Source for Piano Tutorials

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Member Since: Sep 30, 2008

Hey, and thanks for any help in advance.

When I bought a MIDI controller I planned on using it to express my interest in hip hop, but have started to prefer just playing keyboard. I was hoping that someone on this site would know of a source where I could go to find decent tutorials for piano. I have more specific interests listed below, but any suggestions would be very appreciated!

The song that inspired my coming here was Return of the Mack by Mark Morrison; I love the piano intro and outro and would love to be able to play it, but my only real source (google/youtube) doesn't seem to have a tutorial out for it. Any suggestions?

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Since: Nov 11, 2007

Jul 21, 2009 03:37 pm

"Oooh my gaawhhh!!"

Unfortunately, my only contribution is a mutual appreciation for Return of the Mack.

Since: Dec 04, 2007

Jul 22, 2009 04:15 pm

IN the past, well, still am really when I find time for it, I've used the lessons at for trying to teach myself guitar.

I've had a few years of lessons in piano from teachers, and looking at the lessons for piano seem pretty straightforward and useful, so I'd definitely start there.


And there's this for learning to read piano music:

Good fingering and hand-posture is everything in piano. (not to mention good sight-reading skills)

For hand-posture, I've had it described to me as picture yourself holding a a ball with your fingers and thumb curved around the surface, holding it gently. Now with that cupped position, align you fingers on the keyboard white-keys (usually C,D,E,F, and G) So your thumb (or 1 finger) would be on C with your pinky (or 5 finger) on G.

Take things a step at a time, and do the same with your left hand, except you pinky (or 5 finger) will be on the C with your Thumb on the G.

But yeah, the lessons on the site look good to me, and I think they would be a good starting point for you. Post back if you get stuck, and maybe I can try to explain the idea a different way or something.

Good Luck!

Since: Sep 30, 2008

Jul 23, 2009 09:27 pm

Thanks fellas, it's appreciated.

I'll check out like the page about the correct fingerings, it's been useful. Ambidextrousness, here I come.

Anyone else that has any ideas, they're more than welcome.

Since: Jan 18, 2003

Jul 24, 2009 03:46 am

about fingering, i feel that you will automatically end up playing with the correct finger ... posture... once the piece becomes difficult enough. i took piano lessons for years as a kid and frankly, the teacher's insistence on correct fingering pissed me off and took the fun out of everything. you just need to be thinking 'is it working?' you'll end up developing the lighter touch and correct posture once you get comfortable with the notes, i find. at that point, you'll just have a light touch and you'll notice that your fingers are curved and stuff.

maybe it's not like that for everyone, i don't know. i still have lazy habits.

there's a piano book by rikky rooksby that's okay--it teaches theory for the piano in the simple rooksby style.

the position j-bot mentioned is the first position you learn in piano. right thumb on middle c, piinky on g above. i actually can't remember if the left thumb is on standby for middle c or if it's on b--i think the latter. pinky will then fall on the white key four notes down.

if you want to learn to read piano music, the deceptively titled book 'learn to read music' is good. i think that's the title, anyway. if i'm right, it had lots of good shortcuts. such as very quick ways to determine the key without memorizing keys. i can tell you that right now: if there are sharps in the margin of the staff, the key of the song is the note half a step above the last sharp (moving left to right). if flats are there instead, the second to last flat (left to right) is the key, with the exception of two keys, F and Bb. these are the first two flat keys in the circle of fifths, though, and those can be easily memorized.

Since: Jan 18, 2003

Jul 24, 2009 03:46 am

i would avoid learning music online. it's just too hard to sort the crap from the good stuff, and you will end up memorizing things you actually do not need to memorize at all and will become overwhelmed and it'll look impossible. music theory and piano is ultimately very easy, but there's so much crap out there that you can miss out on it for a lifetime if you start wrong.

p.s.--haha-- is, i think, the single worst site on the internet. for ANYTHING and everything. it should be taken offline by the police.

Since: Jan 18, 2003

Jul 24, 2009 04:19 am

i will do a short lesson on keys and the circle of fifths, since not getting confused by this up front seems important if you're going to play piano.

unlike guitar--which has tab and stuff--piano lessons are just more uptight. keys come into it because sheet music is always involved, so it's important to get comfortable with this stuff early.

so here's the circle of fifths. i was told you had to memorize this, but you don't. you will come to understand it by understanding it, and memorization is not necessary. having to memorize it strikes me as a symptom of not understanding it.

1. the outer purple ring shows the major keys. the inner blue ring shows the minor keys. every major key has a 'relative minor' key that has the same key signature--for example, the same sharps and flats are in the keys of d and b minor. if you play the d major scale, it's the d major scale. if you play the b minor scale, it's the same notes that are in the d major scale, but you're starting on the note b instead.

2. shortcut. anytime you are working with a certain major scale on the piano, the relative minor scale is three keys below. if you're playing a c major scale, count down B, bB, A--A minor is the relative minor scale and key of c major, and it shares the same notes.

3. notice on the chart that the keys of c major and a minor have no sharps or flats. the piano is designed around the key of c major/a minor. all the white keys are the notes in c major and a minor. this is why you can play all white notes and always wind up with an accidental song.

4. play all the white keys from c to c (one octave) and look what happens between the last two notes. the b and the c are two white keys, right next to each other. this is a half step: there is no note between them. now move 'one spoke' to the right on the circle of fifths so that you are looking at the key of g. you will see one sharp has been added to the staff. that is an f#, the note directly below g. the key of g has all the notes of the key of c, but the second-to-last note in the g scale has been sharped. this is to force the new scale to have that half step right before you return to the root note of the scale (g). this happens all the way around the circle up till the end of the sharps, the key of c sharp. this is why that shortcut (explained above, with the sharps) can tell you the key in one step without memorizing anything.

5. to see this on the piano, play all the white notes from c to c. then 'move up a fifth' and play that scale. 'a fifth' is always seven half steps (this will make sense at some point, if you move through concepts in the right order by reading simple books). so from c, you count up seven notes and end up on g. play the g scale. you will be playing all white keys but you'll adjust the penultimate note by sharping it. now start on g and count up seven half steps. you will wind up on d. now you will play the d scale by playing the old g scale (with the black f sharp) but this time also sharping the penultimate note, giving you that leading tone (c sharp instead of c) into d this time.

6. conclusion: the circle of fifths is just a graphic illustration of what happens when you force the major scale structure onto different root notes. the major scale structure is 'whole whole half whole whole whole half.' this is the entire point behind the circle of fifths. if you know this, you don't have to memorize the circle of fifths. you will be able to compute the notes in the key by remembering the scale formula. when reading sheet music, you will be able to know the key by looking at the sharps or flats in the staff margin (using the shortcuts) and then just quickly playing the scales they describe, so that you can see them on the keyboard.

7. the chords that make up any key are derived by taking 'every other scale note.' skipping notes within the scale, you form triads (three note chords), a new triad on each scale step.

once you can see this, you can dispense with a lot of confusion. you will know that 'key of e' has a certain seven chords, and you will be able to make them quickly before you even begin to try the piece. at that point, all you have to look out for in the sheet music are 'accidentals' (sharps or flats directly printed in the body of the score) and chord extensions (extra notes which make the chord bigger than just three notes)

this takes care of a lot of stuff. it is well worth learning up front. i am sorry if this explanation looks confusing. it's really simple in the end. to find it, you have to go to books. another one i'll mention is 'writing music for hit songs' by jai josephs.'

Since: Dec 13, 2004

Jul 24, 2009 10:36 am

Good notes, fortymile. I'd also like to say that the circle of fifths is worth getting to know even if all you do is play guitar. Whether you're writing songs, playing solos, or just trying to come up with rhythm fills, it's of great value to know A) which key you're in, and B) what that key entails note-wise.

Since: Sep 30, 2008

Jul 24, 2009 12:11 pm

Damn, fortymile, this is great.

Your notes on the circle of fifths, especially on the half step from B to C being the reason why notes are sharpened, are excellent. It does make sense that this would be WHY the major and minor scales of different keys are as they are, and I appreciate and agree with your sentiment that understanding, rather than memorization, is key. I've copied your notes to a Word file and will keep reviewing them.

The tips on determining the key signature of written music are very useful. Can they be determined using just the knowledge of the circle of fifths as well?

Thanks again!

Since: Dec 04, 2007

Jul 24, 2009 02:06 pm know, on looking more closely at the figures....the piano stuff is a bit confusing....and I'll have to withdraw my recommendation. (I still find the guitar lessons to be good though, and they've helped me a lot with learning strumming techniques and chord positions)

But yeah, honestly, nothing can substitute for a real tutor or instructor. Even some student tutors in piano can be very good, and not too outrageously expensive. I took lessons as a kid, and then I quit and learned to play the trumpet for the school band. (And kinda following in my brother's footsteps) I still played the keys for fun though, and probably developed some bad habits. In college I took some applied piano lessons on the side, and found out just how bad some of my habits are. (for one, I tend to play very flat-fingred...kinda like Horowitz, which is no good for crossing fingers moving around on the keyboard....yes I still have this bad habit at times)

Nowadays, I just mostly play by ear. I don't read or memorize piano music unless it's something in particular I want to teach myself to play (Like solfeggietto for one) But yeah, if you're into writing and creating your own music, piano is a godsend (in my opinion) It just lends itself so well to the compositional process.

Since: Jan 18, 2003

Jul 24, 2009 06:35 pm

nbrunk, i'm trying to think how you could directly use the circle to know the key. obviously if you have the circle memorized, then you can look at the staff margin of the score and count the sharps or flats and just know the key that way. or if you have it hanging on your wall, you can see the numbers of sharps and flats on the circle and therefore know the key.

here again are the shortcuts i mentioned: look at the key signature of the piece. if you see a bunch of sharps, then the last sharp (moving right to left) is the the seventh note of the actual key's scale. if you see four sharps and (and if you can read sheet music Every Good Boy Does Fine for lines, FACE for spaces) then you can see D# is the last sharp, which means is that's leading tone that you create right before the tonic note of the key, which is E. so key of E. with flats, one flat means F and two means Bb, but any more than two and you look at the second to last flat in the sequence and that is the key. that note's letter name plus the word flat.

the other way to use knowledge of the circle directly without using the shortcuts is this. you know the circle advances clockwise by 'fifths.' if you know what a fifth is, then you can just count. i will explain below, but first...on guitar, a power chord is made of notes 1 and 5 of a major scale--it's a fifth. on piano, same thing. but keep in mind that a fifth is actually seven half steps above whatever note you're starting from. a fifth is two whole steps, a half step, and another whole step, or seven half steps. (if you don't know why this is, you can learn it by making your first task to really understand the structure of the major scale and of a 'generic major key.' like, a major key with no letter name, just the structure of ANY major key.) so let's say you see five sharps in the key signature of a piece. now look at the piano and start on c. count up seven half steps to arrive on g. that's your first 'fifth' in the circle of fifths. from c you have gone up a fifth, to G. NOTE that your hand fits a fifth perfectly. it's already sitting on a fifth, the span from c to g, one finger on each white key. that's why the following method is really fast. now you're on G. where does your pinky naturally fall? on D. you have now moved up another fifth. you are now on the second spoke of the circle of fifths and you have covered two sharps (the key of D has two sharps). now count up a fifth from D. your pinky naturally falls on A, and indeed that's the third 'fifth' in the circle of fifths. key of A has three sharps. do it again from A--pinky is naturally already sitting on E. this is the fourth 'spoke' on the circle of fifths and it contains 4 sharps. move up another fifth. pinky sits naturally on B. the key of B has five sharps, as you can see by trying to play a B major scale. you will have to use all five black keys now for the scale to sound major. all the chords in the key of B major will be built entirely out of this set of seven notes, the five black and two white.

after the key of B, your pinky won't naturally fall on the note that's a fifth up. but you can still keep going all the way around the circle by counting upwards in fifths. it's just that after two more keys you run out of 'sharp keys' and they start to be called flat keys.

(if you do this in reverse, going counterclockwise around the circle, btw, you are counting down in fourths instead of up in fifths.)

so this is kind of what the circle of fifths is. when you move upwards in fifths, you are keeping the scale of whatever came before but adding one sharped note to it. because of the way our intervals are, that addition of the sharp just happens to happen when you move up in fifths. so people decided to point at it and say 'hey look at this!' and make a chart out of it.

but you can see how either using the shortcuts or very quickly counting upwards using piano power chords (which your hand naturally wants to make) will show you the key. 'one, two, three, power chords for the one, two, three sharps i see in the key signature and voila: key of A.' now play the A major scale and remember which black keys you're going to be using as you try to play the sheet music. because with piano, you just have to remember which ones are gonna be sharp or flat, based on the key signature in the sheet music, and then sometimes you'll see accidentals in the piece and you'll sharp or flat those too.

you were asking for a tutorial on how to play that piece, but i don't know what you mean by a tutorial--i guess you mean a video or something? if there isn't one, then try to get the sheet music or else you will have to learn it by ear. i listened to it really quickly on youtube (fast forwarding a bit) and it seemed there were two chords in the bass and then melodic runs in the right hand. task one would be to verify that those are exactly two chords and not three or more (i might have heard a variation or two). get the chords by ear, then once you're sure they're right set them aside and keep rewinding to work on the run note by note. then later, put it all together.

how i figure out chords by ear is this. if it's a simple vamp, i get a feel for how many chords there are in it. i then assume that the basic identity of the first chord is either major or minor--even if i know the chord has more than three notes in it. i find the lowest note of the first chord by ear. then i make a major and a minor triad based on that note and see which one fits. usually you can feel if it's major or minor. suppose it feels major but the major triad doesn't exactly fit. it might be an inversion or suspension, then. take the major triad and check first inversion. middle note becomes lowest, high note becomes middle, and you now play the previous low note on top. if that doesn't work, go to second inversion by doing the same thing. if this doesn't work, go back to the original chord and lower the middle note by two half steps to see if it's like a sus2 chord. or raise it by a half step to see if its a sus 4. one of these things will likely work. then you can figure out what the 'color notes' are. it might be a seventh chord, which would mean it's one of the basic triads but with an extra note added in. or a 9th chord or 13th or whatever. but somewhere in there is a basic chord that is either major or minor, in most cases anyway.

melodic runs you just have to figure out by ear though.

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