Friday Freebie: Learn to Play Melody

"Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" melody...
"Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" melody doubled at seconds: neither consonant nor equivalent. About this sound Play ( help · info ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I came across this wonderful article and wanted to share it with you,
I'll add my own take on this, too.

The fundamentals aspects of learning music- Ears, and melody.

1) Think of a tune you already know. The simpler the better (at least at first). Recommended tunes: Twinkle Twinkle, Mary had a little lamb, Happy Birthday, God Save the Queen, Row Row Row Your Boat, etc.

2) Sing it.
Don’t be shy. Part of your ultimate goal is that you will be able to play music that’s in your head without hesitation as well as playing music that you hear around you with the same ease. So step one is taking music in your head and learning it on piano. Now the big difference between singing a tune, and playing it on piano, is that you have probably been singing since you were a toddler. If you can’t sing it, you probably aren’t hearing it, so don’t be shy.

Find the first note that you sang on the piano. Now notice that each note is repeated about 6-8 times on the piano (I’ve never actually counted). Find the one that matched the register of your voice. If you are having trouble finding it, don’t worry. Just try to keep that note in your head by singing it over and over again (like when you are trying to remember a phone number). Start with a random key and listen to the note it produces. If you can tell how far away you are, follow you gut, but if you can’t, just try every note.

Now that you’ve found your first note, remember which note it is. Sing the first couple words of the tune (Mary Had-end). Now you are going to find the second note. using a similar process, except that you have a reference point which makes it easier. Sing it and ask yourself: “Is it higher or lower?” “is it right next to the last note (part of a scale), or does it jump over a few notes?” “is it the same note or have you heard it already in the song”.

Repeat these steps until you have enough of a piece of the tune to practice. All you really need is a minimum of 3 notes to practice. Repeat this part you have learned until you can play it comfortably with your eyes closed (literally).
Continue this process through the whole tune breaking it into smaller pieces for ease of learning.

Once you can play the whole tune you can try some different things.

1) learn it completely in your other hand. Stopping to work out fingering issues as they arise.
2) learn it with both hands playing it at the same time separated by two octaves
3) Pick another note to start on and learn the tune again on this note.

Do this for many tunes. In fact this is an exercise that you can stick with for most of your life, as you will always need to learn more melodies. As you become more experienced at this, see if you can play a melody perfectly on your first try, but still practice it.


I love this article and refer to it often with my piano students. In fact beginners learn at an early age where C position is on the piano, with thumb on C (r.h.) and pinky on C (l.h.) From there, we build on the melody line in the right hand, like "Ode to Joy" by Beethoven and add chords in the l.h. You'll find that with this particular song, you can play the melody line with the l.h. bass notes, too.

I use simple nursery rhymes to teach my grandkids the notes of the scale and how these easy tunes contain 3 white keys... C, D, E and sometimes F so they can practice these repeated notes while singing the song that they are familiar with. Perhaps you have gone to a piano and tried to pull out the melody line, whether it's "Heart and Soul" or "Happy Birthday."

Remember that the note you start on and end with determines the key you play in. This is a very important point to know. With the 300 page course theory book, I find it's a great learning resource for intermediate players. If you are just getting started with the piano, you might want to look for additional work books as well.

4 Steps to Learning How to Play Any Song on the Piano
1. Determining the melody - Melodies determine what chords will be played. If you can use your ear to figure out what notes are being played in the melody, you are 1/4 on your way to learning a song! More resources on learning how to determine melodies
2.Harmonizing the melody - Once you have figured out the melody (using some of my techniques on the resource page), it is time to harmonize it. This is simply choosing various chords to accompany the melody. There are several techniques and tricks to doing this. More resources on learning how to harmonize melodies
3. Altering Chords - This is the best part! Now that you have strategically figured out the melody to a song and have harmonized it, altering your chords to produce certain sounds is the next step. If you were playing gospel music, you would alter your chords differently than if you were playing classical or country music. More resources on altering chords
4. Listening - After you have determined the melody, harmonized the melody, and altered some of your chords, there are various techniques you can use to make sure that your song sounds right. More resources on listening techniques
I personally recommend "The Secrets to Playing Piano By Ear" 300-pg Course and through my relationship with Jermaine (the author of this course), I've been able to get him to throw in a few bonus items (3 additional piano software programs). He has taught literally thousands of musicians how to play the piano by ear. If you understood just half of what he discussed above, you'll definitely benefit from his 300-pg course. Click here to learn the secrets to playing absolutely any song on the piano in virtually minutes! I highly recommend it.

I missed video Thursday yesterday, after spending some wonderful moments with my granddaughter.
Of course, I was giving her a piano lesson. Here's a video from Hear and Play that I found helpful.

You'll also want to stop by a very nice site and pick up some free music with easy, recognizable melody lines at


"The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King
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