Being able to play the keyboard is something that can bring a lot of joy to you and the people around you, and it’s a skill to be proud of. However, it’s also something you need to work on and dedicate a lot of time to – so here are our top 15 tips to play a keyboard.
Tips to Play a KeyBoard
The first step in improving your keyboard playing skills before you even touch the keys is to make sure you have the right position, something that will bring an almost instant improvement to your playing.
Sit tall with your back straight and with your shoulders back and relaxed. Hold your arms with the elbows at roughly the same height as the keys – this will ensure your wrists are held comfortably in the correct position, arched slightly above the keys.
Don’t sit too close to the keyboard; your knees should be just below the keyboard rather than completely underneath. This will prevent you from hunching over the keys in an uncomfortable and incorrect posture.
Make sure you always adopt this position when you play and you will see how much easier it is to play well.
2. Use a proper keyboard stool
Another tip related to posture is to use a proper keyboard stool rather than a chair. Sitting on a chair will encourage you to adopt the wrong posture, whereas a keyboard stool will help you sit correctly.
The best ones allow you to adjust the height, so make sure you have it set correctly. Remember, as we just saw, your elbows should be held at roughly the same height as the keys, and you should perch on the front half only rather than occupying the whole stool.
3. Learn the “musical alphabet” and know the names of the keys
If you are a raw novice, you should start by learning the names of the keys on your keyboard, which are all given a letter from A to G.
If you look at the keyboard, you will see that there are groups of two black keys and groups of three black keys. The white key directly to the left of the two black keys is C, the next white key to the left of it is B and the white key next to that is A.
On the other side of C, to the right is D, then F and finally G. After that, the sequence is repeated. As a tip to help you find the keys quickly, F is the one directly to the right of the three black keys.
Once you understand this system, you will quickly be able to identify any key on your keyboard.
4. Practice regularly
If you want to learn to play the keyboard and improve your skills, you need to practice – this much goes without saying. However, to gain the maximum benefit from your practice, it is important that you do it the right way.
The first part of this is to try to be as regular as you can with your practice, and it is much better to play for 20-30 minutes every day than for three or four hours once or twice a week.
This will help build your muscle memory and manual dexterity, and if you can find time to practice a little every day, you will quickly notice a big improvement.
5. Practice in a structured way
Another part of practicing is to give structure to each session. It might be enjoyable just to sit down and start reeling off your favorite pieces, but this is not the most efficient way to improve. Rather, you should work on specific skills.
Start each session with a warm-up, working on scales and arpeggios, and from there, move onto working on specific areas or techniques that you want to improve.
For example, it could be a certain section of a piece you are working on that you find challenging and haven’t quite mastered – you will know what you need to work on.
Finally, to end each session, you can also play something you enjoy to give yourself a kind of reward at the end – and we’ll come back to this again in a moment.
6. Play different genres
As part of your practice schedule, make sure you experiment with playing other genres of music rather than just the ones you love most.
Of course, you are learning to play the keyboard because you want to play music you enjoy, but only playing one genre is not the most efficient way to help you improve.
Playing different genres will force you to use different techniques or move your fingers in different ways, and this is an excellent way to become a better player.
For example, if you love jazz, make sure you learn to play some classical pieces too. This will push you to learn something different and will make you a more rounded player – and in the long run, this will improve your skills when playing jazz too.
7. Keep it fun
That said, you should also make sure you enjoy what you are doing. You might find scales boring, and you may think playing classical music is not for you – so make sure you spend time doing what you love too.
This could mean that during a typical practice session, after your warm-up, you spend half the time working on a classical piece you want to master and then leave yourself time to play the jazz music you love as a reward at the end, as we mentioned in #5.
Alternatively, allow yourself to simply play for fun during one or two sessions per week – you don’t need to work on skills in every session you do.
Practicing like this and making sure you spend at least some time playing the music you enjoy will ensure you look forward to your practice sessions, and you will be less likely to skip sessions as a result.
8. Don’t over-practice
With all this focus on practicing, you should also be aware that over-practicing can be detrimental too.
Forcing yourself to play for too long – especially sitting down and doing battle with a particularly tough section that you just can’t master – is likely to put you off rather than anything else.
Instead, if you find that it just isn’t working for you, it’s far better just to leave it and come back the next day in a better frame of mind. Very often, you will find that the difficult section that was so hard yesterday simply falls into place the next day.
This is a great feeling to experience, and this kind of success and triumph is something that will help keep you motivated and coming back for more.
Always try to relax when you play. When you practice, if you are tense, it will be more difficult for the music to flow, and the more you try to force it, the more difficult it will become.
Again, if a certain section is causing you trouble, don’t become frustrated or angry – you will often find that taking a deep breath to relax and calm yourself down will help you overcome the difficulty.
And if it doesn’t, leave it and play something else – or just stop for the day and come back to it tomorrow.
10. Play slowly
When you start learning a new piece of music – however simple or complicated – always start by playing it slowly. You need to master the patterns of the music first, so don’t jump in and start playing at full speed first time.
Instead, play through it at a slow pace and master it like that first. Then, when you can play it slowly, start to increase the speed until you can play it at the correct tempo.
If you start by playing too quickly, you will make lots of mistakes and your playing won’t be accurate. Playing slowly allows you to work on accuracy first – and speed comes later.
11. Memorize music
Learn to play pieces of music by memory. This is a good way to train your hands to move almost of their own accord.
It’s a magical feeling when your hands seem to know what they are doing by themselves without you consciously controlling them. When you know a piece of music this well, you can then work on expression and not simply playing the correct notes in the right order.
12. Work on sight-reading
You should also spend time working on sight-reading since this is another important skill to master.
Start by learning what the basic notes look like on the page. A full note looks like a hollow circle, a half note is a hollow circle with a “tail” and a quarter note is a filled dot with a “tail”.
Then work on remembering which line corresponds with each note on the keyboard and practice playing them while reading the music.
This is something that comes through practice – at the beginning, you will need to practice with one hand at a time. Make time for working on this skill during your daily practice sessions and you will make rapid progress – like in all other areas you work on.
13. Play music that’s the right level
When you choose new music to work on, you should make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Try to find music that is the right level for you – something that you have a chance of being able to play rather than something that will leave you feeling frustrated, angry and disheartened.
If you want to improve, each new piece of music you learn should be a little harder than the last – or contain certain challenging elements – so that it pushes you just a little beyond your current abilities.
Think of this as being like doing weights in the gym. You don’t start by picking up the heaviest weights you can find because you have no chance of success.
Instead, you start with something easy and increase gradually, building your muscles and increasing your strength until you are ready to tackle those heavy weights.
Choosing new music is like this – and by pushing yourself a little further each time, you will improve by increments, and with patience and dedication, you will become a much better player.
14. Work on strength and stamina
The weights analogy is a good one when talking about skills, but to play a keyboard or piano, you also need a certain amount of real physical strength and stamina.
With the piano or a touch-sensitive keyboard, you need to hit the keys harder to increase the volume, and this can be draining, especially if you aren’t used to it.
Also, if you are playing keyboard with a band on stage, you might play for an hour or two – so it’s no good if you get tired after the first 30 minutes.
You can work on your strength by playing loud during practice sessions – playing scales loudly or playing pieces of music more loudly than usual is a good way to do this.
And if you are going to be performing in front of an audience, increase the length of your practice sessions so that you won’t feel drained when you have to play for longer periods in front of people.
15. Record yourself
Finally, many electronic keyboards allow you to record what you play and listen back to it – so make use of this function.
Play a piece you are working on, record it and listen to your performance critically. You will notice certain sections that you want to improve or that sounded wrong – and this will help you practice these sections and improve them in the future.
Practice, practice smart and practice often
As you can see, many of our tips are unsurprisingly related to practice. However, it is not enough to simply sit down and tinkle aimlessly on your keyboard from time to time – you need to be regular, you need to be methodical and you need to be smart.
Mastering the keyboard – or any other instrument – takes time and dedication. However, if you apply the tips in this post, you will notice how quickly your skills begin to improve.