How to Play Classical Piano: A Step-by-Step Guide
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 10 min read


  1. Choose the right instrument
  2. Learn the basics of music theory
  3. Start with simple pieces
  4. Practice scales and arpeggios
  5. Develop an effective practice routine
  6. Tackle more complex pieces
  7. Learn the art of musical expression
  8. Perform in front of others
  9. Seek out a qualified teacher
  10. Continue learning and improving

Ever wondered how those classical piano maestros make magic on the keys? Or perhaps you're curious about dipping your toes into the classical piano world? Either way, this step-by-step guide on how to play piano for classical music will help you navigate your way from the basics to performing pieces that would make Mozart proud. Let's get started!

Choose the Right Instrument

Choosing the right piano can feel a bit like finding a needle in a haystack—there are so many options out there! However, don't let this overwhelm you. Here's a simple guide to help you make an informed decision:

  • Acoustic vs. Digital: If you're serious about learning how to play piano for classical music, an acoustic piano is usually the better option. They offer a richer sound and more control over the tone. However, digital pianos are more affordable and easier to maintain.
  • Size matters: Grand pianos are the gold standard for classical music, but they're also quite large and expensive. Upright pianos are a more practical choice for most aspiring pianists—they're smaller, less costly, but still offer a beautiful sound.
  • Brand Recognition: When choosing a piano, consider well-known brands like Yamaha, Steinway, or Kawai. They've earned their reputations for a reason! Don't forget to play the piano before buying. You want to make sure that you love the sound and feel comfortable playing it.

Remember, the goal here is to find a piano that suits your needs, fits your budget, and most importantly, inspires you to practice every day. So take your time, do your homework, and soon enough, you'll be all set to start your journey on how to play piano for classical music!

Learn the Basics of Music Theory

So you've got your piano, and you're ready to play. But where do you start? The answer is music theory. It might sound intimidating, but don't worry—it's not as scary as it sounds! In fact, learning the basics of music theory is like learning the alphabet before you start reading.

  • Note Recognition: To start, familiarize yourself with the piano keys. There are 88 keys on a standard piano, with the white keys representing the seven musical notes (A to G), and the black keys representing the sharps and flats. It's like learning a new language—you need to know the letters before you can spell words.
  • Understand Scales: Scales are the building blocks of music. They're a series of notes that follow a specific pattern. Mastering scales will help you understand the structure of a piece and improve your finger dexterity. Start with the C Major scale—it's all white keys!
  • Get to Know Chords: If scales are the building blocks, chords are the foundation of any musical piece. They're a group of notes played together that create harmony. Start with the basics—major and minor chords—and gradually progress to more complex ones.
  • Learn to Read Sheet Music: Sheet music is like a map that guides you through a piece. It tells you which notes to play, how long to play them, and the rhythm to follow. Start with simple pieces and gradually work your way up to more complex ones.

Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither will your piano skills. It's all about patience, perseverance, and consistent practice. But don't worry, with every note you play, you're one step closer to mastering how to play piano for classical music!

Start with Simple Pieces

Now that you've got the basics down, it's time to put your knowledge into practice. And what's a better way to start than by playing simple pieces? Remember, it's not a sprint, it's a marathon. The goal here isn't to impress others, but to build your skills, so don't shy away from simple tunes.

  • Start with Children's Songs: Yes, you read it right. Children's songs are excellent for beginners. They're usually short, simple, and catchy. They'll help you become comfortable with the instrument and boost your confidence. Plus, who doesn't love a good round of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"?
  • Progress to Classical Pieces: Once you're comfortable, you can move onto classical pieces. Try starting with pieces that are slow and have fewer notes, like Beethoven's "Fur Elise" or Bach's "Minuet in G". They're ideal for beginners learning how to play piano for classical music.
  • Gradually Increase Difficulty: As you become more comfortable, gradually increase the difficulty of the pieces you're playing. This might mean tackling pieces with more notes, faster tempos, or more complex rhythms. Remember, it's all about pushing yourself, but at a pace that works for you.

Playing simple pieces isn't just about learning the notes—it's about understanding the emotion behind the music. It's about connecting with the piece. And most importantly, it's about enjoying the journey of learning how to play piano for classical music. So go ahead and strike those keys—your audience awaits!

Practice Scales and Arpeggios

Think of scales and arpeggios as the ABCs of classical music. They're the building blocks, the foundation upon which everything else stands. So, how do you get good at them, and why are they so critical to learning how to play piano for classical music?

  • Good for the Fingers: Practicing scales and arpeggios is like taking your fingers to the gym. It strengthens your fingers, improves your hand coordination, and enhances your speed and agility on the keyboard. Whether you're playing Mozart or Chopin, those nimble fingers will come in handy.
  • Understand the Music: Scales and arpeggios aren't just about technique—they're about understanding the music. They help you recognize patterns in the pieces you play, making it easier to learn new pieces. They're like a secret decoder ring for your sheet music!
  • Warm Up: Scales and arpeggios are a great way to warm up before practicing your pieces. They get your fingers moving and your brain focused, setting the stage for effective practice.

It might not be the most exciting part of learning how to play piano for classical music, but practicing scales and arpeggios is a key step on your journey. So set aside some time each day, roll up your sleeves, and let's hit those keys!

Develop an effective practice routine

Now you've got your scales and arpeggios down, but how do you turn those isolated skills into beautiful music? You need an effective practice routine. But what does that look like when you're learning how to play piano for classical music?

  • Consistency is Key: Practice makes perfect, so the more consistently you practice, the better. Try to set aside a specific time each day for practice, whether it's first thing in the morning or right after dinner. Routine is your friend here.
  • Quality Over Quantity: It's not about how long you practice, but how effectively. Focus on your weaknesses, not just the parts you enjoy playing. And don't be afraid to slow down. Playing a piece slowly but correctly is far more beneficial than rushing through with mistakes.
  • Rest is Important: Just like any workout, your fingers and your brain need time to rest and absorb what they've learned. So take regular breaks during your practice sessions. A good rule of thumb is to take a 5-minute break every half hour.

Remember, the aim is to enjoy the journey of learning how to play piano for classical music. So make sure your practice routine serves you, rather than becoming a source of stress. Happy practicing!

Tackle more complex pieces

Once you have a firm grasp on the basics and a solid practice routine in place, it's time to up the ante. Tackling more complex pieces is a natural part of learning how to play piano for classical music.

  • Start Simple: Before you dive into a difficult Beethoven sonata, try playing easier pieces by the same composer. This can help introduce you to their style and make their more complicated works less intimidating.
  • Break it Down: Don't try to play a complex piece all at once. Instead, break it down into sections or even measures, and focus on mastering each one before moving on to the next.
  • Slow and Steady: Remember, speed is not the goal. Accuracy is. Play slowly at first to make sure you're getting the notes and rhythms right. Once you feel comfortable, gradually increase your speed.

Remember, it's not a race. Everyone learns at their own pace and it's important to enjoy the process. Don't be discouraged if you struggle with a piece; that's part of the learning process. Keep practicing, and before you know it, you'll be playing more complex pieces with ease.

Learn the art of musical expression

As you're learning how to play piano for classical music, you'll find that hitting the right notes is just one piece of the puzzle. Musical expression—the ability to convey emotion and passion through your playing—is equally important. Here's how you can start to master this crucial skill:

  • Listen to the Masters: Take some time to listen to professional classical pianists. Notice how they pour emotion into their playing. This isn't about copying their style, but absorbing and understanding the way they express feelings through music.
  • Understand the Piece: Get to know the piece you're playing. Research its background, understand its context, learn about the composer's intentions. This knowledge will add depth to your performance, allowing you to play not just the notes, but also the story behind them.
  • Experiment with Dynamics: Don't be afraid to play around with volume, tempo, and rhythm. These are all tools you can use to express emotion and make the piece your own.

Musical expression is what makes a performance unique and personal. It's what allows you to connect with your audience on an emotional level. So, take your time, explore, and let your feelings guide your playing. Remember, music is an art, not a science. There's no right or wrong way to express yourself, so don't be afraid to let your personality shine through your performance.

Perform in front of others

Now that you're on your way to understanding how to play piano for classical music, it's time to share your talent. Performing in front of others is a big step, but it is also a rewarding and essential part of your musical journey. Here's how to make it a positive experience:

  • Start Small: Your first audience doesn’t need to be a packed concert hall. Start by playing for your family or a few close friends. You could even host a mini concert in your living room.
  • Prepare Well: Practice your piece until you can play it confidently without the sheet music. The better prepared you are, the less likely you will be to make mistakes or let nerves get the better of you.
  • Stay Calm: It's normal to feel nervous before a performance. Take slow, deep breaths and remind yourself that you're well-prepared and ready to share your music.

Remember, everyone in the audience is there because they want to hear you play. They're not looking for mistakes—they're there to enjoy the music. So, play with confidence, share your love for classical piano, and enjoy the experience. Each performance is an opportunity to connect with others, express yourself, and grow as a musician. So, take a deep breath, smile, and let the music flow.

Seek out a qualified teacher

So you've started your journey to learning how to play piano for classical music, and you're making good progress. But there's still a whole world of music out there waiting for you. A qualified teacher can help you unlock it.

A good teacher does more than just show you where to put your fingers. They help you understand the theory behind the music, give you feedback on your technique, and guide you in developing your musical style. Here are some tips on finding the right teacher:

  • Check Their Credentials: Look for a teacher with a solid background in music, preferably with a degree in music or a related field. A good teacher should also have plenty of experience teaching students at your level.
  • Ask for a Trial Lesson: Before you commit to a series of lessons, ask for a trial lesson. This gives you a chance to see if you get along with the teacher and if their teaching style suits you.
  • Communicate Your Goals: Make sure your teacher understands what you want to achieve. Whether you're aiming to play Chopin's nocturnes or just want to improve your sight-reading skills, your teacher should be able to help you reach those goals.

The right teacher can make all the difference in your journey to play classical piano. They can provide the guidance and support you need, helping you to overcome challenges and reach new heights in your playing.

Continue learning and improving

Now that you've started learning how to play piano for classical, it's important to remember that this is a journey, not a destination. Learning an instrument is a lifelong pursuit of improvement and mastery. Let's see how you can continue to grow as a pianist:

  • Constant Practice: Remember the old saying, "practice makes perfect?" Well, it's especially true for piano. Regular practice is key to developing your skills and maintaining them. Make it a habit to practice daily, even if it's only for a few minutes at a time.
  • Expand Your Repertoire: Don't limit yourself to one or two pieces. The wider your repertoire, the more techniques you will master. Try to learn a new piece every month or so, and don't shy away from pieces that challenge you.
  • Listen and Learn: Listen to as much classical music as you can. Not only will it expose you to different styles and composers, but it will also give you a deeper appreciation for the music. You might also pick up new techniques or ideas for your own playing.
  • Never Stop Learning: Whether it's a new technique, a new piece, or a new approach to playing, there's always something new to learn. Keep an open mind and strive to learn something new every day.

By committing to continuous learning and improvement, you ensure that your journey on how to play piano for classical music is an enjoyable and rewarding one. Remember, the goal is not to become the next Mozart or Beethoven, but to enjoy the music and express yourself through it. Happy practicing!

If you enjoyed this step-by-step guide on playing classical piano and want to explore more creative avenues, why not check out the 'Classical Painting in the Modern Day' workshop by Eric Drummond? This workshop will help you discover the beauty of classical painting techniques and how they can be applied in today's art world. Expand your artistic horizons and dive into the world of classical arts with Daisie.