How To Learn Piano Songs (A Beginner’s Guide)

Lisa Witt  /  Chord Inversions / Apr 10

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Learning songs on the piano can be intimidating for beginners. It’s so easy to hear a song and think, “Oh that’s way too hard for me.”

It’s exactly what Kaitlyn thought.

If you haven’t met Kaitlyn yet, she’s part of the awesome support team at Pianote AND a super-amazing human being. She’s also a Pianote student! She’s been learning to play, and you can see her very 1st lesson here.

Kaitlyn had heard the song, “Anyone” by Demi Lovato and really wanted to play it, but was convinced it was too difficult.

While the album version might be tricky in parts, that does NOT mean that she can’t start playing the song right away (even if it’s a simplified version). It’s really important that learning the piano is FUN! And part of making it fun is learning the songs you love.

There’s a great way to learn songs as a beginner so you don’t have to be intimidated and you can start playing sooner than you ever thought.

You’ll need music (or at least chords)

As a beginner, it can be too complicated and confusing to try and learn a song just by year. It’s far easier to find some music or chords to get you started. I love chord charts because you don’t have to know how to read music to use them.

It’s also important that the chords are in a key that you can understand and play! It’s no point getting the chords if they’re in C# minor.

For this song, I have a chord chart in the key of C, which is much easier for beginners. Once you have the chord chart you’re ready for the next step.

Get comfortable with the chords

And I mean COMFORTABLE! Don’t worry about playing the song right now. Instead, go through and play EVERY chord and make sure that you know how to play each chord in root position and that you’re comfortable with them.

This is important because it primes your mind and fingers for what’s about to come, and it also helps identify any chords that might be tricky. Practice these!

For help on playing major and minor chords, check out this lesson!

Once you know what chords are in the song and you’re comfortable playing them in root position, you’re ready to play through the song!

Start by playing the chords in root position only. Looking at Verse 1 we can see that these are simple chords, and there are only 4 of them!

Then when you’re ready to take it up a notch, it’s time to…

Start using inversions!

This is where things get super fun and musical!! Piano inversions will completely change the way you think about chords and chording.

I won’t go into the full lesson right now (you can find it here), but I want to show you what I mean for this song.

Take a look at the chords used in these 2 lines:

You can see we have a D minor chord and an F chord. So let’s look at each chord separately, beginning with D minor:

A D minor chord has the notes D – F – A. (Don’t worry about that C4, that’s just a fancy term for middle C so we know where we are on the piano!)

Now, let’s think about an F chord. What notes are in an F chord?

F – A – C

If you look at the D minor chord, you can see that we already have the F and A notes, so we don’t have to move them at all. We only need to move the bottom D. And what do you know? There’s a C right next to it!

So our F chord will look like this:

We’ve only had to move ONE note to change chords! Much better than moving your entire hand. Plus it sounds REALLY good. To see just how simple this can be, look at both chords side-by-side:

Just one note.

Now comes the fun part.


It’s not glamorous, but it’s so important. When you’re learning a new song as a beginner there is a LOT to take in, and it can get overwhelming. Resist the urge to jump ahead when you’re not ready.

Take each of these steps in order, and only move on when you are ready!

So to recap:

  1. Find some music (or chords)
  2. Make sure it’s in a key you can play
  3. Get comfortable with all the chords – play them through
  4. Practice the song playing those chords in ROOT position
  5. Start experimenting with inversions

And remember, only move on to the next step when you’re ready.

Don’t rush it, and you’ll see that the songs you love ARE possible to play, even as a beginner!

And if you’d like to learn more skills so you can play hundreds of songs, check out 500 Songs in 5 Days.

Happy practicing, 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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