There are many added benefits in your musicianship when you learn and master the piano. You increase coordination, cognitive skills that include better memory, and the piano is also well-known as the “gateway” instrument for the additional ability to learn other instruments in your musical career since not all instruments are created equal.
The piano is an essential starting point for most musicians since it provides a good base in music theory because identifying chords and key signatures is a much easier learning task. There are numerous advantages to learning and knowing how to play the piano when it comes to songwriting. Since the piano is universal in composition work, is it the one ultimate instrument you should utilize in your songwriting.
The Piano vs. The Guitar for Composing
It actually does matter what instrument you choose to study as a songwriter, as there are major differences in the composition and music theory behind the guitar vs. the piano. The main difference between the two instruments when it comes you will find is that with the guitar your main capability would be chord progressions, and that’s it – you can’t really go much into melodies without not playing chords.
On the other hand, with the piano you can have a more mapped out, complex progression – you can still use chords mainly, and you don’t have to have difficult chord progressions, but there is much more room for variances, creativity, and ways to plunk out melodies because you can do both chords and melodies together. It is much easier for notation and the piano has a classic sound.
You also have the ability to utilize the sustain pedal and play multiple notes at once, have them carry over one another to create a fuller, richer sound – not something you can do with any other instrument. This can help in your songwriting because you can identify what notes and chords carry over into others better.
You wouldn’t have any gaps from note to note or chord to chord with the piano; you can literally play every single key at the same time if you wanted to! In addition to playing notes together, you can play more than one melody at a time, because they intermingle well on the piano. You always have the option later if you feel that a guitar may be a more suited instrument for the song you’re writing, and you can switch, but it’s a good idea to start with the piano regardless of what instrument you plan to use.
Music Theory Helps With Your Writing and Creativity
Taking structured piano classes will assist you with learning how to write songs because you learn basic to advanced music theory. The theory is going to be the basis for all of your piano lessons for songwriting, so it is important not just to learn an instrument but to piano theory as well. This explains to you certain aspects that are important as a songwriter to know that include things like standard key progressions (when a song changes key), tempo, and dynamics.
There is much more that goes into theory but if you learn a different instrument other than piano the music theory knowledge isn’t necessarily part of your lessons as much – for instance, with guitar you only really need chords and tabs, so music theory and learning to read music on a scale most likely won’t be present in your lessons.
This is yet another reason why learning the piano is more essential as a songwriter, because even though it may not be completely needed, music theory will help you gain much more ground as a songwriter because you’ll have a working knowledge of what works and what doesn’t.
The other part of learning theory helps you with your musical creativity. Since your piano knowledge allows you to listen to music and know what chords and sounds are used frequently, you can create your own sound by breaking away from that norm, helping you to become a more innovative songwriter.
If you take some time to listen to songs on the radio, it will help you to hear the more popular genre patterns. With a piano foundation, you can easily establish and recognize the pop-track sound – it is much more basic than most even realize.
You can use this knowledge on the piano as a way to start writing your own songs, but build upon what is already working well in songs to make it more unique. It will be easy for you to figure out the composition or “catchy tune” that made them famous because you have the skills with theory to help you identify the musical technique associated with the song(s). Then you can take that knowledge to the next level of your songwriting and compose better songs.
You Can Make it More Catchy With Dynamics
As a songwriter, you can imagine that 99% of the time you’re working to make a hit song; something that will be heard on the radio and recognized by millions. The piano’s edge aids in making that “catchy” tune.
The dynamics assist in creating evolvement with the notes, so unlike another instrument where you would be playing the same tune over and over with a flatter tone, you can utilize the pedal and other dynamics within the notes on a piano to make a noticeable, diverse sound.
Part of the key to great songwriting is that you want to evoke emotion and spark feelings in your audience. The piano allows more for that since you can alter the dynamics and use more range in such a way that puts all that soul into your song(s). The scales can all be played without actually needing to lift your fingers off of the keys in between, allowing for a flow and a more accurate portrayal of feeling and emotion.
The Best Songs Come from Piano
Think about some of the most popular and timeless songs that have lasted through generations. Just a few that come to mind are “Piano Man” by Billy Joel, “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, and “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey. What do these three songs all have in common? Most likely if not all of the songs you can think of were also written with a keyboard/piano, or use the instrument within the song.
When writing songs, you can ultimately establish a better connection with them through the use of the piano. The complexity of the instrument lends to having greater contrast within songs. Access to all of the notes, ranges, and emotional pull (dynamics) has lent the piano as becoming the songwriters “go-to” instrument.
There are some exceptions of course, and there are musicians who can work with a guitar or other instrument and not feel the need to have piano knowledge, but still compose great songs. These are just exceptions, however, and shouldn’t be thought of as the majority. Songwriters recognize the need to use the piano in order to compose strong and impactful pieces of music.
Composition Can Be Easier Than You Think
Even though the piano allows for more range and that can seem like hard work, as a beginner you can always start very simply. Chords and melodies are fairly easy to map out, so especially if you’re a beginner on the piano and are learning about songwriting, you can outline a song by using just a few key notes and chords without getting too complex.
Music Composition Doesn’t Have to be Difficult!
When using the piano you have access to all of the keys, can play chords and melodies together, and establish dynamics (which are difficult with any other instrument), composition becomes easier.
All students who attend music schools no matter what they are interested in studying are almost always required to learn basic piano, which further proves its wide range of ability in the music world. As mentioned, the piano is the foundation for all others, therefore it becomes the best basis in which to create music.
Since learning basic music theory teaches you how to read music, the composition portion of writing your own music becomes something that you can easily do. When you read music you can recognize patterns in things like musical technique, use of arpeggios, what chords are used more often than others, and what sounds are more pleasing to the ear. All of this helps you greatly when you sit down to write your own hit song(s).
Time To Play
If you want to compose catchy and complex sounding melodies in creative ways, dramatic climaxes or even a hard rock tune, the piano is by far the best instrument to learn for your songwriting. No matter what genre you want to write from, the benefits of melodic quality through chord progressions, ranges, dynamics and theory that you will learn from piano playing is going to be the strongest asset in your songwriting.
You don’t have to use the piano in all of your songs, or even any of them if that is your desire, but the benefits of learning from it will take you further in your musical journey than if you were to take lessons on anything else. If you want to be a songwriter but don’t know an instrument, you have to start somewhere, and the skills acquired from piano playing are going to aid you the most in your musical career.
- If you’re 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!
If you enjoyed this article, please “like us” on Facebook!
You Might Also Like:
- Can I Teach Myself to Play the Piano?
- How to Play Piano Chords for Beginners: Easy Tutorial
- How to Play a Keyboard for Beginners: Step by Step Tutorial
- What Are the Best Beginner Piano Lessons?
- Ranking the Best Online Piano Courses
This article was written by Digital Piano Review Guide contributor Donna Maurer.