Celebrating 10 years! 

What is the First Thing to Learn in Piano? Piano Basics You Can Get Started With

Posted on June 26th, 2023.

Are you excited to start your musical journey on the piano? 

Learning to play this beautiful instrument opens up a world of creativity and self-expression. 

But before diving into complex melodies and intricate compositions, it's essential to grasp the basics. 

In this blog post, we will explore the first thing to learn about piano and introduce you to the fundamental elements that will set a strong foundation for your musical exploration.

Introduction to the Piano

Before delving into the intricacies of piano playing, it's important to establish a solid understanding of the instrument itself. In this section, we will introduce you to the piano's keyboard layout, the concept of pitch and octaves, and the significance of hand placement and posture. By familiarizing yourself with these foundational aspects, you'll be well-prepared to embark on your musical journey.

The Keyboard and Its Layout

When you sit in front of a piano, you'll notice a row of keys that stretch from left to right. These keys form the piano's keyboard, and each key represents a different note. The layout of the piano keyboard follows a specific pattern: a repeating sequence of white and black keys.

Understanding Pitch and Octaves

Pitch refers to how high or low a musical note sounds. On the piano, the pitch of a note depends on its position on the keyboard. As you move from left to right, the notes become higher in pitch. An octave represents a set of eight consecutive notes, including both white and black keys. It's called an octave because the eighth note of the sequence has a similar sound to the first but is higher in pitch.

Hand Placement and Posture

Before you start playing, it's crucial to adopt the correct hand placement and posture. Sit comfortably on the piano bench with your back straight and shoulders relaxed. Place your hands on the keyboard, with your fingers gently curved and hovering above the keys. The thumb of your right hand typically rests on middle C, which is the white key closest to the middle of the keyboard.

Basic Techniques

Mastering basic techniques is the key to unlocking the full potential of your piano playing. In this section, we will explore the importance of finger numbers and notation, the benefits of practicing scales, and the significance of rhythm and timing.

Finger Numbers and Notation

In piano music, each finger is assigned a number to make it easier to read and play notes. The thumb is finger number one, and the pinky finger is finger number five. Familiarize yourself with these numbers as they will be referenced in musical notation and exercises.

Playing Scales

Scales are a fundamental building block of music and an excellent way to improve finger dexterity and coordination. Start by learning the C major scale, as it consists entirely of white keys. Play each note of the scale consecutively from C to the next C, using the correct finger assigned to each key. Practicing scales regularly will help you develop a strong technical foundation.

Basic Rhythms and Timing

Rhythm and timing are vital elements in music. To develop your sense of rhythm, start by practicing simple rhythms such as quarter notes, half notes, and whole notes. Count the beats aloud or use a metronome to maintain a steady tempo. This exercise will help you internalize the pulse of the music and play with accuracy.

Reading Sheet Music

Sheet music is the language through which music is communicated on paper. In this section, we will delve into the world of sheet music, examining staff notation and clefs, as well as the names and symbols of musical notes. By acquiring the ability to read sheet music, you'll gain access to a vast repertoire of songs and compositions, enabling you to bring your piano playing to new heights.

Staff Notation and Clefs

Sheet music is the written language of music, and it uses a system of symbols to represent notes and other musical elements. The staff is the set of five horizontal lines where the notes are placed. There are two main clefs used in piano music: the treble clef (or G clef) for higher-pitched notes and the bass clef (or F clef) for lower-pitched notes. Learning to read sheet music is a valuable skill that allows you to play a wide variety of songs.

Note Names and Symbols

Each note on the piano has a corresponding symbol on the staff. The position of the note on the staff indicates its pitch, and the shape of the symbol represents its duration. It's essential to familiarize yourself with the names of the notes and their positions on the keyboard. By understanding how to read sheet music, you can explore a world of musical compositions and play them accurately.

Developing Technique and Expression

Playing the piano is not merely about hitting the right keys; it's about infusing your music with emotion and expression. In this section, we will explore the importance of correct finger positioning and hand movements, as well as the art of dynamic control and expression.

Correct Finger Positioning and Hand Movements

As you progress in your piano journey, focus on maintaining proper finger positioning and hand movements. Keep your fingers curved and play with the fingertips, ensuring that each finger strikes the keys independently. Practice finger exercises and scales to strengthen your fingers and improve coordination.

Dynamic Control and Expression

Playing the piano is not just about hitting the right notes; it's also about conveying emotion and expression through your playing. Learn to control the dynamics of your playing, from soft and delicate passages to loud and powerful ones. Experiment with different touch and articulation techniques to bring out the nuances of the music.

So, What is the First Thing to Learn in Piano?

When it comes to learning the piano, the question of where to begin is a common one. The answer may vary depending on the individual and their goals. While it's typically easier for children to start by learning how to read music, adults can take a different approach. Let's explore some possibilities.

Learning to Read Music: Ideal for Children

For young beginners, learning how to read music can be a great starting point. Reading sheet music introduces them to the language of music notation and allows them to develop essential skills such as note recognition, rhythm comprehension, and hand-eye coordination. By starting with the basics of staff notation, children can gradually progress to playing simple tunes and eventually more complex compositions.

Exploring Chords: A Path for Adults

Adults who are eager to dive into playing the piano may find it beneficial to focus on learning chords first. Chords are groups of three or more notes played together, creating harmonies. By mastering a few common chords, such as C major, G major, and F major, adults can quickly start playing popular songs and accompany themselves or others while singing. This approach provides a sense of accomplishment and motivates further learning.

Tailoring the Approach

Ultimately, the first thing to learn in piano depends on the individual's preferences, goals, and learning style. Some may choose to prioritize music theory and notation, while others may focus on developing technical skills or improvisation. The beauty of learning the piano is its versatility, allowing each person to shape their musical journey according to their unique interests and aspirations.

Personalized Guidance

To determine the best starting point for your piano learning, it's highly beneficial to seek guidance from a professional piano teacher. They can assess your abilities, understand your musical aspirations, and provide personalized recommendations. Whether you choose to start with reading music, exploring chords, or a combination of both, a skilled instructor will tailor their teaching to your specific needs, ensuring an enjoyable and effective learning experience.

Realted: How Long Does It Take To Learn Guitar? Understanding The Guitar Learning Curve 

Can I Teach Myself Piano?

While self-study can be beneficial, working with a skilled piano teacher can greatly enhance your learning experience. A qualified teacher can provide guidance, personalized instruction, and feedback tailored to your individual needs. They can help you progress more efficiently and correct any technical or musical issues you may encounter. Look for a reputable piano teacher or consider enrolling in a music academy like Daytona Beach Music Academy to receive professional guidance.


Embarking on your piano journey is an exciting endeavor. By understanding the basics, such as the keyboard layout, pitch and octaves, hand placement, finger numbers, scales, rhythm, and sheet music, you establish a solid foundation for your musical exploration. Remember to practice regularly, remain patient, and enjoy the process.

If you're ready to take the next step in your piano learning journey, Daytona Beach Music Academy is here to support you. Our experienced instructors are passionate about teaching music to children, and we offer comprehensive music lessons tailored to individual needs. Reach out to us at (386) 855-8487 or email us at [email protected]

Together, let's unlock the magic of music

Contact Us

Call, Text or Email

Have Questions?

An email will be sent to Daytona Beach Music Academy, we aim to reply within 48 hours.