4 Things EVERY Beginner Piano Player Needs To Know

Lisa Witt  /  Theory / Apr 22

The Ultimate Online
Piano Lessons Experience

Click Here »

Take a look at the piano.

It’s a big instrument. And it can be daunting for new learners! The worst thing that can happen is if it becomes so daunting, or frustrating, or intimidating that you just want to quit.

It happens.

In my years of teaching the piano, I’ve seen a lot of learners struggle with the same issues. So here are the 4 things I think EVERY beginner piano player needs to know to guarantee success.

#1 – Your Brain WILL Work Faster Than Your Fingers

It sucks, but it’s true. Especially for adult learners, this is the #1 frustration that I see and hear about. As adults, we KNOW how to learn. And the piano is not a terribly difficult instrument to learn mentally. We see the notes, we understand which ones we have to press.

But our fingers just won’t listen.

The biggest thing to remember here is to be kind to yourself and be patient. It will get better. But there’s also a great exercise you can do right now to help you develop that mind-muscle connection.

Sit at the piano, put your right-hand (RH) thumb on middle C and your left-hand (LH) pinky on the C an octave lower. Your hands should look something like this:

C position

Now rest your fingers on the white keys. Each finger should have its own white key sitting naturally under it. No key should have two fingers above it. One finger for one key.

Now play the C note with your RH thumb and LH pinky. Then stop and think about what comes next, you want to play one note higher. So play the D with the fingers that are already resting over the top of it, like this:

Playing the D notes

Then stop again, and think about playing the next note up. Continue this for all five notes and once you’ve played them going up, play them going back down again.

This seems really simple, but that’s your brain talking! We need to train the fingers and get them used to the physical experience and sensation of playing.

#2 – Play Songs Right Away

One of the biggest lies you can tell yourself in music is that you have to be “good enough” to start playing songs. Firstly, anyone who has been playing music for any length of time will tell you that you’ll never feel “good enough” (spoiler, I’m sorry). But more importantly, it’s just wrong.

You can play a song from your VERY FIRST lesson. In my teaching, both when I taught privately and now at Pianote, I get students to start playing chords and songs right away.


Because it’s FUN! It’s why we want to play the piano. And it’s not as hard as you think. In fact, playing a simple chord is so easy anyone can do it, even if you’ve never played the piano before.

Simply find a note on the piano. We’ll use middle C again as our example. Then count 5 white notes up from that and play it with your pinky.

A chord shell

That’s the outer shell of a chord, and it’s all you need to start playing songs.

In fact, you can download two chord charts for free and start playing simple songs. All you’ll need to know is that shape and the names of the white notes on the keyboard. If you don’t know them all, here they are:

C major scale

And here are the songs:

Someone You Loved by Lewis Capaldi

Let It Be by The Beatles

If you want to learn a few more, we have 3 more songs you can learn just like this, with the chord charts included. Just click here for that lesson.

#3 – Practice When You Can

You don’t have to practice 40 hours a day (sorry Lang Lang).

When it comes to practicing the piano, consistency is far better and more important than the amount of time you spend at the keys each day. When learning a new skill it takes time for our brains and fingers to process and remember the information (remember #1).

Practicing two hours in a day, but only one day a week is a recipe for disaster. You won’t get better, but you will get frustrated. And that means you won’t want to practice more. Who would, if practice sucks?!

It’s much better to try and do at least 10 minutes a day, every day. What will happen then is you’ll SEE and HEAR that you’re making progress. And that is the best inspiration to keep practicing more. Pretty soon you’ll WANT to practice.

If you’re short on time I have a 10-minute routine that I use myself when life gets in the way.

#4 – Start Improvising Right Away

“Improvising is only for professionals”

“You have to know everything and have been playing for years to improvise.”

Wrong. This is yet another lie that I’ve heard people tell themselves over and over again. Yes, professionals spend years working on their improvisation and you won’t be playing like Bill Evans after one week (sorry!).

But you can (and SHOULD) start improvising right away. It helps you get comfortable with the piano, it challenges you to push your boundaries, which means you’ll learn FASTER.

All you need to start are some simple guidelines. Remember that chord we build earlier? Well play that with your left hand, and if you can — try rocking back and forth between the bottom and top note. If you can’t, that’s ok. Just play the notes together and repeat the chord over and over again.

With your right hand play ANY white key on the piano. I’m serious. ANY white key. You’re improvising in the key of C major!

If you want to explore improvisation some more, here are two great lessons:

Beautiful Beginner Improvisation (Only 3 Chords)

Improv For Total Beginners

Final Thoughts

I think learning to play the piano is one of the BEST things you could ever do for yourself, and it makes me really sad to see people get stuck and give up because of these 4 issues.

It’s why having a teacher can make such a difference because they can guide you along the path to success and help you avoid the traps and snares of failure.

Good luck with your learning, and if you’d like some personal help please come join me at Pianote.

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.

The easier way to learn piano chords
so you can play popular songs!

By signing up you’ll also receive our ongoing free lessons and special offers. Don’t worry, we value your privacy and you can unsubscribe at any time.