How to Teach Yourself to Play Piano or Keyboard

By Mary Freeman

Playing the piano or keyboard is a rewarding and entertaining pastime that anyone can learn how to do. While teaching yourself how to play might sound intimidating, with some study of basic theory and a lot of practice, the process can be enjoyable and painless.

Instructions

Examine the piano and notice the pattern of white and black keys that run up and down its length. Notice the pattern of two black keys followed by three black keys, with white keys between them. Play notes at random with your right or left hand fingers, and get comfortable playing notes together and separately.

Locate the middle C key on your keyboard or piano. Middle C is the white key immediately before the center-most two black keys. You can also find middle C by consulting an online keyboard note chart. After you have located middle C, play several other C notes on the keyboard. The other C notes are also located on the white keys immediately before the groups of two black keys. Notice how all the Cs have similar, if physically separate, tones.

Play the eight notes between middle C and the next highest C. All of the notes are white keys. The notes, in order, are C, D, E, F, G, A, B, and C. When played consecutively they form the C Major scale. The C Major scale is fundamental to Western music and keyboard theory. Practice playing the C major scale forwards and backwards, remembering to always begin and end on a C note.

Form a C major chord with your left hand. With the little finger of your left hand, play a C note in the lower half of the keyboard, with the middle finger, play an E, and with the thumb, play a G. You can find the E and the G keys by counting up, one white key at a time, from a C key, or by consulting a keyboard note chart. Play these three notes simultaneously and let the chord ring by holding down the notes. Play the C major chord until it feels physically comfortable and you can recognize the relevant notes by sight.

Play a C major melody with the right hand while a C major chord is being played with the left hand. To form a C major melody, play a C note in the upper half of the keyboard, followed by other white notes in various orders that eventually culminate with another C note. Play around with different combinations of notes that sound melodically pleasing until you discover melodies you enjoy.

Play a C major chord, built of the C, E, and G notes, with your left hand. To play the next chord in the key of C major, raise all the notes in the C major chord one white note; this forms the D minor chord, built of the D, F, and A notes. Continue raising your left hand fingers by one white note to also form, in order, the E minor chord, F major, G major, and A minor. Play different combinations of chords and melody lines, all of which should use only white keys. Experiment, practice, and soon you will be playing your keyboard or piano in complex and harmonic ways.

Tip

Consult a piano scale and chord book or chart for instructions on how to play a huge variety of scales and chords. Different combinations of chords produce wildly different sounds and tonalities; remember to keep experimenting until you find beautiful or harmonious progressions.

Warning

Don't try to do too much when playing. Beautiful songs can be played on the piano using a couple of well chosen chords and a scattered few melody notes. Be patient when playing.

About the Author

Mary Freeman is a freelance writer. She has held several editorial positions at the print publication, "The Otter Realm." She traveled throughout Europe, which ultimately resulted in an impromptu move to London, where she stayed for eight months. This life experience inspired her to pursue travel writing. Freeman received a degree in human communication from California State University.