December 2, 2023

I’ve played the piano since I was four years old, which means I’ve been at it for 43 years. Along the way, I’ve written hundreds of songs, some of them listenable. I’ve also gigged with all sorts of bands from blues to rock to country to jazz.

And I’ve been asked a hundred times to offer piano lessons. It’s just something I don’t have time to do one-on-one, even for money.

However, as somebody who loves creating digital content and who enjoys the process of building an audience, teaching piano is something of value I can offer to you, the blog-reading masses. I’m crazy enough to believe I can help you learn how to play the piano fast. So, I’m creating and posting videos to my YouTube channel that support these lessons — and today’s lesson is “How To Play The Piano For Beginners, Lesson 1.”

And it’s all about the notes.

Before you can play expertly, you have to learn the basics. Before you learn how to play fancy chords, you need to learn basic chords — and before you do either, you need to learn the notes.

There are 88 keys on a piano, but really there are only 12. These 12 keys have 24 names, some of them more common than others. Your first piano lesson is to memorize the names of these notes and how they sound. Memorizing the names of the notes will help you when it comes time to read music, and internalizing the sound of the notes will help you pick out songs by ear.

Both are fantastic skills for a piano player.

What I’m showing you in this video, below, are the notes in the C Major scale. While the lettering of notes on a piano starts with A, really, everything on a piano revolves around C, specifically middle C.

Look at your keyboard and pick out middle C.

And then look at the next seven white keys: C-D-E-F-G-A-B

There are five black keys, and each one has a name relative to the white key before it or ahead of it. For example, the key right after (a half-step above) C is either C# (C sharp) or Db (D flat) depending on the key signature of a song. The key signature is a fancy way of saying what key a song was written in, and that’s helpful mostly for those who read music. However, it can also inform somebody who plays by ear how the song is going to go.

For example, if somebody says, “Let’s play the blues in E,” I’m betting we’re going to go from the E chord to the A to the B and then back to the E. I know that because I know the structure of basic three-chord blues, and I know the key signature of E. Because I know that, I know that the G is going to be sharp. The C will be sharp, too, and the D will as well, thanks to that B chord.

Maybe think about it this way.

Sean Combs is Puff Daddy. He is also P Diddy. And then recently, he became something else, too: Love. Did I read that right?

What you call Combs at any given time depends on the context of the situation — and that’s what a key signature is: compositional context. All I want you to do right now is memorize the danged notes.

Here they are below.


Memorize how they sound, and then listen to some of your favorite songs while you sit at the piano and see if you can pick out notes. That will help to train your ear as much as actual playing will train your fingers.

Here is each note, close-up. Open this blog post on your tablet or phone and sit at the piano with it.

This is C.


This is C sharp. It’s also D flat.


This is D.


This is D sharp or E flat.


This is F. Technically, it’s also E sharp!


This is F sharp. It’s also G flat.


This is G.


This is G sharp or A flat.


This is A.


This is A sharp but it’s much more commonly referred to as B flat.


This is B.


And then we’re back to C, which is technically B sharp. But don’t call it that; people will look at you funny.


Thank you for reading this post, watching my video and checking out my music. I’m passionate about YouTube and want to grow myself in this wonderful community. If you’re a musician or content creator, and I should be subscribed to you, please let me know. I genuinely want to consume as much of your content as possible. I’m also interested in content collaboration! Hit me up.

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Ryan Welton is a songwriter, musician and digital journalist from the Oklahoma City area, Norman to be specific. #BoomerSooner He is a fan of all-things yacht rock, all-things late 1970s and early 1980s and a student of digital content creation. —

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2 thoughts on “How to play the piano for beginners, Lesson 1

    1. Kenneth — thank you for writing and subscribing to my channel. What video topic would help you most next? Chord structure? Scales? Thank you again!!

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