There are all sorts of beginners at the piano. Here a few examples of them:

Absolute beginners. They know absolutely nothing except that they like the sound of the instrument and a parent is letting them have lessons.

1 or 2 tunes beginners. They can play a tune they learned from someone. They may know the starting note, but not always. They use their ear and the patterns they saw to play the tune.

Another teacher beginners. They began learning from another teacher and have not moved on from basic skills for a range of reasons. Sometimes they need help in particular areas that may not have been a focus previously.

Beginners at different ages. This can affect the expectation of how quickly they want to achieve something. Younger ones generally trust that you will guide them. Older ones may want to take short cuts and could miss some of the vital basics. Or they simply grasp concepts more quickly and learn at a much faster rate.

Although the basic essentials are necessary for all beginners, my focus is usually on those from about 6-11 years of age. Whatever their background, I have 6 key competencies that are basic to the beginner’s future progress. I constantly keep these in balance as I work with my pupils in their first year with me. It will depend on the pupil as to what needs the most attention at any given time, so I have not listed them in order of importance.

  • Relaxed but correct position of the whole body at the piano – from seating posture down to fingertips
  • Immediate recognition of notes from C below middle C to C above, without having to be in a particular hand position
  • Ability to count a steady quarter time beat and play simple rhythms from eighth to whole notes in 2 3 or 4 time
  • Ability to keep their eyes on the music page as they play without watching their hands
  • Ability to listen and play back a simple melody they have heard by ear, with starting note and range of notes given
  • Ability to create music of their own at whatever skill level they have reached.

How far the pupil reaches on any of these competencies will depend on the quality of practice and parental support through the week to establish what is covered in the lesson. Some will barely get there, and others will go way beyond. But keeping them all in balance makes for an excellent foundational start at the piano.

2 thoughts on “Basic Skills for the First Year Pianist – 6 Essentials

  1. Learning piano alone is indeed very hard. You need someone or some organization where you ask for help to guide you to learn it effectively and easily. Fortunately this post is very helpful and indeed a very good help. Aside from this, technology makes you learn and fast. Technology nowadays really helps to learn something fast. Like watching tutorials of piano lesson from youtube. You can learn it also easily. You just need of the technologies in this modern times. Like when when a student study fractions, he just needs fraction to whole number calculator as guide to learn fast. The same way with other skills if you want to learn you just need technology to learn it fast. Learning piano is not an easy way but you can learn it in an easy and fun way with help online like this post.

    • Thanks for contributing to this post Lanie, I certainly hope you can gain some help and support from these posts in your piano learning. I agree there is a lot of modern technology that can help us but there are times you need to interact with a real person for a real answer to a problem too. In general, it is best to have a one on one teacher but where that isn’t feasible it is nice to know we can search the internet for help. I am currently creating a piano course on line for people like this. If you want to be contacted when it is ready please go to and sign up for info on Headstart piano.

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