You’re a singer.

It’s who you are. But we’re here to tell you that you should absolutely learn how to play the piano as well. 

Why?

Because if you can play even a little bit of piano, you’ll be able to:

  • Accompany yourself
  • Train your ear and find harmonies
  • Practice your vocal exercises without a backing track
  • Learn the songs you love!

And the good news is that it doesn’t take long to learn enough piano to start. This single lesson is all you need to begin.

Let’s dive in.

Step 1: Navigating The Keyboard

The piano keyboard may look dizzying with its vast array of keys (88, to be exact). But once you understand the patterns that make it work, it’s actually quite simple.

How to Find Middle C

Take a look at your keyboard. Notice the black keys—see how there are sets of two and sets of three? We’ll use these sets of twos and threes to find Middle C.

Middle C is the first note you’ll learn on the piano. It’s smack dab in the middle of the keyboard, usually where the brand name of the piano is.

Find a set of two black keys in the middle and play the white key on the very left: this is Middle C!

Remember where Middle C is. You’ll use it to orient yourself around the rest of the keyboard.

The Musical Alphabet

Now for your first theory lesson! In music, we name notes after the alphabet. The white key after C is D, the one after is E, and so on. The musical alphabet stops at G, however, so instead of a note called H we just repeat from C again.

Keyboard diagram with white keys labelled in red: CDEFGABCDEFGAB

If you’re wondering what all those black keys are called, they’re half-steps between the white notes and they’re called sharps or flats. A sharp means we raise a note up by one half-step. A flat means we lower a note down by one half-step.

Now let’s look at how to turn these letters into music. And to do that, we’ll play some basic chords!

How to Read Chord Charts

Chord charts are the most basic way to start playing songs. They’re simply a sheet with the words to the songs and little letters written above the words. Those letters tell you what chord to play.

And the easiest way to start playing chords is to learn the Chord Formula.

Knowing this formula will allow you to play any major or minor chord on the piano. Even ones using the black keys.


Major Chord Formula

A major chord is made by counting 4 half-steps above the root note (the note you choose to build a chord upon), and by counting 3 half-steps from the middle note.

Minor Chord Formula

A minor chord is made by counting 3 half-steps above the root note, and by counting 4 half-steps above the middle note. Notice how different this chord sounds? It’s much sadder.

There are other chords on the piano, but for our purposes, these are the two most important to know, and they’re the two that you’ll be using most often when you accompany yourself.

You can find out about all the other types of chords in this Pianote lesson.

Download This Reference Guide

It can be tricky to remember all of this when you’re first starting out. So we’ve made a handy reference guide that you can download and print!

Click here to download the guide!

Here’s a super-handy chord reference guide!

If You Remember Only One Thing…

It’s this:

You do NOT need to be a virtuoso piano player to start accompanying yourself. You do NOT need to spend years of practice and thousands of dollars on piano lessons.

You can start accompanying yourself right away.

The most important thing (as always) is that you have FUN!

So go sit at your piano (if you have one), and give this a try