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El_Cadejo's avatar

What is the best way for me to go about learning to play piano?

Asked by El_Cadejo (34605points) November 6th, 2011

I’ve recently decided I want to learn how to play piano. I have zero skill what-so-ever with any other instruments in regards to playing or reading music. But I do think I have an exceptional ear for music and I think its about time I start playing something.

What would be the best way for me to go about learning? Should I be learning how to read music? Learning chords? Techniques? I mean I realize all these things would be handy but what should I focus most of my energy on at the start to be able to at least get a feel for this thing?

I just figured out how to play für elise which is pretty awesome but I assume it’d probably be better for me to learn HOW to play before I start learning songs.

Those of you that play, what helped you most in learning?

Fluther musicians, GUIDE ME ON MY QUEST! :)

mann this would be so much easier if I had synthesia :P

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12 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

Take lessons, you’ll learn exercises while learning to read notes and also learn tempo.

Teaching yourself how to play a piece by memorizing what keys to play and in what order is not the same as learning how to play an instrument.

whitetigress's avatar

Don’t take lessons at first (you might evolve into a robotic player). Learn it all on your own is my best advice. Buy one, and develop a feel for it. Put your emotions into the type of way you want to play. You can make great music with out being Mozart. A good example if John Lennon. He messed around with chords and made songs that created an impact in society. What helped me most is just messing around with the piano. Try and mimic what ever style you are into. If you want to learn how to read, you can study it from a book, but to speed up the process and get the whip crackin’ you might want to take @zenvelo advice and go ahead with some lessons :D

harple's avatar

This is really exciting :-)

What’s your end goal? More Beethoven etc? Or to play versions of favourite old songs/tunes etc?

If you want to play any classical pieces, then reading music is going to become critical at some point, and the ability to pick up a book of pieces and bash through them of your own accord is fabulous.

However, often starting to play and read music all at the same time can slow you down on the actual playing side…

I would strongly recommend getting some input from a teacher who has experience of teaching others in your situation. There is a balance to be struck between teaching you what middle C looks like in the music, and playing more interesting pieces that keep you interested as an adult. An understanding of chords etc will help you to play more interesting pieces sooner. The basic triad (which in the music is shown with a note on a line, the line above and the line above that, OR with a note on a space, the space above and the space above that) is a great shape to get used to – eg. notes CEG.

On the chord front, a simple chord progression to learn is a C triad (CEG), followed by an F triad (FAC), followed by a G triad (up one to GBD) then returning to the original C triad. (All of these chords use just the white keys.)

If you imagin the C triad as being chord 1 (normally shown with roman numeral I) – named because C is the first note of the scale in that particular key. The F triad is four notes higher, so is chord IV. Up one to the G triad takes you to chord V. Then returning to the original chord, chord I. So you have this chord pattern: I – IV – V – I. When you learn different keys (ie where the first note of the scale starts on a different note, which will affect the combination of white and black keys you play) this same chord progression will work.

Having some input from a teacher will also help you with how to hold your hands when you play, how to navigate your way around the notes, making best use of your fingers, and not giving yourself any injuries in the process.

If lessons are out of the question, for any reason, then youtube provides an incredible amount of inputs on learning any instruments, and if you are self motivated you can get quite far in this way. If you want to run any videos you find past me feel free to pm them to me. (I teach harp for a living, but also play piano, violin and viola to a high standard.)

El_Cadejo's avatar

Forgot to mention, as much as I’d like to take lessons, I am dirt poor :(

@zenvelo yea I figured as much, thats why I dont want to learn any other songs until I know what the hell im doing lol

@whitetigress yea I’ve been screwing around with a piano all day just trying to find stuff that sounds nice but I don’t think I have enough understanding of the instrument to attempt that yet.

@harple awesome thank you for all the info. That will definitely give me some stuff to start thinking about. As per what I want to play I’m pretty universal in my taste in music so I’d imagine what I’ll end up want to play will also be all over the place lol. This is however the song I was listening to when I decided, yes, I need to learn to play piano. I want to make beautiful music like that someday. I do have a couple friends who are quite good at piano so help from them may be possible but youtube is looking to be a huge teacher for me lol. I’m sure I’ll be sending you many PM’s along the way, thanks.

lillycoyote's avatar

I would at least take a couple of lessons to make sure you don’t start learning to play with bad habits. Or at least find someone who knows how to play and can teach your the proper hand position and that sort of thing, as @harple points out. I keep threatening to learn how to play. My grandmother and my aunt were/are pianists and teachers, I have a GD piano in the house, I just have to do it. Also, do you have any particularly useful skills? My aunt may be unusual, but she sometimes barters piano lessons. She “pays” her disabled daughter’s occupational therapist in piano lessons. The therapist really wanted to learn to play so it worked out for both of them. It’s probably unlikely, but maybe you could trade work for an occasional piano lesson.

whitetigress's avatar

Since you’re poor if you can get your hands on a synth, or any electronic keyboard you can definitely search youtube for tutorials. My advice is, learn the C, G, A, F, and D chords all in major.

El_Cadejo's avatar

I do have an old crappy electric casio keyboard :)

whitetigress's avatar

@uberbatman You could always go the 80s route and learn some synth :D There’s less tone and pressure invovled.

wundayatta's avatar

If you don’t take lessons, you will learn all kinds of ways of playing that most players won’t think is very appropriate. It’ll be harder for you to articulate, harder to make your way through passages of music because you don’t know the right fingering, and harder to even read music.

You should definitely learn to read. My best guess is that using online youtube instructors would help, although a lot of them aren’t teaching the right thing according to my son’s teacher. But it’s better to have some kind of teacher than to try to do everything on your own.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@whitetigress nahh i want to play good music :P

harple's avatar

@uberbatman lovely piece of music, thank you for sharing it.

jazmina88's avatar

Learn your chords and reading skills for piano. The chords translate well in guitar, for song building and ear training. Play that old casio and I know you will be jammin like Marley soon. Diddle with some musical thoughts and then you will have riffs and be giggling like a schoolgirl :)

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