Would you like to learn to play an instrument? Have you always dreamed of knowing how to play the piano? The piano is a fascinating instrument that is difficult to resist and today knowing how to play it even at a basic level, allows you to also use a synthesizer, an inevitable instrument for those dedicated to pop and electronic productions.
Choice of instrument
To start you obviously need a piano. Fortunately, today there are very good alternatives at lower prices than those of a real piano.
A digital piano has the appearance of an electronic keyboard, but has all the characteristics of a piano: weighted keys, the possibility of attaching pedals, It is therefore very popular among piano students who for economic or space reasons cannot buy a real one.
The digital piano never has fewer than 76 keys and does not offer particular functions such as the choice of different sounds: only the piano and organ sound are generally available.
Another alternative to the traditional piano is the MIDI keyboard. There are different sizes and types, it is better to opt for a model with weighted keys so that you can have more dynamics.
MIDI keyboards work only by connecting to a dedicated program to be installed on your computer: when not connected they do not emit any sound and do not have built-in speakers.
On the other hand, you can use them with different sounds that can be selected by the program used both in real-time and in retrospect: the notes and chords you play are recorded as data and not as audio, so you can later change the sound or change the length of the notes and do a lot of other actions.
This type of keyboard is ideal for those who want to learn to play the piano to use it to build MIDI tracks.
Synthesizers are mainly used to create personalized sounds through various buttons and knobs.
It is also possible to choose various internal sounds.
Then there are the classic electronic keyboards, which allow you to start pre-set accompaniments and to select numerous styles and sounds.
Whichever instrument you decide to purchase, make sure that it has a fair number of octaves and that it is polyphonic: some electronic keyboards do not allow you to play multiple keys at the same time and therefore it would not be possible to play chords.
Now that you have found tips for the instrument that best suits your needs, let’s learn to play it!
Basic Music Theory
Studying the piano requires a mix of knowledge of music and physical movement; for this, we will have to devote time also to music theory as well as to practical exercises.
The first theoretical aspect to consider are the notes corresponding to each key.
The “black” keys are called sharp (indicated by this symbol #) or flat (indicated by a symbol similar to a “b”).
So between DO and RE we find DO # or REb, between RE and MI we have RE # or Mib, between FA and SOL there is FA # or SOLb, between SOL and LA il SOL # or LAb, between LA and SI we finally have the LA # or Sib.
Why can they be called in two different ways?
In reality, there is a difference between a DO # and a REb, but it is so subtle that it is almost imperceptible. For this reason, there is only one button that indicates both.
Other instruments, such as the violin, are tuned instead keeping in mind the differences between a DO # and a REb, even if the difference is perceived only by very fine ears.
When to use DO # and when to REb?
Although the key indicated by the two denominations is the same, the # is used when going up and the flat when going down. There are other reasons why sharps are conventionally used instead of the flat and vice versa, but we will see them later.
If I start from the DO and go to the YES, pressing all the keys, I will say “DO, DO #, RE, RE #, etc. On the contrary, I will use the flats, therefore starting from the SI and “going down” I will say “SI, SIb, LA, LAb, etc.
You may have noticed that there is no black button between the MI and the Fa. What does it mean?
It means that there is a semitone interval between MI and FA. Therefore, between each key, black or white, we have a semitone.
When you perform the C major scale, key sounds that have different intervals between them, sometimes one tone and sometimes one semitone.
There is a tone between the Do and the RE.
There is a tone between the RE and MI.
There is a semitone between the MI and the FA.
There is a tone between the FA and the SOL.
There is a tone between the SOL and the LA.
There is a tone between LA and SI.
There is a semitone between the SI and the DO.
The C major scale is therefore composed as follows:
Tone Tone Semitone Tone Tone Tone Semitone.
The good news is that all major scales are composed in the same way. Do you want to play the D major scale?
Take the keyboard and press the RE, add a tone and press the F #, add a semitone and find the G, add a tone and there is the LA, one more tone and we are on the, YES, then another tone and there is C #, finally, a semitone and we find again a RE.
Obviously when you go down the reverse procedure is performed:
Semitone Tone Tone Tone Semitone Tone Tone
The rule is simple, at the beginning you will clearly have to get carried away. It’s a bit like learning math: at first, you use the abacus or make drawings, after a while, you will automatically know that 2 + 2 is 4.
The Natural Minor Scale
As with the major scale, the minor scale also has a simple rule. The intervals between one note and another are in this case:
Halftone Tone Halftone Tone Tone.
In the descent the procedure is the same, obviously using the intervals reading them in reverse:
Tone Tone Semitone Tone Tone Semitone Tone.
There are numerous other types of stairs. The two that we have seen are the main ones, but in the future you could expand your knowledge by also studying the Arabic, blues, oriental, …
The relative major and minor
Each scale, major or minor, will show the presence of any alterations, ie sharp and flat.
The C major scale does not show any alteration: to put it in simple terms, only white keys are pressed, while the black ones (which on the keyboard indicate the sharp and flat) are not touched.
There is also a minor scale where there are no alterations, and it is the A minor scale.
Each major scale has its own relative minor, i.e. the minor scale which has the same alterations.
As you can see, the C major scale (red) has no alterations, nor the A minor scale (green).
What is the relative minor of C major? The minor!
What is the relative major of A minor? C major!
Let’s take another example with another simple scale, which presents only one alteration, or that of G major.
We remember the construction of the major scale: T T s T T T s.
Look at the keyboard and start from the SOL.
You will find yourself playing SOL LA SI DO RE MI # SOL.
The relative minor of G major is MI minor and by playing it you will notice that even here the only alteration present is the FA #.
We remember the construction of the minor scale: T s T T s T T.
Look at the keyboard and start from the MI.
You will find yourself playing MI FA # SOL LA SI DO RE MI.