5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Starting The Piano

Lisa Witt  /  Musicianship  /  UPDATED Jan 9, 2023

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Learning the piano is an amazing experience… it can be fun and exciting, but there are also a lot of challenges. It’s super important for beginners to know what to expect!

Before we get started, know this: You are not alone in your struggles!

In today’s video, we are going to look at 5 things I wish I’d known before I started playing piano, so you’ll be well prepared to make the most of this amazing instrument.

#1: Your Hands Aren’t Going To Listen! 😓

The first thing I wish I had known before getting started on the piano was how remarkably disconnected my hands were going to feel from my brain.

It takes time and patience to earn a sense of understanding on the piano– you might know exactly what to do in your head, but without the proper practice and training it might seem like an incalculable mess!

I just need to say: This is normal, and almost all beginner players are going to feel this way.

In fact, I’ve got the perfect example in the video– I’m going to grab a non-piano player and put her through some paces, just so you get a scope on how this might play out!

It’s a lot harder than it looks when you’re just getting started!

When you go to develop a new skill you have to develop a new pathway in your brain! 🧠🧠🧠

I want you to envision something:

Imagine a mountain– and you want to climb that mountain! But there’s no trail! So, you have to go and make a trail. Now, the first time you try to make it up the mountain you might make it a little way, but you are going to wear yourself out bush-whacking and trailblazing…

You can’t do it all in one day! So you go home, and you come back, and you get a little bit further, and a little bit further… until eventually, you have a trail all the way to the top of the mountain. NOW, imagine how well worn that trail will be and how much faster you’ll be able to get from the bottom to the top of the mountain— because you’ve already done it so many times before.“

It’s the exact same thing for piano… the first time you play your ‘C scales’ together (like Kristie in the example above 😛) it might feel like a bit of a trainwreck, but every time you go back to do it again, you’re going to make it a little bit further, and you’re going to be forging a better pathway in your brain. That information is going to be moving more efficiently each time you practice until eventually, you won’t have to think about it at all… your hands will just know what to do!

🎹🔥 Hot Tip: Follow up with a special lesson to build your hand independence right here.

#2: Get Comfortable With The Keyboard!🖐

The second thing I wish I would have spent more time with before fully diving into the piano is familiarity with the keyboard itself! It’s very important to have a sense of the layout when you’re getting started with the piano.

Think of it like learning a new language: The notes of the keyboard are like the letters of an alphabet, and the chords you play are like the words you form with those letters. You need to know the letters before you can read the words, so spend some time really getting to know your keyboard. Pull a random note from a hat and then hit it on the keyboard, or play a note and try to name it! Training yourself to know the keys will make everything easier and more natural when playing the piano.

The notes of the musical alphabet run from A to G. You should know it forward *and* backward to make the most of your practicing.

🎹🔥 Hot Tip: Use landmarks (like groupings of two and three black keys) to better navigate your keyboard. For example, I know that ‘C’ sits to the lower left of any grouping of two black keys, so I can easily pick it out, and also any notes around it.

#3: You Can The Play Songs You Want To Play (Right Away!) 🏆

One of the biggest complaints I hear from new players is that they aren’t having fun playing the songs they got started on the piano to enjoy! Unless you were really looking to become a pro at On Top Of Old Smokey, there are hundreds of modern songs that with just a few chords (and a little know-how) you’ll be able to learn and perform– Even if you are just getting started on the keys.

You won’t believe how easy it is to get started playing songs:

All you need to know is the basics of chord charts!
before starting piano
Even intimidating looking chords like these don’t have to give you a headache with a little understanding.

I’ll give you a few tips for reading these charts in the video, but you can follow up with our lesson here!

🎹🔥 Hot Tip: You don’t have to be so specific as to find charts written for the piano— Guitar chord charts are an excellent resource for learning your favorite songs quickly and easily.

#4: *How* To Practice 🧠

What’s the best way to practice? I’m not talking about what you practice, so much as how you’re practicing. Most specifically the difference between work, and play.

It makes sense that you would want to sit down at the piano and have fun all day playing your favorite songs (and that’s what I want for you too!) but in order to do that:

You’ve got to put in the work!

When you’re ‘playing’ something, you’re just playing it… But when you’re practicing, you’re taking time, going slow, and picking it all apart in such a way that it engrains itself in your mind. That not only gives you the means to play it; but understand it, and apply that to the rest of your playing.

I’ve never heard someone say “I wish I hadn’t done all that practicing!

Follow along on the video and I’ll show you exactly what I mean.

Remember– it’s important to practice your pieces, but make sure to reward yourself by allowing yourself to play and enjoy them too.

#5: Choosing The Right Keyboard 🎹 > 🎹

The last thing I wish I’d known before I started playing, was to choose an instrument that I loved to play. Find a piano that you can’t wait to spend time with– ideally one with 88 velocity-sensitive keys, and good build quality. Check out our complete lesson on buying the best beginner keyboard if you’re looking to get a little more in-depth with this.

It’s always smart to try before you buy (If you can!) so you can get a personal feel for what will be the best for your playing style. Some more expensive digital pianos might flaunt extra features and sounds, but the most important thing is to find something that works for you.

The right piano will vastly improve your learning experience, and you’ll be excited to spend more time and grow as a player.

“At the end of the day, pick something you love, and you are going to spend time at the piano”

In Review

With those 5 things in mind, you are going to be excellently equipped to learn the piano the best way possible! Just know that you are not alone, and while there is still a big journey ahead, with time and patience you’ll be playing the songs you love with expert proficiency!

Happy and efficient practicing to you!

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Lisa Witt has been teaching piano for more than 20 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. Learn more about Lisa.

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