Basics of Piano: What Should I Expect at My First Piano Lesson?

What To Expect From Your First Piano LessonNervous about your first piano lesson? You’re not alone! It’s only natural. The piano is a daunting instrument – so many keys, so little time! But we’d like to let you in on a secret: there’s nothing to be nervous about. With a little bit of preparation, you can start your piano-playing journey without any worries whatsoever.

How to Prepare

First of all, relax. It all comes down to your mindset. Before your first lesson, think about your goals. Do you want to someday play at Carnegie Hall? Do you want to play in a band or just noodle around at home? It helps to know exactly where you want to go. Of course, starting small is always the best strategy. Get the basics of piano down: scales, beginner exercises, and maybe one simple tune. Your first lesson will be all about your introduction to the instrument. Just remember, the professional musician playing Carnegie Hall this weekend was once exactly where you are now!

Chat with Your Teacher

Every good student begins with a good teacher. Establishing a solid teacher-student relationship is important, so don’t be afraid to ask questions. Your teacher will likely ask you what your goals are – so if you followed the above step,  you’re prepared for this! Feel free to name some songs you’ve always wanted to play or your favorite artists. At this time you can ask about studio policies as well. Any advanced knowledge of what to expect can go a long way to ease those first-day jitters. Here are a few questions you might want to ask your piano teacher:

  • What equipment, books, or other accessories do I need?
  • What is the policy regarding rescheduling lessons?
  • How is a typical lesson structured?
  • What do you expect of me as a student?

Be Patient

Once again, your results are highly dependent on your state of mind. You’re not going to be playing Rachmaninoff at your first lesson – you’re more likely to start with a major scale, probably in the key of C Major. These basic scales and exercises may not be the most fun at first, but they’re the best thing you can learn for control over the instrument. You’ll get to the fun songs and melodies with time!

What Control?

The piano is a big instrument, but it’s also a delicate instrument. Tap a finger lightly on one key; see how lightly you can tap. Notice how the sound takes on a soft, almost bell-like quality. Now strike that key harder. Notice how the sound brightens and becomes more percussive. Training the fingers to control these piano dynamics is one of the basics of piano study. Again, don’t discount the simple exercises your teacher starts you out with! They’ll come in handy – we promise!

A One and a Two and a…

Your teacher will probably teach you some basic exercises, and expect you to practice them on a daily basis (or whatever you’re able to work into your schedule). These are basically repetitive melodies designed to get your fingers used to playing. For years, a popular exercise routine was the Hanon method, a series of exercises to strengthen the fingers for virtuoso performance. Many teachers rely on these exercises for their students, but not everyone does. When they don’t, it’s usually for one reason: Hanon exercises can be a tad boring! Some teachers try to combat this by using more interesting melodies and exercises that make practicing fun as well as effective.

The piano is a truly a one-of-a-kind instrument. No other instrument gives you the entire tonal range of the orchestra right at your fingertips. Learning the basics of piano may not take you straight to Carnegie Hall, but the joy you’ll receive from learning this awe-inspiring instrument will take you somewhere far greater – to a world where music is at your command.

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Photo by alexanderward12

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2 replies
  1. Jack Pound
    Jack Pound says:

    This is good. I could share this with my friend so that they can decide what to do before having their kids a piano lesson.

  2. Robert Estrin
    Robert Estrin says:


    This is some sound advice for students. After years of teaching – both young students and adults – I find that managing expectations and keeping people engaged is a constant challenge.

    One of my techniques for keeping students engaged is to start them off with music right away. While scales and exercises can be beneficial, I find that many beginner pieces can benefit the students with the same fundamentals as exercises. It also gives them some repertoire to show off to family and friends right away!


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