Learn to play piano or MIDI keyboard

By telleropnul, August 10, 2019

The easiest and most fun way to start learning to play I find is to play along using chords.

Chords

Practice playing Major and Minor Chords using your thumb, middle finger and little finger.  I used to bend my index finger and ring finger into the palm of my hand so they are out of the way when I first started practicing playing chords.  When you get better you can probably loosely leave them in their normal position.

C, F, G, Dmin, Amin are all played with white keys.

The difference between major and minor chords is that for minor chords the middle note is half a note lower.  This gives minor chords a more sad, melancholic sound.  Practice playing the major chord first, followed by the minor cord next.  You should only have to adjust your middle finger.

This explains why Cmin, Fmin, Gmin are played white-black-white keys.

D, E, A, Cmin, Fmin, Gmin are all played white-black-white keys.

Tip: Click on the Overview tab in Chordify to see the entire grid:

Sheryl Crow – Strong Enough HQ Chords – Chordify
Ilse DeLange – I’m not so tough (official videoclip) Chords – Chordify
INXS – Never Tear Us Apart Chords – Chordify  <– This one is easy; white keys only.
Melissa Etheridge – Angels Would Fall Chords – Chordify
Cyndi Lauper – Time After Time Chords – Chordify
Tracy Chapman – Fast car Chords – Chordify
Gnarls Barkley – Crazy Lyrics Chords – Chordify
DB Boulevard – Point Of View (Official Video) Chords – Chordify
Keane – Somewhere Only We Know Tradução Legendado Chords – Chordify
Massive Attack – Teardrop Chords – Chordify
Moby ‘In This World’ – Official video Chords – Chordify
Nelly Furtado – I’m Like A Bird (Official Music Video) Chords – Chordify
Red Hot Chili Peppers – Road Trippin’ [Official Music Video] Chords – Chordify
Tanita Tikaram – Twist In My Sobriety 1988 1 (HQ, Jacob’s Ladder) Chords – Chordify
Adele – Hello Chords – Chordify
Adele – Rolling in the Deep Chords – Chordify
Adele – Someone Like You Chords – Chordify
Mary J. Blige, U2 – One Chords – Chordify  <– This one is easy; white keys only.
Sting – Fields Of Gold Chords – Chordify
Tim Hardin – How Can We Hang On To A Dream Chords – Chordify
The Animals – House Of The Rising Sun (LYRICS) Chords – Chordify
Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why Chords – Chordify
Crowded House – Don’t Dream It’s Over Chords – Chordify
Everybody Knows – Sigrid Clip HD (Justice League) Chords – Chordify  <– This one is not too hard.
my love is your love- whitney houston (lyrics) Chords – Chordify
Phil Collins Against All Odds Chords – Chordify
Concrete Blonde – Joey Chords – Chordify  <– This one is easy; white keys only.
Anouk – Michel Chords – Chordify
Twarres – She couldn’t laugh [LYRICS] Chords – Chordify  <– This one is not too hard.
Lighthouse Family – High Chords – Chordify
Dido – Life for Rent (Official Music Video) Chords – Chordify
Hozier – Take Me To Church Chords – Chordify
Simon and Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water Chords – Chordify

From Chords to Melody

These piano pattern excercises bring a bit of melody to your chords:

Let’s start looking at playing melodies next.

Scales

Melodies use music scales.  Music scales are like singing Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-La-Ti-Do.  To the ear music scales sound like climbing a ladder of notes ascending in pitch.  From a technical perspective however the ‘step distance’ between these notes is not the same.  The most common formula is Whole, Whole, Half, Whole, Whole, Whole, Half.  These scales are called major scales.  The most well known major scale starts at ‘C’ and is the C major scale.

Major scales

Formula: Whole, Whole, Half, Whole, Whole, Whole, Half
Fingering: Thumb  = 1, LH = Left Hand, RH = Right Hand

Starting on a different note using the same step formula introduces sharps [1-5]:

Starting on a different note using the same step formula introduces flats [1-4]:

So if the major scales contain all possible combinations of sharps and flats for any key signature, what do minor scales do?

Minor scales

https://www.pianoscales.org/minor.html

Basically, by changing the “Whole, Whole, Half, Whole, Whole, Whole, Half” formula, we can ‘invent’ three more flavours of music scales; natural minor, harmonic minor and melodic minor.

Whomever came up with minor scales, thank you for the added complexity.   Aaarghh….too much….let’s skip this for now and pretend all music uses “Whole, Whole, Half, Whole, Whole, Whole, Half” scales only.

Reading music score

Now that we know -at least our major- scales (and the correct finger positions!), we can instantly tell what piano keys are used in music score by looking at the key signature:

Knowing which piano keys are used in a music score helps with the correct finger placement.

Next, we need to practice reading the actual notes in the music score:

Rather than remembering everything, we remember only a few and fill in the blanks:

After a while you get the hang of it.  If you can read Treble cleff notes already, the Bass cleff is basically like adding +2.  So what looks like an “A” on the Bass cleff is in fact a “C”.  Not sure if this helps, but it helped me.

Synthesia

If you are not yet ready to read notes, but you would like to practice playing melodies and playing with both hands, I can strongly recommend Synthesia.  Just find some songs for piano in MIDI format and use Synthesia to display the notes:

MIDI keyboard

My setup is as follows:

  • Alesis V61 keyboard
  • Freepiano.
  • VST instruments:
    • Xpand!2
    • Pianoteq 6
    • EZkeys
    • Togu Audio Line – TAL-U-NO-LX 3.2.2
    • Blue
    • Dune 3