How to… Play Chopsticks

Todd Vanderwerff

Todd Vanderwerff

Nothing to do this summer? Why don’t you start a band? Don’t know how to play an instrument? No problem. After this handy-dandy lesson, you’ll be the best pianist ever!

1. Take a look at a piano keyboard.

You’ll notice that it’s made up of a constantly repeating group of keys. First, we have two black keys surrounded by three white keys. Then we have three black keys surrounded by four white keys. Over and over and over and over . . . .

2. Sit down at the piano.

Center yourself on the bench. Look for a group of two black/three white. Put your thumb on the farthest left white key of this group. Congratulations! You’ve found Middle C!

3. The musical alphabet only has seven letters.

Why? We don’t know so stop asking! The letters fall on white keys and the black keys are the notes in between (flats and sharps). Therefore, the two white keys to the left of Middle C are B and A, while the four white keys to the right of Middle C are D, E, F and G. After G, we go back to A and start all over again. Take a moment to get used to this. You’ll notice that A is always in the same place all the way up the keyboard, B is always in the same place, C is always … and on and on.

4. Take your right hand.

Place your index finger on F and your middle finger on G. Play both notes together. This is the first chord of “Chopsticks.” Play it six times!

5. Now move your index finger to E, while keeping your middle finger on G.

Play both notes together to make the second chord. Play THIS six times!

6. Now we make a big leap.

Place your thumb on D and the B above G (take a moment to look over the keyboard if this confuses you). Play both notes together for the third chord. Again with the six times.

7. Move your thumb to Middle C and put your pinky on the next C above Middle C.

This is the final chord. Strike it once and hold it for a bit, then hit it again.

8. Now go backwards through the chords to get back to where you started.

This time, things will be slightly different. It goes: thumb on Middle C/pinky on next C, then thumb on D/pinky on B, then index on E/ring on A (its important you catch this difference or your “Chopsticks” will never sound quite right), then index on F/middle on G.

9. You’re back where you started!

Good job! Now endlessly repeat to annoy friends and family!

10. This step is optional.

Take your left hand and play around on the lower end of the keyboard to see if you can make up a fun accompaniment for what your right hand is doing. If you can’t, don’t worry. The melody of “Chopsticks” is annoying enough on its own.