Starting Out on the Piano

Congratulations! You have decided to try your hand (so to speak) at playing piano. You are about to start on a great musical journey. Here are some pointers to get you started in the right direction.

Beginner’s Mind

Start with a promise to yourself to keep an open mind and have a willingness to learn. This means setting aside preconceived notions as much as possible and being willing to be challenged. At the same time, you need to have (or learn) patience with yourself. You are not going to conquer Chopin or Billy Joel overnight. Just like when you learned math, you will be starting with the basic building blocks of notes, chords, and so on. It may be a while before you are playing anything resembling a complete song. Don’t worry! As long as you keep at it, it will happen.

Beginner’s Hands

This may seem obvious, but proper hand placement is critical for effective playing. Check to make sure your posture is correct and that your hands are properly placed. Your instructor will help you with this. And while we are on the subject of hands, make sure they get plenty of exercise, both during and between lessons. This could be running scales on a piano or using a hand exerciser (available at most musical instrument stores). If you take care of your hands, they will take of you when you need them.

Beginner’s Eyes

Before playing a piece of music, especially for the first time, take time to look at the sheet music you are about to play. Don’t take too long; just analyze the chords, the tempo, and so on. Is there something new about this piece that you hadn’t played before? As you play more and more, you will be able to integrate much more speedily. Go back to Beginner’s Mind, and be patient!

Beginner’s Ears and Mouth

These were put together for a reason! The ears come first. You will not be listening to music strictly for pleasure anymore (although your enjoyment should continue).You will be listening to musical pieces with a critical and analytical ear now, more so than before. Is this a song you like enough to want to learn? (If the song doesn’t feature piano, don’t let that stop you.) What is the tempo, the style? What do you like/dislike about the piece? Eventually you will be able to analyze melodies, chord structure, and the like.

Your ears also need to listen to your instructor. And here is where the mouth comes in. If you have questions about what you are hearing, ask them! Your instructor will not think you are dumb for asking clarifying questions or making requests for types or pieces of music you want to learn. It is far better to ask than to assume.

Beginner’s Spirit

Be happy! This is a great journey you are starting on. Keep an attitude of openness, patience, and excitement, and you will go farther, quicker than you might expect.