Learning to play the piano 🎹

Anyone got any tips? Was one of my new year’s resolutions :slight_smile:

I can just about read the treble clef, as I had keyboard lessons as a kid. Been spending the last week or so slowly getting to grips with the bass clef. I can now play the left hand and right hand separately on a few beginner versions of songs (Dancing Queen, Hallelujah, Swan Lake) but all goes a bit pear shaped when trying to do them together.

I signed up for a month on Flowkey, which seems OK, but the microphone note detection is awful and I am still waiting for a MIDI-USB cable to arrive. Also I think I would prefer actual sheet music so you can see the whole song rather than just 8 bars at a time. Borrowed an old Yamaha keyboard off a mate, thought I would see how I get on before buying a proper piano.

Thinking I should probably buy some books? Buying sheet music per song seems a bit expensive…

I mean I learnt a bit in late high school and I guess all I would say is that it can make you (or at least made me) feel so uncoordinated and stupid because it seems like it should be easier but your hands aren’t doing what they should and it can get frustrating, but go slowly particularly when doing hands together, it really does come together with time

I guess you should just go through a basics book and then really just research some of the easier pieces to play, read some stuff about technique.

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I was just playing a bit now actually, although I’m getting really bad back pain - so think the first thing I need to sort out is a proper stool / stand! I have a pretty bad posture, so my back is going to need a bit of straightening out to play like they do in the videos.

Definitely going to buy a book or two, just wondered if anyone had any recommendations. If not I’ll just have to trust the reviews :slight_smile:

I haven’t had any lessons, so I more than likely have bad habits (of which this may be one), but separating the left and right hand parts has has never made any sense to me. The two are intrinsically related in a piece, and you wouldn’t learn the top three strings of something on guitar first and then the notes on the bottom three strings after, so I don’t know why instructional videos etc seem to do it that way?

The first song I learned was Nightswimming and I couldn’t reconcile the timing of the big octave leaps in the bass notes with the right hand part. It was only when I tried to very slowly piece my way through from bar to bar working out where both hands should be simultaneously at each point (ie. oh right that bass note plays at the same time as or just after that right hand note) that it all started to come together.

It also feels like the best the way to start building up that muscle memory and instinctively playing the patterns of a piece without consciously.

So, other than that I’d say firstly, don’t practice a piece from the start each time. You’ll find that you become great at the first 8 bars or whatever and then progressively worse at the piece goes on, or any trickier bits towards the end. I haven’t used Flowkey, but I like having paper in front of me so I can take it all really slow and just take a couple of bars at at time, and just repeat them over and over until they click.

Secondly, take a piece very slowly at the beginning. Don’t worry about the pace it should be until you’re comfortable playing the part and then pick it up.

The last thing is again maybe a lazy short cut from me, but don’t sweat playing perfectly to all the instructions in the sheet music. My reading and playing abilities are pretty basic, but I try to take enough from it to get the basics and then just go on feel from there. I’m never going to be a concert pianist or going through and formal exams or training, so I want to just enjoy it. For example, the latest song I learned is Concerning The UFO Sighting… by Sufjan. The sheet music says the time signature of the first bar is 9/8 +1/16 and the second bar is 8/8 + 1/16. I haven’t a fucking clue what either of these are, but after practicing it while to learn the pattern and then listening back to the recording I can play it.

Good luck. I find it really rewarding and great for my mental wellbeing to switch off from everything else and focus entirely on whenever I can.


Thanks, that’s really helpful - and I suspect you are right about just taking the plunge and learning the two hands together, even if it is painfully slow to start with. It’s actually quite easy to set the app to repeat a specific section of bars, but I still would really like to see the full song on the page, which does not seem to be possible. The other thing I was thinking of doing was buying some blank sheet music and doing the notation myself.

Time signatures still completely melt my brain, but yeah I can tell when it sounds right. Glad to hear you are feeling the benefits of playing, that is the main reason I am doing it. Do you have an acoustic or digital piano / keyboard?

It’s fairly standard to do this when learning, most piano teachers I’ve come across will recommend it at least when starting a new piece (probably after playing through slowly hands together). Even some professional pianists still practice hands separately when they need to.

It’s not for everyone all of the time of course, personally I find it very helpful with working out fingerings, phrasing, dynamics, tricky rhythms, and all sorts of other things which can get lost with both hands together.

Separate hands is absolutely crucial for playing certain types of pieces though, usually more complex things like fugues where each hand might have 2 or more lines to ‘voice’ - you really need to know each line on its own (and each hand) before putting them together.


Can I play the piano anymore?

Depends what you want to do I guess. I’ve been intermittently teaching myself, but I’ve only been able to do that from playing guitar and knowing how chords work. I’ve just transcribed that knowledge onto piano. However I’ve never kept it up and now terrible at it. Just haven’t practiced enough.

I thought at an early stage that Avril 14th by Aphex Twin might be an achievable aim to learn. But then I saw a YouTube video of someone playing it and, I learnt that it absolutely is not.

I was thinking about the how guitar and piano knowledge overlaps funny enough. I’ve never learned to read sheet music for the guitar, only chords and tabs. I probably need to spend a bit of time learning some general music theory at this point too I guess.

In terms of what I want to do - purely play for pleasure at home. It would be nice to be able to play a range of things - classical and contemporary stuff. It would be a dream to make my own music, but not sure I have the musical talent for that really!

Yes, being able to play Avril 14th would be amazing :slight_smile:

Yeah I mean it depends what you want to do! I mean for me learning piano was more about learning how to create chords that you can’t as easily replicate on guitar. You don’t need much skill or scales knowledge to be able to do that. In fact I think piano’s probably the instrument you can ‘blag’ the most at base level. I mean Thom Yorke is probably the worst piano player in contemporary music, but what he does is pretty effective!

Of course disregard the above statement if you want to become in any way proficient on the instrument.

Glad it was useful - I’m just going on what was helpful for me to get up and running, and playing some things that were interesting. I’m well aware that these may be things that may give a proper piano tutor a headache trying to undo if they were ever to try and teach someone properly though.

I’ve got a Clavinova now. I started with a standard USB keyboard, and then progressed from there. An acoustic piano wasnt an option as we don’t have a wall to put it against and so I looked at digital ones. Ended up spending more than I initially planned, but hopefully something that will last me, makes me want to play it and was affordable with an interest finance deal.

This is useful insight thanks. Whether I ever progress to a point where I need to learn to play with separate hands is questionable and it’s probably in part a limitation of my musical notation reading as much as anything that I can’t visualise how the (mainly left hand parts) fit without being alongside the other hand part.

I also appreciate that it’s me trying to shortcut some of the groundwork practicing proper technique to rush to playing fun stuff, but it might be that that’s enough for my purposes.

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Just been playing for a couple of hours, so relaxing! My USB-MIDI cable turned up too, which is nice, although it seems to keep crashing my browser, which is not so nice.

I will see if I can pick up a second-hand Clavinova over the coming months, otherwise I might just buy a Yamaha P45. The keyboard is fine for now, but I was just playing the accompaniment to Halo (very slowly) and ran out of keys on the bass side :grimacing:

Well of course you can!


Oh yeah I totally get that it’s not be for everyone and it’s a very traditional way of learning - predominantly beneficial for notated (western) classical music. The main thing is playing the piano should be fun regardless of how you do it, so getting bogged down in ‘you must learn this way’ isn’t helpful!


Well I couldn’t before


Would agree with this, unless you’re determined to be busting out the Chopin it’s not really necessary to go full strict rigour. Even then, if you have a learning style that works for you, then that’s what’s most important. It’s an instrument, make it make nice sounds!

Source - I played piano pretty rigorously for over a decade when I was a kid and was tutored by a concert pianist. He was very much into the technical side of things and classical tuition, but was also of the mindset that it should actually be enjoyable