Learning Piano Theory For Beginners

What is Music Theory and Why is it Important? 

Learning Piano Theory is a fundamental component of music education, and understanding it can be the key to unlocking the mysteries of musical composition. It helps us understand why certain notes sound good together, how chords progress from one another, and how melodies are structured. 

Music theory also provides insight into the creative process behind writing songs and pieces of music. By studying piano theory, we can gain valuable knowledge about harmony, melody, rhythm and form that will enhance our ability to create beautiful music. With this knowledge we can better appreciate what makes great composers so successful in their craft. With practice and dedication anyone has the potential to become a master musician starting from an understanding of basic piano theory. 

In order to see the bigger picture and to quickly advance your piano theory and your playing, there is no better way than attending a piano course. At the London Piano Centre, you will have the opportunity to study with some of the best teachers in London, meet with other musicians and take your musicianship to the next level.

Definition of Music Theory 

Music theory is the study of how music works and how it can be composed, performed, and understood. It looks at the structure of musical elements such as melody, harmony, rhythm, meter, tonality and form. 

Music theory also examines the relationships between these elements and helps us to understand why certain combinations of notes sound pleasing or discordant. Through its analysis of music’s components and their interrelationships with one another, music theory provides a framework for understanding what makes up good music – from individual pieces to entire genres. 

By learning music theory we can appreciate why some compositions are timeless classics while others may not have stood the test of time. In addition to giving insight into composition style, knowledge gained through studying music theory can help musicians become more creative in their own work by allowing them to explore different combinations of musical elements more effectively.

Learning Piano Theory – Rudiments

The piano is an instrument that is made up of 88 keys, each one corresponding to a different note. Note names follow the letter of the alphabet, from A to G. As a beginning piano student, it’s important to understand how notes (and note names) relate to one another on the piano keyboard, as this knowledge helps you learn and create melodies and harmonies, play songs or classical piano pieces. 

Notes on the piano are arranged in intervals – one of the most important music theory concepts; two or more notes played together form an interval, which can be either consonant (“pleasing”) or dissonant. Intervals can also be thought of as steps taken between two notes on the piano keyboard: ascending intervals move upward while descending intervals move downward. Knowing how these intervals interact with one another allows us to create chord progressions and interesting melodic lines that sound great when combined together. 

Additionally, understanding key signatures will help identify whether certain notes should be sharp (#) or flat (b), allowing for greater accuracy in your playing. 

Lastly, scales and chords are essential building blocks for piano theory – by getting familiar with different types of scales and learning about their unique characteristics such as major/minor tonality and chord progressions we can better understand how all the pieces fit together in a piece of music. 

But really, why should I bother to learning Piano Theory? 

Learning piano theory is a valuable tool for anyone who wants to understand, compose, and/or perform music. Only with a deep understanding of music theory, musicians can better appreciate the structure behind musical pieces and gain insight into how different musical elements interact with one another. 

For example, if you want to play piano like a pro, you will need to learn about scales and chords, key signatures, time signatures and intervals. Knowledge of piano theory also aids in understanding different musical genres, as well as the way that various composers have used music theory to create their pieces. 

Additionally, being able to recognize patterns within a piece of music can help musicians become more creative in their own work and quickly identify problems or mistakes they may have made while composing. 

Piano music theory provides a deeper appreciation for music that can be gained from simply listening to it. By studying its components we can gain valuable insight into both the individual pieces and entire genres of music, which helps us to better understand what makes great composers so successful in their craft. 

With a thorough knowledge of music theory, musicians can compose and perform with confidence, creativity, and skill. In short, understanding piano music theory is an essential step in becoming a more accomplished musician.

Intervals – How Notes Connect or Relate to One Another 

Intervals are an important part of music theory that help us understand how notes relate to one another and create melodies. Understanding intervals helps us form a better understanding of the musical landscape, allowing us to better appreciate the nuances of a piece or song. 

Intervals can be read from left to right in a melody line, and range from unisons all the way up through 8ths (and more!). 

Identifying intervals

For further study, try to identify the intervals in some of your favorite songs. This will help you develop an understanding of how melodies and harmonies interact with each other and build upon one another to create a cohesive piece. 

Once you have identified the intervals within a song, try experimenting with new ways to connect them together and create something unique! With practice, you’ll eventually be able to compose your own melodies from scratch using different intervals.

Intervals are the distance between pitches, and are the building blocks that let us form a better understanding of the musical landscape, allowing us to appreciate the nuances of a piece or song more fully. By studying intervals, we gain insight into how melodies and harmonies interact with one another and build upon each other to create something beautiful.


Melody and Harmony

Reading melody is an important element of music theory, as it allows one to understand the structure of a piece or song. 

Melody is generally read from left to right. Harmony is typically read from bottom to top, as this gives a better visual representation of how different chords play off each other and provide support for the melody. Melody is usually a steady flow that provides structure for the listener. 

The harmony plays a “supporting role” which helps add emotion and depth to the piece. It also serves as a great way to transition between sections of the music, usually through common progressions that create feelings of familiarity with the listener. 

One can use both major and minor chords when creating harmony and will often switch between them depending on what emotion they are trying to draw out of the listener. 

Key Signatures – Identifying Notes to Play Sharp or Flat 

Understanding key signatures is an important part of learning musical notation and is one of the first concept that a pianist learns when starting to read music. 

They are symbols written near the beginning of a music score, next to the clefs (which, for pianists are the treble clef and the bass clef) that indicate which notes should be played sharp or flat. 

Knowing what notes to play sharp or flat in a key signature can help you quickly identify and understand the overall key of a piece, and make it easier for you to play accurately. 

Key signatures consist of either sharps or flats: you simply look at the symbols written near the beginning of the sheet music—these symbols will tell you which notes you should play sharp or flat. 

Harmonic Changes

It’s important to keep in mind that some pieces of music may contain multiple signatures throughout; for example, a piece of music may begin with one key signature but shift to different keys part way through. When this happens, it’s important to pay attention to any changes in the symbols written near the beginning of the staves—these will always tell you if the new key signature has been reached.

Scales and Chords – Building Blocks for Music Theory 

The piano is a powerful instrument for creating beautiful music. To get the most out of it, you need to understand how scales and chords work together. 

Scales are the building blocks of music theory; they consist of all the notes between the first and last note of the scale. 

Chords are several notes played simultaneously in harmony, and when combined with scales become chord progressions that can be used to accompany beautiful melodies. 

Knowing how to play these combinations on your piano will help you craft richer melodies that capture your audience’s attention.

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Scales are the foundation of learning piano theory and technique, and they also form the basis for understanding how to play chords on your piano. 

They consist of all the notes between a starting note and an ending note. By practising them regularly you can learn to recognize patterns in music more quickly and you will build the necessary muscle memory to play fluently most piano music. 

A scale is, essentially, a succession of interval. Different scales represent different keys. Depending on the pattern, we have major scales and minor scales. 

Structure of a major scale

A major scale follows the sequence Tone, Tone, Semitone, Tone, Tone, Tone, Semitone. A major scale is often associated to a character of “positivity”, while a natural minor scale is usually perceived as “sad”. 

The first major scale piano students normally learn is C Major, which only involves playing white keys. C major scale is common in beginner piano pieces, as it is easy even in terms of reading music because of its own nature which excludes accidentals (sharp and flat notes). 

All major scales have they relative minor scales, which has the same accidentals. C Major scale, for instance, has a relative minor scale of A Minor. 

Another type of scale is the whole tone scale which, as the name suggest, is only made of whole Tones and no Semitones.


Chords are an essential part of making music, as they provide harmony and complexity to a melody. Chords consist of several notes played simultaneously in harmony. 

Understanding how chords work on the piano keys is essential for your musical journey. 

As music students progress with their piano playing, they will notice that one of the most beautiful features of the piano (with respect to other instruments) is its ability to play an “accompanied melody”, which means that a melody and an harmony (often in the form of chordal progressions) is played simultaneously (usually with the left hand). 

To get started with chords, try learning one chord at a time; this will give you an understanding of how musical intervals work together. As your skills improve, try adding chromatic notes (half steps on the keyboard) or experimenting with different combinations of piano chords do go more in depth in your own music discovery.

Chordal progressions

Progressions are a fundamental part of understanding how to play the piano. Chords are typically numbered with Roman numerals, with the three primary chords commonly used being I (1), IV (4), and V (5). These chords form the basis for many well known pieces, as they provide harmonic structure and give piano pieces a recognisable pattern. 

To understand a chord progression, it is important to know not only what notes make up each chord but also how they interact with each other musically. For example, a IV-V-I progression uses two triads to lead up to a tonic chord (I). This type of progression is commonly used in music, as it helps drive a song’s melody towards its resolution. 

Another common type of progression is I-VI-IV-V, which sometimes involves using two minor chords (VI and IV) leading into two major chords (I and V). This type of progression provides contrast between the minor and major chords, creating an interesting character that listeners will recognize instantly.

Conclusions – Learning piano theory

It is clear that understanding the fundamentals and learning piano theory can open up a world of possibilities for pianists. 

By learning scales, chords and chord progressions you will be able to craft richer melodies that capture your audience’s attention. With practice and dedication, mastering these concepts will become second nature. 

The most comprehensive course in London

For those wanting to take their knowledge further by exploring more complex musical concepts such as modes or improvisation techniques, we recommend enrolling in a piano course. 

At the London Piano Centre, we are proud to have some of the best concert pianists in London teaching piano to students all ages and levels. Contact us today – our staff will be more than happy to arrange your first piano lesson and find the right course for you.

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