It seems so easy to make the piano sing! Even a cat can tread lightly across a piano keyboard and produce notes perfectly in tune and with exquisite tone. And yet, as every piano beginner knows, playing the piano – whichever genre of music you pick – is not easy. There are so many things to understand and process simultaneously –two confusingly mirror-image hands, so many fingers and thumbs, two lines of music – one for each hand – usually pitch-coded differently (i.e. treble clef and bass clef)!
Every musical instrument requires a particular combination of physical and mental accomplishments. For pianists, the challenge is to control all the fingers and thumbs of both hands to produce multiple independent lines of music, simultaneously!
Listed below are six essential foundation keyboard skills that piano beginners need to acquire, whatever kind of music they’re wanting to play.
1. Become familiar with the piano keyboard
Unlike most instruments, all the notes a piano can produce are on display. Frequently, the sheer number of piano keys can overwhelm a beginner. No Notes music – tablature, or ‘tab’ – helps students become familiar and comfortable with the iconic pattern of black and white keys on a piano keyboard. Each piece includes a keyboard map showing where hands and fingers go, and since No Notes tunes use different hand positions, No Notes beginners get lots of practise placing hands and fingers quickly over the correct keys.
2. Use all fingers without looking at them
No Notes music helps beginners use their fingers and thumbs without looking. Either hands do not move once placed on the keyboard (e.g. Children’s Songs), or else fingers play the same sequence of notes in different hand positions (Blues Primer).
3. Develop independence between the hands
Piano music usually involves pianists playing multiple independent lines of music simultaneously. At its most basic, this means doing one thing with one hand and a different thing with the other. No Notes Blues Primer provides a variety of simple, familiar and fun bluesy riffs and grooves to help beginners focus on playing different patterns with each hand at the same time.
4. Learn to read music
For many absolute beginners, ordinary piano music can be simply too much, too soon. Beginner pianists with a good musical ear often prefer to copy what they hear rather than to translate hieroglyphics on a page. Even proficient pianists who seem to be reading music are often, in reality, happier to play by ear and from memory than from sheet music. Although No Notes music incorporates many features of ordinary piano music, it is much easier to understand, which means that No Notes beginners’ important first steps towards music literacy are easy and relatively painless. In fact, No Notes beginners have fun learning to read music and soon build invaluable confidence in their ability to follow, interpret and make music from a printed score.
5. Play with a beat
Music is a time-based medium and usually musicians locate their musical actions in time using a pulse or beat. No Notes music develops beginners’ sense of timing and rhythm in two ways: Fine vertical ‘beat lines’ and thicker ‘bar lines’ encourage beginners to feel the beat and the count (i.e. 2-in-a-bar, 3-in-a-bar…), while the distance between fingerings on the song chart – the ‘gaps’ – provides a simple, clear and intuitive visual representation of the time gap between consecutive notes.
6. Make music
The goal of No Notes piano music is that beginners learn to play the piano with the same control and expression as when they sing, hum or whistle. No Notes‘ simplicity does not only mean that absolute beginners can play an attractive variety of familiar music, assimilating foundation keyboard skills as they go. It also means that it’s easy for two (or more) absolute beginners (e.g. parents or friends, and also in group keyboard sessions) to play No Notes pieces as duets – half as hard and twice as much fun!