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Piano Lesson 2: Reading and Playing Our First 5 Notes

By Gaili Schoen February 01, 2023 Hobbies

Hello Sixty and Me Piano Learners! I hope you are enjoying taking your first musical steps in learning how to play the piano with me. Today I introduce some more basic piano concepts, and we will also learn to read and play your first five notes!

These lessons provide the foundation for you to play all kinds of music: classical, popular, rock, jazz, world, folk… all genres. Sometimes you might find yourself feeling impatient or overwhelmed as a beginner. Try to just focus on the small steps you’re taking each lesson towards becoming a pianist.

[If you are just joining us for the first time, you will want to first read/watch my Introduction, and Lesson 1. I hope you will give my free video piano lessons a try!]


  1. It would be best if you could watch the following videos at your keyboard. If you get your Sixty and Me emails on a laptop, tablet or phone, bring your device with you to your piano keyboard.
  2. If you haven’t yet purchased my book, Upper Hands Piano: A Method for Adults 50+ to Spark the Mind, Heart and Soul, BOOK 1, you can view and/or print the pages we will be using today, HERE. After today, you will need a copy of the book in order to follow along.
  3. Once again today, I will be teaching basic musical information to get you started. In our next lesson (Lesson 3, posting on Sixty and Me in 2 weeks), we will be able to focus on the fun stuff: playing songs and pieces! So, bear with me as we continue to learn the basics first.

2.7 Things to be Aware of, and What’s with the Candles?

In the video below, I talk about corralling your flying fingers, practice goals, and why I like to light candles at the beginning of my lessons.

2.8 Note Values, p. 9-10

Learning to read notes joins you to the universal language of music! Though the terminology can vary from country to country, the note symbols look the same throughout the world. In this video you learn the values of the first four basic notes: The Quarter Note, Half Note, Dotted Half Note and the Whole Note.

After you watch the video, try the Musical Math on p. 10. You can view or print pages 9-10 HERE. Check your answers HERE.

2.9 Making Sense of The Staff, p. 11

Music notes are written on a “Staff” of 5 lines and 4 spaces. Piano players use The Grand Staff which is the combination of the Treble Staff (where Right Hand Notes are written) and the Bass Staff (where Left Hand Notes are written).

We use two “Staves because unlike poor violinists, clarinetists and trombone players, we get to use both hands to play multiple notes simultaneously! Woohoo! That’s what makes piano so fun to play; we get to produce a very full sound using our 10 fingers.

Some important points from this video:

  1. We number the lines from bottom to top. The bottom line for each staff is the 1st line, and so on.
  2. Another name for the Treble Clef is the “G-Clef,” because it shows us that the G note is on the 2nd line of the Treble Staff. Another name for the Bass Clef is the F-Clef, because it indicates that F is on the 4th line of the Bass Staff.

You can view p.11 and review How to Play Exercise #1 on p.12 HERE.

2.10 Let’s Play! P.13

We learn C-G on the Treble Staff and play your first five notes! An important point from this video:

It’s best to not write in the letters for the notes on the pages in the book; that will slow down your learning. It is better to just refer to the note charts I provide you at the top of the pages. However, if you have sheet music for songs or pieces not in my book, you can write the letters in for the notes you don’t know.

Please lightly pencil in the letters just to the left of the notes, not above or below the notes. We want your brain to associate the letters with the line or space on which the note lies, so keep the letters right next to the note “heads.”

The video also covers time signatures, barlines, measures, clapping and counting rhythms, and fingering. Whew! That’s a lot to take in. Watch this video a couple times and trust that as our lessons progress, this will all start to make sense. Click my Sixty and Me filesto view or print p.13.

Take a look at p.14 in my Sixty and Me files to play the song beginnings you played before, on the staff. Try to count as you play, remembering to hold the half notes for 2 beats. On p. 15, write the letters on the keys, then do the Musical Matchups. As always, you can find the answers on my ANSWERS page at

2.11 Ode to Joy, p.16

Are you ready to play some Beethoven? First, try clapping and counting Ode to Joy. You will clap ONCE for each note.

  • For Quarter Notes you will clap the 1 beat.
  • For Half Notes you will clap and hold the note for 2 beats saying, “one-two” or “three-four.”
  • For Dotted Half Notes you will clap and hold the note for 3 beats saying “one-two-three.”
  • For the Whole Note at the end of the piece, you will clap and hold the note for 4 beats saying “one-two-three-four.”

Then watch my video and play the piece starting with your 3-finger on E. Pay special attention to the circled fingerings; the circles tell you that the fingering might not be what you think it might be! I demonstrate the piece at two tempos (speeds): fast and faster! But take it at your own pace, working up to a faster tempo during the next two weeks.

2.5 Exercise #1, Appendix i – ii

Print and refer to the PENTASCALES CHART while playing Exercise #1. For the next two weeks, you will start Exercise #1: in D and A, with each of your hands, one at a time. Each two weeks you will learn Exercise #1 in one or two keys (E and B will be next) while you review the keys you have already learned (there are 12 keys in all).

Your Passion Practice!

At the end of each lesson, I will provide you with an assignment, called Your Passion Practice.

  1. For the next two weeks review pages 1-16, playing p. 13, 14, 16, and the 2.6 SONGS I gave you last week.
  2. Play 2.5 Exercises #1 in C, G, D and A.
  3. Listen to music that you love and/or watch YouTube music videos, and see if you can hear and count 4 beats per measure. If you are listening to a Waltz, you will hear 3 beats per measure! The first beat of every measure is the strongest beat.

If you have a question or comment, leave it in the COMMENTS section below, because others might have your same question, and I’d like to provide answers for all.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

How has your practice been going? What has been challenging for you? What feels easy or familiar? What kind of music do you like best, that you might like to play in the future?

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Love this…I am a grade 4 student after 50 years!!! Loving it!! I swear my mental acuity is better than a year ago too!!

Gaili / Upper Hands Piano

I’m so glad you’re enjoying the lessons Susan! Not surprised to hear that you’re noticing increased mental acuity. I think when we try things that challenge our brain we feel the improvement in our every day brain function. Thanks so much for your comment and encouragement!


Gaili, I am enjoying your lessons tremendously and so thankful for the giving of your precious time. I took some lessons as a child and have wanted to get back to the piano for some 4 decades! I am 70 now and you give me confidence that I can do it. Thank you very much! And I was curious how you pronounce your first name. ☺️

Gaili / Upper Hands Piano

Wow that’s great!! I have no doubt that you can do it! Thans so much for your comment Patsy. My name is pronounced GAY-LEE (thanks for asking!)


These lessons are absolutely wonderful! Gaili I has such a lovely manner and is motivating and inspiring. I am learning so much and I look forward to continuing my piano journey under your excellent guidance. Thank you for sharing your expertise with us. You are so appreciated, Gaili!

Patricia- thank so much for your kind words, you made my day! I’m SO glad you’re enjoying the lessons! I’m working on Lesson 3 today – the future lessons will definitely be more fun!

The Author

Gaili Schoen is a passionate piano teacher and learning science researcher. She has written a piano instruction series called Upper Hands Piano: A Method for Adults 50+ to Spark the Mind, Heart and Soul. Learn more at Follow her blog for free monthly sheet music and practice tips:

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