The piano is truly the father of all musical instruments. The deep, rich, full and complex sounds and arrangements it produces have no rival in the music world. Especially if you strive to become a multi-instrumentalist and enrich your musical point of view of all instruments – I think that you will reap the most benefits from playing the piano out of all other options.
It's not a surprise that just about every university music program includes piano lessons regardless of what is the student's major instrument. The piano opens your whole point of view to incredibly wider dimensions. It's been called “the father of all instruments” for a reason.
With that said, the piano also has the reputation for being the hardest to become good on. My 2 cents here are that I think that the biggest mistake people do with piano as beginners is that they try to learn using “old” methods that were meant more for classical music – with sheet music and sight-reading – instead of focusing on chords! (which are a lot more simple and sounds better in my opinion, especially when you sing on top of it) That's what frustrates so many people and causes them to fail their plan and abandon the piano soon after they started. So if you're into playing modern music and songs – read on!
See one of my piano covers in the paragraph below, and you can see more on my YouTube channel. You too can play like this very soon.
If you play guitar, so think about that from a guitarist's point of view – when you started to learn guitar, did you go straight to playing complex fingerstyle song arrangements, using music note sheets, that involved playing both the chords and the melody all together? Heck no!
You started with chords and from there on you were able to play any songs you wanted. People who play complex fingerstyle arrangements on the guitar which involve chords and melody at the same time are very rare and almost all of them have only gotten into it after years of playing. Bottom line – I think that the piano can and should be approached with exactly the same idea in mind!
The idea is that chords, along with chord patterns, (the relatives of the guitar's “strumming patterns”) will enable you to play ANY song immediately – instead of struggling with melodies and sheet music for weeks just to play a single song.
You can (and should, at least in the beginning) play piano without sheet music and notes, and sadly, that's not what most methods and teachers will tell you! Personally, I even prefer chords played and melodies sung instead of both of them played like how it is supposed to sound with sheet music.
Also – when you play with chords – you enjoy massive creative freedom – since there are dozens and dozens of ways that you can choose to play a song, (by playing around with different accompany patterns on those chords) and ALL these ways would sound great!
Unlike with sheets and notes where there is only one way of playing “right” and any small mistake can sound so harsh. No thanks. I like having fun and being relaxed when I play music, and just go with my own creative flow.
So here's what most outdated, classical teaching methods will try to teach you to play. Sure, it sounds nice, but it'll take you months just to play that ONE piece smoothly, and remember that real music on stage never even sounds like that. Instead, there are chords played and the melodies are sung.
And here's how the real deal sounds like on stage. Paul McCartney playing Let It Be live. Pay attention to how the piano part is a lot more simple. You can learn that piece in a month from now even if you have never touched a piano. It's also a lot less stressful to play.
Think about that! Elton John. Billy Joel. (check out Billy Joel in action in this super cool video) The Beatles. Coldplay. The Rolling Stones. Do you think that if you want to play all of their songs you need to learn piano in the ordinary and frustrating way through sheet music? The good news are – definitely not.
Learning piano for beginners is ten times easier than how 95% of the books and courses make it seem like! And guess what? Most of the times even the performing piano rock musicians themselves don't use sheet music, they use the chords and their ears.
That's exactly where lies the biggest difference between rock music and classical music – in classical music there's one way to play a piece “right”, while when you're playing modern music using chords you can come up with a different way every time you play the song, and it'll all sound good. So the smart way is to take full advantage of that fact.
To explain my point, here is what the Let It Be version that most books and courses will try to get you to play looks like on paper: (or any other song – but only a few months down the road… First you will have to wade through a lot of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star kind of stuff…)
While all you really need to play the song BEAUTIFULLY and just like Paul McCartney plays it himself looks like this: (It's actually a very simple song!)
So do you see where the problem lies with the traditional, outdated and popular ways of teaching piano?
So dump the sheet music, don't waste y'er time, and focus on chords. That's all it takes to start playing gorgeous music very quickly.
“Give someone a fish and you'll feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and he'll eat for a lifetime.”
This is the perfect analogy about learning classical piano pieces (or popular songs) through note sheets (which will give you just one fish by teaching you the song note for note) vs. learning some chords and some strumming patterns. (thousands of songs have now opened for you to play in the style that YOU choose, and you can have fun for a lifetime)
K then, now I'm done with my opinion on the traditional method of learning. So how the ideal way of learning the piano does look like in my opinion?
Alright then, so what IS the best way to learn chords on the piano for beginners, FAST? And how do you actually use those chords?
First of all, you want to understand that learning even just 10 basic chords will make you able to play around 80% of all of the rock and pop songs you can think about. So you're getting an unbelievably huge value on the time you put in here when learning those chords. Let's dive in and see what are those chords.
Chord formulas and basic chord charts are the right place to begin with. With piano, unlike guitar, it's way easier to learn any chord because the keyboard and all of it's notes are laid out in simple two-dimensions view right in front of you, unlike the “4D” approach that the guitar fretboard takes. (up/down/left/right)
That means, that once you learn the “1-3-5” formula to form major chords, (and the lowered 3rd to form minor chords) you can figure out by yourself how to play ANY major or minor chord you want to play within seconds! That is – assuming you already know the keyboard note locations which you can learn in the first day on the piano.
For example, here's all you need to play a C chord, which is about 20% of Let It Be and thousands of other songs. (refer to the Let It Be chord chart in the above paragraph to see the real life example)
In fact, just by learning C, G, Am and F chords along with a few simple patterns you will be able to play thousands of songs! Let It Be is included. It's as simple as that and you can see a great demonstration of the simplicity in this video.
So when it comes down to learn chords piano, I suggest two ways to learn piano:
The “Teach Yourself” Method:
If you want to teach yourself and you are a truly a 100% autodidact – what you need to do is find easy songs to begin with, and learn their chords. Then, learn chord accompany patterns which is what makes those chords sound good throughout a whole song. That's the tricky part and you can find many lessons about the topic in YouTube.
That's a simplification- you also better do technique exercises, finger dexterity drills, etc. At least in the beginning to get you going.
The “Take A Course” Method:
I believe in a more organized and well-structured way of learning. This way, I can save a lot of time wasted by messin' around without a “guiding hand”, and get to play all the songs I love way sooner.
So as soon as I realized that the sheet music approach from my old books won't get me anywhere, I started searching online for a course that will teach me piano in an effective way. Eventually, after researching and reading a lot of different reviews, I purchased an online course that thought me everything from A to Z about chord fingerings, chord patterns, and how to practically play in the best way.
The course I took is called Piano For All and I could not recommend it more highly if you're after a chords approach that'll help you learn piano fast. I see now that it has already around 12,000 user reviews (which makes it one of the most popular music courses on the web) on Udemy with an average of 4.7.
Anyway – fast-forward to four years later, and I am happy to say that today the piano is in a constant competition with the guitars for my “favorite instrument crown”. I play it every day when I am home, and I have played piano on stages and open mics more than a couple of times. I even invested in a very high quality Kawai electric piano that makes the story even more fun!
So do your math and think what method will work better for you, and then go for it, and start playing the piano!
This is how I sound like, in a “What A Wonderful World” piano & harmonica cover I made: (at the point when the video was recorded, the only piano lessons I ever took were from the course I mentioned above)
What If I Don't Have A Keyboard Or Piano Right Now?
If you currently don't have a piano or keyboard to start with, look here for good keyboard options. I won't go into details in this article, but you can look here for good keyboard buying guides for beginners.
Anyway – I hope that was a good read, and I hope you'll have a blast on your piano journeys! Enjoy Elton John rockin' the piano chords below in a 1980 performance that blows me away time after time. (:
What's your favorite piano song of all time? Please share with us in the comments below. Cheers 🙂
Here's one of my favorite piano songs of all time to cap it off: