How to Learn the Keyboard for Beginners

Updated March 23, 2017

The piano keyboard is one of the most common beginning instruments for someone learning music. The piano is an ideal beginning instrument because it encompasses both the bass and treble clefs, makes it easy for students to visualise written music and allows them to learn about both harmony and melody. For this reason, sheet music is graded to help beginners learn piano and keyboard theory in stages. By taking advantage of this specialised curriculum, a beginner can learn not only the keyboard and how to play it but also the theory surrounding the keyboard and music in general.

Familiarise yourself with the piano keyboard. A full-size piano has 88 keys and covers seven octaves plus a minor third, beginning on the A note on the bass clef and moving to the C note. Middle C is the third C from left to right on the keyboard, located around the middle of the keyboard. This middle C will be the note you use as an anchor while learning the keyboard notes and where they relate to the music staff.

Begin with scales in the middle C position. Position your right hand over the keyboard, with your thumb over middle C. Play a C major scale, which contains only white keys on the piano. The notes are C-D-E-F-G-A-B and the next C above middle C, which is an octave higher. Play the C the notes in order, starting with your thumb and ending on the G with your little finger, then shift up to play the A with your index finger, the B with your middle finger and the octave C with your ring finger. This is your first major scale.

Practice your C major scale from middle C all the way to the last C on your keyboard going up. As you play, notice there are two sets of white keys that don't have a black key between them. These sets have the notes B and C, and E and F. There is only a half step between these two sets of notes. All of the other notes have a whole step between them. From one white key to a black key is a half step. From one white key to another is a whole step, with the exception of the B and C and the E and F. This will be important to know as you add major scales to your practice sessions.

Learn your first piano chords. The first three chords you need to know are C, F and G major. All of these chords are in the key of C and can be practised with your C scale, which will allow you to work on left-hand and right-hand playing. You can learn simple versions of these three chords with one shape. Locate the C below middle C and place your index finger on that note. Place your middle finger on the E above that note and your ring finger on the G above that note. This is a C major chord.

Keep this shape with your fingers and move your hand so your first finger rests on the F note just above the E your middle finger is on. This is an F major chord. Move the same shape up one white key and you are playing a G major chord. Practice playing these chords with your left hand while playing the C scale from middle C up.

Play simple songs and exercises. Piano music comes in graded sheets. The sheets are simplified piano, intermediate and advanced. Simplified piano features simplified scale and chord studies along with simple arrangements of songs designed to help you learn to read music while letting you practice your fingering. The more you play, the better your technique becomes. Graded sheets help you learn gradually and progress on a level-appropriate basis.

Things You'll Need

  • Piano or keyboard
  • Graded sheet music
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About the Author

Carl Hose is the author of the anthology "Dead Horizon" and the the zombie novella "Dead Rising." His work has appeared in "Cold Storage," "Butcher Knives and Body Counts," "Writer's Journal," and "Lighthouse Digest.". He is editor of the "Dark Light" anthology to benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities.