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easy classical piano songs

15 Easy Classical Piano Songs for Beginners [Videos]

easy classical piano songs for beginners

Looking for some easy classical piano songs to add to your repertoire? You’ve come to the right place!

While mastering the works of Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven might sound intimidating, there are a number of easy classical piano songs that you can learn.

If you’re interested in learning the classical piano style, start by practicing this list of easy piano songs. Learning these beginner piano songs will give you a solid foundation that you can build upon as you advance in your lessons.

15 Easy Classical Piano Songs for Beginners

1. Bach’s “Prelude to the Well Tempered Clavichord”

This easy classical song uses two simple piano notes in the left hand, with arpeggios in the right hand. It’s not too long of a song, and it’s great to play around with dynamics too.

2. Mozart’s “A Little Night Music” 1st Movement


This orchestral piece can be easily transferred to solo piano. Check out this helpful tutorial, which breaks it down at a much slower pace and don’t forget to use a metronome while you practice!

3. Chopin’s “Prelude in E min, Opus 28, No 4”


This melancholy minor classical piece has a simple melody in the right hand, with basic chords on the left hand.

4. Edward MacDowell’s “To a Wild Rose”


This easy classical piano song is a very light, simplistic classical piece. It sounds easy and refreshing, with simple fingering.

See Also: 15 Simple Piano Solos that Sound Complicated

5. Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”

This is often the first classical piano song that students try when learning how to play the piano. That’s because the song has a very simple rhythm, melody, and fingering.

6. Debussy’s “Claire du Lune”


Meaning “moonlight,” this classical piano song for beginners is pretty straightforward. You can find many simple arrangements to this piece on YouTube.

7. Strauss’ “The Blue Danube”


This fun waltz might sound tricky, but it is actually not hard to play at all. Check out the slowed-down version above.

See Also: 15 Pop Piano Songs to Practice

8. Offenbach’s “Can-Can”


If you want a small challenge, this uptempo song is perfect. Try listening to the original orchestral version for some extra inspiration.

9. Schubert’s “Ave Maria”


“Ave Maria” is a must for beginners learning how to play classical music. This beautiful beginner piano song is appropriate to play at many events, such as weddings and funerals.

10. Pachelbell’s “Cannon in D”


Originally performed with strings, this classical piano song can sound very full when played on the piano with chords.

See Also: 10 Tips for Perfect Piano Practice

11. Beethoven’s “Fur Elise”


One of the most memorable melodies on the piano, beginners can easily pick up this piece in the right hand, and use simplified bass root notes in the left.

12. Bach’s “Minuet in G”


Another easy piece that sounds difficult, this minuet is a joy to play for all ages. Because it’s quite popular, it’s easy to find different arrangements of it online.

13. Tchaikovsky’s Theme from “Swan Lake”


Everyone knows this romantic anthem, often played to accompany dancers. The legato piece has a strong melody and a very easy rhythm.

See Also: 100 Easy Piano Songs to Play in All Genres and Styles

14. Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plumb Fairy”


This iconic song from “The Nutcracker” is very fun to learn on the piano. You can take it as fast or as slow as you want. It’s also a great song for practicing stacattos.

15. Lizt and Rossini’s “William Tell Overture”


This is another one of those easy classical piano songs that’s sure to please. There are many great themes from this work to which you can learn the melody and rhythm.

Related: 5 Easy Pop Songs to Play

Now go ahead and give it a try! Don’t feel intimated or overwhelmed by classical music – just start with these easy classical piano songs for beginners.

If you’re feeling stuck, you can find simplified arrangements to all of these songs in piano books, such as Hal Leonard and Alfred’s course books. Or you can ask a local piano teacher for help.

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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!

Photo by Carlos Gracia

left hand piano exercises

Videos: 4 Super-Effective Left-Hand Piano Exercises

left hand piano exercises

Struggling with your left-hand piano technique? Don’t worry — it’s a common challenge for beginners. Follow along with the videos in this post as teacher Liz T. shares a few helpful exercises… 

 

One of the hardest parts about playing the piano is coordinating your two hands. Often your left hand and your right hand will be playing different notes and rhythms, and it can be really frustrating for beginners!

You might also find you have one hand that is stronger than the other, which makes it even harder when you need to play difficult or fast patterns with your non-dominant hand.

Luckily, with time (and practice, of course), it gets easier. The trick is to isolate each hand, and spend extra time and practice with whichever hand is your weakest. For many, that’s the left-hand piano technique.

Since the left hand usually highlights the bass line and drives the song forward, it’s important not to neglect it! If you are having trouble, I’ll show you a few exercises that will help. Follow along with the videos and let’s strengthen that left hand!

4 Left-Handed Piano Exercises

 

1) Simple Blues Pattern

This pattern is often heard in blues progressions, and it’s great for practicing arpeggios and scales with your left hand. For this exercise, start in the key of C and play 1-3-5-6-b7 (C, E, G, A, Bflat). Once you’ve got that down, try out different keys and work your way to a blues progression. For instance, try the chords of I-IV-V-IV-I (C-F-G-F-C). Once you’ve mastered this exercise, you will feel much more confident improvising!

2) Simple Blues Chords

Use the same I-IV-V-IV-I structure from the first exercise, but this time you will be playing triads. Let’s look at the key of C: first start out in root position, then 1-4-6, then last 1-5-flat 7. This is a common chord progression found in blues, jazz, musical theater, and country music. This is great for practicing navigating your way around chords and strengthening your little fingers!

3) Easy Classical Pattern

This bright, uplifting pattern is a great warm-up for the left hand, and it’s also fantastic for strengthening your pinky finger. You will often come across this style and accompaniment in the left hand in classical music. Let’s start with the key of C: start your pinky on C, then play the chord EG (1, 5), then move to the low G with the pinky. You can use the same fingering as you move through other keys, too.

4) Easy Blues Pattern

Now use a 1-3-5-6-5 pattern with the left hand with a bit of a swing feel! This is a common pattern you’ll hear in blues and jazz, and even some early rock (omitting the flat 7). As with the other left-hand exercises, try this in all keys that you’re comfortable with.

I recommend incorporating these four exercises into your daily practice. If you take time each day, and little by little, you will start to see major improvements in your left-hand piano playing!

And of course, if you’d like to learn even more piano exercises and really improve your skills, working with a private piano teacher is key. I’m available for online piano lessons, or you can search for a local teacher with TakeLessons!

LizTPost Author: Liz T.
Liz T. teaches piano, singing, and other music subjects 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!

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Feeling Bored? 3 Ways to Stay Motivated at the Piano

Are you getting bored or perhaps discouraged with playing the piano? In this week’s guest post, Allysia from PianoTV.net shares three ways to stay motivated at the piano…

We all know the drill with motivation. You listen to a great recording or live performance, and are filled with energy and enthusiasm. You rush to the piano and happily practice every day for a week, a month, or even longer.

But then maybe you get bored, or hit a rough patch, and suddenly you can barely drag yourself over to the piano. Practice seems like a chore, not a joy. Waxing and waning motivation is something that all musicians struggle with.

In today’s PianoTV episode, I wanted to sit down and chat about some solutions on how to stay motivated at the piano. Below are my top three tips for staying motivated. To catch the other five, check out the video below.

1. Find Inspiration

I’m inspired to play music by many things. One of them is probably pretty obvious, but worth saying: Listening to music. There are a few key albums that always fuel me up and leave me eager to get playing.

These albums and musical inspirations are different for everyone, so it’s worth taking note of those truly amazing albums that you  love. That way, if you’re in a slump, you can pull out the album or whatever it is, and remember why you love music in the first place.

Sometimes listening to a radio station is enough to fire me up. I hear a really awesome song, and suddenly I want to run over to the piano and play awesome songs.

But for musical motivation, I think it’s essential to listen to music on the regular, in whatever format you prefer. If you’re learning music, you have to immerse yourself in music to feed the fire.

2. Keep it Fun

Staying motivated at the piano means having fun while you’re there. If you hate doing something, it doesn’t matter how much inspiration you find – you still won’t want to do it. And if practicing is dull and painful, then you have to adjust it to feel fun and rewarding.

Yes, practicing piano is hard work. It’s a lot like exercising. You have to find a way to do it that you enjoy, or else it’ll never stick. For example, I absolutely hate jogging and lifting weights, but I love yoga.

Sometimes the last thing I want to do is hop on my yoga mat, but I’m always glad I did once I do it. Practicing piano can sometimes feel like that – you’re not always going to be happy-dancing to the bench, but once you get going, it should be enjoyable.

3. Build a Daily Routine

Sometimes staying motivated at the piano is simply building it into a habit. If I don’t exercise at least every weekday, I lose steam and fall of the bandwagon completely. It’s an all-or-nothing thing for me. I can’t just do it a few times a week, I need to do it every day.

Beyond that, I need to exercise at the same general time each day (late morning). I do the same thing with piano. If you aren’t practicing daily at more or less the same time each day, you’re working against yourself.

Building specific habits make it much easier to maintain a steady stream of motivation. Without habits, getting yourself to do something challenging (like play piano) can feel like swimming upstream, and on days when you’re not feeling too strong, you’ll probably abandon it entirely.

But habits allow you to run on auto-pilot. If it’s a built-in part of your day, you don’t need a lot of momentum to practice. You just do it.

Your Turn!

Good luck with your piano practicing adventures! If you enjoyed this post/video, you might enjoy my 32-page e-book titled, “How To Practice Piano (and like it!)”. You can find that on the PianoTV website.

Guest Post Author: Allysia K.
Allysia is an experienced piano teacher and creator of PianoTV.net. She’s been teaching piano to all ages and levels since 2005. Learn more about Allysia and PianoTV.net here.

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Top YouTube Piano Channels for Learning Piano

MO - Top YouTube Piano Channels for Learning Piano

If you’re looking to supplement your piano lessons, then YouTube is a great option. There are tons of piano tutorials that you can browse through when you’re feeling stuck on a particular skill or simply want to learn a new song.

While these YouTube piano tutorials won’t entirely replace an experienced piano teacher, they do a great job answering any questions you may have in between lessons. Below are our favorite YouTube piano channels.

These piano YouTube channels featured high-quality videos that cover a wide range of topics, from piano fingering to piano scales and more. Check them out below!

Top YouTube Piano Channels for Learning Piano

1. TakeLessons

The TakeLessons’ piano playlist is a great place to start if you’re looking for helpful exercises to add to your daily practice routine.

This channel also frequently livestreams entire piano classes, so you can watch a live instructor and even participate by asking questions in the chat box. Check out some of the previous livestreamed piano classes here.

2. Piano TV

Hosted by experienced piano teacher Allysia, pianoTV is filled with quality-produced piano tutorials.

In addition to piano tutorials, the piano YouTube channel features informational videos on different piano styles and composers.

Click on the “Popular Uploads” tab to browse through some of her most popular videos.

3. Piano Video Lessons

Do you want to learn some new pop songs? PianoVideoLessons is a great channel for beginners who want to learn popular piano songs without reading music.

The easy-to-understand piano tutorials will teach you how to play today’s biggest hits from artists like Adele, Taylor Swift, and more!

4. HDpiano

Using game-like software, HDpiano helps users learn today’s most popular songs from artists like Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith.

Need some practice tips? The piano YouTube channel also has a series of videos containing expert practice tips.

5. Piano in 21 Days

Developed by Jacques, Piano in 21 Days is dedicated to teaching students how to play popular songs on the piano.

In addition to piano covers, the popular YouTube piano channel features a series of piano chord videos that will help you learn both major and minor chords.

6. Living Pianos Videos

Created by concert pianist Robert Estrin, LivingPianosVideos has some great piano tutorials for all ages and skill levels.

The channel features an abundance of videos on memorizing music, mastering piano techniques, and practicing chords.

7. Hoffman Academy

If you’re a true beginner then Hoffman Academy is perfect for you.

The YouTube piano channel offers an array of videos that walk users step-by-step through different piano concepts, such as dynamics, intervals, and more.

8. Pianist Magazine

From the creators of Pianist Magazine, this piano YouTube channel has a series of videos geared toward all different levels.

If you’re a beginner, for example, the channel has a number of videos focused on the basics, such as slurs, rhythm, and sight-reading.

Check Them Out!

Whether you’re a beginner or intermediate student, these YouTube piano channels feature videos for every level.

Tell us… what’s your favorite piano YouTube channel? Or do you have a channel of your own? Sound off in the comment section below.

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piano finger exercises

Need for Speed: 5 Piano Finger Exercises to Increase Speed

piano finger exercises

Do you have a need for speed? Below, piano teacher Ryan C. shares some piano finger exercises that will help you increase speed when playing the piano…

What makes a great pianist fun to watch? Is it his or her sense of musicality and his or her ability to play gorgeous music with apparent ease? I think both.

However, there is another skill that really makes a pianist great…speed!

Have you ever watched an amazing pianist play ridiculously fast and wondered to yourself: “How in the world does he or she do that?”

I’m here to give you some insight into how pianists are capable of playing at such fast speeds. The remainder of this article will give you a few piano finger exercises that will substantially improve your piano playing speed.

As always, remember that tone quality should be your primary focus when you’re learning and that too much speed too soon can oftentimes be detrimental to learning.

Here are some piano finger exercises you can do to increase your speed when learning to play the piano.

Note: If you’re more of a visual learner, check out the video where I walk you through each exercise. 

5 Piano Finger Exercises to Increase Speed

1. Be Aware of Your Thumbs

I’ve noticed in my own playing and my students playing that sometimes our thumbs tend to be lazy.

Specifically, when doing scales, the thumbs should cross under the hand and prepare the next note as soon as they are able to do so.

For example, if you were playing a D Major ascending scale with your right hand, you would want to play the note D with your thumb, and E with your index finger.

Immediately after you play the note E, cross your thumb under your hand and prepare near the note G.

It doesn’t necessarily need to be sitting on the key G, but it should be moving up the keys so that it will be prepared when you need to play it next.

Likewise, if you were playing the same scale in a descending pattern with your left hand, you would perform the same task, but simply would be playing the scale in reverse.

Practice the motion of playing your thumbs, then index fingers, then preparing your thumbs again multiple times each day.

I can’t emphasize enough how well this piano finger exercise works. It may seem superfluous, but it absolutely makes a difference.

2. Play with Finger Staccato

This is a great piano finger exercise that actually takes a little time to figure out.

In essence, you’ll play notes of your passage or notes of a scale in a staccato that comes primarily from your finger.

You will want to avoid using your arm or any unnecessary muscles when doing this.

When doing this exercise, try to mentally challenge yourself to use as few muscles as possible. See just how much force it takes to push down the key.

You’ll be surprised to find that it actually takes very little force at all. Be aware of what your hand is doing and try to play only from your fingertip.

3. Block Scales-Chords-Passages

This is an awesome exercise for improving both scale speed and chord recognition. Suppose you have a section of music that looked similar to the section of a Mozart sonata below.

piano finger exercises

Rather than playing the left-hand as separate notes, play each measure (and each chord change) as a blocked chord.

Not only will you be able to identify the notes you’ll need to play with greater ease, but you’ll also have a better understanding of the harmony of the piece.

This same technique can also be applied to scales, but it takes slightly more practice to do so. When doing so with scales, you’ll want to play every finger simultaneously except for your thumbs, which will act as pivot notes and should be prepared early like we were doing in the first exercise.

4. Play with Alternating Rhythms

This exercise is very simple, but provides great results. If we look at the left hand in the Mozart piece from the previous example, we’ll see that it’s playing an Alberti bass pattern (alternating bottom – top – middle – top) and also has even eighth notes.

Rather than actually playing the notes as even, instead change the rhythmic values of the left hand to variations of dotted eighth and sixteenth notes like the ones below.

piano finger exercises

5. Practice Your Scales and Arpeggios Every Day

It seems rudimentary, but it really makes a difference. My students who practice their scales every day can not only play faster than my students who don’t, but can also play with more musicality because they aren’t struggling to figure out notes.

Now It’s Your Turn!

I hope that these piano finger exercises will help you increase your playing speed. I do these piano finger exercises every day and I have seen substantial improvement in my playing speed from before I started them.

Please comment below if this article helped you in any way. I’m always excited to hear feedback!

Photo by Brian Richardson

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!

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How to Improve Your Piano Practice With a Metronome

Do you want to take your piano practice to the next level? Below, piano teacher Julie P. shares tips on how to use a piano metronome to help improve your playing…

If you’re serious about improving your piano playing, you might want to consider using a piano metronome during your practice sessions.

Metronomes are great for developing a strong internal beat and testing yourself on how accurately you play your music.

Not sure what exactly a metronome is, or how to use it? Below is a helpful guide on how to practice piano with a metronome.

What is a Piano Metronome?

A metronome is a device that emits a sound on each beat, for a set number of beats per minute. Metronomes today are mostly electronic with a sound like a click or beep for each beat.

Each metronome has a range of tempos in which it can be set, usually from about 40 beats per minute to about 240 beats per minute.

For piano, a metronome can be used several different ways; for example, it can be used as a diagnostic tool or a guide for developing a strong internal beat.

Where Can I Buy a Piano Metronome?

You can buy a basic metronome at almost any music store, usually for around $30 or less.

There are also more advanced machines, such as Dr. Beat, that have more sophisticated options like different sound options and drum machine patterns to play with.

While these are great machines, they can cost over $100 and they’re not always necessary for most piano players.

If you’re on a budget, there are a bunch of free online piano metronomes available. For example, 8notes.com has a piano metronome that you can try.

There are also tons of smartphone metronome apps. I suggest Tempo because it has tons of features including 35 different time signatures, the ability to accent or turn off beats, and programming functions for you to customize a beat pattern for a specific piece of music.

You can even create playlists of multiple songs and share them with your friends. My favorite feature is the ability to loop a section of a piano piece, which allows you to zero in on a tricky time signature or tempo change.

3 Ways to Use a Piano Metronome During Practice

Diagnostic Tool

First, play a section of a piece through without the metronome. Then set the piano metronome to the tempo you were playing at and play the section again.

You’ll probably notice that in some parts of the passage you struggle to keep up with the metronome, while in other parts you tend to rush ahead.

The sections where you have trouble staying with the piano metronome are the sections you have to work on.

For example, use a metronome while playing your scales. You’ll probably find that there are sections of the scale where the rhythm is uneven. Those are the sections you need to iron out away from the metronome.

You can’t play steadily with any beat if you have technical issues in your playing. Once you feel more solid on the passage, test yourself against the metronome again.

Guide for Developing a Strong Internal Beat

Try tapping and counting in your lap the rhythm of a piece you’re learning. Do this along with the metronome and you’ll see how securely you know the rhythm of your music.

Try to make your rhythm as crisp and accurate as possible so that it fits exactly with the metronome.

Set the metronome so that it only makes sound on the first beat of every measure. Can you play in time throughout each measure so that you end up on beat 1 when the metronome does?

An Assistant

For passages that you can play securely, but not as fast as you’d like, you can use the metronome to help you work on speed.

Set the metronome to a tempo you can play securely and then after playing it well 3 times in a row, bump up the tempo by 3-6 beats a minute.

Continue doing this until you reach your goal tempo. Sometimes it will take a few days of working this way to fully reach your goal.

If you’re having trouble figuring out a complicated rhythm with triplets or sixteenth notes, try using the subdivision setting on the metronome.

Hearing the divisions of the beat will help you find where to put each note of the rhythm.

Your Turn!

There are even more ways to practice piano with a metronome, but the exercises above are a great place to start.

You might find that it’s hard to play with the metronome at first, but the more you practice with it, the easier it will get.

Used the right way, the metronome can greatly help your piano playing.

JuliePPost Author: Julie P.
Julie P. teaches flute, clarinet, music theory, and saxophone lessons in Brooklyn, NY. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Ithaca College and her Masters in Music Performance from New Jersey City University. Learn more about Julie here!

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piano duets

10 Famous Piano Duets You Can Learn Today [Videos]

piano duets

Looking for some fun piano duets to play with your friends or family members? Below, we’ll share 10 of the most famous piano duets that are surprisingly easy to learn.

Playing the piano doesn’t always have to be a solo activity. If you’re looking to make piano more of a social activity and be challenged at the same time, try playing the following piano duets.

Learning how to play piano duets can be complicated at first. With a little practice, however, you’ll get it down in no time!

10 Famous Piano Duets for Beginners

1. Heart and Soul by Hoagy Carmichael


This simple piano duet from the 1930’s will leave you wanting to play more. With very distinctive melodies in both the left and the right hand, either hand is quite fun to learn. Check out the cute father and son piano duet above.

2. Chopsticks


The famous Chopsticks waltz is a great song for teaching kids how to play together. There are many easy piano duet versions out there. Watch the two students play the piano duet in the video above.

3. I Got Rhythm by George Gershwin


This piano swing tune is great for adults to learn. You can find an arrangement to a tune like this in the Hal Leonard Gershwin 2 piano book.

4. West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein

The music from “West Side Story” is absolutely gorgeous to play as a piano instrumental. Many of the songs can be performed as a duet. Check out the video above in which the musicians play a duet of the medley of the entire show.

5. Hungarian Dance No 2. by Franz Liszt


This easy piano duet is great for students to play around dynamics, tempos, and finger agility.

6. Rock Around the Clock by Bill Haley


This upbeat rock ‘n’ roll tune from the 50’s is a ball to play. Great for students to dive in and explore this genre together, such as the young girls in the video above.

7. All I Ask of You by Andrew Lloyd Webber


This heart melting song from “Phantom of the Opera” is breathtaking as a piano duet. With both classical and Broadway elements, this song is perfect for any performance. It’s also a great song to practice glissandos, octave jumps, and dynamics.

8. Let It Be by The Beatles


The Beatles wrote several great songs that can easily be transferred to the piano as duets. Beatles songs are quite easy to play on the piano, as many of the songs repeat the same chords.

9. Piano Man by Billy Joel


Billy Joel often teams up with Elton John, another iconic piano and vocal legend, in playing this famous song. Notice in the video above that they use two separate pianos, but are still playing a duet together.

10. Sonata in D Major by Mozart


For the more advanced piano player, try placing two pianos facing each other if you have the capabilities of doing so, as this song requires a broad range, and quick hand movements.

Quick Tips For Playing Piano Duets

  • Find the right partner: Find a partner that is near or about the same level of piano training as you, as it can be difficult to play with someone who’s less or more advanced than you.
  • Divide responsibilities: Make sure that you discuss who will be responsible for what. For example, determine who will count off or set the tempo, as well as who will turn the pages if necessary.
  • Practice on your own: Before you meet with your partner, make sure that you have your part down pat. This will ensure that there’s no confusion when it comes time to combine the individual parts.

Now you’re ready to start learning some of these easy piano duets. Audiences love seeing famous piano duets performed, and as a piano player it is tremendously satisfying to play a duet with a partner. Good luck!

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!

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Photo by David Mulder

piano sight reading

9 Piano Sight Reading Exercises for Beginners

piano sight reading

The ability to sight read well is a skill that every pianist should have. Below, piano teacher Ryan C. shares 9 piano sight reading exercises to help you master this important skill…

It’s the first day of rehearsals at your school’s choir. Everyone has been assigned new music that they haven’t seen or sung before. You can sing, but you definitely consider yourself more of a pianist.

Your teacher walks in and solemnly says: “Hi everyone, our pianist is sick today, so we’re going to have to work on voice parts one part at a time, because my sight-reading skills aren’t that great. Unless, of course, someone here can sight read all the parts?”

You waste no time in raising your hand and declaring “I can do it!”

What is Piano Sight Reading?

Sight reading is essentially what its’ name implies: the ability to look at a piece of music and play it with very little to no prior rehearsal time.

Sight reading is a skill in which every pianist needs to become familiar, even if it means that he or she is only able to sight read pieces that are at or below his or her level of repertoire-performance.

Sight reading not only involves reading notes, but also encompasses implied musicality. For instance, a pianist should be able to take musical queues and respond appropriately when paired with other instrumentalists or singers.

Overall phrase shape, texture, and mood should all be considered when sight reading a new piece. These concepts are often reinforced by the other people you’re playing with, who can help you interpret the way to play a new piece.

Why Piano Sight Reading is Important

As displayed in the introduction scenario, it’s easy to see why sight reading would be useful in a plethora of situations. For instance, a good sight reader will almost always have employment options available.

Options such as working as an accompanist, being a pianist for a choir, a studio musician, a church pianist, and multiple other options, are always in constant demand.

Additionally, a pianist who has strong piano sight reading abilities will often be able to learn music at a much faster rate than those who can’t read as well.

It’s essentially the difference between reading one letter at a time and reading one word at a time. Just imagine how long this article would take to read if you could only read one letter at a time.

It’s surprising to see how many new pianists unknowingly take the second, more difficult approach to reading.

With the 9 piano sight reading exercises below, I will give you some options to help speed up your reading and quickly get you to a higher level of piano sight reading ability.

But before we get into the piano sight reading exercises, take a quick look at this 5-minute video on the basics of sight reading from Pianist Magazine.

9 Piano Sight Reading Exercises for Beginners

Below are some helpful piano sight reading exercises. These will assume that you have at least a few minutes to look at a piece before you have to play it. Let’s get started!

1. Flashcards

Unfortunately, memorizing notes can seem really tedious at first; nonetheless, it’s an important step that everyone must take.

If you spend just 10 minutes a day working on it, you’ll have the majority of the notes that are within the lines (not on ledger lines) on both the Treble and Bass Clefs memorized within several weeks.

Using flashcards is a great way to memorize notes. Just throw them in your bag and review them whenever you have a few minutes; for example, while you’re on the bus or in between classes.

2. Always Think Musically

It’s very easy to get sucked into thinking that you have to play all of the notes perfectly and forget the innate musicality of what you’re playing.

Remember, this is music–it should be musical. When something becomes too “note-y” and ceases to sound musical, what’s the point of playing it?

Even in piano sight reading, therefore, think of the musicality that defines the piece and do your best to bring that out.

3. Think Contour, Not Note Name

After you have enough notes memorized to get the starting pitches on passagework, don’t try to read every note of a passage.

Rather, look at the contour (or direction) of the notes. Do they go up or down? By how much (whole-step or half-step)?

By taking this approach, you’ll be able to easily read passagework that would take significantly longer to read if you were trying to read every single note separately.

4. Remember Your Scales

In a particular passage, do you see a succession of notes that seem to be going way up or down the staff? Does it have any sharps or flats? What note does it start and end on? Does it skip any notes?

If you ask yourself questions like these throughout you’re playing, you’ll find that many of the scale-like passages within pieces use fingerings from scales that you probably already know.

5. Practice Easy Pieces Based on Closed Hand Positions

This is a great exercise for beginners to get their feet wet with piano sight-reading.

There are even some great piano sight-reading book series out there, specifically by Lin Ling-Ling and Boris Berlin, that utilize this idea.

In essence, students should practice pieces that use five-finger positions that don’t give them the note-names or finger numbers except for the ones at the beginning of a piece.

This forces students to look at the contour and internally distinguish what finger is playing each note.

Even if they don’t know the note names yet, this method of reading is highly effective and produces great results.

6. Read Ahead as Much as Possible

This is super, super important! When sight reading anything, you always need to be a few notes ahead of what you’re actually playing.

To paraphrase one of my faculty accompanist mentors at SDSU: “Read it, and move on!”

In essence, after you read something, you should already be reading notes ahead of what you’re playing.

7. Practice Reading Hands Separately

Practice reading each hand separately, but preparing the other hand for its section well before it actually needs to play.

This piano sight reading exercise is actually way more important than it sounds. While I don’t think that students should stay for a long time in the hands-separate world, I do think that the method of preparing the opposite hand early is extremely important.

I’ve noticed that the biggest obstacle my students often face in piano sight-reading is the lack of preparation of the opposing hand.

They are often reading one hand perfectly, then the other hand starts a melody and the student has neither prepared it or looked far enough ahead to know what the starting pitch/hand position should be.

8. Play Through the Piece Without Stopping

Piano sight-reading is as much about reading notes as it is about supporting the other people you’re playing with.

In many cases, a sight-reading pianist is often playing in combination with an ensemble of some type. Therefore, you cannot stop playing.

Even if you can’t read all the music, always keep counting and play what you can, when you can.

Play at a manageable speed in which you can read as much music as possible and continue to play and count even when you make mistakes, no matter how severe they are.

Try not to repeat pieces you’ve already played, because then it’s no longer sight-reading, it’s just practice.

As an important side note, don’t use this method when practicing repertoire – always try to avoid learning incorrect notes.

9. Familiarize Yourself with Note Combinations

Chords and triads are the building blocks of harmony. Make a goal to learn all the major and minor chords that can be played on white keys, (C, D, E, F, G, A, B Major & Minor).

Now memorize the letter combinations that make up each chord. For instance, E Major = E, G#, B ; E Minor = E, G, B ; etc. Eventually, move onto the black key combinations, inversions, and seventh chords.

This step is incredibly important for students who are more on the intermediate side of piano sight reading. There will come a point in your reading in which you’re seeing things more as chords, and less as individual notes.

By having a solid foundation in the notes that make up chords, you’re saving yourself tons of time down the line. It’s much like the difference described earlier – reading entire words at one time compared to reading individual letters.

Now You’re Ready!

The ability to sight read well is a skill that every pianist should aspire to do, as it opens up career opportunities for a pianist.

For a student, this skill set will enable you to learn music faster, more accurately, and spend less time working on trying to read every note.

I hope that some of these tips will be helpful and give you some new insight into the world of piano sight reading!

Photo by Frédéric BISSON

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!

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YouTube piano tutorial

Learn 8 Easy Piano Songs With These YouTube Tutorials

YouTube piano tutorial

Looking for easy piano tutorials? You’ve come to the right place! On this list, we’ll share how to play eight famous piano songs everyone will recognize.

No matter what kind of music you’re interested in — be it rock, pop, jazz, or anything else — there are certain songs and melodies that are sure to wow a crowd.

While not all the songs on this list are for beginners, these tutorials break down the piece into easily-digestible sections, helping you learn even faster. Without further ado, here are eight easy piano tutorials for some classic songs — enjoy!

8 Easy Piano Tutorials

How to Play “Ode to Joy”

This is a fantastic piano tutorial from YouTuber Bruce Siegel at DoctorKeys.com. After playing the piece in entirety, Bruce then demonstrates how to play each hand, slowly, along with a visual representation of which keys are being played.

Watch and follow along a few times, and you’ll be ready to show off this easy piano song in no time!

How to Play “Clair de Lune”

This tune plays in one of the best scenes in the movie Ocean’s Eleven. While “Clair de Lune” isn’t the easiest song to play on the piano, this video tutorial from JJ Bartley Music breaks it down super slowly to make it much less scary.

This three-part tutorial will take some time to get through, but the end result is worth it!

How to Play “March Funèbre”

While you may not recognize the name of this piece, you’ll definitely recognize the tune! This somber song is demonstrated by YouTuber John Nelson on a keyboard with the note names clearly shown, which can help if you haven’t yet learned how to read piano music.

(Tip: John has a TON of other YouTube piano tutorials on his channel, including the top 40 songs from Taylor Swift and Sam Smith!)

How to Play “Moonlight Sonata”

This 8-part video series by YouTuber Claude Aylestock — though not the full version of the piece — is a great introduction to Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”.

If you already know your way around the piano a bit, but just need some practice reading along with sheet music, this tutorial is a great option. It shows both the sheet music AND the host’s hands!

SEE ALSO: 8 Piano Apps Worth Downloading

How to Play “Ave Maria”

One of the most popular and easy piano tutorials is this video featuring “Ave Maria” from YouCanPlayIt.com.

As you follow along, you’ll be introduced to the left and right hand parts separately and slowly. Put it all together, take the tempo up a notch, and you’ve got it!

How to Play “The Entertainer”

This piece, performed by Dr. Cory Hall at BachScholar, is more for intermediate to advanced piano players — it’s a tough one!

You’ll need to have your sheet music in front of you for this, as the video is less a piano tutorial, but more an interpretation and explanation of the style and feel of the piece.

How to Play “Love Song”

This easy-to-follow YouTube piano tutorial by HDPiano slowly demonstrates the right and left hands, showing you how to play the intro and the verses of the song.

Only the first part of the tutorial is free, but it’s a great way to get started!

(Want more pop tutorials? Check out our extended list of easy pop songs for piano!)

Finally, if you want to be the life of the party, look for lists of the most-requested dueling piano bar songs. These songs are guaranteed to get everyone singing along and having a blast.

How to Play “Don’t Stop Believin'”

Another fantastic YouTube piano tutorial from HDPiano! In this one, you’ll learn the intro and verse for Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'”.

The syncopation is a little tricky — but the more you practice, the easier it’ll get. And trust us… the minute you start playing this one, everyone around you will pay attention!

So there you have it: eight easy piano tutorials for playing some of the most popular songs! Of course, these videos should be considered just a starting point.

So what’s next? Working with a piano teacher to learn how to read sheet music, understand tempo and dynamic markings, and more! Not sure you’re ready for that yet? Don’t worry. Start by taking some free online piano classes.

Do you have another piano tutorial to recommend? Let us know about it in the comments section below!

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Top 5 Piano Tutorial Videos on YouTube

Top 5 Piano Tutorial Videos on YouTube

Before the Internet, the library was the best resource when researching schoolwork, and tutorial books provided step-by-step instruction for budding instrumentalists. Now, you’re far more likely to switch on your computer and search for piano lessons online. With YouTube rapidly becoming the go-to place for tutorials in just about anything you can think of, these five short videos will form a useful starting point for piano lessons online.

Piano Lessons for Beginners – Lesson I

As this YouTuber says, this is a fun video taking the absolute beginner through the basics of piano; the beauty of this video is the assumption that the budding player has never even sat at a piano before, and therefore has no prior knowledge, so it’s a very simple introduction to the instrument.

Two Hands Together Practice – Part I

One thing that many beginners find very difficult is coordinating right and left hand together, and there are surprisingly few piano lessons online that address this. The simple exercises shown in the video below will give you some help. Your dominant hand – whether you are right- or left-handed – will always be a little in front of the other, and it’s worth incorporating exercises early on that help to even this out.

Finger Exercises For Piano That Really Helped Me

This video has the benefit of a clearly-written chart behind the keyboard, which is particularly useful if you’re still learning the notes on the piano. These exercises are aimed at finger strength as well as dexterity, which are essential elements in helping you to improve.

Music Theory – Bass Clef (Understanding and Identifying Notes)

Not strictly a piano tutorial as such, but it’s not uncommon for bass clef knowledge to lag far behind note recognition in the treble clef, which can hold you back as a beginner. Unless you have sung in a choir as a bass, you’re likely to be scrambling for unfamiliar notes in combination with your less-able hand (if you’re right-handed).

Tutorial: Sightreading at the Piano

Although this piano tutorial is aimed at slightly more advanced players, the principles addressed are extremely useful for beginner players, too. It’s helpful to learn how a more advanced and experienced pianist approaches music, as these are skills that you should develop early on. It’s interesting to note that he doesn’t advise learning the two hands separately, which he equates to learning to speak with only vowels first and adding consonants later. This video really addresses the importance of making your hands work together!

However informative and high-quality these videos might be, keep in mind that they shouldn’t replace working with a piano teacher in an interactive, one-on-one setting. These videos can’t check your posture, or hear any mistakes you make that you might not notice. Nor will they be able to recommend further exercises that might help you, or which piano pieces to work on next! Unlike band instruments or being a choral singer, being a pianist can be a slightly isolating experience, and another function a good teacher can fulfill is to give you someone simply to “talk piano” with. Ready to get started? Find a piano teacher near you here!

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Photo by Filipe Ramos