing this new skill, you want to make certain the quality of what you are getting is worth it. Be sure to verify the credentials and relevant experience of potential instructors to get a feel for their calibre.
Some instructors teach out of schools or music stores, while others teach out of their home or come to yours. Consider what kind of learning environment may be best for you.
Reliable access to your instrument of choice is absolutely necessary if you do not have a piano of your own yet. If your ability to practise is limited as such, be sure to discuss what your options are with any potential instructor.
Preparing a bit of an interview for potential instructors can help determine if they are the right fit for you. Brainstorm all possible concerns and do not be afraid to ask questions.
Ultimately, a good instructor is going to be a knowledgable someone you are comfortable with that inspires you to push yourself to succeed. Although your success and fulfilment depends mostly on what effort you put forth, a good instructor will be your guide, mentor, and cheerleader, all in one.
Lesson 1: Starting with Middle C
Where’s the best place to start on the piano? The middle! Middle C on the piano is like the home row on a typewriter or computer keyboard. It is our starting point and our centre.
After familiarising ourselves with Middle C, we will travel up the white keys until we reach the next highest C note, learning your first scale, the C Major Scale.
Once you’ve got the C Major Scale down, we can start building chords—specifically the 3-note chords known as triads. The first chord we learn is the C chord, comprised of the notes C, E, and G. The second chord, F, is made from the notes F, A, and C. Third and finally in this lesson, is the G chord, using G, B, and D.
Now we have built some basic chords, we add the root of each being played by the left hand in succession; meaning notes C, F, and G will be played with the left hand and the right hand plays the accompanying triad.
Congratulations! You’ve just played your first chord progression!
Lesson 2: Proper Posture
When you sit down to play piano, your posture is actually very important. In order to play correctly with the greatest range of motion and comfort, there are a couple pointers by which you can adjust your posture appropriately.
– Do not slouch! Keep your spine erect and your shoulders back, down, and relaxed. When you slouch, your mobility on the keys will be limited, thereby having a negative impact on your playing. Not only does sitting up straight help your playing, it also looks better, especially when you perform in front of an audience.
– Keep your elbows at a 90° angle. You may need to adjust your stool’s (or keyboard’s) height or distance from the piano to do so. Keeping your arms locked at 90° in the elbows allows for the most comfortable and wide-ranging mobility.
Often you see pianists go wild, moving closer to or further away from the keys and even using exaggerated arm or leg movements. This is typically part of the performance aspect as a musician becomes emotionally invested in what he or she is playing. Such artistic embellishments of movement come fluidly in time. When you are just starting out, however, it is important to practise with proper posture and positioning in order to build a strong foundation for the powerhouse that will be yours in the future!
Lesson 3: Hand and Finger Position
While Lesson 2 detailed the appropriate posture with which to sit, this lesson builds from that and instructs the proper positioning for the hands. Proper hand positioning allows you to play for longer periods of time with significantly reduced fatigue. Again, when postured correctly, you maximise your range of motion. There are two key factors to achieving proper hand positioning.
– Keep your wrists level with the keys. The lower your wrists are, the more difficult the keys are to hit; whereas the higher your wrists are, the less control and precision you have. You want to be able to comfortable push your fingers straight down into the keys evenly and consistently, without flicking.
– Be mindful of numbered fingers. Each finger has been assigned a number – the thumb being one, pointer finger two, and so on until the little finger, five. Following numbered fingers ensure your fingers won’t get crossed or end up in awkward positions, keeping your playing smooth, fluid, and avoiding fatigue.
Now that you have learned how to sit at a piano and how to properly hold your hands to more effortlessly float your fingers across the keys, let’s get playing!
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