Baby playing piano

Learn Piano: 5 Simple Steps to Get Started

So you’ve decided it’s time to learn piano. Good for you! Music is an excellent way to add quality to your life. There is a lot of research which shows music is great for your brain and also great for relieving stress. Furthermore, it will give you a sense of accomplishment as you progress, something healthy to do (instead of just sitting around watching Netflix), and people will like you more (because of course everyone loves musicians, right?).

But how should you start? For many getting started can be the most difficult part of a new endeavor. How do you know if you’re doing it right? Here I will give you a list of the steps you should take to begin your new life as a Pianist.

Note: This article may contain affiliate links. That means that if you make a purchase through one of these links I may receive monetary compensation. However, I only ever include links to products I truly believe in and recommend!

1. Gather Piano Playing Materials

Find Your Instrument

The first thing you need before you can start learning piano, is a piano of course! However, not all pianos are created equal. Depending on what style you wish to play, and how advanced you hope to become, the type and quality of instrument you play matters greatly.

Arguably one of the most important aspects of a pianist’s playing is tone. That’s how each note sounds as you play it. If you want to improve your tone, it’s important to play a real acoustic piano, or at the very least a very well-made, touch-sensitive electric.

This is because the physics of an acoustic piano are such that there are nearly infinite tone possibilities, depending on how you hit the key. As a beginner you won’t yet have the experience to understand these nuances, but this will happen naturally as you progress.

If you don’t have an instrument that’s capable of these different tones, this aspect of your playing will remain stagnant. If you’re ready to start your search for a piano, be sure to read my post, How to Pick a Piano to help you figure it out!

Choose Some Piano Literature

If you want to learn to read music you should obtain some sort of piano literature. (I highly recommend learning to read music, and understand music theory in general, as it will make you a much more versatile, well-rounded musician.)

For my beginning students I usually recommend the Faber Primer lesson book for children, and the Alfred’s Basic Piano Course for adults. There are many other piano method books out there and you can often find them in second-hand stores.

These provide a structure to work through while learning the basics. They also provide repeated opportunities to practice your new skills. As long as you’re practicing mindfully, any beginner book will do.

If you’re not into that kind of structure or don’t like the idea of practicing page after page of songs that perhaps don’t interest you, these books are not completely necessary. It takes a bit more work, but you can certainly learn piano by picking pieces you enjoy and just getting started on them.

If you choose this option it’s important to remember to pick something easy to start out with. This will help you keep from becoming frustrated with overly slow progress.

If you’re not sure where to start and have at least a basic understanding of how to read music already, my post on sight-reading may help you find some sheet music you enjoy.

Helpful Extras to Support Your Piano Playing

There are also a lot of good free note-reading apps out that would be great to start right away. Do a search*, pick a few different ones to try, and choose the one you like best. Pay close attention to what each app entails. At the very least something that quizzes you on note-reading would be great.

There are some apps with a much more broad focus that can actually help teach you how to learn to play piano. Decide what will be most helpful to you. Once you’ve chosen one you should try to spend at least 5-10 minutes each day playing it. Your note-reading will get better so quickly this way!

(*I plan to do some research of my own and make a post about this sometime in the future.)

2. Learn Proper Set-Up and Position at the Piano

Hands playing piano

It’s so important to make sure your body is positioned properly even when you very first start learning piano. Doing so will help ensure that you don’t develop any bad habits. This is often referred as using piano technique.

Everyone’s body is a little bit different, so you’ll have to find what works for you. Soon I will publish a post with some guidelines to finding a position that will serve you well as you advance, as well as help you avoid potential injury.

3. Set Goals For Your Piano Playing

It’s always easiest to make progress when you have something to aim for. Perhaps there’s a certain piece you really enjoy and would like to learn someday. Or perhaps there’s a group of musicians that you’d like to be good enough to play with. Maybe there’s an event coming up that you’d like to perform at. Knowing all of this will help you tailor your practice plan specifically to meet your goals.

If you’re having a hard time thinking of anything to work toward, create something! Find a performance opportunity and pick a piece you’d like to perform for it. For many people there’s no better motivator than a looming public performance. This is especially true when there’s a specific date (much like a deadline) set in advance!

4. Make a Piano Practice Plan

A roadway leading to the horizon

Now that you know what you want to accomplish and when, figure out what it will take to get there. If you’ve chosen a specific piece to learn, a good start might be to learn what key that piece is in. Then start learning scales and chords in that key.

(If you don’t even know what scales or chords are yet, it’s time to learn! Understanding music theory, which includes scales and chords, will help you immensely with anything you choose to play.

The second part of planning, apart from what you will practice, is when. Look at your schedule and figure out what days and times will work. Scheduling practice at the same time each day as part of your routine usually works best for most people. If that’s not possible for you, however, even one day a week is better than nothing.

Practicing for a short time on many days during the week is generally more effective than for a long time on one day. Be aware that if it’s only once a week your progress will be slower and you should set your goals and expectations accordingly!

For more details on how to make a killer practice plan, check out my multi-post series on how to make a practice plan, and download a my practice planner worksheet for free!

Make Practice Time Easier By Planning Ahead!

Hands playing piano keys with a metronome and pencil nearby

Learn how to plan exactly what you need to do each day to accomplish your goals. Then all you have to do at practice time is sit down and play!

The Piecewise Practice Planner will help you make meaningful progress every time you practice, even with as little as 5 minutes per practice session.

Best of all, it’s completely FREE–to opt in, click the button below!

5. Practice the Piano!

Now’s the challenging part: You actually have to practice regularly in order to progress. You’ve made goals and plans to achieve them, so now you have to stick to the plan!

Remember that consistency is key. Figuring out how to practice well is the surest way to improve quickly. Also remember that every little bit helps. Do your best to play with proper technique, and do so on a regular basis. Most importantly, be kind to yourself and recognize when you’re doing your best!

Good luck and congratulations on making a great decision to improve yourself and start learning piano! It will be challenging at times, but if you stick with it the rewards are endless and lifelong. Good luck!

Heidi has been involved in music in one way or another for most of her life. She studied music composition in college, has taught piano, voice, composition, ear training, and guitar, and has worked as a piano tuner and technician. Before the pandemic she loved playing concerts at retirement communities, bringing the joy of music to those populations. She is currently working on learning more about the connection between music and healing.

Related Articles:

How to Pick a Piano: Choosing the Right Instrument for Your Needs
Piano Technique: Make Your Playing Easier
How to Practice Piano Efficiently

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2 thoughts on “Learn Piano: 5 Simple Steps to Get Started”

  1. Instead of solely focusing on copyright-free songs, I made the decision to enroll in a course that taught students how to play original compositions.

    And you know what? It made a huge difference! After just a few days of practicing on these original songs, I started noticing a significant improvement in my playing.

    I was amazed at how good I sounded! This experience not only enhanced my technical skills but also allowed me to express my own creativity through music.

    It’s truly inspiring to see the results of dedicated practice and exploring the world of original compositions. I can’t wait to continue this musical journey and discover new horizons!

    1. Yes, having been a music composition major myself I can certainly say that creating original compositions can be incredibly satisfying! That said, there’s a lot to be learned from playing the music of others as well. I encourage my students to study the pieces they love so that they understand the building blocks used to create them. That understanding then expands the palette from which they can draw when creating their own original music.

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