Joe's Blog

Starting at the first lesson: learning the names of the keys

March 16, 2018

“Walking” along the keyboard


The following information summarizes the system I typically use to introduce the new student to the keyboard.

The system has these advantages.

The entire keyboard, and not just a limited segment of the keyboard near Middle C, is addressed right away.  The body as a whole is used and is mobile and not confined in space.  The student doesn’t begin his experience of the piano locked up into a five finger position.

It encourages the student to use both hands equally, and any finger or fingers that feel natural.  The student gets accustomed right away to the reality that any finger can play any note.   He will not need to say, confusedly, at for instance the fifth lesson: “But I thought you said I was always supposed to use the right thumb on middle C”.


In the exercises below, I use these abbreviations:

2        means:

to play simultaneously both black notes  in  the clump  of two black notes, starting  at the lowest end of the keyboard,  sounding the two black notes in each  octave of the piano until the highest end  of the piano, then returning   downwards.

3        means:

the same as “2” (just above) but applied to all clumps            of three black notes

23      means:

to combine “2” and “3” above, starting at the lowest        end of the keyboard with 2 and alternating from 2 to 3 in a steady motion to the right along the keyboard.

2C       means:

play the clump of 2 black notes, then the C next to it,            then go up 1 octave, repeat the two black notes and                then the C, and so on to the top, & back to the                 bottom of the keyboard

C          means:

play C-Natural in each octave up and down the                        keyboard (simply notice the black notes in passing)

C D       means

play C then D, go up an octave, then again C, D, until          at the top of the keyboard, then reverse and go D, C, D, C


Each line represents a different exercise.  Each exercise starts at the left end (low end) of the keyboard, goes by “octaves” to the top end, and then returns down to the low end.

As you play each exercise up and down on the keyboard say out loud the names of the notes you are playing.  Doing this aids the brain to develop hand eye coordination.  When you play the clumps of black notes you can say “two” or  “three”.

There is no particular number of exercises for the student to do at each session at the piano.  They will proceed at a rate that feels natural to them.


Here are the actual exercises:

Up                  Down

1)    2 3  …   (3 2 on the way down)

2)    2  …

3)    2 C  …

4)    C

5)    2 D …

6)    D

7)    C D      (D C on the way down)

8)    2 E …

9)    E

10)  C D E   (E D C on the way down)

11)  C E       (E C)

12)  C E D   (E C D)

Up                   Down

13)  3 …

14)  3 F …

15)  F

16)  C F                  (F C)

17)  C D F              (F D C)

18)  C E F              (F E C)

19)  C D E F           (F E D C)

20)  C E D F           (F D E C)

21)  3 G …

22)  G

23)  3C G               (G C)

24)  D G                 (G D)

25)  E G                 (G E)

26)  C E G              (G E C)                             this one is a c major chord

27)  C D E G           (G E D C)

28)  C D F G           (G F D C)

29)  3 A …

30)  A

31)  D A                 (A D)

32)  E A                 (A E)

33)  F  A                 (A F)

34)  D F A              (A F D)                              d minor chord

35)  C F A              (A F C)                              f major chord

36)  C D F A           (A F D C)

37)  3 G  3 A          (3A 3G)

38)  3 A  3 G          (3G 3A)

39)  3 B …

40)  B

41)  B C                 (C B)

42)  E B       (B E)

43)  E G B              (B G E)                             e minor chord

44)  D G B              (B G D)                             g major chord

45)  D G A B          (B A G D)

46)  C E G B          (B G E C)

valuable additional ones:

2C 2E                     (2E 2C)

3F 3B                     (3B 3F)

2C 2E 3F 3B          (3B 3F 2E 2C)

2C 2D 2E               (2E 2D 2C)

3F 3G 3A 3B          (3B 3A 3G 3F)

2C 2D 2E 3F 3G 3A 3B    (3B 3A 3G 3F 2E 2D 2C)

2C 3F                      (3F 2C)

2E 3B                     (3B 2E)

2D 2G          (2G 2D)

3G 3A          (3A 3G)

3F 3A 3G 3B          (3B 3G 3A 3F)

2C 3G                    (3G 2C)

2D 3A                    (3A 2D)

2E 3B                     (3B 2E)

3F 2C                     (2C 3F)

3G 2D                    (2D 3G)

3A 2E                     (2E 3A)

In addition to the ones listed above, you can invent other patterns ad libitum.  Any and all additional permutations among the letters done so far are possible.


Something similar to the exercises above can be created to introduce the student to some of the common triads and chords.  As in the above exercises, the student ‘walks’ the keyboard from bottom to top and then reverses.  Each line is a separate exercise

C                            The Root of a C Major or C Minor Chord

C G                         The Root and the Fifth of a C Major or C                                        Minor Chord

C E G                      C Major Chord

C E G Bb                C Dominant-7 Chord

C Eb G                   C Minor Chord

C Eb G Bb              C Minor-7 Chord

F                             The Root of a F Major or F Minor Chord

F C                         The Root and Fifth of either an F Major or                                    F  Minor Chord

F A C                      F Major Chord

F A C Eb                F Dominant-7 Chord

F Ab C                    F Minor Chord

F Ab C Eb              F Minor-7 Chord

And similarly for any desired root note.



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