4 Things Beginner Piano Players Should Practice

Lisa Witt  /  Practice / Dec 24

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This is for all you beginners out there! There are certain things beginner piano players should practice to see results fast and avoid frustration (and quitting).

When you start learning the piano, it can be really hard to know WHAT you’re supposed to practice, especially if you don’t have a teacher to help you.

This lesson will help guide you through 4 exercises you can start practicing RIGHT NOW to help you get comfortable at the keys and help your fingers connect to your brain.

  1. Keyboard Geography
  2. The Five-Finger Scale
  3. The Claw
  4. Keyboard Familiarity
  5. BONUS! Chords

Say “hi” to Kaitlyn — our resident beginner!

I hope you know Kaitlyn by now. She just started learning with Pianote and works on our support team. So if you’ve ever had to get in touch for help, there’s a good chance you’ve spoken with her 🙂

This lesson was filmed about a week after Kaitlyn’s first lesson, so she’s truly a beginner here.

Young woman with long brown hair sitting in front of piano and Lisa (woman with short platinum hair) sitting behind her next to the piano in blue plaid shirt.

The reason I’ve asked her to help demonstrate is to show you EXACTLY what it’s like for a beginner. You’ll be able to see some of the common issues and things beginners tend to do when they start learning.

And you’ll know that you can do all these exercises as well.

4 Things Beginner Piano Players Should Practice

#1. Keyboard Geography

This is the first thing beginner piano players should practice. And what I mean by this is getting comfortable with the layout of the keys on the piano.

It can be daunting for beginners to see 88 keys in front of them, but it becomes less daunting when you realize that there’s a pattern that just repeats over and over.

For this exercise, play all the groups of 2 black keys (with your index and middle fingers). Use your left hand AND right hand.

Things beginner piano players should practice - keyboard geography. Full piano keyboard with black notes highlighted in red (2s) and pink (3s) and Fs and Cs labelled in red.

Once you’ve played all the groups of 2 black keys, try playing the groups of 3. This time use your index, middle and ring fingers (on both hands).

This exercise is great because it helps you see the patterns and get comfortable with the size of the keyboard.

Remember, to the left of EVERY group of 2 black keys is the note C. To the left of EVERY group of 3 black keys is F. This way you can find every C and every F on the piano!

#2. The Five Finger Scale

For this exercise, find C (remember how?). Then, place your thumb on C. Notice how nicely each finger rests above the notes.

Now play those 5 notes and up and down SLOWLY. Beginners like to rush things, but it’s important to play slowly and in control.

Try it with your right hand, and then move on to your left.

Keyboard with five finger scale from C highlighted in red with fingering. Left hand CDEFG in fingers 54321 and right hand CDEFG in fingers 12345.

But remember!

When you play with your left hand, you’ll start with your PINKY on the C and play up. If you watch the lesson ,you’ll see Kaitlyn needs some help with this one.

Once you can play both hands separately, try playing them together. GO SLOOOOW.

#3. The Claw

This exercise involves starting on C and playing a chord. For your right hand, that just means playing the notes C, E, and G with your thumb, middle finger, and pinky.

Once you’ve played the C chord, you’re simply going to play that same shape up the keys until the next C! 

So you’ll play a C chord first, then bump up to the D, and E and so on.

CEG chord highlighted in red on keyboard diagram with fingering 135.
DFA chord highlighted in red on keyboard diagram with fingering 135.
EGB chord highlighted in red on keyboard diagram with fingering 135.

One thing to remember here is not to press too hard. Let the weight of your arm push the keys down. You don’t want to be tense.

After the right hand, try it with your left.

But as Kaitlyn warns, the left-hand is “way harder.”

#4. Keyboard Familiarity

This exercise works better with two people, but you can do it alone as well. The idea is to have someone call out a random note, and then you have to play it on the piano as quickly as you can!

For example, if I called out “B!”, you’d have to find and play a B. It could be any B.

You can try to fool yourself, or you could make flashcards or write the notes on a piece of paper.

The idea is to get familiar and comfortable with WHERE the notes are on the piano. This will help immensely when it comes time to read music and chord charts.

#5. BONUS! Chords

I know I said I had 4 tips, but this one is so great I had to include it 🙂

It’s exactly the same as Keyboard Familiarity, but instead of paying a single note, play a chord instead.

This will have you jumping around the keys a little bit, but it will set you up for success BIG TIME when it comes to learning and playing songs and chord progressions.

So those are the things beginner piano players should practice. Include these in your regular practice routine, and try to do a little each day.

Good luck, and have fun!

Lisa Witt has been teaching piano for 19 years and in that time has helped hundreds of students learn to play the songs they love. Lisa received classical piano training through the Royal Conservatory of Music, but she has since embraced popular music and playing by ear in order to accompany herself and others.

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