LESSON 9 Stepping Up and Down the Black Keys

What you'll learn

How to play another Finger Power exercise using groups of three black keys
Review proper wrist motion and finger shape

Casio Privia

Mr. Hoffman's Top Pick for Digital Piano: Casio Privia PX-150

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81 Responses

  1. Dear Joseph Hoffman,

    The very last part of all of the lessons is very funny.I hope I can be able to play piano like you!

    • I’m not sure what you mean… Are you looking for the website where we sell our activity pages that accompany the lessons? If so, here is the link: HoffmanAcademy.com Store. I hope that helps. Good luck and happy playing!

  2. Thank you so much this is awesome!!!
    please make more lessons as time goes on!
    my left hand for some reason is a bit funky when it comes to piano, have any suggestions?

    • Thank you! We are committed to making more lessons – I’m so glad you’re excited about that! We have 140 lessons available right now and hope to have two more units of 20 lessons each up by the end of the year.

      Are you right-handed? If so, that’s probably why your left hand doesn’t feel as comfortable at the piano. As you use it and practice with it diligently, that feeling should fade. Whenever we learn something in the right hand, it would be a good exercise to try playing it with your left hand as well, to give it some extra practice. However, if that feeling is ever *painful* that is a different matter. Check on your piano posture to be sure your hands and wrists aren’t too tense or rigid. Keep me posted on your progress, especially if these suggestions don’t help over time. Good luck and happy playing! – Mr. Hoffman

  3. Hi Mr. Hoffman,I use to take piano classes at my old school but I only learned how to play one song.But you teach me how to play so many songs on almost every lesson!!Oh, and I also like how you make up stories for lessons like ”Piano Street” and ”Five Woodpeckers”. Oh and I also like those little finger puppets!Also I’m tryng to work on my piano posture but my fingers feel like jello for some reason!?Why do you think?Maybe I should keep working on it?

    • I’m so glad you’re having a good time learning with my lessons! And I’m impressed that you are working on your piano posture. You’re right, it will just take some more practice until it begins to feel natural to you. Finger power exercises are a great way to train your fingers, so I would recommend spending a little of your practice time every day working on those. The muscles in your fingers will become strong and toned over time, allowing you to play more precisely and confidently. Good luck and happy playing! – Mr. Hoffman

  4. Dear Joseph Hoffman this is Cole I really like the little puppets at the end I think this is of great and fun fun piano experience

  5. Thanks so much for posting these lessons. My 5 year old son and I work through them together, and he LOVES it! It is really wonderful that you are making music possible for whomever has an interest, and a desire to learn :).

    • You are very welcome! I love hearing that families like yours are enjoying my lessons. Please tell your son that I’m very happy to be his piano teacher. :) – Mr. Hoffman

  6. Hi Mr. Hoffman
    Love these lessons ??
    I had a little problem with my piano posture, but I am working on it.
    They are easy lessons

    • Isn’t it great that, even when you find some aspects of learning easy, there is always more you can improve on? I’m glad you’re working on your piano posture. Good luck and happy playing! – Mr. Hoffman

    • If you have 36 white keys, I’m guessing your keyboard has 61 keys total? That is the minimum number of keys required to successfully play all of the songs and exercises in our lessons, so you’re good! – Mr. Hoffman

        • That’s fine to start with. It just means you’ll need to make some adjustments with some of your finger power exercises. When you run out of keys at the top or bottom of the keyboard, back up a few octaves and keep going to give yourself more hand-over-hand practice and finger training. It would also be a good idea to ask around and find out if any nearby friends, relatives, schools, churches, or libraries have a full-sized piano you could practice on occasionally, so your body can feel the movement of leaning toward the high and low ends of the piano as you play.

    • Sometimes it helps to try thinking about your wrist and arm becoming very heavy each time you go to play a note; when you release, imagine that a weight is being removed from your arm and wrist, allowing it to lift up in response. It doesn’t have to be a huge movement, and becomes even smaller when you are playing several notes in quick succession, but if you practice slowly first with this technique you should find that your playing is more fluid and flexible. If that doesn’t address your concern, could you give me a little more detail on what you’re having trouble with? – Mr. Hoffman

  7. Mr. Hoffman, I am working with and doing lessons with my daughter. She is 7 and she has small hands. She is doing very well so far. But she gets frustrated about the finger posture. Her hands are small so sometimes it’s hard for her to curve and bounce them. When I try to help her with it she just becomes aggravated and doesn’t want to play anymore b/c she says it’s to hard. Aside from this she is playing very well and she loves the lessons. She particularly loves the puppets at the end. Anyhow, I don’t know how to approach her small hands issue. If I press to hard she will want to quit lessons and I can legitimately see her struggle. What should I do?

    Also, we stayed on the rhythm lesson for several days. She was trying very hard and doing ok but not quite getting the rhythm and beats very good. Should I have stayed on them longer? I just don’t want her to get bored or agitated but I do want her to learn to play correctly.

    • Great questions! Helping children develop good finger posture takes a great deal of patience and encouragement. It’s an important skill, but it takes time and practice. Rather than pointing out when her posture is lacking, I would recommend you try looking at it other way around: Watch for when her fingers ARE nicely curved, and give her sincere praise. You can also try using some practice games to help her work on finger posture in a fun way. Another thing to remember is that having little fingers “fly up” is usually a symptom of tension, so try replacing the phrase “curved fingers” with “relaxed” or “soft” fingers. Here are a couple of articles that might help you: Piano Practice Games and Tips for Keeping Fingers Relaxed at the Keyboard. Lastly, many children struggle with the size of their hands when they begin piano, but if hers are still too small to comfortably rest on five adjacent white keys, her ability to play will be impaired. If that is that case, please contact us so we can advise you further.

      On to rhythm: Learning to hear, feel, and move to a beat takes time as well. If a student is struggling with beat, I like to start with an activity that every child can do – walking! If she can walk, her feet are moving to a steady beat. I might tap a drum while we walk around the room together in time with the beat. Then I might alter the tempo to a slower beat or a faster beat, and our feet respond accordingly. Then, try to apply this to any kind of music. When listening to music in the car, or anytime, practice swaying or clapping to the beat. You also might consider trying a metronome in her practice time. Reviewing the rhythm lessons is great but if she feels stuck, I would let her move on with the lessons and just make sure to include a little rhythm practice each day. It may not come at first, but with time and consistent practice, I think you will see progress.

      I hope that helps! Good luck and happy playing. – Mr. Hoffman

  8. Love yur videos! I play in worship band at church. Your intro video mentioned some of your videos show how to play with chords. Could you point me to where to start to find those. Tks so much!

  9. Can you advise me on how to avoid pressing the wrong keys while playing?
    (i.e When playing WoodPecker Tap Tap, I press the right key, but then another one of my fingers slips up and adds in a key that wasn’t part of the music unconsciously when I’m not concentrating hard enough to control my fingers) I always do this in the beginning of practice, but as I complete the material again and again, I can gain more control over my fingers to get the notes right.

    • I actually sounds like you’ve discovered a couple of things that help you play the right keys; let’s identify them so you can intentionally incorporate them into your practice.

      1) When you first sit down at the piano, your fingers can take a few minutes to “warm up.” Starting your practice time with some finger power exercises helps wake up both your fingers and attention so the rest of your practice is more effective.

      2) It’s normal for you to find the fingering of a new song tricky at first. There’s simply no substitute for playing something over and over again. It’s also important to realize that effective practice doesn’t begin until you can already play it right. What I mean is, if you play it wrong five times, then finally get it right…and then stop, because you “got it,” that means you practiced it wrong five times, but played it right only once. Which one do you think your fingers will remember? That leads to my last tip:

      3) Both with finger power and with songs, try slowing things WAY down (I mean, a turtle crawling through molasses kind of slow) until you can play a small group of notes perfectly, then repeat. Then add a few more notes or speed it up just a little, until you can do that perfectly, then repeat. You’ll find your fingers have much more control at normal speeds if you’ve practiced something perfectly slowly first. Good luck! – Mr. Hoffman

  10. Mr.Hoffman,
    I have a question. I don’t seem to get how all my fingers should stay right on the piano while I’m playing a key. I tried practicing many times.Is there any strategies that can help my fingers stay on the piano?

    P.S- You’re clips at the end of each lesson are
    hilarious! ;)

    • Thanks for your comment! Sometimes focusing on piano posture can be a little backwards – if you try really hard to keep every finger perfect at once, your hands can become tense and rigid, causing your fingers to lift and straighten when you don’t mean them to. Try to focus on relaxing your hands instead, loosely keeping that nice curved shape. Another exercise is to rest your fingertips on a desk or table, lifting and replacing each finger one at a time; as you do, try to keep your other fingers touching the table, still focusing on relaxing your hand, as if your other fingers are just too heavy to lift. This will help you develop your finger independence as well as your piano posture. You may not be able to lift each finger very high, but don’t worry about that. As always, you can find more tips in the Support section of our website, with articles like Ten Tips for Good Piano Posture and Developing Good Piano Posture. Good luck! – Mr. Hoffman

    • Dear Akeelah – I’m so glad you are trying to improve your piano posture by keeping your hands curved. I does take practice for your fingers to get used to it, so just be patient and keep working on it (especially when you work on your finger power exercises). Sometimes, if you’re really focused on curving them, you might tense up your fingers because you’re so worried about doing it right; but remember that keeping your fingers relaxed is part of good piano posture, too. Keep trying and be patient; your hard work will pay off. – Mr. Hoffman

    • Sorry, but I don’t know enough about indian music to know how my lessons relate to that style. – Mr. Hoffman

  11. How do I make sure as you said that we have to keep all our fingers on the key board if we are doing a note and we mistakenly tap the other hand what can we do then

    • I know it can be tricky! It’s just a matter of patience and practice. Don’t expect to get it all at once. It is also helpful to slow waaaaay down. Take your time and stay relaxed. Hope this helps!

  12. Mr. Hoffman your great at teaching piano your so good I learned how to play hot cross buns with my eyes closed on my piano

  13. Mr. Hoffman-
    I cannot seem to get my fingers to curve properly. I was wondering if my fingers just aren’t strong enough yet? I also have long nails so I was wondering if that could be a factor of it?

    • Hi Payton, Thanks for your question. Learning to have correct hand and finger shape does take some time and patience. But remember that we are really going for your hand’s most natural at-rest position. Shake your hand loosely, then let it dangle limply, completely relaxed by your side. If you look down at your fingers, you will see that they have a natural curve to them. This is very close to the shape we want for playing. Also, sorry, but pianists need to keep their fingernails short! It will definitely make it hard to ever achieve the correct finger shape if you have long nails. I still remember being a kid and having my piano teacher send me into her bathroom with some nail clippers to trim down my slightly-too-long nails. You can also get some more ideas about developing hand shape from my blog posts about posture:
      I hope this helps! Thanks for watching!

  14. Hello, I’m having trouble while doing this. My wrists just don’t move up and down but my whole arm does. Should the arm not be moving?

    • Great question. It’s OK for the arm to move as you are doing this–just make sure the movement is originating at the wrist. I suggest you watch the video again, and pay close attention to how my wrist and arm move. Also, remember that these motions should feel comfortable–don’t force them. It’s important to have a relaxed and supple wrist always as you play. I hope this helps, and thanks for watching! Let me know how it goes.

      • Thank you for your advice! really helped me and I’ve improved on working on the black keys! THANK YOU!!!

  15. Dear Mr. Hoffman,
    I’m very pleased with your work as a piano teacher. I have learned much from your program. However, I’m having some trouble getting my fingers to move when they need to. Are there any exercises I can do to improve?
    Thank you!

    • Hi Grace, Can you describe what kind of trouble you are having? I would probably suggest repeating lessons 3, 5, 7, and 9. Watch and practice each lesson carefully for several days. Remember that piano is not something that you just pick up in a couple of tries. Each lesson may take several days of practice to completely master. Just keep practicing and you’ll get it!! Happy playing! Mr. Hoffman

  16. i think the little parts at the end are so funny so dose my bfff elva ps. if u read this mr. hoffman u have realy helped me on the piano ;). i am realy good at the piano now =) so thnks a lot

  17. Thank you so much for making your videos available. My 6 year old boy loves taking lessons from you.

    One day he told me he wanted to learn to play the piano but he didn’t want a teacher telling him what to do.

    I found your website and showed it to him and he decided this is what he wanted to learn piano. He is now on lesson 9!

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  18. I download the note from your website . It said:” try using metronome set between 60 and 66, and play one note per click ” I don’t know what is metronome 60 and 66 – and play one note per click I check pervious lesson we didn’t go through that . Please reply kinda lost here

    • Hi Kristy, a metronome is a small device which makes a clicking sound to a steady beat, which you can set to various speeds. This can be useful for practicing. You can purchase a metronome or if you have a smart phone, there are some free apps that turn your phone into a metronome. For this exercise, set the metronome to about 60-66 beats per minute, then play 1 note per every click of the metronome. This will help develop good steady beat and timing. I hope this helps!

      • I’m so glad you’re enjoying our lessons. In the opening credits, you’re hearing “All of Me” by Jon Schmidt. You can buy an audio track of the entire song, purchase the sheet music, and see the whole song performed by Jon at thepianoguys.com/portfolio/all-of-me-jon-schmidt

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