2. What are foundation keyboard skills?

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 it’s 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, while the distance between fingerings on the song chart provides a simple, clear and intuitive visual representation of the time gap between consecutive notes.

6. Make music

No Notes’ simplicity helps beginners learn to play the piano using all their fingers and thumbs.  It also makes it possible for absolute beginners to play familiar music, which encourages and inspires them to play the piano with the same control and expression as when they sing, hum or whistle.

1. Why No Notes?

The piano is very seductive. A simple, tentative push on a piano key is rewarded with a tuneful, bell-like sound. Beginners on most musical instruments spend long hours learning how to produce a pleasing sound. And that’s not all. An upright piano usually has 88 keys. Lucky pianists! So many beautiful sounds, so easily available ‘at the touch of a button’, literally!

The iconic piano keyboard design is also a very helpful visual guide to all the notes a pianist can play. Most other instrumentalists can only try and imagine their instrument’s tessitura in their mind’s eye.

But… the piano’s immense pitch range makes learning to play the piano and, particularly, learning to read piano music unusually challenging.

Beginner pianists often find themselves, on Day 1, feeling like they’ve plunged into an overwhelming musical ‘deep end’. 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)!

If ordinary piano music sounds complicated – off-putting even – that’s because it is. No wonder 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 happier to play by ear and from memory than from sheet music. This seems a shame. So much good music is written down.

When children learn to read words, tutor books simplify the reading process. This makes learning to read easier and more fun… and so more likely to succeed. No Notes simplifies the baffling complexity of ordinary piano music for the same reason.

No Notes musical notation shows fingering rather than the pitch of notes. This type of notation is called tablature or ‘tab’. No Notes tab is very simple. There is a ‘keyboard map’, showing where the two hands go, and a ‘song chart’, based on ordinary piano sheet music, showing which fingers to use and when to use them. If you can count to five you are ready for No Notes.

No Notes beginners soon learn to make musical phrases using all the fingers and thumbs of both hands.  They can also rapidly develop independence between their two hands by practising catchy, rhythmic bluesy, riffs and grooves.

And, of course, No Notes beginners build confidence in their ability to follow, interpret and make music from printed instructions with every melody and riff they learn.  They are soon ready and motivated to tackle the fascinating complexities of standard music notation.