Learning to Play the Keyboard: 5 Common Beginner Mistakes


Question: What’s more difficult for a beginning keyboard player to fix than keys that stick?

Answer: A bad habit…because it sticks forever!

All joking aside, bad habits practiced by beginning keyboard players can have a lifelong impact on their performance as a musician, often prohibiting them from reaching their true musical potential.  To prevent another keyboardist from getting trapped in a stick y web of bad habits, we at Scottsdale Music Academy are happily sharing some of the most common mistakes made by newbie keyboard players, mistakes that we’ve seen time and time again during our many years of teaching keyboard lessons in Scottsdale.

Without further ado, here are the 5 major “keyboard career killers” or beginner mistakes that all aspiring keyboardists should avoid at all costs.

  1. Poor Posture

Perfect posture isn’t just for ballerinas or a way for singers to maintain a healthy voice. Believe it or not, posture plays a major role in a keyboard player’s musical success and their musical longevity. Poor posture not only makes it more difficult to actually play the keys as one must inevitably stretch the hands and fingers beyond a comfortable or natural position, but it can also lead to hand and wrist injuries and general fatigue due to the extra strain placed on the hands. More than maintaining a straight back, proper posture for keyboard playing should take into account bench height, bench position, and physical distance from the keyboard. It should also incorporate stable or flat feet, loose shoulders, high elbows, and arched hands.

  1. Playing From the Fingers


You might be surprised to hear that good keyboard players don’t play with their fingers; they play with their whole arm. By involving their entire arm in the playing process, they have better control over their movements and will be able to produce a more even sound.  Unfortunately, many beginning keyboard players are unaware of this fact and, consequently, tend to pound the keys with their fingers instead of taping into the natural weight of their arm to produce a more controlled touch.

3. Faulty Fingering


In order to master the shiny black and white keys, all keyboard players should exercise proper fingering, also known as finger placement.  This allows the keyboardist to reach the keys with speed and flexibility, thereby improving the quality of the performance. A majority of sheet music includes fingering marks from one to five which indicate which fingers to use when playing the piece.  The fingering marks are categorized in the following ways:

  • 1 = thumb

  • 2 = index finger

  • 3  = middle finger

  • 4 = ring finger

  • 5 = little finger


Generally speaking, shorter fingers play the longer keys, and longer fingers play the shorter keys. In any case, it’s important to remember that fingering isn’t set in stone.  It’s merely one of many guidelines for keyboard success.


  1. Practicing Without a Metronome

Beginning keyboard players tend to pay more attention to the notes on a page or their finger placement, rather than the timing of the music. That’s where a metronome comes in handy. A metronome keeps time to help musicians maintain a sense of tempo throughout the piece. Without a steady beat to mind, most keyboardists will slow down as the music gets harder. Overall, a metronome helps the keyboardist to play the music as intended.

  1. Starting Over From the Beginning

What we generally witness during our keyboard lessons in Scottsdale is students starting over from the very beginning of a piece whenever a mistake has been made. More often than not, this results in a strong beginning performance that tends to become increasingly worse as the student progresses throughout the piece.  Instead, beginning keyboardists should try to isolate a troublesome section and practice that particular chunk until they are confident in their capabilities. By doing so, they’ll become more familiar with the whole song, rather than just a certain section, and will broaden their skills.


The Solution to Breaking Bad Beginner Keyboard Player’s Habits

The bad news is there’s no quick fix once bad keyboard habits are cultivated…but the good news is there is hope for improvement. With years of experience instructing keyboard lessons in Scottsdale, we at Scottsdale Music Academy have seen our fair share of keyboard blunders and mishaps, and we know just what to do to eliminate those bad habits once and for all.  With our customized private and group music lessons, we have a variety of classes to meet your individual keyboard needs in a fun and interactive learning environment.

Whether you’re a newbie looking to grow your skills or an old timer in need of a refresher, stick with us and you’ll never be stuck in a bad keyboard playing rut again!

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