You can start by learning where to put your hands on the piano. There are a group of keys toward the center of the keyboard called the Home Keys. What are the home keys on the piano? These are nine keys where your hands should rest as you prepare to play.
You might wonder why there are only nine Home Keys when you have ten fingers. The reason is that both thumbs rest on middle C. Middle C is a reference point that will be referred to over and over as you are learning and studying the piano. It can be recognized by looking at the pattern of black and white keys at the center of the keyboard. Look at the picture of the center of a piano keyboard below. Take notice of the keys that do not have a black key to separate them. This is how you recognize the pattern.
5 4 3 2 C 2 3 4 5
The middle C, where you will put your thumbs, is marked with a C. The keys with numbers under them are where you put your fingers. The twos are for the index fingers of your left and right hand, the threes are for your middle fingers, the fours are for your ring fingers, and the fives are for your little fingers.
Place your fingers on the Home Keys of your piano keyboard. Play to the right up the keyboard from your right thumb to your right little finger. Now play down the keyboard from your left thumb to your left little finger.
You can even play a few songs with your hands in the Home Keys position. Try to pick out a song you know well. For example, you can play Mary Had a Little Lamb with the right hand when it is in the Home Keys position. Try to use your memory of the sounds to choose the right keys. (Hint: start with your right middle finger.)
Now, try using the Home Keys for a reference point. Put your fingers on the Home Keys again. Look up the keyboard, to the right, for the next pattern that looks just like the Home Keys. You know where middle C is – now try to find the C of the next octave up. Look from middle C to the C above middle C. This is how you will gauge your place on the keyboard.
In the beginning, you should always take a long look at the keyboard when you sit down to play. Once you can recognize the home keys, you can begin any song from that reference point. When you have learned more, you will take one glance at middle C and know exactly where to put your fingers no matter where they should go up or down the keyboard.
Next you need to learn the names of the keys, A through G. You know where middle C is now. Start two white keys below that and you will be at A. Each white key up, or to the right, goes up a letter in the alphabet until you come to G. Then, it starts over at A.
Therefore, the middle finger of your left hand is resting on the A in the Home Keys position. As you go to the right, you will reach G by the time you get to the little finger of your right hand.
So, what are the black keys for? They are just as important. They represent the sharps or flats. Interestingly enough, the same key can be either a sharp or a flat. When you go up from a white key, the black key is a sharp, and when you go down from a white key, the black key is a flat.
To try an example, go again to middle C. Go up to the black key to the right of middle C. This is C sharp. Now, move one white key up, to the index finger of your right hand. This is a D. Go to the black key to the left of D. This is D flat. Amazing, isn’t it? C sharp and D flat are both represented by the same key on the piano.
As you learn more, you will discover that both the black keys and the white keys are equally important in piano music. There would be few opportunities to have half steps on the piano without black keys, and most songs have some half steps in them. Also, there are many instances where the black keys are some of the main keys in the predominant scale being used.