I've been playing all sorts of styles of guitar for nine years now, and I have a good understanding of theory. I recently started playing the piano as well - specifically more towards the jazz side of things, but I'm happy to learn some classical as well. I started playing about a month ago, but I'm having trouble learning the theory and technique side of things.

I find it difficult (and a bit boring) learning scales and simple chord voicings (triads, seventh chords) since I'm so used to the sound from playing guitar. It's difficult to motivate myself learning theory and technique on the piano because of this. I have a copy of Oscar Beringer's Daily Technical Studies for the Piano, and I've been working through that, since the exercises are a bit more interesting, but even still, I find it quite hard to practice these for more than ten minutes a day.

I could be wrong, but it seems to me that it's unnecessary to practice easier techniques like this when I have already played guitar for this long. (I understand it's important to develop good technique, but will it not come naturally as I practice more complex things?)

So my question is this, is it necessary to practice triads, and seventh chords etc. or can I move straight on to upper structures and drop 2 voicings etc, and start learning some standards? If people think it's important to practice technique, does anyone know of some more interesting things to practice?



5 Answers 5


What's important, where scales and arpeggios on the piano are concerned, are the fingerings. On guitar you have seven sets of fingering patterns for playing any major scale in position with the possibility of some small variations (pinky stretch vs. first finger stretch on the next string, or if you're in the open position), but every key will have those exact same patterns. On piano each scale will have one unique fingering but every scale will be different since the black keys are positioned and sized differently from (different methods may disagree slightly on what the best fingerings are, but its pretty well codified at this point). Same with arpeggios.

Try playing the B flat major scale with the same fingering with the same fingering that you would use for C and you'll find that you can sort of do it, but's it's much easier to start with your index finger on B flat, cross to the thumb on C and so on. There are many sources for these fingerings and you should be able to memorize them very quickly. Once you can play them at tempo, you probably don't need to practice scales and arpeggios very much.

As far as jazz voicings go, I'd start with the "left-hand voicings" described in Mark Levine's Jazz Piano Book and build your chord vocabulary by throwing in fourth, so what and upper structures voicings as you begin to learn them. That will let you start right off with "modern sounding" voicings.


Music theory is very similar on piano and guitar, but the instruments obviously have differences in lots of ways. Mostly, you need two hands to play one note on a guitar, whereas on piano, one finger will do it. Most chords on guitar are close voiced, whereas on piano, they can be (very) open. On guitar, there are many places to play the same note, whereas on piano, there's only ever one.

It's worth learning scales, chords, arpeggios on piano, just as you have probably - if not, should have!- done on guitar. Then you can drop notes out. Not all pieces are best with drop two. A bit of interest: play a chord on guitar, and find each and every note played on the piano. Play same chord, different voicing, and do the same. You're transferring guitar theory onto piano. It's a start.

  • I totally agree that compositions for piano and those for guitar differ in many aspects which, in many cases, depend directly from the instrument and the technical possibilities. So it's generally a good idea to learn a bit of theory on the instrument you want to play. I like Tims transferring approach, it could help to fill the gaps. Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 11:41

I have guitar and bass for 10+ years, and I just learned piano for 2 weeks

Please go ahead to play a song you like (simple, not complicated). You need fun.

I already played beatles "let it be" intro in 2 weeks time.

Even in guitar, I don't do scales myself, since I am playing covers most of the time. I only know power chords, major & minor chords, and some scales. I played heavy metal, it does not always stick to "rules of music"

Pick a song to have some fun, you need to keep yourself motivated


I'm a long-time hobbyist guitarist, and I've been learning piano since last March.

This question sounds like something you should be bringing up with your teacher. If you have a teacher who's not willing to listen, you need a new teacher. This isn't the Marine Corps.

If you don't have a teacher, the rest of the answer applies.

I would suggest that you mostly learn to play pieces, and get a sympathetic teacher who'll correct you on matters of technique and so on. A good course of instruction will teach you increasingly challenging student pieces, which will organically include new theoretical and technical concepts as you go along.

It's mostly not great music; my teacher is happy to let me skip over pieces that are just too annoying, and I expect any good teacher would do the same. I find it difficult to spend very much time banging out major and minor triads up and down the keyboard in different inversions, but playing music on the thing is interesting. This will probably create deficits in my mastery in the long term, but that's nothing compared to the deficit I'd have if I got bored or frustrated and gave up the piano entirely.


you don't need to practice scales, you'll automatically learn these when you learn standards. Go straight to the standards, and voice the chords in the following manner (practice both methods):

Method 1

LH plays root and fifth
RH puts melody on top and nearest 3rd and 7th beneath it.
If the melody note happens to be the 3rd or 7th, double it in the right hand (ie. play it as an octave) 

Method 2

LH plays either root and third, or root and 7th, depending on the following:
* in stepwise or chromatic bass lines, use root and 7th
* in a progression of dominant chords (circle of fifths), alternate root and third/ root and 7th
* on mixed harmonies down the circle of fifths (not only dominant chords): root and 7th for all major, minor and half-dim; root and third for doms

melody note on top.
3rd or 7th (whichever not played by LH) beneath
additional optional tension or other chord tone beneath

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