If you are thinking about starting piano lessons for the first time, you may be wondering what to expect in your lessons. The first few piano lessons, regardless if they are in a traditional private lesson, a group piano class, or even a method of self-study, usually focus on a few simple concepts and exercises to get the absolutely new piano player started.
You will first learn about some of the essential parts of the piano: the keyboard or manual, the strings, the soundboard, and the pedals, and how these parts work together. The keyboard consists of eighty-eight keys that sound from left to right the instrument’s lowest note to its highest one. When a key is pressed, a hammer strikes one or more strings that are strung tightly across a brass harp inside the piano’s body. A soundboard amplifies the sound of the vibrating string producing the tone that we hear. When a key is released, felt dampeners stop the strings from sounding. The piano’s three foot-pedals affect the sound of the instrument in different ways. The most frequently used pedal is the right-most one called the sustain pedal. The sustain pedal inhibits the dampeners from stopping the vibrating strings until the pedal is released.
Now that you have some basic understanding of the piano’s workings, you will then probably spend some time learning how to sit at the piano, and how to place your hands on the keys. These two lessons are extremely important, especially for adult students. Piano players need to learn a sitting position and hand position that efficiently allows them access to all the keys, as well as not put any undue strain on their body.
The acoustic piano, unlike an electronic keyboard, actually takes quite a bit of strength and flexibility to play. Professional classical pianists share much in common with athletes: fine motor skills, highly trained muscles, and the ability for a great deal of concentration. Like athletes, if pianists over practice or use incorrect technique, they risk injury.
Once you learn how to sit and place your hands, you usually learn the fingering system, and the middle C hand position. Middle C refers to the note and piano key that is literally in the middle of the keyboard. The fingers of both hands are simply numbered from one through five starting with the thumb. You will also learn some rudimentary music theory in the first or second lesson, typically the musical alphabet and how it relates to the repeating pattern of black and white keys of the keyboard.
Students learn to play their first notes with an emphasis on producing a clear tone, while moving the fingers of the two hands in parallel and contrary motion. You also begin learning to read music at this point, with an introduction to the piano staff, simple rhythms, and how they relate to the middle C hand position.
Once you understand these basics, you will learn about other hand positions, and will probably begin to play simple songs or pieces. It is at this point different methodologies, learning curves, and repertoire will be introduced. Which direction your piano lessons will take will depend on your needs and desires, as well as those methods that the instructor favors.
If we are learning classical piano, your lessons will focus on learning pieces and studies from different style periods at a graduated level of difficulty. Lessons will be complimented with the study of technical exercises such as scales, and possibly even more music theory.
If you are studying popular musical styles, you will begin to learn some written out arrangements of familiar tunes, as well as how to build and play different chords, common chord progressions, and typical song forms. Jazz piano lessons will add in the dimension of improvisation techniques.