Learn To Play Piano More Quickly And Easily

As countless people who have had piano lessons, only to give up on them, will attest, learning to play piano is hard.

Yet it is possible to learn to play music on a traditional music keyboard (such as a piano uses), in a manner of months. I'm not talking about simple nursery-rhyme pieces, but music you like, in books of popular music you buy yourself in a music store.

For a beginner to learn to play this music quickly, say, in a manner of months, there is a simpler, easier, and faster way, that avoids the usual 3 to 5 years of learning. Here's how you can do it.

Piano is usually taught in a “see the notes, play the notes” manner. That means you can easily be doing up to 8 things at once. When I learned to play piano, that was the most difficult task for me, taking the most practice time to achieve.

But you don't have to re-write the music to make it simpler to play. There's an easy way to do this:

Get music books that show the chords played. In that music, focus on just the solo part (the part the singer sings, for example), as shown above.

Play just the melody part, and the chords. That reduces the complexity of the music to just two things at once.

The shapes of the notes (and rests) in music, tell you how long the note (or rest) is held, and music has timing, dynamics, and phrasing. All of this takes time to learn. But if you stick to music you already know, all you need to know, are which notes to play. You already know the rhythm, and how long the notes (and rests) of the tune are held.

The round part of the note (called the note-head) tells you which note to play. If you're playing music you know, that's all you need to focus on in the music.

The KeyMusician Keyboard lets you match the round-part of the note you're playing, with the round-part of the note in the music. It shows you if you're playing the right note or not, so you can even do this without a teacher.

One of the things which turns-off a lot of piano students, are all the exercises you must do to get used to playing in all of the different key-signatures. This really is necessary with a piano, because you have to instinctively know which black-keys to play instead of white-keys, in each key-signature. You don't have time to stop and think about it – it really has to be instinctive. That takes a lot of practice.

With the KeyMusician keyboard, it is now possible to play music in a manner independent of the key-signature. Just connect a MIDI keyboard, or a synthesizer with a MIDI interface, to the KeyMusician Keyboard application in your computer.

This eliminates the need for hours of key-signature scale-practice exercises, because the fingering (on the music-keyboard) is the same in every key-signature.

Synthesizers and MIDI keyboards have long been able to play a piece learned in one key-signature, in a different key-signature, using their Transpose function.

This feature hasn't been useful in learning music, because it doesn't show you the notes you're playing in the key-signature you're transposing to.

HOWEVER, the KeyMusician Keyboard DOES show you the notes you're playing in that other key-signature, and shows them in the context of that key-signature.

That means, all you have to do, is set the key-signature to match what's in the music you're trying to play, and then play notes so that the note-heads in the music display, match the note-heads in the sheet music. Yet you're actually playing everything using just the white keys, except for (relatively rare) accidentals (notes not in the key-signature).

Think of the music keyboard as a graphical representation of the (diatonic) musical scale we use in our music, where the white keys having black keys between them, are whole steps, and those without black keys between them, are half steps.

You can watch a video of me playing a MIDI keyboard through the KeyMusician Keyboard application, by clicking the link below.

Notice I'm playing only white keys (key of C-major or A-minor), even though the piece starts in the key of E-flat major (3 flats), and ends in the key of E-major (4 sharps).

Here is the link:

Playing on a MIDI Keyboard in a Key-Signature Independent Way

Note: If you're using a synthesizer with a MIDI interface (rather than a MIDI keyboard) while transposing, be sure to turn-down the volume level on the synthesizer all the way, if you're using a key-signature that has any flats or sharps, because any sounds made by the synthesizer are not transposed – the application is doing the transposing.

What You Can Do With It

Now, everything you play on your external MIDI keyboard, will play music through your computer, and every note you play will be shown as both music keyboard key-presses, and notes on the grand staff – including any necessary flat, sharp, or natural signs.

Only the round part of the note (the note-head) is displayed, which tells you the pitch. The note-letter name is shown in two columns to the right of the note.

The right-column (next to the keyboard diagram), shows you the names of the notes pressed on the keyboard. The left-column (next to the notes on the lines of the grand staff), are the names of the notes played in the key-signature you're transposing to. If you're not transposing, only the right-column of note-letter names is shown.

So you can press keys on your MIDI keyboard, and it will show you not only the keys you pressed, but also the note-heads (round part) of the notes you're actually playing in the grand staff.

When playing using a MIDI keyboard, you can still change instrument-sounds instantly (assuming the same MIDI channel is used), just by pressing a function key, the same as you could do if you were playing music using the typing-keyboard.

Any sustain-pedal actions you do, will also show up on the “Sustain” button, to the lower left of the main KMK window. If you move the volume control on your keyboard, the VOLUME slider in the KMK main window will move accordingly. Likewise, if you manipulate the Pitch-Bend, or Modulation wheels, the PITCH-BEND and ASSIGNABLE sliders will move as well.

To illustrate this, examine the screen-shot below, where an “A-flat major 7th slash B-flat” chord is being played (on the numeric keypad), in the key of A-flat major (as specified by the “Transpose” button). Transposing is where notes are changed to be a number ('-4' = 4 down, in this case) of semi-tones up, or down, in pitch.

To show you the actual notes played, in horizontal orientation (as you would see your MIDI keyboard), I'm sending the notes to a separate application (the Virtual MIDI Piano Keyboard window), at the lower-right of the screen.

Look carefully at the horizontal keyboard display, finding the 3 black-key presses that are easy to overlook.

In the music display (grand staff) above, there are two columns of note-names. The right column corresponds to the keyboard keys (notice that only white keys are pressed, in this case). The left column of note names, corresponds to the note-names in the key-signature we're playing in (as selected by the “Transpose” button, near the upper right of the KMK window).

So if you play the 'middle-C' white key on your MIDI keyboard, (a 'C') in the right-column of note names, you are actually playing A-flat in the left column of note names. Middle-C, has become middle-A-flat.

Notice the actual music-keyboard keys played in the lower-right window, which includes black keys. You set the key-signature, and it makes the white-key/black-key decisions for you.

All you have to do, is set the key-signature to match the music, then play keys that 'match the dots' in the sheet music, as in the picture below:

Here, playing the C key on the MIDI keyboard, matches the note-head (an E-flat) in the written music, after having matched the key-signature displayed, with what's in the written music.

This is something new, that was not possible before, in learning to play a traditional music keyboard.

If the fingering is the same in every key-signature, much less exercise-practice is required. More time is spent playing music, and less time 'doing homework'.

And if you learn a piece of music this way, you can play it on ANY synthesizer or MIDI keyboard, using its transpose function. You can even play that piece on an ordinary piano (not having a transpose function). The piece will be recognizable, but in a different key-signature than it was written in.

Configuring The KeyMusician Keyboard Application

The main thing we need, is to connect the external MIDI keyboard as a MIDI Input Device. This is done in the “F1 Help/Setup” pane, as in the screen-shot below.

Here, the “MIDI Thru Input From” device selected (near the middle of the screen) is the “LPK25” device, but it needs to be some form of the name of your MIDI keyboard, synthesizer, or a MIDI interface used to connect it.

Also, if the KeyMusician Keyboard is to be used to show the notes of the different types of chords (using the Chords window), Standard chords should be selected, as shown below (and also above):

It's also a good idea to use a configuration-file such as “MusicLab-1.kmk”, which uses sustained chords, and all of the Function-Key Performance-Panes use MIDI channel 1. That means you seldom have to change the MIDI channel on your MIDI keyboard, no matter which performance pane you switch-to.

Important: If the MIDI channel of your keyboard doesn't match the performance pane's MIDI channel, nothing coming through the MIDI interface will be shown!

Learning Chords

Start out by playing the chords on the numeric-keypad. You can place the typing-keyboard on your lap, playing chords with your right-hand, on the numeric-keypad, while playing the tune on the MIDI keyboard you're seated-at, with your left hand.

This lets you have a different sound (such as a string orchestra) for the chords, that contrasts with the melody sound, and you can play those chords as sustained chords, strummed-chords, or arpeggios.

Many of you will probably prefer to play music this way.

But you can also use the KeyMusician Keyboard to show you the notes of the chords in the piece, which you memorize, and then you can play the entire piece on the MIDI keyboard. Standard chords (rather than modal chords) are better for learning this way.

Play chords on the numeric keypad of the computer keyboard, specifying what chord you want, and let it show the notes needed to play the chord on your MIDI keyboard, as in the screen-shot below:

Playing a D-minor-7th slash G chord (the numeric-keypad keys were pressed in the same order as they appear in the chord). The “/” (slash) is assumed, because of pressing a second note-name.

To do this, select the “Chords” tab (near the top right of the window), and set the horizontal keyboard key-press component to 'listen' to the same MIDI channel as used for the “Chords” performance pane (2, in this case). If you also want to add notes from your external MIDI keyboard, you will need to change its MIDI channel to “2”, as well.

Be aware that some of the chord attribute buttons ('aug', '9', '6', and 'sus') have multiple uses, allowing you to specify flatted-5th, flatted-9th, add-9th, 11th, 13th, sus2, and sus4 chords.

Another reason for using the numeric keypad to specify chords, is that the types of accidentals used in the note display, are intelligently chosen based on the chord itself. Accidentals (black-keys) played on the MIDI keyboard, on the other hand, are chosen based only on the key-signature used.

To learn to play all the chords in a piece of music, play those chords using the numeric keypad, and with the “Chords” pane selected, it will show you the keyboard keys (in the piano keyboard diagram) to press, as well as the notes you'll be playing.

Even for learning to play chords, it's important to first set the key-signature to match what's in the written music you're trying to play.

Once you've memorized how to play all the chords in the piece, you can play the chords along with the melody – all on your MIDI keyboard.

You can learn to play all of the pieces in the KeyMusician Songbook this way, using a MIDI keyboard.

You can also use this method to learn to play music in music-books purchased from a store.

It will be easier if you start by learning to play the solo part (the melody), along with the chords.

With more effort, you can also learn to play the written piano part this way.

Things To Watch Out For

When you learn to play the chords from the notes played using the numeric keypad, often those notes can 'collide-with' the notes of the melody. This doesn't cause problems when playing music using the typing-keyboard, because the chords are played using a different MIDI channel.

But on your MIDI keyboard (or synthesizer), you are sending on only one MIDI channel, so it can be a problem. Fortunately, there's an easy solution.

Here, we're trying to play an A-flat major chord, with the transpose button used to specify the key-signature of the music, namely 3-flats, or E-flat major –

will generate the blue-notes shown in the “Chords” pane of the screen-shot below.

To avoid running into the melody notes, simply play the chords an octave lower, as illustrated by the red notes in the screen-shot below:

Here, the notes shown for the chord, are shown in blue, and the notes you play on your MIDI keyboard, to play them an octave lower, are shown in red.

You simply move your chord-hand (left hand) left (down, in the keyboard-diagram) on the MIDI keyboard, to the very next identical note-letter names. And these are the keys you memorize for playing the chord.

There's another thing you'll need to watch out for.

When you play any of the black-keys, which are notes not in the selected key-signature (called 'accidentals'), the sign to the left of the note to designate the accidental, may not be the same as what was chosen in the printed music.

It will be the same note, but it may not be the same way of designating that note, in the written music.

To get around this problem, be aware of the different ways an accidental (note not in the key-signature) can be written, as illustrated in the music below:

In the two sequences of 4 notes, all four are the same note, but just a different way of writing that same note, in music notation.

You need to keep this in mind, as you try to match notes you play on your MIDI keyboard, with the notes written in the music.

A good thing to remember is, if you play the same note (probably a black-key) as shown in the music-keyboard diagram, it will be the same note, even if the accidental shown for it (to the left of the note) is different from what is shown in the music.


The KeyMusician Keyboard allows you to learn piano in a key-signature independent fashion, eliminating the need for key-signature scale-practice exercises altogether, which can get you playing actual music quicker, with less chance of getting discouraged, and dropping-out.

So, all you who want to play music on a traditional music keyboard, expand your possibilities. The future is here today!

If you found this article on a search, and don't already have the KeyMusician Keyboard, find out more about the instrument, and obtain it, by clicking the following link:


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