It’s no accident that the piano/keyboard is one of the most popular instruments in the world to learn to play. Its students have the advantage of being able to “see” all the notes from above, making it easier to visualize musical intervals and the relationships between them.
The piano is a direct descendant of the harpsichord, and was, in fact, invented in 1709 by harpsichord maker Bartolomeo di Francesco Cristofori (1655-1731) in Padua, Italy. The harpsichord, which dates back to the 15th century, was relegated to one volume alone, limiting its scope, emotive ability and what pieces could be written for it. The piano offered several improvements over its predecessor, especially the ability to control the volume of the instrument — from soft to loud and everywhere in between — simply through how hard the player struck the keys.
According to the National Piano Foundation, Cristofori’s new instrument was named “gravicembalo col piano e forte” (roughly translated to “soft and loud keyboard instrument”). Eventually, it was shortened to “fortepiano” or “pianoforte,” and finally just “piano.” His earliest surviving instrument dates from 1720 and is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Despite many improvements during the past 300 years, it is truly astonishing to observe how similar Cristofori’s instruments are to the modern piano of today.
The piano is a great starter instrument. From learning the basic theory terms and notes to figuring out simple melodies, studies have proven that playing the piano can increase creativity, improve coordination and lead to higher self-esteem.
Songs are made up of chords, scales and sometimes arpeggios. By learning different combinations, you can play all different styles of music — and even create your own songs.
Piano is not only a solo instrument, but is also great for accompanying vocalists, violinists, orchestras and bands — from classical, to blues and jazz, to rock and everything in between. Collaboration with friends and family is a great way to share your talents with others.
It’s best to take a real-world approach to the piano. Today, many musicians are using charts, so your instructor may use a combination of charts, traditional exercises and ear training to instill musical freedom, proper finger movement and technique. You’ll learn to play chords and navigate the tonal center of the music. In this way, you’ll soon be able to play many contemporary and pop songs, or whatever style you choose..
Is the piano right for you?
The piano is for those that like to know how things work. With the piano, you can get a very clear picture of how music fits together in theory, as well as application. This also makes it an excellent option for you if you have never played an instrument. The piano gives the building blocks that can be used with every other instrument.
What to expect in your first lesson
First, you will discover where some of the notes are on the piano, and you will learn them by playing them. Next, we will discuss how to read music and begin working on our first piano piece. Then, we will discuss your musical taste and begin selecting modern songs to play. Lastly, we’ll map out your personal plan for musical success.
For first time, you’ll likely begin working in the key of C (all the white keys on the piano), because it has no sharps of flats. Your teacher may show you how to clap your hands to a rhythm and looking at different values of notes (quarter, half, whole, etc.) and rests — the space between the notes, which is often just as important as the notes themselves.
You’ll learn some fun, short tunes right away. After all, there’s nothing like playing a song!
- Always use a metronome when you first start to play, to make sure your tempo remains steady.
- Don’t tense up — try to remain relaxed in your hands, fingers and shoulders.