When you first sit down at a piano keyboard, it can be a bit daunting. In front of you, there are 88 keys. Some are white, some are black. Whenever you are beginning something new, it is helpful to have a starting point. The starting point for learning to play the piano is a single note, Middle C. In this lesson, I'm going to take you from playing that simple note to playing a short chord progression. Don't worry if you don't know what a chord progression is right now, I will explain it a little bit later. For now, sit down at your piano and find Middle C. The video will show you where it is at. From middle C, I am going to show you how to play a complete C Major Scale. The C Major Scale is an easy one because it consists entirely of white keys. So, let's just play the white keys in order, starting at Middle C. The note directly to the right of Middle C is a D. As we continue moving to the right we play E, F, G, A, B and then finally return to C. That last C is an octave higher than Middle C. This collection of notes is the C Major Scale. The scale doesn't need to begin on middle C, it can start and end on any C on the keyboard. Now that you know a scale, you have an important building block to music. Scales are used to create melodies and to construct chords. A chord is a collection of three or more notes, all played simultaneously. Go back to Middle C and play it. From there skip a note and play the E, and then skip another note and play the G. Those three notes form a chord known as a triad, which simply means that there are three notes in it. Now that you know the notes of the C chord, play them all at once. Music wouldn't be very interesting with just one chord, so I'm going to show you two other chords that can also be played with just the white keys. Let's start with an F chord. You remember where the F key is right? Good, hit the F key now and follow the same pattern we did to create the C chord. From F, skip a note to A, then skip another to C. Play them all together and you have an F chord. Now I'm going to show you the G chord. Where do we start the G chord? You guessed it, on the G key. From G skip a note to B, and skip another to D. Play those three notes together and you have learned three chords. If you play those three notes in order, you'll find they have a choppy sound to them. We can smooth that sound out using what are called chord inversions. Play a C chord. Now, keeping your first finger on the C, move the other two and play an F note and an A note. Take a look at the notes you have just played. C, F, A. Remember an F chord is made up of the notes F, A, and C. What you just played is an F chord with the C on the bottom instead of the top. Moving the notes around in this manor is called inverting the chord. Another way to invert a chord is to take the root note and put it on top. If we do that to the G chord, we end up with the notes D, B, G. Play that inversion of the G chord from the F inversion that I just showed you. Now when you play all three chords together it sounds much more smooth and melodic because your hands aren't jumping around the keyboard as much. It is also slightly easier to play. But playing the piano is more than just your right hand. Now I am going to show you what to do with your left hand. As you play a chord in your right hand, play its root note with your left. The root note is simply the note that the chord is named after. C for a C chord, F for an F chord, G for a G chord, etc. Play a C note with your left hand and simultaneously play a C chord with your right. Now an F note with your left hand and F chord with your right. G note with your left hand, G chord with your right. When we put chords in an order like this, we are creating a musical phrase. This particular type of phrase is called a chord progression, because we are progressing through a serious of chords. C-F-G-C is what we call a 1-4-5 progression. I'll explain what that means in the next video, so stay tuned!
In the last lesson I told you that I would explain what I meant by a 1-4-5 progression. In order to do that let's backtrack a little to when we learned the C major scale. In learning the scale, we gave the notes names. The notes can also be numbered. The first note of a any scale is its root. In our case, the first note is C. If we count from C we'll get to seven when we get to the B note. The scale repeats itself at 8, which is the same note as the root, but an octave higher than where we first played it. Chord progressions are given as numbers so that it is easier to transfer them into any scale. Our 1-4-5 progression is made of the chords based on the first note, the fourth note, and the fifth note of our C Major scale. Those notes are C, F, and G. Chord progressions are normally given using roman numerals and that is how they will be represented for the remainder of the lessons. Now that you know what our I-IV-V progression is and how to play it, I am going to teach you a simple song. Going as slowly as you'd like play a C chord twice, followed by an F chord, the C chord twice again, followed by a G chord, and finished with a single C chord. Play around with that set of chords for a little bit. You can add variations, such as playing the left hand note twice instead of once before moving on to the next chord, or playing each individual note of the chord separately instead of all at once. When you feel comfortable with the song you can begin to experiment with simple melodies. You may be wondering how one even begins to experiment with melodies. We've all heard toddlers pounding away at toy pianos and making horrible noises; how can you be sure what you play will be pleasing to the ears. The truth is, I've already given you the secret. The notes in a scale automatically complement each other, and the notes of a chord automatically sound well with that chord. Play the song again. This time use your left hand to play the root as before, but with your right hand instead of playing the chord or playing each individual note of the chord in order, play the notes of the chord in any order that appeals to you. When you find a pattern, or melody, that you like, continue through the chord progression and play that pattern of notes with the notes that make up the chord you are playing. In just a few short minutes you have went from looking at a piano keyboard and wondering where you start, to learning where Middle C is, the C Major scale, a few chords, a chord progression, and finally a simple song. As you learn more scales and techniques you will be able to expand on what you've learned and create more complex music. So, play around with what you have learned today. Get comfortable moving between the chords that I have taught you so far and then come back and see what I have in store for you in the next lesson!