How to Play a Piano for Beginners: Step by Step Tutorial

Just about everyone wishes they could play piano.  Lets face it, playing piano is…well…pretty darn cool.  Being the guy or gal who can light up a party with a few of everyone’s favorite songs to sing along to makes you the center of attention.

Or, how about just being able to play your favorite holiday songs when the family gets together? 

And if you’re in the market for a new piano, please look at our interactive table below to see how some of the best selling digital pianos currently available stack up against one another:

Yamaha P-515
Casio PX-870
Yamaha YDP-165
Roland RP-102
Casio PX 560Casio PX-560

And, there are, of course, scientific reasons why it is good for us to play piano, which include brain development and improved cognitive function.  The Music Teachers National Association says that the piano is a common “starter” instrument.  And while everyone knows how important music is for children’s developing brains, according to an article in Frontiers in Psychology, playing piano is also beneficial for the elderly.

But, if you have ever taken piano lessons, you probably feel that learning to play piano is far from fun. 

It’s hard work! 

For most of us, it meant endless hours playing songs like “Mary had a Little Lamb.”  Scales, scales, scales…over and over.  It pretty much took the “play” out of learning to play piano.

Well, I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way!  The problem is that most of us have been taught in a way to prepare us to play only Beethoven or Debussy.  They are are great, no doubt.  But the vast majority of us just want to play songs from our favorite musicians—Billy Joel, Lionel Richie, Tori Amos, Alicia Keys, Bruno Mars, and even Lady Gaga.

Did these artists all take endless years of piano lessons?  Well, some might have, but most just started playing chords in rhythm.  Ninety-nine percent of us should have learned that way, too.

So to get you started, here is a quick step-by-step guide to playing (and I do mean “playing” in the fun sense) the piano.  It’s not “for dummies. ” But it requires only a little effort. 

At the end, you won’t be able to play a Beethoven sonata.  But you will be able to play and sing many of your favorite songs.  And, if you keep going, you can eventually play like your favorite artists one day.

We’ll start by getting to know your keyboard. We’ll learn some chords and how to play them.  I’ll let you know some songs that you can play with those chords and how to find more.  Finally, because I know you are going to be having fun by then, I’ll let you know ways you can continue to improve by playing—NOT by practicing.

  • If you’re interested in learning how to play piano or keyboard in a fun and interactive fashion, then look no further then Piano for All. This course features 10 in-depth eBooks that contain 200 video lessons and 500 audio lessons. And best of all, the course works on PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, or any Android phone or tablet.  Get your copy of Piano for All today while supplies last!

And below, please take a moment to view some of the best selling pianos online, which can be especially helpful for beginners.

1) Yamaha P-515
2) Casio PX-S3100
3) Casio PX-870
4) Roland FP-E50
5) Roland FP-30X

Getting to know your keyboard

If you don’t have one, get one.  To learn to play, you don’t need the best digital piano money can buy with a bunch of bells and whistles on it.  Grandma’s old upright, a used digital piano, or an affordable digital keyboard are all OK, too.

Now that you have your piano, turn it on and sit down in front of it.  Lightly place your fingers on the white keys.  They should be slightly bent and relaxed—not the keys, your fingers.  So, lets find the note “middle C.”  Some digital keyboards have middle C marked.  But if yours doesn’t, here’s how to find it.

As you can see, the keyboard has both black and white keys.  The black keys are the “altered” or sharp and flat notes and are grouped in sets of two and three.  Find a set of two black keys nearest the middle of your keyboard and play the white key just below—you have just played middle C! 

Going to the left, or down, one white key at a time takes you through B and then A.  Play them.  Starting at C again and going up, or to the right, one key at a time, play D, E, F, G, A, B, and C. 

The high C at the end should be below a set of two black keys again.  You have just played an “octave”—two notes that are the same “pitch name” but one is higher than the other.  Play around on the white keys and try to remind yourself their name as you play them—it’s easiest if you note how they fit within the black keys.

Playing Chords

Now that we know the pitch names of the keys on the piano (A, B, C, D, etc), we can start making chords.  For now, we are going to use your right hand only.

Place the thumb of your right hand on the middle C we found and hold it there.  Now, skip the next white note up and place your third finger on the note just above the two black keys. 

What is the name of that note?  E—correct. 

Finally, skip another note up from E and place your little finger (your pinky) on that note.  It should be the G.  Play them all together.  They should pretty sound good.  If they don’t, try it again. 

It should be thumb on the C, skip the D, middle finger on the E, skip the F, then pinky on G. 

Yea!  You have played your first “chord.”  It is a C chord (the name comes from the note your thumb is on).

Not so hard, eh?

Take the entire right hand and move all fingers up one note so that your thumb is on the D, middle finger on F, and pinky on A.  This is a Dm chord.  (The little “m” after the D stands for “minor.”  It has to do with exactly how many keys, or half steps, away your middle finger is from your thumb).  If there is no “m,” that means its “major.”

Anyway, lets move your whole hand up one more note so that your thumb is on E, middle finger on G, and pinky on B.  Now, you have played an Em (E minor) chord.

Go up another note so your thumb is on F, middle on A, and pinky on C.  What chord did you play now? 

Exactly—an F chord.  Now, can you play a G chord? 

Where is your thumb? Your middle finger?, Your pinky?  Keep going up to play Am and Bdim (don’t worry about the “dim” for now).

Adding Bass

Of course, just playing the chords is only the start.  Most artists break up the chords and add the left hand “bass,” or low foundation note. 

So let’s start with adding the left hand, or bass.  The easiest way to do this is to take the chords you have learned and using the thumb on your left hand play the same note as the thumb on your right hand—but lower. 

So for example, if you’re playing a C chord in your right hand, your thumb is on the C.  So take your left hand down to the C below (remember our “octave”).  Play that note at the same time as you play the chord in your right hand.  Makes it sound fuller and richer and more like music, eh?


Using the same chord C, in your right hand and the same note C in your left, alternate them.  Start by playing the left hand, then right, then left, then right, etc.  You can do this in all kinds of ways—left, right, right, left right right.  You can also play the left hand and keep it down while you play the chord in your right hand. 

Try that.  Now just play around.  There is no wrong way to do this.  Do what you really like.

Once you can do this for the C chord, you can do it for every chord you know. Lets go with a “2-beat pattern,” where we play our left hand and right hand together at the same time–twice. 

So play a C chord 2 times (that’s why we call it a 2-beat pattern). Then play an F chord in the same way—2 beats.  Then go back to C—2 beats. 

Easy, Peazy, Lemon Squeazy, right? 

And for those who have a keyboard with a sustain pedal, you can hold it down while you play.  Just lift it each time you start a new chord and then hold it down again while you play the next chord.  If you don’t have one, no problem.

Lets use some more chords.  Use the following chords in a slow 2-beat pattern, like you did above—C, G, Am, C, F, G, F, G.  Just keep playing until you can keep the “beat” going—without slowing down between the chords. 

You have just played the verse to Billy Joel’s She’s Got a Way.  Its not perfect and if you sing it while you play, you’ll see that you have to play the F four times—not just 2.  But you did it!

  • Breaking up Chords

Now you get to do something especially impressive.  Lets break up the chord in your right hand.  Again, this is all about playing around and doing what sounds good to you

So just have fun! 

Let’s start with our C chord in our right hand. Leave your fingers just touching—not pressing down—the keys.  Now play the thumb, then the middle finger, then the pinky, then middle.  Just keep doing that (low, middle, high, middle) over and over until it feels right. 

It’s a little complicated, I know.  But you’ll really like the sound.  (Musicians call this an “arpeggio,” by the way). 

Now every time you play your thumb, or the low, play (and hold down) the “bass” in your left hand.

Try mixing and matching everything you have learned so far.  It’s like being in a musical sandbox.  You can’t do anything wrong.  Just keep playing and making things up as you go.  Use all the chords you know.  Put them in any order you like. 

Just have fun.

  • Playing your favorite songs

Of course, you want to start playing songs you and your friends and family know.  If you have gotten through this tutorial, you can play and sing many of your favorites. 

This is just the beginning though.  There are hundreds of other chords.  Each chord has many forms or “inversions.”  And many of your favorite songs will have one or more of these “other” chords. Your favorite artists break up chords and use the bass in many different ways.  You might decide to play the tune to your favorite holiday songs so you’ll want to play the chords in your left.  You might want to play jazz or classical music.  Now that you have a start, there is no end to where you can go.

There are thousands of Internet sites to help you—videos that show people playing the songs, chord sites, lesson sites etc.  And occasionally, you might find a piano teacher that will teach you how to do it his or her own way, too.

One of the more helpful site’s that worth considering is  This site offers a program that you can purchase which will include video tutorials that walk you through the entire piano learning and playing process. 

  • Just Play!

Let’s remember, we all want to play the keyboard to have FUN.  We want to play piano to socialize with friends and family.  So sit down every day—even if its only for 15 minutes—and just play.  Forget the troubles of the day and play your heart out.  It’s the best therapy and the most fun I know.  And you’ll get better without trying. 

Just play, have fun, and let loose.

  • If you’re still interested in learning how to play piano or keyboard, get your copy of Piano for All today, which features 10 eBooks, 200 video piano lessons and 500 audio piano lessons!

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