Posts

100 Piano Pop Songs Everyone Will Love

piano pop songs

Are you sick of playing the same classical tunes over and over again? It may be time to spice up your repertoire by adding a few piano pop songs to the mix.

Whether you’re into pop rock or R&B, there are tons of popular pop songs you can learn on the piano. Learning piano pop songs will keep you interested in the instrument and it will help improve your performance skills.

Here is a list of 100 piano pop songs that everyone will enjoy. Choose a few favorites to add to your repertoire, but keep in mind that some of these piano pop songs are more difficult than others. If you can’t play one, just move onto an easier one until you’ve sharpened your skills.

Easy Piano Pop Songs for Kids

  • Don’t Worry, Be Happy: Bob Marley
  • Go the Distance: Hercules
  • Mmm Bop: Hanson
  • Let it Go:Frozen
  • Happy: Pharrell Williams
  • You’ll be in My Heart: Tarzan
  • Accidentally in Love: Shrek
  • Ain’t No Mountain High Enough: Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
  • A Whole New World: Aladdin
  • Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen
  • I See the Light: Tangled
  • Somewhere Over the Rainbow: Judy Garland
  • The Rainbow Connection: Kermit the Frog
  • My Girl: Temptations
  • Circle of Life: The Lion King
  • I Got You Babe: Sonny and Cher
  • Kiss The Girl: The Little Mermaid
  • Do You Want to Build A Snowman?: Frozen
  • Wouldn’t It Be Nice: The Beach Boys
  • Reflection: Mulan
  • That’s How You Know: Enchanted
  • YMCA: Village People
  • Part of Your World: The Little Mermaid
  • The Medallion Calls: Pirates of the Caribbean

Best Piano Pop Songs for Teens

  • Get Lucky: Daft Punk
  • Sexy and I Know It: LMFAO
  • Thrift Shop: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
  • Clarity: Zedd
  • Born This Way:Lady Gaga
  • Thinking Out Loud: Ed Sheeran
  • Before He Cheats:Carrie Underwood
  • Boyfriend: Justin Beiber
  • Single Ladies: Beyonce
  • Party in the U.S.A: Miley Cyrus
  • California Girls: Katie Perry
  • Trouble: Taylor Swift
  • I Want It That Way:Backstreet Boys
  • Bye, Bye, Bye: NSYNC
  • Waterfalls: TLC
  • Wannabe: Spice Girls
  • Hit Me Baby One More Time: Britney Spears
  • Ain’t No Other Man: Christina Aguilera
  • Lady Marmalade: Moulin Rouge
  • I Believe I Can Fly: R. Kelly
  • Rehab: Amy Winehouse
  • Uptown Funk: Bruno Mars
  • Rolling in the Deep: Adele
  • Hey Ya: Outkast
  • Torn: Natalie Imbruglia
  • Wonderwall: Oasis
  • Hero: Mariah Carey
  • Respect: Aretha Franklin
  • Shake It Off: Taylor Swift

Piano Pop Songs for Adults

  • The Piano Man: Billy Joel
  • Bennie and the Jets: Elton John
  • Dancing Queen: Abba
  • Hey Jude:The Beatles
  • California Dreaming: The Mamma’s and The Papa’s
  • Roxanne: Sting
  • Superstitious: Stevie Wonder
  • River Deep, Mountain High: Tina Turner
  • Natural Woman: Carole King
  • Can’t Help Falling in Love: Elvis
  • American Pie: Don McLean
  • I Can’t Make You Love Me: Bonnie Raitt
  • What a Wonderful World: Ray Charles
  • Do You Think I’m Sexy: Rod Stewart
  • Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For: U2
  • Hotel California: The Eagles
  • Crazy:Willie Nelson and Patsy Cline
  • I Will Always Love You: Dolly Parton
  • Moondance: Van Morrison
  • Knockin on Heaven’s Door: Bob Dylan
  • Bridge Over Troubled Water: Simon and Garfunkel
  • Last Dance: Donna Summers
  • Stairway to Heaven: Jimmy Page and Robert Plant
  • Big Yellow Taxi: Joni Mitchell
  • Born in the U.S.A: Bruce Springsteen
  • My Heart will Go On: Celine Dion
  • Material Girl: Madonna
  • Time After Time: Cyndi Lauper
  • Stop! In the Name of Love: Diana Ross
  • Lanslide: Fleetwood Mac
  • Wind Beneath My Wings: Bette Midler
  • Don’t rain on my Parade: Barbra Streisand
  • Don’t Stop Believing: Journey
  • Sweet Caroline: Neil Diamond
  • Smooth Criminal: Michael Jackson
  • I’ve Had the Time of My Life: Dirty Dancing
  • I’ll Make Love to You: Boyz II men
  • Un-Break My Heart:Toni Braxton
  • Killing Me Softly: Roberta Flack
  • Ironic: Alanis Morrisette
  • Kiss From a Rose: Seal
  • Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Pat Benetar
  • I Can’t Get No Satisfaction: The Rolling Stones
  • At Last: Etta James
  • Sweet Child of Mine: Guns and Roses
  • Sweet Home Alabama: Lynyrd Skynyrd
  • Livin on a Prayer: Bon Jovi

Where to Find Piano Pop Sheet Music

Now that you’ve browsed through 100 piano pop songs, chances are you’re going to need some piano sheet music. Here are some great websites where you can find sheet music for all of the piano pop songs above.

  • Piano Play It: From pop to Disney, this website has great piano sheet music for kids and beginners. The best part – it’s free! Check out the website here.
  • 8notes.com: This website is another great resource for piano sheet music. You can browse through categories such as “playalong jam tracks,” “most popular piano,” and more. Check out the website here.
  • OnlinePianist: This website also has a wide variety of piano pop sheet music. OnlinePianist is extra helpful because it indicates whether a song is beginner, intermediate, or advanced. Check out the website here.

Now you’re ready to expand your repertoire with these fun piano pop songs. If you need help learning any new techniques or styles that these songs require, try asking an expert piano teacher for some guidance. Private lessons with a piano professional are a great way to improve your skills in a short amount of time.

Photos by woodleywonderworks and Jeff Dun

LizTPost Author: Liz T.
Liz T. teaches singing, acting, and music lessons online. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

piano styles

Ultimate Guide to the 5 Most Popular Piano Styles

piano styles

Don’t know what piano style you want to learn? Below, piano teacher Liz T. shares the five most popular piano styles to give you a better idea of what suits you…

Having the ability to play a number of different piano styles will help you become a better overall piano player.

What’s more, knowing the important composers, performers, and pieces of each piano style will assist you in your musical studies.

Below, I’ve listed the five most important piano styles, which include classical, jazz, musical theater, pop/rock, and liturgical.

Read through the various piano styles to see which one jumps out at you most.

After browsing, if you’re still not sure what piano style fits you, take the quiz at the end of the article to help you determine.

1. Classical Piano

Throughout 1750-1820, classical piano was performed for royalty and the upper class in Europe. There were three main composers who paved the way for classical piano composition: Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven.

As the years progressed and classical music transformed from renaissance to baroque and romantic, other great pianists emerged, including Haydn, Chopin, Handel, Wagner, Debussy, and Tchaikovsky.

Classical piano is often what students study first because it forces them to have a very strong technique and knowledge of music theory.

Without having an understanding of the classical piano technique, it’s very hard to learn and pick up other piano styles. That’s because most music has stemmed from the classical style.

Famous Classical Piano Composers

Just because classical music was popular many years ago, doesn’t mean it’s not thriving today.

There are many classical piano composers who are still performing music from the greats as well as creating their own classical compositions, such as the following:

Van Cliburn: Cliburn was one of the greatest American piano players of our century. Each year, thousands of piano players audition to compete in the “Annual Van Cliburn Piano Competition.”

Phillip Glass: Glass had an extensive career in writing, recording, and orchestrating classical music ranging from symphonic orchestras to the big screen.

Eric Whitacare: A regular chart-topper, Whitacare often writes for choirs, and has released several classical music albums that have won Grammys.

Classical Piano Books

Bach, Mozart and Beethoven are crucial composers to know as a classical pianist. I recommend having these books around when you to start learning this piano style:

      • Schirmer’s Library of Musical Classics “First Lessons in Bach, Complete Books I and II for Piano”
      • Alfred Series “Mozart: 21 of His Most Popular Pieces for Piano”
      • Dover Music “A First Book of Beethoven: 24 Arrangements for the Beginning Pianist with Downloadable Mp3’s”

2. Jazz Piano

1918 marked the big start of American jazz. Pianists such as Scott Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton, and Fats Waller are piano players influential in building the jazz scene around New York, Chicago, and New Orleans.

At the time, jazz piano was a rebellious type of music, as it deviated from the classic rhythms, harmony, and technique.

Jazz music incorporates swing, improvisation, ragtime, boogie woogie, and bee bop to create captivating melodies and rhythmic patterns.

People turned to jazz music during “The Great Depression” as well as in times of celebration.

It also became an important mark in history where African-Americans, Asians, Latinos, and Europeans were able to come together to create music in America.

Famous Jazz Piano Players

While Joplin, Morton, and Waller paved the way for jazz piano, today’s contemporary jazz players are keeping it alive.

I suggest listening to some of today’s most well-known contemporary jazz players, including the following:

Herbie Hancock: Hancock is an innovative American pianist and keyboardist. Popular albums include “Head Hunters,” “Maiden Voyages,” and “Possibilities.”

Michel Camilo: Camilo is a Grammy Award-winning pianist and composer from the Dominican Republic who specializes in jazz, Latin, and classical work.

Kenny Barron: An American jazz piano player, Barron is one of the most influential mainstream jazz pianists of the bebop area, currently on faculty at Juilliard School.

Essential Jazz Piano Books:

If you want to learn more about jazz piano style, then I suggest you check out these helpful books:

      • “The Jazz Theory Book,” by Mark Levine (Comprehensive guide to jazz music theory)
      • “Aebersold Play-a-longs” (Volumes with popular jazz standards with lead sheet notation, and CD play alongs to practice with.)
      • “The Real Books,” Hal Leonard (Volumes with 100+ jazz lead sheets, perfect for any gig or jam)

3. Musical Theater Piano

Piano plays a big role in musical theater. In fact, piano players are crucial for the development and success of musical theater.

Musical theater accompanists must be very good sight readers and versatile, as every musical theater production is different.

Musical theater pianists can find work performing in the pit bands of shows, and can serve as accompanist alongside singers at auditions.

Listen to some of the old Broadway composers and lyricists for inspiration, such as Rodgers & Hammerstein, Rodgers & Hart, and Gershwin.

There are also many popular Broadway composers today–such as Andrew Lloyd Webber, Steven Sondheim, and Steven Schwartz–who have used piano primarily in their writing for musical theater.

Well-known Musical Theater Piano Players

Below are some of my favorite pianists  who’ve made a strong impact writing and performing musical theater:

Jason Robert Brown: Known for his works “Songs for a New World” and “The Last 5 Years,”  Brown uses incredible chords and harmonies. He has a knack for knowing how to capture both piano and voice together.

Marvin Hamlish: This legendary pianist served as the composer of one of Broadway’s longest running musicals, “A Chorus Line.” Hamlish was very skilled at capturing dancers and the sound of the piano together.

Seth Rudetsky: An accompanist and radio talk show host, Rudetsky really knows how to work with singers whether it be for a cabaret performance, audition, or cruise ship!

Best Musical Theater Piano Books:

If you wish to be a part of the Broadway scene, take a look at these essential books:

      • “The Big Book of Broadway-4th Edition,” Hal Leonard
      • “The Singers Musical Theater Anthology Series,” Hal Leonard
      • “Kids Musical Theater Collection (Volumes 1, 2),” Hal Leonard

4. Pop/Rock Piano

Starting in the ’50s, the piano was incorporated in many popular pop and rock songs. In the ’70s, the keyboard was heavily introduced because of it’s cool electric sounds.

Being a contemporary rock/pop piano player and composer is no easy task, but is one of the most rewarding piano gigs around.

As a pop/rock piano player you will probably find the most paid work, ranging from cover bands, wedding gigs, session recordings, and touring performances.

With this piano style, you’re free to explore new sounds, as the charts are always changing. What’s more, having the ability to both sing and play the piano looks and sounds great in performance.

Famous Pop/Rock Piano Players

Here’s a sample of some of piano pop and rock players who’ve made a huge impact on the genre. Listen to these folks to get inspired and maybe pick up a few performance tricks.

Elton John and Billy Joel: Both of these music veterans hit the top of their careers in the ’70s and ’80s. However, they still continue to perform to sold out stadiums today.

Alicia Keys: At the tender age of 16, Keys was already signed and recording her own original music. Her piano chords and melodies are in sync with her original vocals and lyrics.

Carole King: One of the most powerful women in songwriting, King is a singer/pianist from New York who’s written and recorded some of the most influential pop music of our time.

Essential Pop/Rock Piano Books:

There are tons of really great piano pop/rock books available. Below are just a few helpful piano books that will guide you:

      • “Let it Go, Happy, and More Hot Pop Singles 2014,” by Hal Leonard
      • “Piano Styles of 23 Pop Masters,” by Mark Harrison
      • “The Piano Songbook: Contemporary Songs Book 2,” by Faber Music

5. Liturgical Piano

Liturgical music originated as a part of religious ceremonies ranging from Catholic to Protestant to Jewish.

Almost every religion has their own unique sounding liturgical music that plays an important and meaningful role in its culture.

Liturgical music has been passed on from generation to generation, and today musicians are still performing and composing new music for religious services, performances, and recordings.

The piano is able to serve in all the various types of religious music. Many pianists start out by playing religious services professionally to make their living as a musician.

Notable Liturgical Piano Players

The composers and pianists below are influential in the liturgical music genre.

David Haas: An influential pianist and composer of the modern day liturgies in the Christian community.

Hector Olivera: An internationally acclaimed organist, watch his technique and how he brings the organ to life.

Jason White: White is a leading musical director and performer. He plays primarily gospel music on the piano, keyboards, and organ.

Liturgical Piano Books for Beginners

If you want to learn how to play this piano style, then check out these helpful books for beginners:

      • “Big Book of Hymns,” Hal Leonard
      • “Gospel Keyboard Styles: A Complete Guide to Harmony, Rhythm and Melody,” Mark Harrison
      • “The Practical Organist: 50 Short Works for Church Services,” Dover Music

I hope this guide to the five most popular piano styles will help determine what style you want to learn. Talk with your piano teacher on ways you can practice whatever piano style you choose.

If you’re still unsure which piano style to choose, take this fun quiz to find out!

Photo by André P. Meyer-Vitali

LizTPost Author: Liz T.
Liz T. teaches singing, acting, and music lessons online. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign Up

piano hand position

Guide to Proper Piano Hand Position [Infographic]

 

piano hand position

Learning the proper piano hand position is essential for both beginner and accomplished piano players. Below piano teacher, Ryan C. shares some tips and exercises on how to perfect your piano hand placement…

If you were to sit down at a piano right now and throw your hands on the keys, how would they land? Would your fingers be curved or flat? How would your wrist look relative to your arm? Would you feel any tension in your shoulder or would you feel relaxed?

Considerations like these are often overlooked by both amateur and accomplished pianists. Perhaps the concept of having a consistent piano hand position was never taught to you or never occurred to you.

Whatever the case may be, having good piano hand placement is extremely important for both aspiring and accomplished pianists.

In this post, we will discuss the importance of proper piano finger position as well as some exercises you can do to perfect your piano hand position.

Let’s get started!

The Importance of Proper Piano Hand Position

Why does good piano hand position matter? So glad you asked! To answer this question, allow me to give you a small glimpse into my history as a pianist. When I first started studying piano at college, I had a teacher who didn’t teach me proper piano hand position.

For a while, this didn’t matter, as I was able to get a satisfactory sounding tone, sense of phrasing, and musicality out of the instrument. As a college level pianist, however, I was required to practice many hours a day; at one point, I was doing 5 hours a day.

Very quickly, my hands and arms would hurt to the point where picking anything up would be painful. At the time, I didn’t know that this pain was caused by poor piano hand placement.

It wasn’t until I came to San Diego State University to further my piano playing, when my piano teacher Dr. Follingstad, immediately began to address and remedy the issues within my piano hand positions.

Good piano hand placement not only prevents injury, but it also allows a pianist to get better tone quality. I remember when I was a beginner and thought that the tone of the piano was unchangeable. I didn’t realize that the position of my hands could absolutely affect the sound coming out of the instrument.

In addition to the previously mentioned benefits, proper piano finger positions allows a pianist to play quicker, with more agility, and with greater accuracy.

What is the Proper Piano Hand Position?

With all of the aforementioned benefits of using a proper piano hand positions, it would seem that the only thing left to do is to learn how to actually do it!

Thankfully, a good piano hand position is actually much easier to learn than many people think! Like any new skill, however, maintaining good piano hand placement requires consistent practice on behalf of the student.

I will be using piano hand positions approaches that have worked for me, specifically that of my teacher Dr. Follingstad, as well as tips from renowned piano teachers like Leschetizky, Dohnanyi, and Alfred Cortot.

  • Step One: To get a natural piano finger position, try standing up beside your piano and relaxing your hands at your sides. If you feel tense, shake out any stress that you may have in your arms, hands, and fingers.
  • Step Two: One should sit far enough from the keyboard to let the fingertips rest on the keys without effort when the arms are normally bent, and the feet should reach the pedals without stretching.
  • Step Three: Notice how your fingers natural curve in toward your body and how your knuckles curve out slightly away from your body. Also, notice how the thumb and index finger make a slight “C” shape. Keep your hands and fingers in the same position as this, but bend your arm at your elbow so your hands are in front of you with your palms down.
  • Step Four: The result should be that the fingertips are in contact with the lid, the knuckles of the hand should be fairly even with one another, and they should be slightly higher than the wrist. The first knuckle closest to the fingertips should be flexed during most playing styles. It should not collapse or cause the fingers to become perfectly straight.
  • Step Five: The wrist should be relaxed and level with the hand. To find the ideal position, hold your fingertips on the surface of the keys while maintaining the firmness of the knuckles of the hand. Move your wrist upwards and downwards and notice the tension created by having the wrist be either too high or too low. Now find the place in your wrist that feels most natural; often it will be where the wrist is even with the arm.
  • Step Six: Finally, make sure to notice whether or not any part of your arm has tensed up. Check your wrist, shoulder, and forearm – if they feel tense, relax them while keeping your fingers on the keys.

If you’re more of a visual learner, check out this infographic depicting the proper piano hand positions below:

piano hand position

Tips and Exercises for Proper Piano Hand Placement

As previously mentioned, proper piano hand position takes consistent practice to develop.

Cortot, Leschetizky, and Dohnanyi all offer similar techniques when it comes to practicing good piano hand positions. In particular, playing variations of pentascales as chords, while lifting one finger at a time and holding the remaining notes down.

To make this applicable to students, try the following exercise:

Play the notes C, D, E, F, G simultaneously as a chord with your right hand with one finger per key. Slowly let your thumb come up by letting the key lift it. When it reaches the top, don’t let your thumb lose contact with the key. Instead, simply press it down again by using the muscles in your hand.

Try not to let your arm and elbow do the work for you. If you have never done these piano hand exercises before, you may feel as though you can’t push down the keys very hard. This is totally normal! Don’t attempt to push down the keys hard, just focus on making your fingers do the work.

Double check your piano hand position– are the knuckles firm or floppy? Are you tense in your arm or shoulder?

After completing this exercise with your thumb, work your way up your hand by having each finger separately push down its respective key while holding the others down. In this manner, work your way up the hand and back down, eventually switching over to the left hand and doing the same process.

For those who are more adventurous or want some more piano hand exercises to do, try this page of Dohnanyi exercises and see how you do!

Make sure to pay careful attention to the positioning of the hands relative to the wrist, the knuckles, fingers, and so on. Go slow enough that you can do the page without tension.

A good piano hand position is fundamentally important to both aspiring and accomplished pianists.

By following some of the tips above and applying them with consistent practice, you can rapidly improve your ability to play the piano with accuracy and dexterity.

Post Author: Ryan C.
Ryan C. teaches piano, ear training, and music theory. He is a graduate of San Diego State University with a B.M. in piano performance. Learn more about Ryan here!

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for convenient, affordable private lessons today!

Newsletter Sign Up

How to Read Sheet Music for Piano: A Visual Tour

Visual Tour of How to Read Sheet Music

As you learn how to read piano sheet music, a whole new world opens up! Instead of just black dots on a page, you’ll see beautiful melody and chords right before you. Here, piano teacher Nadia B. takes you on a helpful visual tour… 

 

One of the most interesting things about learning piano is that it’s truly like learning a new language – just as you learn how to decode words on a page to read them aloud, you are learning to unlock the symbols on the page to play music. It’s a whole different world, and this article will help you to more easily understand what all the symbols mean. That way, when you look at a piece of sheet music, you won’t think it’s Greek; you’ll see music!

First, let’s take a look a piece of sheet music; then, read on to learn more about each element:

how to read piano sheet music

1) The grand staff

The first thing to recognize is the grand staff. It is composed of two staffs (or groups of five parallel lines) joined together. The top staff uses the treble clef, while the bottom staff uses the bass clef. In general, the treble clef is where right hand notes are placed, while the bass clef is where left hand notes are placed. Once you know the piano note names, you will be able to read from the two staffs to play the correct notes with the correct hand.

In piano music, you can use different fingers to play a single note. The finger you use will depend on the location of the note within the phrase, as well as the hand position you are using. For this reason, you will often see finger numbers marked in the music to indicate which finger you should use. Finger numbers are an essential aid to playing well, as they will ensure that you maintain a good hand position and move naturally around the keyboard without awkward finger tucks.

2) Key signature

Directly after the treble and bass clef, you will see the key signature: a collection of sharps or flats that indicate which notes to alter within the music, as well as what key you are playing in.

3) Time signature

After the key signature comes the time signature: usually two numbers, one above the other, that tell you how many beats are in each measure and what type of note (quarter, eighth, half, etc.) is equal to one beat.

4) Tempo marking

You will also see a marking indicating what tempo the piece should be played (for example, allegro, indicating lively, or largo, indicating very slow). As you progress on the piano, you’ll get to know these common sheet music terms very well. Sometimes this also includes a specific metronome marking, which is a guideline to understand the range of tempi that are possible.

Then, you will see several things that occur throughout the music:

5) Dynamic markings

These markings tell you how loudly or softly to play the music, and when to gradually increase or decrease the sound. The letter ‘p’ indicates to play piano, or softly, while the letter ‘f’ stands for forte, or to play loudly.

You will see a marking similar to a hairpin for a crescendo, or gradual increase in sound, and a reverse hairpin for a decrescendo, or gradual decrease in sound. The location and length of the crescendo and decrescendo markings show you how long they should last and where to begin and end them.

6) Articulation markings

Another category of markings you will see is for articulation, or the way in which notes begin and end. In the written music, you will see symbols like accents (similar to a forward arrow), indicating to play the note with emphasis, or staccato (a dot above the note), indicating to play the note with space before the next note (slightly shorter than full value). You will also see slurs, lines that slope above or below a group of notes, which signify to connect the notes smoothly together as you play them.

7) Mood markings

Another marking you may see will indicate the mood of a particular passage. So you may see espressivo (play with great emotion) or appassionato (play passionately) marked in the music, among many others.

8) Pedal markings

One of the most important markings specific to piano is pedal markings. These illustrate where to depress the pedal and, often, how long to sustain it for. You will see this in the music as the abbreviation ‘Ped.; or sometimes as a bracket underneath the line of music.

 

So, the next time you pull out your piano sheet music, don’t feel overwhelmed. Instead, try going on a treasure hunt for these markings and symbols, and see what you discover about the music itself as a result!

Still struggling with understanding how the notes translate to the keys? Check out my visual intro to the piano keys!

View all Takelessons.com Free Sheet Music Resources.

Nadia BPost Author: Nadia B.
Nadia B. teaches flute and piano in New York, NY, as well as through online lessons. She acted as principal flutist of the orchestra and wind ensemble at California State University, Sacramento, and then went on to receive her degree in Music Performance from New York University. Learn more about Nadia here!

Photo by Joe Shlabotnik

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for safe, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

Learning Piano

5 Bad Habits Holding You Back as You Learn Piano

Learning Piano

Are you not making the progress you were hoping for in your piano lessons? Read on as piano teacher Nadia B. explains some of the common bad habits that may be holding you back…

 

When you’re learning piano, you’re busy mastering a variety of skill sets — note reading, rhythmic competency, independence of the hands, musicality, and so much more. It’s easy to focus so much on these things that you might be developing bad habits… without noticing. Read on to learn more about the five worst habits for piano players, so that you can make sure you avoid them!

1. Practicing scales mindlessly or with bad technique

You should definitely pat yourself on the back for practicing your scales, one of the most important components of learning piano. But once you see the value of practicing scales, it’s important to make sure that your scale practice is helping you improve and not reinforcing bad habits. It you find yourself slogging through scales, not really paying attention to what you’re doing, or if your hand position is awkward and not well-coordinated, then you might want to re-evaluate your scales practice routine. Try for precision, correct fingering, ease of hand position, and fingers flowing onto the keys, even if it takes a little longer and means you do fewer scales. With scale practice, it’s definitely quality over quantity.

Tip: Bored with scales? Try these four fun ways to practice scales!

2. Memorizing music completely with muscle memory

Pianists have a long tradition of performing music from memory, and the pressure can be on when it’s almost recital time and your piece still isn’t memorized. Pianists often resort to playing the piece they’re trying to memorize over and over until they can play it in their sleep. The only problem? That type of rote memorization can go terribly wrong if there’s a moment of distraction, or if the pianist messes up and tries to restart where he or she left off.

The way to avoid this bad habit is to leave plenty of time to memorize piano music by analyzing the score, listening to and playing along with recordings, and practicing intelligently and consciously, instead of relying on muscle memory to commit the song to memory.

Tip: Here are some additional strategies for memorizing piano music from music teacher Joy Morin.

3. Not breathing well, combined with bad posture

Breathing and posture go hand in hand, since our ribs attach to the spine, and excessive compression in the torso can severely limit breathing. If you find yourself hunched over the piano, with your head pulled forward to see the music better and your breathing is shallow, your posture is compromised. Believe it or not, this will affect your music-making.

To solve this bad habit, take a few moments in between practicing sections of a piece to notice your sitting bones releasing into the piano bench, allow your spine to uncurl from any compression, and send your head away from your spine, allowing it to balance easily right on top of your spine. You should feel more spacious and have more flexibility for ease of breathing.

Tip: Here’s a wonderful infographic explaining piano posture, from Hoffman Academy.

4. Unruly hand position

Perhaps one of your fingers sticks up in the air, or your thumb hangs low, below the keyboard. Whatever your habitual hand position, finding a comfortable, flexible and coordinated hand position can change your entire relationship with the piano. You will make better contact with the keys, have more control over dynamics and coloring, and play technical passages more easily and smoothly. Having an uncoordinated hand position can hold you back in a variety of ways as you’re learning piano, so make sure this bad habit isn’t one of yours!

Tip: Check out this infographic for an easy exercise to improve your hand shape for playing the piano.

5. Not learning to read music correctly

Do you find yourself struggling to read piano music correctly, over and over? Or perhaps you struggle with playing in time and with correct rhythm. It’s important to learn to read and interpret all aspects of the music correctly, so that you can play with correct notes, rhythms, dynamics, articulation, and phrasing. If you’re struggling to recognize all the various symbols and positions of the notes on the staff, try going through a music theory book and/or note speller.

If you work to avoid these five worst habits for piano players, you will be a more coordinated and skilled pianist who can confidently learn new music, practice efficiently, and perform well. It’s worth the little bit of extra effort it takes to incorporate the strategies to combat these bad habits, as you’ll see a great improvement in your musicality, technique, and fundamental keyboard skills.

Tip: Here are some fun online games for learning piano notes!

Think you’re avoiding these bad habits? It’s always a good idea to check with your piano teacher, who can give you expert advice and help you continue to practice piano like a pro!

Nadia BPost Author: Nadia B.
Nadia B. teaches flute and piano in New York, NY, as well as through online lessons. She acted as principal flutist of the orchestra and wind ensemble at California State University, Sacramento, and then went on to receive her degree in Music Performance from New York University. Learn more about Nadia here!

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for safe, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

How to Read Piano Music Faster: Intro to the Keys

Visual Intro to the Keyboard

When you’re new to playing piano, you might feel overwhelmed by all the keys! But here’s a secret: those 88 keys can be reduced to just seven piano notes, and a few essential patterns. Easy, right? Here, teacher Nadia B. shares a super-easy visual introduction…

 

Did you know the keyboard of a piano is full of tricks and secrets? Music is full of different patterns, and as you become more familiar with them, you’ll learn how to read piano music faster, while playing confidently and correctly. If you want to learn how to read piano notes quickly (and improve your sight-reading skills), knowledge of these basics is essential. Following along with a YouTube piano tutorial might be fun, but it’s not going to help you progress as a pianist.

So where do you start? Some of the main building blocks of music that come in handy with piano are half steps and whole steps, the chromatic scale, enharmonics, and flats (noted as ‘b‘) and sharps (notated as ‘#’). Here’s what you need to know…

Half Steps

Just like the structures of chromosomes make up the whole of a DNA strand, half steps make up the whole of the keyboard. A half step on the keyboard is going from one key to the next one directly above or below it, without skipping any keys. A half step could go from a white key to a black key (for example, G to G#), a black key to a white key (e.g. G# to A), or a white key to a white key (e.g. E to F). See the image below for an illustration of these examples.

Half Steps

You will find half steps in both major and minor scales. For example, in the C major scale, E to F and B to C are both half steps.

C Major Scale Half Steps

Familiarizing yourself with half steps and being able to rapidly recognize them will allow you to decode music more easily, as you’ll be able to see the same patterns of half steps in written music.

Whole Steps

Whole steps are the big sibling to half steps. Two half steps make a whole step, and whole steps are what make up major and minor scales, in addition to half steps. An example of a whole step is from F to G on the keyboard; in between F and G we have two half steps — F to F# and F# to G.

Whole Steps

An example of a whole step in a major scale is from F to G in the F major scale. Similarly to half steps, recognizing whole steps and understanding their function allows you to read piano music faster and also learn how to create major and minor scales using a set pattern of whole and half steps.

Chromatic Scale

Now that we’ve covered the building blocks of any piano scale, we can cover a scale that relates directly to half steps: the chromatic scale. Composed entirely of consecutive half steps (that is, not skipping any keys from the beginning to the end of the scale), the chromatic scale is most often practiced by starting on any note, reaching the same note one octave higher, and then descending back to the original note. For example, we can start from F in one octave, play up to F in the next octave, and return back to the original F.

F Chromatic Scale

A sequence of notes may start on one note and end on a different note — it’s the pattern of consecutive half steps that distinguishes it as chromatic.

Enharmonics

Another fundamental concept of the keyboard is that one key can have multiple names. This can cause a great deal of confusion, but once you understand how it works, you’ll find it pretty simple. ‘Enharmonic’ is the name for this concept. For example, F sharp, which we find by identifying F on the keyboard and then moving up a half step, can also be called G flat, which we find by identifying G on the keyboard and then moving down a half step. We arrive at the same note, F sharp/G flat (F#/Gb).

Enharmonic Notes

It’s good to recognize the dual names of enharmonics because you will sometimes see both names within one piece as the key modulates. Enharmonics allow us to travel to different keys seamlessly and logically.

Sharps and Flats on the Piano

Going right along with harmonics is an understanding of how sharps and flats work. Sharps always indicate a movement up in pitch and direction on the keyboard (i.e. to the right), while flats always indicate a movement down in pitch and direction on the keyboard (i.e. to the left). It’s important to understand them because you will see flats and sharps in the key signature and as accidentals throughout the music, and you’ll need to apply them correctly throughout the music.

The key to applying sharps and flats correctly is knowing that you are always moving in half steps. A flat indicates a half step down, while a sharp indicates a half step up. Knowing this, you can also apply double flats and double sharps properly. If you see a double flat, that means you should move downward two half steps from the original note, while a double sharp indicates that you should move upward two half steps from the original note. An example of this would be D double flat: by moving from D to D flat and then again from D flat to C, we arrive at D double flat (which is the same key as C).

Double Flat

Using half steps as a means of applying flats and sharps is an infallible method, and you’ll be moving around the keyboard easily once you learn this method.

To recap, here are the four building blocks on one handy infographic:

How to Read Piano Music Faster - Visual Intro the Piano

How to Read Music Faster & Improve Your Sight Reading

Understanding these basic structures at the piano will help you to read piano music faster, especially when you’re sight reading. Viewing a phrase, you will no longer see each note as a separate entity — rather, you’ll see the relationships between them (whole steps, half steps and larger intervals), as well as patterns that make up scales like the chromatic scale or the major scale. Knowing how sharps, flats, and enharmonics work means that you won’t be stymied by an unusual flat, like C flat. Instead, you’ll easily translate it to B natural in your mind. With these tips, you should be sight reading more fluently and accurately than ever before.

Now that you understand the patterns of the keyboard, don’t hesitate to try to find examples of these in your piano music! You will discover a unique language that is logical, organized, and creative all at once, and decoding it will result in many hours of delight making music at the piano.

Next up? Check out my other visual tour, and learn how to read piano sheet music!

Need some extra help? A private piano teacher can lead the way! Search for a teacher near you here.

Nadia BPost Author: Nadia B.
Nadia B. teaches flute and piano in New York, NY, as well as through online lessons. She acted as principal flutist of the orchestra and wind ensemble at California State University, Sacramento, and then went on to receive her degree in Music Performance from New York University. Learn more about Nadia here!

Photo by mararie

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of prescreened teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for safe, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

How to Make Scales and Arpeggios FUN

4 Ways to Make Practicing Piano Scales FUN! [Infographic]

Tired of practicing piano scales over and over… and over again? While repetition is great for your muscle memory, getting bored won’t do you any favors. Here, New York, NY piano teacher Nadia B. shares four ideas for how to practice scales in new ways…

 

It’s no doubt that learning the fundamentals of piano — like major and minor scales, arpeggios, and so on — make a huge impact on your success as a musician. However, these exercises are often avoided at the piano, out of fear that they will be boring and useless. How many times have you done all your major scales, over and over, in the same rhythmic pattern and tempo, two hands at a time, two octaves, and with the same articulation? Practicing in this way can leave little motivation to repeat the sequence every day, as it can be boring, unmusical, and stiff.

Fortunately, there are many different ways to practice that can really shake things up! Piano practice should be deliberate, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be boring.

The following ideas will show you how to practice scales and other piano fundamentals in a way that is fun, inspiring, and useful. And once you see the door that scales and arpeggios open, you will want to “play” through them, over and over, deepening your understanding of the fundamentals and the musical expression they enhance.

Ready to get started? Here’s how to practice scales in new ways…

4 New Ways to Practice Piano Scales

Share this Image On Your Site

 

Take pleasure in your exploration of scales and arpeggios; as your fingers and brain become more nimble, it will feel more and more like play at the piano. Have fun!

nadiaBNadia B. teaches flute and piano in New York, NY, as well as through online lessons. She acted as principal flutist of the orchestra and wind ensemble at California State University, Sacramento, and then went on to receive her degree in Music Performance from New York University. Learn more about Nadia here!

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of prescreened teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for safe, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

Photo by dajing

Tricks for Beginners to Visualize Piano Major Scales

Piano Tips: 3 Smart Tricks to Visualize Major Scales

Tricks for Beginners to Visualize Piano Major ScalesAs a beginner learning to play the piano, you might feel overwhelmed by all of the new information — major scales, minor scales, and triads, oh my! How do you remember it all? Start with major scales and check out these tips from St. Augustine, FL piano teacher Heather L...


Maybe the beginning of your piano studies has gone just swimmingly. Perhaps note reading is coming easily to you. You’re a natural at technique and posture. But you’ve really hit a wall with those major scales. It can be tough to see which keys belong in that specific order. (“Where’s the black key, again?”) Have hope! There are easy ways to remember your scales. Here’s a list of tricks for beginners to visualize piano major scales.

Use colored objects

This terrific blog entry from The Teaching Studio highlights some great ways to have fun and learn a lot, too. One way is to take little colored fuzz balls that you can get at any craft or dollar store and, using a different color for every key, place the balls on the correct keys first before playing the scale. If you need help remembering at home, you can check out the free printables Jenny offers, including fun piano games and exercises.

Remember where your “neighbors” live

Pictured above is an illustration from Emily Clark Music of a keyboard and a description of a major scale. The idea here is that you can start anywhere on the piano and build your scale, key by key. For example, begin on an E flat. Every scale is made up of both whole steps and half steps (also referred to as “tones” and “semitones”), and major scales have their own order. It goes like this:

whole – whole – half – whole – whole – whole – half

This means that, beginning on E flat, you would play:

E flat – F – G – A flat – B flat – C – D – E flat

Remember, a half step is when two keys are neighbors. There’s no other key between them. A whole step is when two keys have one other key between them.

Another way to think of this is to remember that in major scales, there’s always a half step between scale degrees three and four and between seven and eight. The only neighbors are between the third and fourth keys and the seventh and eighth keys.

Highlight the keys

highlight- Tricks for Beginners to Visualize Piano Major Scales

Photo via pianotools.com

Over time, you’ll begin to see and “highlight” the keys of each scale, as if they’re lit up from the inside. Until then, there’s a really neat tool from pianotools.com that you can use to highlight the keys for you! Just enter the name of the scale that you’d like to see, and the tool will color the correct keys of that scale for you to see. It’s a great reference for those days when you’re just stumped.

 

One or more of these tricks for beginners to visualize piano major scales will surely help you. If you’re still having a difficult time visualizing the scales on the keyboard, then it could be that you simply aren’t a visual learner. Some people are, while others are aural learners (who learn best through sound and words), while still others are kinesthetic learners (who learn best through motion and muscle memory). Talk with your school music teacher or your piano teacher about it. He or she may be able to help you find out which kind of learner that you are. Once you know, you’ll be able to set yourself up for success by finding different ways to approach your piano studies.

Looking for a piano teacher in  your area? Start your search here!

HeatherLHeather L. teaches singing, piano, acting, and more in St. Augustine, FL, as well as through online lessons. She is a graduate of the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, and has performed with the New York and Royal Philharmonics, the New Jersey and Virginia Symphonies, the American Boy Choir, and the internationally renowned opera star Andrea Bocelli. Learn more about Heather here!

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of prescreened teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for safe, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

Photo by Celeste

piano practice

Infographic: How to Practice Piano for Your Best Results

piano practiceWhat’s the best way to practice piano? If you really want to become a better piano player, you’ll need to have a plan in place when you sit down at the keys. Here, online piano teacher Crystal B. shares her recommendation for breaking down a 30-minute practice session…

 

Whenever you sit down to practice piano, it’s important to make the absolute best use of your time. For beginners, 30-minute practice sessions are a great place to start! Here are some tips to ensure that your practice time is effectively helping you become a better musician. Let’s break down a 30-minute practice time:

5 minutes: Warm up – Spend this time getting your fingers and wrists loose and ready to play! Your instructor will be able to provide you with some great exercises for this.

Tip: This is also a great opportunity to check for things like correct posture, that you’re sitting centered at middle C, and that you’re holding your hands/wrists in the correct position. If you’re not sure, imagine that you are resting your hand on top of a tennis ball. This is how your hand should look — and make sure to keep your wrists straight.

10 minutes: Technique/Theory – Technical exercises are so important to your development and improvement as a pianist. Unlike the warm-up time, this is the opportunity to really push yourself! I include piano theory during this time because so many times, these things can work hand in hand. For instance, you can incorporate things like practicing scales and chord inversions into this time. Doing this will not only help you solidify your theory knowledge (which is so important!), but you’ll also be working on strengthening your fingers and becoming a more versatile player.

Tip: Make sure you prioritize note accuracy,  correct fingering, and playing evenly over speed while working on technical exercises. You should try to increase your speed eventually, but only after you’re able to play the exercise correctly and evenly.

10 minutes: Song Assignments – If you’re taking piano lessons, most likely your instructor will have assigned you a song (or songs) to practice during the week. These song assignments will usually be given to help reinforce what you are learning in your lessons. If you have been given more than one song, try to spend some time playing each one so that you don’t lose any ground you’ve gained during previous practice times. Typically you’ll be working on songs longer than a week, so remember, just make sure you are making progress and having fun!

Tip: When working on songs (especially if they are difficult), don’t feel like you need to attack the whole song at once. Many times it’s best to work on songs in sections, and your instructor can help you in deciding how much is appropriate to tackle each week. Also, don’t forget you can start with hands separately at first, and then try them together. This will make learning new songs much more manageable.

5 minutes: Free Play – You’ve worked hard, and during this time I recommend playing something just for your own enjoyment. This could be anything from a song that you’ve already mastered to trying to write a song of your own! Doing this is a great reminder of why you play piano in the first place — because you love it!

Are you a more visual learner? Check out this handy infographic to learn how to break up your piano practice for maximum efficiency:

How to Plan Out Your Piano Practice for Success

Share this Image On Your Site

CrystalBCrystal B. teaches piano online. She has been teaching all ages and levels for more than 15 years. Learn more about Crystal here!

 

 

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of prescreened teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for safe, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

Photo by Nic Frank

 

How to Play Loudly and Beautifully at the Piano

3 Tips for Playing Loudly (and Beautifully) at the Piano

How to Play Loudly and Beautifully at the PianoPiano dynamics indicate more than just playing softly or loudly — there’s actual technique involved that you’ll need to learn! Here, New York, NY piano teacher Nadia B. shares her tips to keep in mind…

 

You’re approaching a passage with the word ‘fortissimo’ written on the music, and you’re building up to a musical climax. As you feel the power of the music, you want to play loudly, but when you do, it doesn’t sound as beautiful as you imagined. Playing loudly at the piano is easy; to play loudly, beautifully, and with emotion at the piano can be challenging. With the following tips, you will be able to create a sonorous and beautiful sound at a loud volume, something all pianists desire.

It’s About the Connection

One of the keys to playing piano dynamics — and playing loudly, in particular — is to understand the relationship between your body and the piano. You may imagine that the piano alone is responsible for creating the sound, but actually, the openness of your body influences the sound the piano creates. If you are over-contracting large areas of your muscles in your body (especially the hands, wrists, and arms), the connection you make with the keys will not allow for a loud and beautiful sound. Rather, the sound will be dampened by the tension you are exerting within your own body and into the keys of the piano.

When playing the piano loudly, a good way to think of creating sound is to draw the sound out of the keys by striking them from an angle, not from above, and with an action similar to that of a cat pawing. Allowing your body to stay open and elastically braced (meaning both strong and flexible) will allow you to make a resonant sound at the piano and also ensure that you don’t injure or hurt yourself as you play a loud passage.

Set Your Intentions

Another element of playing loudly and beautifully at the piano is to always set a musical intention. The reason for playing loudly at the piano should never be to play loudly; rather, there should be a musical intention or expression of feeling that is desired. Dynamic markings at the piano are relative; just as a piano marking could be played very softly or or a bit more loudly but with the sentiment of hushed and quiet, a forte marking can be played a bit less loudly but with a feeling of expansion, power, and volume.

Keep it Loose

Now that you can think in terms of expression rather than absolute volume, the following idea can also be helpful. A good rule of thumb for loud playing at the piano is to only play as loudly as you can without feeling tense within your body. If you feel tightness in your neck, or shaking in your arms, or other signs of excessive tension in the body, that’s a sign that you should back off a little and allow for more ease within the body. While this may mean playing a little less loudly, it will result in a more satisfying and full expression of the music and a more comfortable experience in your body.

Another way you can learn to play loudly but without more tension than is needed is to play the passage at a lower dynamic, and then slowly increase the dynamic. After each iteration at an increased dynamic, check in with yourself. If you feel that you added extra tension, stay with that level of dynamic until you’ve reached a level of ease before you move on.

Playing the piano dynamics in the music is a very important tool in your musical toolbox. Taking time to master the technique of playing loudly and beautifully is worthwhile, and keeping these tips in mind as you explore the range of louder dynamics will help you become a better piano player!

nadiaBNadia B. teaches flute and piano in New York, NY, as well as through online lessons. She acted as principal flutist of the orchestra and wind ensemble at California State University, Sacramento, and then went on to receive her degree in Music Performance from New York University. Learn more about Nadia here!

 

 

Interested in Private Lessons?

Search thousands of prescreened teachers for local and live, online lessons. Sign up for safe, affordable private lessons today!

Free TakeLessons Resource

Photo by Asher Isbrucker