How to Play the Piano: Ultimate Beginner's Guide

Introduction: How to Play the Piano: Ultimate Beginner's Guide


So, you want to learn how to play the piano but aren't sure where to start? Then you have come to the right place as I will give some of my insights on where to start for a beginning piano player. Learning how to play the piano can take patience and in my opinion, there are no magic shortcuts. Included in this how to tutorial are video lessons to help you along in learning these basic concepts. The items on this checklist for how to start learning the piano includes the music alphabet, finding notes on the piano, finger numbers, and how to play Mary Had a Little Lamb.

Author's Introduction

So, why am I writing this article and who am I? Well I am Tim and the owner of the online teaching website and YouTube channel; LessonsOnTheWeb. I have been playing piano for over 21 years and am a professional music teacher. I have graduated with a degree in music at West Chester University School of Music and Performing Arts Center in 2010. I have taught many students who have been from a large variety backgrounds, ages, and places on the globe. I have taught many students from the very beginning and have developed this list for beginning piano students.

Enough about me! Let's start with the first topic on the list!

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Step 1: Step 1: the Music Alphabet

To begin learning how to play the piano, you need to learn basic topics first. The first topic is the Music Alphabet.

About the Music Alphabet:

The music alphabet is probably the easiest to master on this list. The music alphabet is from the letter A to the letter G and then repeats. So, you start saying your alphabet.. A, B, C, D, E, F, G, STOP!!!! That is as far as you need to go! Music doesn't use any notes after G. So what letter is after G? Well A of course! So the music alphabet would look like: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A etc.

What you Should Practice!

Practice saying the alphabet from A to G! What? You already know how to do that? Well, learn to say the sequence of letters backwards as well. Example: G, F, E, D, C, B, A, G etc.

Why does this matter? Well, knowing the first seven notes of the music alphabet forwards and backwards will help you find notes on the piano keyboard! How, you say? You will find out in the next step!

Step 2: Step 2: Keyboard Layout

Layout of Where the Notes are on the Keyboard:

Finding C

Ok, so we are going to start out real simple. Let's find the note C on the piano. The first thing you want to do is notice how the keyboard is laid out using a pattern of black and white keys. On almost every piano, there is a pattern of two black keys, then three black keys, then two, then three etc. On a full sized piano, you may notice that at the bottom of the keyboard (all the way to the left) there is only one black key. This is perfectly normal, but overall there should be a pattern of two and three black keys. To find C, you want to pick any group of two black keys. Then keep only the left of the two keys pressed down. Go directly down to the left of that black key and that is C (should be a white key).

Two Options for Learning Where the Other Notes are:

Option 1: Find C, then count up or down from there. What do I mean by this? Well, the white keys of the piano go in order of the music alphabet. This means that the white key directly to the right of the C is a D. The next white key is an E, and the next after that is F. If you move to the left, the letter names of the notes will go in reverse (remember when I told you to learn the music alphabet backwards?) So, if you move to the left of C, you will land on B. To the left of B is A and to the left of A is G.

Option 2: Memorize where the other notes are. We learned where C is by memorizing the fact that C is directly to the left of the two black keys. Well you can do the same for all of the other notes. D is between the two black keys. E is to the right of the two black keys. F is to the left of the three black keys. G is in the middle of the left two keys in the group of three black keys. A is between the middle and right black keys in the group of 3. B is to the right of the group of three.

What about the Black Keys?


Those are for sharp and flat notes. A sharp looks like a hashtag (#) and raises a note by a single tone or half step. A half step is the smallest amount of movement you can make on the piano. So, if you want to play a C sharp you will first play C (right before the two black keys). Go to the black key directly to the right and that will be C sharp. Another example would be F sharp. Find F and then go to the black key directly to the right (the first black key in that group of three). Be careful because there are two places on the keyboard where there aren't any black keys in between the white keys. This happens between E and F, as well as B and C. So where is E sharp since there is no black key between E and F? Here is something that will blow your mind! E sharp IS F. The same goes for B sharp begin C!


A flat looks like a lower case b (b). When this placed before a note, you lower the note by a half step. So let's find B flat. First you need to find B (right below C), and go to the black note directly to the left of B (the right most black key in the group of three). Like before, you have to keep in mind of the two places which have no black keys; between B and C, and between E and F. This means that F flat is E, and C flat is F.

Use this online tool to practice finding notes on the keyboard: Finding Notes on Keyboard Tool

Step 3: Topic 3: Finger Numbers

Finger Numbers

This one is simple! Finger numbers are a very easy to understand concept but is essential to understand when learning how to play the piano. It is very common for music to tell the piano player not only what note to play but what finger to play the note with. Keeping to the fingering that is indicated in the music will allow you to play up and down the piano keyboard much more effectively.

This is how it works!

Fingers are numbered one to five for both of your hands. So even though you have ten total fingers, you are counting the hands separately. No matter which hand, your thumb is finger number one. Counting from thumb to pinky; thumb is number one, pointer finger is two, middle is three, ring finger is four, and pinky is five. Remember the rule "thumb to pinky" and you should be able to figure out which finger is which fairly quickly.

Step 4: Topic 4: Playing Your First Song

Playing Your First Song: Mary Had A Little Lamb

As promised, we are going to learn how to play Mary Had a Little Lamb on the piano. Now, this isn't reading notes off of a page, but a practice song using the few concepts we learned so far in this guide. It will combine the music alphabet, where notes are located on the piano, and finger numbers. Here are the steps you need to take to play this song on the piano.

Right Hand

1. Get your right hand into position. What you want to do is take finger number one (your thumb) and place it on C. You will lay the rest of your fingers on the next consecutive notes. So, your thumb will be on C, your pointer on D, your middle on E, your ring finger on F, and your pinky on G.

2. Play the note under your third finger (which is E). Next play finger two on D, then one on C. These are the first three notes of the song. If it sounds like the beginning of Mary Had a Little Lamb, you are on the right track.

3. The sequence to the whole song is the following:

First half: 3, 2, 1, 2, 3, 3, 3, 2, 2, 2, 3, 5, 5, Second half: 3, 2, 1, 3, 3, 3, 2, 2, 3, 2, 1

Left Hand

1. Get your left hand into position. Take finger fiver (your pinky) and place it on the C to the left of middle C. Lay the rest of your fingers on the next consecutive notes: Your pinky will be on C, your right finger on D, middle on E, pointer on F, and your thumb on G.

2. Play the note under your third finger E, then play fourth on D, and then hit C with your pinky. These are the first three notes of the song.

3. The sequence to the whole song is the following:

First Half: 3, 4, 5, 4, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 3, 1, 1 Second Half: 3, 4, 5, 4, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 3, 4, 5

Step 5: Step 5: Where to Go From Here?

Want to Learn More?

Check out my other educational resources by heading over to LessonsOnTheWeb's online music education website by clicking the link or by typing in to your browser!

You can also check out my YouTube channel to find more piano and theory lessons. Official LessonsOnTheWeb YouTube channel.

Check out my about me page on my website to learn more about myself and LessonsOnTheWeb!

Ultimate Guide for Basic Rhythm coming soon!

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    5 Discussions


    Question 2 years ago on Introduction

    Can I use your course to better myself on the electric organ? Currently I play chords on lower manual, one finger on upper manual and match chords with the pedals. My goal (at 64 years of age) is to play organ in church!


    3 years ago

    Last sentence in "Flats" = '...and C flat is F...' ???

    Umm, I am TOTALLY GREEN, like this and you #1 piano video on YT are my FIRST EVER real lessons. But I am I missing something? Wouldnt C flat be B?

    By the way - thank you SO MUCH for your videos and lessons like this. I imagine this takes so much of your time! I just found your YT channel last night and I really - really - like your teaching style and plan to complete the entire 10 video class. Once I get a better idea overall of your lessons and style I will consider signing up as a student on your .com site. Thank you so much Tim! I am 48 and have been wanting to learn piano for years. This weekend I bought a used YPG-625 and started your lessons last night. Really excited to learn piano!!



    5 years ago on Introduction

    Great info! Thanks for sharing and welcome to the community!