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Playing the piano without looking at your hands is a common hurdle for beginners.

What ends up happening is you’re trying to read music, or a lead sheet or chord chart — as well as trying to look at where your hands go on the keys.

It’s easy to get lost between the two — and that can be frustrating.

I have a great exercise you can practice to help you develop this skill.

But first — it’s important to know that:

Everybody Does It! 

Every piano player glances at their hands from time to time, so don’t feel bad that you have to look.

The goal is to get so comfortable with the keys that a glance is all you need.

Here’s how to get better:

Step 1 – C Position

First of all — get into C position. It’s ok to look at the keys to do this!

Get your hands set so that your thumb (or 1 finger) is on middle C, and your left-hand pinky (or 5 finger) is on the C an octave below.

Once you are set — look away from the keys. Look up, or close your eyes, and play up the five-note scale until you land on G.

Easy so far!

Step 2 – Moving into G Position

The next step is moving our hands from the comfortable C position into G position – without looking at the keyboard.

We know where the G is because our right-hand pinky and left-hand thumb are resting on it. So we need to practice moving our hands so that our right-hand thumb and left-hand pinky replace the other fingers on the G notes.

It’s not easy! 

Once you are in the new G position — play another five-note scale starting on G. Again — don’t look at the keys.

Step 3 – Moving into D Position 

This is a repeat of Step 2, just moving to a different position. Because our top note is now a D, we’ll move from G position into D position.

You can keep working your way up the keyboard to practice this in all the keys. Try not to look, but also don’t beat yourself up if you get it wrong!

A BONUS Exercise

If you want to challenge yourself, try calling out (or having someone else call out) random hand positions, and then move to those as quickly as you can with just a glance at the keys.

This exercise is great as it more closely mimics what the reality of playing a song or piece of music is like.

In time, and with practice, you’ll develop a greater familiarity with the keyboard, and your muscle memory will start to kick in so you’ll have a much better idea of where you are at all times.

That will allow you to focus on reading the music or chord charts more – which will make you a better player.

Happy practicing!

Lisa Witt

Lisa Witt has been teaching piano for 18 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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