Picture this: you decide that you’re finally ready to really learn piano. You buy a keyboard or piano, but you’re a beginner. So you’re probably wondering, what’s your next step? Learn the keys of course! But looking at a bunch of similar-looking keys can be overwhelming.
If you’re like many people, you may soon find yourself over on Amazon looking at piano stickers. You know, the little ones that label each key by letter. After all, that seems like a good place to start if you don’t know where to start. A few days later, your package arrives and you enthusiastically stick them on. (Or maybe you decide to DIY it so you get your Sharpie and start labeling the keys by hand.)
And that’s all it takes – you instantly know all the keys on your piano! Right?
Not so fast: the truth is that putting these stickers on or labeling your keys by hand is a huge mistake. Why? Because you are skipping the very first and probably the most important step to learning piano.
The Very First Step
Learning the names of the keys is vital. It’s a deceptively simple task and it can have a huge impact on your entire piano-learning journey. It’s also the first thing I teach my students, because I’ve seen firsthand how many problems pop up later if you don’t go through this process.
Think about it: what happens when you can look at the keys and read their labels? You become dependent on seeing those labels. You start to rely on them. There is no easy way to force yourself to ignore the labels as you try to remember the note that the key represents.
Aside from the fact that you’re training your brain to need an extra visual aid, there’s a very common problem I see with people who use keyboard labels. Once you walk out your door into the “real world,” guess what: not every piano or keyboard out there has labels. (And if they do, sometimes they aren’t even labeled correctly!)
A Common Problem
If you let it be known that you are learning how to play, at some point someone will offer you the chance to play their own piano or keyboard. The last thing you want to have to say is “well… do you have labeled keys?” Or to sit down eager to play and then realize that you actually have no idea what to do now that that visual crutch is gone. Embarrassing! But even worse – disempowering.
Recently I was traveling in France with my family, and I noticed that the Marseilles train station has a public piano for commuters and passers-by to play. Naturally, I took advantage of that opportunity and took some time to sit down and play! But I couldn’t have done that if I needed special visual aids to help me identify what I was playing.
I’m all about helping people learn to play piano as quickly as possible, so believe me when I say that I tell my students to get rid of their piano stickers if I didn’t think it would help them learn better. There are plenty of other things you can do to help you enjoy and speed up the process, so don’t skip the important step of memorizing your keys on your own.
The Results are Worth It
But what to do if you already have stickers on your keys? Simple: take them off. (Though hopefully that will be a bit easier for you than it is for some of my students. You might have to do some intensive scraping!) But the effort is worth it, as many of my student who’ve already done this have already told me. When you really know your way around your keyboard, you become a more confident and better-equipped piano learner.
If you’re not sure where to start with key memorization, please check out my free 5-day workbook, And as you’ve probably guessed by now, the very first topic that comes up is learning the 12 keys on your piano or keyboard. I promise you can do this – no stickers or Sharpies required!