When it comes to the keyboard, we like to imagine ourselves playing a song well whilst surrounded by friends and family – you know the dream. But also, maybe you just genuinely want to learn how to play?
Wherever you may be on your skill level – a beginner or you have dabbled in a few lessons – this handy guide should help you on your way to grasping the tools and knowledge you will need to succeed playing keyboard.
If you are wanting to know about whether to go the piano or keyboard route, what essential tools you need and about the different keys, well, then you have come to the right place.
Here is what you will find for the beginner keyboard player in this handy guide:
- Before We Start – there are a few things to think about before you begin learning to play the keyboard, such as how many times to practice a week and how long it may take to become good at playing.
- Which One – Keyboard or a Piano? – when it comes to buying your instrument, will you be taking the more classical route, or is the electronic keyboard more your kind of thing?
- Essential Tools for Beginners – even though you may have just bought an expensive keyboard, there are other items you may need when it comes to learning.
- Positioning Yourself Correctly – whether that is sitting on the bench or positioning your hands, it is best to know how to properly position yourself when it comes to playing so you can not only make the most out of playing the keyboard, but also to reduce injury.
- Tips On Learning the Notes – the black and white keys can be very intimidating to a beginner, but once you know what they are, it becomes less scary – especially the black keys!
- Reading the Duration of Notes – as a beginner, you will want to understand basic notes so you can follow music, or at least understand what things are before you advance onto the next stage of learning.
- Beginner’s Exercises – here are a couple of easy exercises you can do at home to help with the learning of the musical alphabet.
- Other Ways to Learn at Home – learning the keyboard at home can be fun. It is always handy to know what other resources are out there available to you.
- Beginner’s Tips – a roundup of tips we have learned in this article.
Before We Start
Even though playing the keyboard may look easy, it actually is not, though, it also is not impossible to learn and make an enjoyable hobby (or dare we say, career) out of it.
There may be times when someone, even you, takes playing the keyboard up so naturally that it looks effortless, but for most of us, we have to put the time and dedication into learning, and that is fine too!
The amount of time it takes for a person to learn the keyboard is different for everyone. Whilst some can take years, others can take a few months. It is a personal journey that does not need to be rushed – it is an enjoyable experience, afterall.
It is best to stay consistent when it comes to practicing. Doing it each day and for at least half an hour will keep you focused. A good thing to do is write a plan of when you are going to practice so you can tick days off and keep motivated.
Now that is out of the way, let us get started!
Which One – Keyboard or Piano?
You may not have thought about the difference between a piano and keyboard, but have you thought about which one it is you would like to learn to play?
When it comes to their sound and appearance, there are some notable differences. A piano is normally – though not all the time – quite grande and can take up a lot of space in a small apartment – probably not the best idea but who are we to judge?
A keyboard on the other hand comes in varying sizes also, but is usually a lot easier to transport and use. It lives propped up on a stand, but can be moved around very easily.
It is also much easier to store away whilst at home, whereas a piano has to live exactly where you leave it. So, it could come down to convenience.
Another difference between them both is that the piano is an acoustic instrument that has strings that need to be tuned in order for the keys to play the correct notes.
This also means extra maintenance to keep up with. A keyboard on the other hand has electronic keys that do not need much upkeep at all – maybe cleaning of the keys and the odd upgrade.
If you are looking to stick to a classical sound, then the piano is your best bet, but if you want to cover various genres and create different sounds, then the keyboard is the one.
Even though the piano can be versatile, it is not quite as much as the keyboard, and you need to be quite advanced in your skills to pull a lot of things off. Mind you, it does sound lovely!
So, now that you know the difference, let’s move on to the first step of the process!
Essential Tools for Beginners
The biggest and most difficult decision you are likely to make is what keyboard to choose. Most of us may firstly think about budget and what we can afford, but actually picking a keyboard is relatively easy. Ask the person at the music store what they would recommend for a beginner.
Opt for a piano bench rather than a chair. This is important because it promotes proper posture for playing which will help to not put stress on the muscles. If you use a chair you may end up slouching, so adopt the good habit of sitting correctly so it becomes second nature.
The best way to buy a bench is to try them out at the store rather than buying online. You need to know whether the height is good, otherwise you risk bad posture and sore muscles.
Headphones are always useful if you have neighbors or live with people who do not want to hear you practicing every day. Just make sure to opt for something that you are comfortable wearing for long periods, whether earphones or headphones, which sit over the head.
Even though not necessarily essential, a sustaining pedal can be a fun thing to use, especially as you become more advanced. It helps to drag notes out so whilst you are playing music they play in the background of one another, creating a wonderful sound.
Positioning Yourself Correctly
When it comes to playing the keyboard, you will want to know how to position your hands correctly so you can be comfortable and play at your best. Not only that, knowing the correct way to position your hands will help reduce any risk associated with repetitive movements.
The hands are really important when it comes to playing well. This is what will be pressing the keys and moving between them, afterall.
To help you position your fingers correctly, hang your arms by your side and form a “C” shape with your fingers naturally. Keep fingers relaxed but hold the shape. Whilst doing so, place the hands on the keyboard keeping the wrists straight.
Not only is this important to play, but will help to deter wrist stress associated with repetitive movements.
Even though we may just sit down and start playing, there are some tips and tricks when it comes to playing comfortably and correctly. Whilst your feet are flat on the ground, sit halfway on the bench, rather than full on it near the back, with only a small portion of your knees under the keyboard.
Playing this way will help you move your body more freely. No doubt you will be swaying to the rhythm being played which is a great way to really feel the tempo.
It will take a while for you to really get used to this position, so do not feel annoyed if at first it does not feel right. This will make sure you have the best position when playing the keyboard, and you will feel more professional too!
As well as the hands and the way you sit, the entire body needs to be ready to play the keyboard correctly. As stated before, good posture is necessary when it comes to playing the keyboard.
Whilst keeping an upright position sat around the middle of the keyboard, relax the shoulders so you do not appear to look stiff. Also, relaxing helps you to play, so keep this in mind early on.
Tips On Learning the Notes
Just like with other instruments, you will need to learn notes in order to play. With the keyboard, they are set out using both black and white keys. Each key has a different pitch, and when pressed down in a sequence they play a song.
It can be rather intimidating when looking at the keys for the first time, especially black keys, but soon you will get the hang of what is what. So long as you know that the first black key to the left is a C, you will be able to work your way up from there.
The black keys, also known as accidental notes, can be a little complicated to understand, but do not let this put you off. These are known as sharp and flats, however this is not the case when it comes to the E and B notes – so keep that in mind.
Understanding the term sharp and flat is relatively easy to understand. When it is ‘sharp’, it means that the note is half a step higher than the natural tone (white key). When it is ‘flat’, the note is one half a tone lower than the natural note (white key).
The white keys, also known as natural notes, are known as whole notes which do not contain any sharps or flats. These are a little easier than the black keys, as they represent the notes you may be familiar with: C, D, E, F, G, A and B.
To be able to understand and memorize where each note is, it is best to learn the musical alphabet. This consists of the seven notes previously mentioned, C, D, E, F, G, A and B on the white keys. Once the G key rolls around, the alphabet begins at A gain.
To find the A key (as the keyboard starts at C), look for a group of three black keys. You will notice that A is between the second and third key within the row. This will help with hand positioning in the middle of the keyboard when you first begin.
Finding The F Note
There are two important notes to know how to find, the F and the C note. They are both quite easy to find, so it should not be too much trouble to remember where they are.
The F note, no matter where it is on the keyboard, will always be before three black keys. It is a good idea to make a note where all the F keys are and play them, listening to the different octaves of each.
Finding The C Note
If you want to get to grips with the keys a little quicker, then finding the C note without hesitation is a good idea. The trick is to know that a C white key is always to the left of two black keys.
Try and find all the C notes and listen to their octaves. This will help you to understand the repetitions of notes. The best thing to do when it comes to the keyboard is familiarize yourself with each repeating note.
There will come a time when finding notes on the keyboard becomes second nature, so it is best to start teaching yourself now.
Reading the Duration of Notes
As a beginner, you will want to know how to read basic music. It will be important for you to learn what notes on a song sheet mean, and how you can follow it.
There are five lines on a standard musical notation, but as a beginner, this is not something you need to know about right now.
Once you have read what each note symbol means, give them a go on the keyboard. It is best to learn what the duration of notes are at this stage to help you read music in the future.
A Half Note
A half note is a circle, like an O, with a line extending from above it. It lasts for two beats, so count to two at an even tempo.
Try this by pressing the C key four times. Press the C key, count to two and lift. Repeat 3 more times.
A Whole Note
When you look at a whole note, you will see it is a circle with an empty middle, like an O. This note lasts for four beats. This means that if you play a note, you hold it for the count of four to an even tempo.
Try this by pressing the F key. Press and hold the F key for a count of four. Release the finger, and repeat 3 more times.
A Quarter Note
A quarter note looks like a half note but the circle is now a full black circle. This note only lasts for one beat.
As an exercise, play the A four times, but for one beat. To do this, press the A, lift, press the A, lift, and so on, four times.
Now you know basic tempo and what the three notes mean. Once you understand these without needing to refer back to notes, you will be well on your way to reading music.
Now you are ready to start some basic exercises. You have learned what the musical alphabet is, all the way to how to read notes on a song sheet. Make sure you practice everyday, if you can, because various exercises will help you to progress your learning.
To stay on track and keep motivated, try finding some exciting lessons online that will further your understanding of playing the keyboard.
The exercises below are intended for the complete beginner, though it will be handy for anybody who needs a refresher when it comes to the keys of a keyboard.
This exercise is going to begin at the middle C. Have a look and see if you can remember where it is.
During this exercise, it will test your hand skills, so it is great if you want to practice using various fingers. The thumb, index finger and middle finger will need to be placed on keys C, D and E. This is also a good test to see if you remember where the keys are!
Using your right-hand at the middle of the keyboard, with your thumb, place it on the C. The index finger will need to be placed on the D and your middle finger will need to be placed on the E.
Press down a few times and once you have gotten the hang of it, try it at different octaves on the keyboard. It is great to hear the different sounds and how it changes depending on where you are on the keyboard.
Now that you have used your right-hand, it is now the left-hand’s turn! Assuming that you are right-handed, this may prove a little more tricky.
Whilst doing the same exercise but using different fingers, put your pinky finger on C, the ring finger on D and the middle finger on E. Just like before, try different octaves to hear how it sounds.
As with both exercises, there is no need to rush. With time you will get better and find that you can do this sort of exercise instinctively. Even so, it can take a while to get there, so do not feel disheartened if you are not quite there yet.
Also, starting slow means less strain on the hands, and ultimately going slow will give you more control as you first begin.
Other Ways to Learn at Home
When it comes to learning the keyboard, it takes more than just sitting down and going over sheet music, especially as a beginner who may not be quite as confident doing that just yet. There are so many ways to make learning how to play the keyboard much more fun, and that means even away from sitting at the keyboard.
Books are a great source of information. Whether you are wanting to know music theory, how to play the keyboard or gain knowledge about famous keyboard players, then books are a great place to start. Even though the internet is available 24/7, there is still something satisfying about studying a paperback book from the local library.
Collecting and reading songbooks will be vital. These books will be what you end up playing music from, so incorporate basic song reading into your practice overtime. Just do not try and run before you can walk!
If learning at home seems a bit too much for you, lessons with a teacher might just be a good option for you. It can be a good way to get through some basics and have a teacher help you to play properly. Having said that, it is easily achievable at home as well, so it really is up to your own preference on whether you want the extra help or not.
- Buy the correct equipment – when you start your keyboard playing journey, you will want to have bought the right equipment that suits your needs. Unlike other instruments, you may want to buy a keyboard you can advance with, rather than being too beginner with it. This also means the bench you plan to sit on. You will be using them everyday, so make sure you are happy with your purchases.
- Make sure you have the correct posture – having the correct posture will mean that you will reduce the risk of any aches or pains, especially if you plan to play regularly. Having a good habit of sitting correctly and positioning the hands how they should be, means it will come naturally to you over time.
- Learn the music alphabet – it is paramount that you learn the music alphabet. Without this you will not understand where the lettered keys are on the keyboard. Learning this basic technique early on will help you in your progression.
- Learn basic music theory – basic music theory is vital if you want to read music. If you do not learn it, then you will find reading through a songbook difficult. It is also best to practice the duration of these notes so over time it becomes easy to remember.
- Start slow, basic exercises and build up – when you first begin going through keyboard exercises, do not attempt to rush. It is much better to start slow and stay in control, than attempt to play fast and become frustrated. Patience is definitely needed when it comes to playing the keyboard.
- Take your practice away from the keyboard – whilst it is obvious that you need a keyboard to play the keyboard, it is also useful to take in knowledge about playing from elsewhere, like books. You will thank yourself later when you realize you have a big skillset when it comes to playing the keyboard due to the fact you soaked up information from all different places. This will help in your advancement of learning new skills within keyboard playing.
At first, learning to play the keyboard can be intimidating, but now that you have read this far, you have probably realized that it actually is not intimidating at all.
Playing the keyboard can be extremely rewarding, especially when you have a group of friends together and you can play a song for everyone to enjoy.
Make sure you practice as much as you can, whether that is everyday or every other day, and do not try to rush learning. It may take longer than expected, but it will be worth it in the end.