Piano Lessons for Beginners (Lesson №1)

Pluck up your courage – it is time to start studying! Before sitting down in front of the instrument leave all negative emotions aside and try to concentrate. Things which seem to be easy from the first sight will still have time to surprise you. But the most important thing is not to lose your heart if something went wrong at the first try. Another important advice – don`t hurry, Rome was not built in a day.

It`s really not so important, which keyboard instrument you will use to study, but I strongly recommend you to choose the piano. Although the synthesizers are more compact, they have an essential disadvantage – most of them have small keys, which are not sound, and you will not feel the “feedback” from them. In addition, they usually have not more than 3-4 octaves.

Very often people who can fast and fluently play the synthesizer have problems with performing the same melodies on the piano. But in the opposite direction this rule will work this way: for those who play the piano, the synthesizer will seem much more easy.

I ask you to limit yourself only to this first piano lesson of our manual for self-tuition. Don`t forget, that it is just piano lessons for beginners. Don`t try to learn everything at the first day – it will bring only harm. It will be even better, if you review the material from this lesson for some days. And when you are ready for the next step, you will feel it.

Notes and Keys

Well, press the A key!

I`m sure, you failed to do this. The impression, that if the keys are in C-D-E-F-G-A-B order, it will be easy to gain an understanding in them, is a huge error. To say nothing of black keys!


The note order on the keys

Look attentively and try to remember, because it is the cornerstone, which you should learn first of all. Play the notes naming them, and in some time you will be able to find the location of every note immediately. In the future, when you start learning chords, you will thank me, that I focused your attention on such simple things.

Don`t worry, I didn`t forget about black keys, but here you would need some music theory. We need to start from something, don’t we?

At this stage you need to know the term interval. Interval  is the difference between two sounds of certain height.

Alteration Signs – Changes in the Pitch of Tone

Semitone is the smallest unit in measuring  intervals. On the piano it will be for example keys C and C sharp, if there are no black keys the semitone will be the next sound, as E and F for instance.  For stringed instruments the semitone will be formed by the neighbor frets on the same string.

piano notes and keys

Semitone location on the piano keyboard

No, the sign # does not mean the voice-frequency dialing on the phone. Sharp (#) and flat (b) are the so called alteration signs, which mean the rise and the lowering on a semitone of a certain note. Not only black keys can be sharps and flats. For example, E sharp is F, F flat is E, B sharp is C and C flat is B.

As it was mentioned before, the rise and the lowering of basic notes is called alteration. There are 5 alteration signs: sharp, double sharp, flat, double flat and natural. They are written the following way:

Alteration signs

Alteration signs

The effect of the alteration signs on the pith is the following:

  • sharp rises the pitch on the semitone,
  • flat lowers on the semitone,
  • double sharp rises on the tone,
  • double flat lowers on the tone.

Natural cancels the previous sign on the same line, and the note become clear. Alteration signs can be of different radius of action – key signatures or accidentals. The first ones are put in a group near the clef right to it, each on its own line. They always have the same order. Sharps near the clef are written in following order:

Sharps near the clef


The flats are written in the opposite order:

Flats near the clef


Key signatures act on all notes on their line during the whole composition regardless of the octave. For instance, the key signature F – sharp will rise all F notes in all octaves till the ends of the composition.

Accidentals act only on their line, their octave and within one measure (as traffic signs act only till the first crossroad). For example, an accidental natural can cancel even the key signature, but only for the current measure and only at the current line. Accidentals are put on the left of the note they alter, as it is shown on the following picture.


Accidentals are put on the left of the note they alter

So, now you have the general idea of alteration signs. It only remains to add, that tone is the next ranking member. I believe, you`ve already guessed this. Tone is equal to two semitones. So, the note which is one tone higher than C is D, one tone higher than E is F sharp.

Keep in mind the information, given above. It is not complicated, but it will be necessary everywhere. We will use it right now! I`ll try to explain everything as easy as possible.

Musical Scales: Playing the C Major Scale and Others

Harmony is the coherence of notes which is pleasant to the ear.

Key (or tonality) is the set of certain notes, which are subordinates to one main note.

Tone and semitone

Tone and Semitone

What you need to know first is how major scales are built.

Scales are notes, placed in a certain order. Major and minor scales are often explained to children as happy and sad scales, but this is not completely correct – sad songs can be done in major and vice versa. Here are their main features:

  • Scales consist of 8 notes – 1st an 8th have the same names but different height, between them there is a clear octave
  • Notes are played in strict order, the smallest distance between them is a semitone and the biggest is a tone
  • Remember this simple rule for all major scales: tone-tone-semitone-tone-tone-tone-semitone. To make it easier: 2 tones – semitone – 3 tones – semitone.
Tones and Semitones

Rule for all major scales

C major scale is the simplest and most evident – it is played on all white keys from C to C.

First you need to know 3 easiest scales: C major, G major and F major.

Major scales are played by following fingers: the thumb (1) →  the forefinger (2) → the middle finger (3) → the thumb (1) → the forefinger (2) → the middle finger (3) → the third finger (4) → the little finger (5).

And in the opposite direction in reverse order: the little finger (5) → the third finger (4) → the middle finger (3) → the forefinger (2) → the thumb (1) → the middle finger(3)  → the forefinger (2) → the thumb (1).

Finger numeration for pianists

Fingering for pianists

Important! It is desirable advisable to play scales not just in one, but in two octaves, and it will look the following way:

For the right hand: (1) → (2) → (3) → (1) → (2) → (3) → (4) → (1) → (2) → (3) → (1) → (2) → (3) → (4) → (5) and then in the opposite direction: (5) → (4) → (3) → (2) →  (1) → (3) → (2) → (1) → (4) → (3) → (2) → (1) → (3) → (2) → (1)

For the left hand: (5) →(4) → (3) → (2) → (1) → (3) → (2) → (1) → (4) → (3) →(2) → (1) → (3) → (2) → (1) and then in the opposite direction: (1) → (2) → (3) → (1) → (2) → (3) → (4) → (1) → (2) → (3) → (1) → (2) → (3) → (4) → (5)

Attention: all rules have their exceptions. C major scale is played this way, but for example F major scale is played in another way, but we will speak about it later.

In order not to get confused look at the pictures below – after that you`ll have no more questions.

C major (C dur) – without alteration signs:

С dur scale

C major (C dur) scale without alteration signs

G major (G dur) – just single alteration sign – F sharp:

G dur scale

G major scale (G dur) with alteration sign F sharp

F major (F dur)  – a single alteration sign – B flat.

This is that very exception to the rule! If you try to play it using the scheme given before, you`ll understand, how inconvenient it is. The scheme stays the same for the left hand, but for the right hand another finger order is used in this scale:

For the right hand:

(1) → (2) → (3) → (4) → (1) → (2) → (3) → (1) → (2) → (3) → (4) → (1) → (2) → (3) → (4)

and then in the opposite way:

(4) → (3) → (2) → (1) → (4) → (3) → (2) → (1) → (3) → (2) → (1) → (4) → (3) → (2) → (1)

For the left hand: (5) →(4) → (3) → (2) → (1) → (3) → (2) → (1) → (4) → (3) →(2) → (1) → (3) → (2) → (1) And in the opposite way, as you`ve already understood: (1) → (2) → (3) → (1) → (2) → (3) → (4) → (1) → (2) → (3) → (1) → (2) → (3) → (4) → (5)

F dur scale

F major (F dur) scale – alteration sign B flat

For a start remember, how these 3 scales are played, during our next piano lesson will learn how to read notes.

Don`t try to play scales very fast at once, better do it rhythmically. Our brains remember things better, when we do them slowly. The speed  will appear later, first it is important to practice for second nature.

Playing scales, you will be able to direct your fingers fluently without even thinking about it and  easily create your own melodies or improvise with other musicians.

Good luck to all of you on the first step of our piano lessons for beginners!