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Mini Lesson

Try this.

At your piano or keyboard locate middle C. If you can't do this, you skipped ahead and need to click here to learn this most basic of information. Otherwise, play the C note on the piano that's one octave below middle C (the next one down) with the little finger of the left hand.

While keeping the little finger on the C, add the E note (two white notes higher) with the middle finger, and then add the G (another two white notes up) with the thumb. Got that?

Good. That's a C chord you're playing. Remember that C chord (C - E - G). We'll get back to that later.

Now we are going to try something a little more creative with the right hand. You're going to play the melody to "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" with the right hand. Here's how to do it:

  1. The melody starts on middle C. That's your first note.
  2. Now pick out the rest of the notes "by ear." That's right. Play by ear. Sound impossible? Nonsense. It's just a question of trial and error. Don't be afraid of making mistakes. Just keep at it until the song starts taking shape. Once you get it, play it through several times to cement it in your memory. If you're having trouble, here are some hints.

Hint 1: It's all on the white keys.
Hint 2: The first three notes are the same (middle C).
Hint 3: After the first three notes the melody goes up.
Hint 4: The "merrily, merrily, merrily" part is more challenging. It starts on the C above middle C.

Got the melody? Good. Now here's where it gets interesting. We are about to add the left hand, in other words the chords. This song has only one chord in it. Can you guess what it is going to be? That's right, C. Or what we call C major.

Your job now is to put the whole song together. You already have the melody in the right hand. You add the left hand C chords at regular intervals. As you play each C chord keep holding it down with the left hand until it's time to play the chord again. Two things to keep in mind as you're playing the chords:

  1. Play the chord simultaneously with the melody note that corresponds to the underlined words in the lyrics below.
  2. No matter what else happens, the left hand chords must be strummed at very even intervals. In other words your left hand must provide a very steady rhythm.

Now try it.

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.

Want to try another song? Same rules. Same chord. Melody starts on C again.

Are you sleeping, are you sleeping,
Brother John, brother John,
Morning bells are ringing,
Morning bells are ringing,
Ding, dang, dong,
Ding, dang, dong.

If you've gotten this far, you now have a basic understanding of how music works. This is the basic formula all pro piano players use (except those who play classical music).

If you're ready to take the next step, click here.


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