Learning to play the piano is a bit like learning to read. A beginner piano student must master several skills before moving on to more advanced techniques. These skills may not come intuitively at first, but require repetition and practice. Stick with it, though, and spend the time to develop a solid foundation. The time you take as a beginning student will pay off later in greater fluency. Here are the top five skills you need to master initially:
- Posture - When sitting at the piano, your arms should hang freely from your shoulders, with your forearms extended comfortably on the keys in a vertical position. If the bench is too high or too low, your arms and wrists will suffer strain. They should be positioned loosely and naturally on the keyboard.
- Learn correct piano fingering - Place your hands on the piano so the wrist is vertical, neither arched or reclining. Bend your fingers gently. Learning to smoothly navigate the keyboard takes time and practice, but in general, don’t use the thumb to play black keys. Cross the second finger over the thumb to reach keys that are a few steps lower. Move the entire hand if a key is out of reach.
- Basic notes of the scale - One of the first things your piano teacher will instruct you in is how to “read” the basic notes of the scale. Once you recognize the basic notes you can pick out simple songs.
- Identify the keys of the piano - In addition to learning to recognize written notes, you must also know where those notes are on the piano. Additionally, being able to recognize a note when you hear it is a huge advantage.
- Time - Before you can play a piece, you must understand the basics of time and rhythm. Recognizing a quarter note compared to a half note or an eighth note is critical to your success as a pianist.
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