Do you want to learn how to play keyboard? A lot of people do, but often give up early on or never even start for any number of reasons. They might consider themselves too old to still be learning an instrument, for instance. Others might find their progress too slow and give it up in the middle of their lessons. Still others might think they have no hand for it from the beginning, due to a seeming inability to grasp even the most basic tutorials.
But these really should not be taken as sufficient reason to give up learning the keyboard. No one is ever too old to learn how to play an instrument, for one. Many adults actually learn in their 30’s and onwards.
As for slow progress, it may simply indicate a need for a shifting of gears. This may even be fixed by the solution for an apparent difficulty with the basic lessons, which is to try a different instructional style for your studies.
Sometimes, people really just are not compatible with a particular method of teaching. Some people take easily to the traditional methods of piano instruction, whereas others require something more unorthodox — something like Robin Hall’s Piano For All digital lessons, for example. What is important is to find the teaching style that works best with the way you learn.
Important Tips for Improving Keyboard-playing Style
After you have selected an instructor or course that agrees with your learning abilities, you can do certain things to further improve the speed of your progress. You do not need to follow all of these tips, but trying them all at least once can greatly enhance your results.
- Learn to read music. This is not necessary for everyone to learn how to play the keyboard: many people actually learn to play by ear, for example. That said, there is a reason learning musical notation is considered foundational in traditional music classes. Even most of the unorthodox piano playing courses — like Hall’s, which we mentioned earlier — still incorporate some form of musical notation study in their syllabi.
Being able to read sheet music can be of great help to any musical student. For one, it opens up many avenues of learning given that a lot of teaching styles still depend on familiarity with musical notation as a base. For another, it also opens up more practice songs and sheet music to you.
- Practice playing songs at different tempos. The tempo of a song is essentially its speed. In the classical style, the tempo of a song would be written on its sheet music copy. For example, it could be specified as something that needs to be played in largo, or perhaps adagio, or perhaps presto. All of these are Italian terms and they indicate the tempo of the score.
‘Largo’ signifies broad playing, and is usually equivalent to a speed of 50 beats per minute (BPM). Moving up the tempo scale gets you ‘adagio’, which is for songs meant to be played at ease or at leisure. That translates to a BPM of 70.
‘Moderato’ speeds it up even further, although it still only stands for moderate-speed play. Songs marked as ‘moderato’ have tempos around 110 BPM. After that is ‘allegro’, which can include songs with BPMs anywhere from 120 to 160. Finally, there is ‘presto’ — the speediest songs, which have BPMs of 180.
If you are just starting out on a keyboard, you can do the simplest practice songs in largo at first. Then you can move it up to adagio, then to moderato, eventually to allegro, and when you really have a handle on the tune, presto. Varying tempo is a great way to really stretch your fingers to their full potential.
- Learn to sing/vocalize notes. You do not need a great voice to do this. The idea is just to be able to produce the note — whether orally or mentally — so that you know what it sounds like. That way, when you do play, you know immediately if the note you pressed on the keyboard is the right one for the sheet music or song you’re following. If you know what the middle C sounds like, after all, you are less likely to commit the mistake of pressing a different C key.
- Choose the best keyboard for your needs. A piano may be the go-to instrument here, but it may not be ideal for everybody. Anyone who wants to learn how to play the keyboard for classical songs should go with the piano immediately — unless their real focus is harpsichord pieces, naturally — but others may have different intentions. Some people want backing rhythms for their music, for instance, and electronic or digital keyboards offer those.
In fact, digital keyboards can be good choices for people still learning how to play. For one thing, they can handle lighter action better, as they are mostly unweighted. Piano keys are weighted, so they are more sensitive to the pressure you put on them during play.
There are also some digital keyboards with lighted keys that help you figure out what to press next in a song. Furthermore, some digital keyboards give you means to record and play back your own performances. This can help you evaluate yourself as you progress in your studies.
- Learn the right posture. Posture actually does matter a lot when you are learning how to play on a keyboard. Using the right bench helps here, as it will be conducive to keeping the right posture. Using the wrong posture or arm/wrist position can result in strain,and this can dissuade you from spending a longer time practicing on the instrument. The more comfortable you are on it, on the other hand, the more time you are likely to spend getting your exercises down.
- Practice each day. You do not have to practice a lot — you do not even need to spend 2 hours of practice every day. What matters is that you keep it up. You may not think yourself learning much at first, but over time you will notice your touch getting lighter and better-modulated and you will find yourself stretching less over certain songs.