Learn to Play Beethoven's "Fur Elise" on Piano

While you can't learn to play "Fur Elise" in a single sitting, you can learn to play the basic melody to impress your friends or as an introduction to playing the piano. You need to understand basic fundamentals about the piano. With a little bit of practice, you can learn the basic fingerings, and how to associate the notes on the piano keyboard with the notes on the page.

Professional pianists often make up their own fingerings for pieces, but that kind of knowledge can only come after years of private practice and a deep understanding of how the piano works. You should also attempt to play the piano with each hand separately before putting both hands together. This allows you to develop real skill and ensure that you aren't trying to learn the notes while also trying to develop the coordination to play.

"Fur Elise" provides a good balance between difficulty and accessibility to a moderately skilled pianist. "Fur Elise" also doesn't require difficult fingerings and complicated chord progressions. As a composer, you should attempt to develop some basic skill at playing the piano since the piano provides a useful skill for improvising, playing back and creating your own original music. 

Names of the Notes on the Treble and Bass Clef Staff

Start by learning the names of the notes in the treble clef. The treble clef looks like a stylized G and has five lines and four spaces. Starting from the bottom line, the names of the notes on each line are E, G, B, D, and F. The names of any notes that fall on the spaces are F, A, C, and E. Once you learn the names of the notes in the treble clef, move on to the bass clef. The names of the notes on the lines are G, B, D, F and A. The names of the notes that fall on the spaces are A, C, E, and G.

Associate Note Names With Piano Keys

The piano contains both raised black keys and flat and long white keys. You'll notice when you look at the piano that there are a set of two black keys grouped together and three black keys. The black keys are called sharps and named from left to right, C# or Db and D# or Eb for the set of two black keys; and F# or Gb, G# or Ab and A# or Bb for the set of three black keys. A C# and a Db are actually the same pitch called an enharmonic. They sound the same, but for theoretical reasons you don't need to worry about, they are written differently. The first white key to the left of any set of two black keys is C, and the notes continue up alphabetically: C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. After you reach B, the keys start over again at C. The distance from one C to the next C is an octave.

Preparing to Play the Music

Before you begin playing you need to get the proper hand position on the piano. Locate middle C on the piano by finding the C that is closest to the center of the piano. Then, assign numbers to your fingers by holding both of your hands in front of you with your thumbs together and the palms of your hands facing away. We are going to number your fingers from 1 to 5. Start each thumb and assign a number 1, then count upward and outward toward your smallest fingers. Using this traditional system, your thumbs are one, the index fingers are two, the middle fingers are three, the ring fingers are four and your small fingers are five.

Playing "Fur Elise" on the Piano

Download the sheet music for "Fur Elise" and learn the correct fingerings. Learn to play the right-hand treble clef first and use your fingerings to pivot around the music. The first note of "Fur Elise" in the treble clef is a five and starts on E. Locate the E that is two octaves above middle C. If you remember, the distance between one C and the next is an octave. So, locate the first E above middle C and then jump up to the next highest E on the piano keyboard. Write the number above the note in the music. Make sure you use the same finger each time you practice. This enables you to begin memorizing the piece. Just like when learning to type on a computer keyboard, you can be more efficient and accurate if you memorize the position of your fingers on the keyboard. 

Always use only one finger per note and avoid moving your fingers from their placement except when a new fingering appears in the music or you need to move the position of your entire hand. This might happen when jumping octaves, or when you need to use a new hand position to play the notes on the page. Once you learn the treble clef parts, learn to play the left-hand bass clef part. When there isn't a fingering listed, use the smallest finger for the first note or another finger that feels comfortable to you. The important thing is to find a finger that isn't awkward and that is easy to play without crossing your fingers and making awkward motions. 

Practice the left-hand part until you can play without making mistakes and pausing for the next note. Consider purchasing a metronome to help keep the tempo and play in time. When it comes time to put both hands together, start slowly at first and then gradually increase the tempo (speed) until you can play both hands together without mistakes. You may need to play both hands together out of tempo at first, but with practice, you should be able to improve and learn the piece.

If you're serious about learning to play piano, hire a piano teacher to help you avoid learning bad habits. Once you learn to play incorrectly, you'll find that it becomes difficult to unlearn those bad habits. Using this article to learn to play is fine in an academic sense if you only want to get a sense of how the piano works; however, the serious pianist must take lessons from someone that is more experienced and that can help you avoid harmful mistakes. Even a beginning pianist should not study without supervision. 

The piano is a physical activity and you need an instructor to learn to play piano effectively. If you experience any soreness when playing, take a break and come back when you have rested.

Download Fur Elise for Piano


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