Why Piano Players Should NOT Look Down 

Do you find yourself constantly looking down when you play the piano? Do you find yourself getting lost? Then this article is for you.


not looking down


I get it. The keys are all laid out in front of you. It’s so easy to just look down. It’s so tempting. But did you know that looking down all the time can really slow down your progress at the piano?


In this article, I’m going to show you why piano players should not look down when they play and how being able to play without looking down can drastically improve your playing and your sight-reading. I’ll also show you one small thing you can implement right away in your practice to help you play without looking at the keys.


Why piano players should avoid looking down

Unless you possess supernatural powers, you can only ever look at one thing at any given moment. You can’t both look at the music  and at the keys. You can’t do both. So the moment you take your eyes off the music, you can’t read ahead. You can’t see what’s coming up. This means it’s hard to sight-read fluently.


And so what ends up happening is that you play a little bit, you look down to check whether you’re playing the right keys, then you look back up, you try to find your spot again, inserting a break in the music, then you play the next few notes, you look down, you check the keys, and so on.


When you’re constantly looking up and down like that, you stop the flow of the music. It’s like pressing down on the accelerator when driving, then pressing the breaks, then the accelerator again, instead of keeping the foot on the accelerator and driving smoothly like you see in ads.


Which is more enjoyable? Stopping and starting and making jerky movements or driving smoothly at a constant speed?


And as a piano player, which is more enjoyable? Playing a few notes, stopping, playing the next few notes, stopping? Or playing at a constant tempo and actually hearing the melody and the harmony unravel in real time?


I assume you would find the latter more enjoyable.


When you’re looking down, that’s you putting your foot on the breaks. You want to keep going and enjoy the ride.


So what is the solution? How do you get to the stage where you can play smoothly at a constant speed?


You get to this stage by learning how to play without looking down, by developing your spatial awareness of the black and white keys, by knowing the layout of the keyboard, by becoming more familiar with the distance between keys and by learning how it feels to play common patterns like triads, arpeggios and intervals.


Take away your sight

The only way to develop this awareness is by not looking down. Your sense of touch will develop much faster if you stop relying on your sight. Not only that but your sense of hearing will also improve because you’ll start listening to what you’re playing and make connections between what you see in the score and what you hear.


Think about it. The people that are the most sensitive to touch and sounds are the people that are blind. Therefore, taking away your sight is the best way to develop your other senses.


The design of the piano

The design of the piano is actually really clever because the black keys are higher up. You can feel them easily even without looking. The black keys are like the raised dots in braille.



The other great thing about the layout of the keyboard is that the black keys are grouped in groups of 2 and 3. And it’s easy enough to tell whether you’re touching a group of 2 or 3 keys.


The first step to play without looking down is to develop your spatial awareness of the black keys, because the black keys will help you find the white keys that are around the black keys.


Exercise to play without looking down

The one thing you can start doing in your practice right away is this:


If you would like to further develop this skill, you can grab a set of exercises I’ve made specifically for piano players to develop the skill of finding any note by feel only. Just fill in the form below to get it straight into your inbox.


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    LEARN MORE >> How to Play Without Looking at the Keys


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      Emmanuelle Fonsny

      Emmanuelle Fonsny

      Emmanuelle Fonsny, or Manu, is a piano and violin teacher, composer and accompanist based in Sydney, Australia. She is passionate about sharing her love of music and her sight-reading and practice tips to help other pianists become more confident sight-readers.



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