• Amy Taylor

How To Play Piano

How To Play Piano

A few primary components go into learning how to play piano….

Learning To Read Music

Once you learn the names of each of the keys, the next step to reading music is learning which music notes correspond to specific keys. The easiest way to go about this is to memorize four acronyms that work from the bottom to the top:

Treble Clef Lines: Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge

Treble Clef Spaces: FACE

Bass Clef Lines: Great Big Dogs Fight Animals

Bass Clef Spaces: All Cats Eat Goldfish

If memorizing these prove to be challenging, you can write them down and use them as a reference while you continue to play songs.

One really great way to memorize the notes is to take a large book of intermediate-advanced level music and write the letter names under every note. This gives your brain practice recognizing the notes over and over again and really reinforces your ability to read the notes. If you fill out roughly ten pages a day, you will start to see improvement in just two weeks' time, maybe even faster. Eventually, you won’t need to write letter names in at all - you will just be able to recognize them on sight.

It’s important to note that when you are selecting a book to write the letter names in - you do not choose a book you are playing from. Writing letter names in a book, you are playing out of will handicap your ability to read the notes because your eyes will go directly to the letters you have written in. This is why you must use a separate book for writing in letter names.

Remembering Where To Put My Hands

Every time you start a song, you will need to know where to place your hands on the piano. For this, I’ve developed what I call the “3 magic questions” that will help you determine where your hands are supposed to go.

  1. Which hand is playing? (right or left)?

  2. What is the letter name of the note?

  3. What is the finger number indicated on the page?

With those three pieces of information, you can figure out exactly where to put each of your hands before starting the song. Many people forget one of the three steps, like which finger number or which note - but you must have all three answers to get your hands in the right place. This is a straightforward method of learning where to place your hands for any song.

Learning Chords

Learning to play chords should come after you have a certain level of proficiency in playing individual notes with your hands together and after you’ve learned how to play 2-note chords (or half-chords). Once you’ve gotten the basics down, it’s time to learn chords, and the most basic chord you should learn is the triad.

Chords are built out of roots, thirds, and fifths that are all separated from each other by skipping over a key on the piano. Triads contain three notes, the root, the third, and the fifth. If you start on the root note and count up three notes, you’ll come to the third of the chord. Count up five notes from the root, and you’ll have the fifth of the chord.

Of course, it’s more complicated than this, but that is the basic idea.

Learning By Ear

Learning to play by ear usually starts with being able to pick out melodies on the piano. It’s good to have sufficient technical know-how so that you can play using the correct fingering patterns. Without the proper fingering patterns, music learned by ear can be very difficult to play.

After that, it’s helpful to establish your chord base. Knowing which key you are playing in will help a lot. Finding the other chords can become a simpler process if you know where your tonic chord is.

If you don’t have time to find all the complex chord patterns in the song, a shortcut to playing by ear is simply to accompany your melody by using I IV and V7 chords. This is because a combination of those three chords can accompany most songs.


Sightreading simply means “playing at first sight.” So the first time you ever play a piece, you are sightreading it. Sightreading is about pattern recognition. The more patterns you can recognize early on, the better your sightreading will be.

It’s essential to look over a piece of music you will be sightreading thoroughly. Pay attention to the time signature and the tempo indications, and take a moment to feel the beat in your body. Tap out any difficult rhythms and make sure you have a good mental idea of how the piece is supposed to start. You’ll want to look at the key signature and look for any scale passages or musical patterns like Alberti bass. The dynamics will make the piece come to life, so plan out how you are going to play each phrase ahead of time. This will make it sound like real music.

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