A piano is a beautiful instrument that can be both fun and satisfying to play. Not only that, but it’s probably the best instrument by which to learn standard notation and the fundamentals of music theory. Part of the reason is that it incorporates both the bass and treble clef, keys are the same all over, and key signatures/scales are easy to see.
Most people would love to sit down at one and play a carefully orchestrated classical piano piece for anyone who would listen. Composers like Beethoven and Bach come to mind, particularly, “Fur Elise.” With that in mind though, can you play it on a smaller keyboard since it was probably written with a full grand piano?
It’s possible to play the first two movements of Fur Elise by Beethoven on a 61 key-keyboard, but the third and final movement will need at least 72 keys which only come with an 88-key model. However, you could find arranged versions or use a keyboard with an octave shifter to play the higher notes.
There are a few reasons you cannot play Fur Elise on a keyboard-less than 76 keys. The main reason has to do with the second and final movement, which really starts to go crazy. The beginning is fair game to piano players of all kinds, but the last few parts will necessitate a bigger keyboard or piano. Let’s dive into this as well as some great recommendations for people who want to play this classic piece.
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Why You Can’t Properly Play “Fur Elise” on a 61 – Key Keyboard
1) The 3rd Movement of “Fur Else” Needs Nearly All 88 Keys
The most important reason you need at least 76 keys is the last and final movement of the piece has notes that go up to the 76th key. Classical pieces are broken down into small sections called “movements,” and these are the parts of the song, like in modern music, the chorus, verse, etc.
The first two movements of the three in “Fur Elise” only require a small amount of the piano. In the third movement, there is a requirement of 76 keys, or an octave shift function if you have it. Take a look at the most popular version of “Fur Elise” which can be found on Musescore. I’d recommend getting a subscription to Musecore by the way.
Truthfully, using an octave button like that on your digital keyboard would be a difficult thing to pull off, so you’d probably be better off to find versions of “Fur Elise” that are specifically arranged for a smaller keyboard. For instance, you could play a version like the one shown in this video:
If you are aspiring to play classical piano, you need more keys or a unique piano that can shift octaves, but even then, it’s not the proper way of doing it, and it might even be super hard to pull it off.
2) “Fur Elise” is Not For Beginners
Beginner pianists typically have smaller keyboards which is often a 61 key keyboard or smaller. “Fur Elise” isn’t a beginner’s song, nor is it an advanced song. It’s more intermediate and can probably be mastered in a few weeks of diligent practice. Maybe a month or more depending on your skill.
I know personally that “Fur Elise,” in its original form, is far beyond my skill. I can just read music on the piano and learn simple songs. If you wanted to start with it, you could, but you would eventually need a larger keyboard to finish the piece correctly.
Try learning something simple like “Still D.R.E” which I recommended to you above, and you’d probably have a better time with that. If you’re wondering what kind of pieces you should learn on the piano, I’d recommend really simple riffs and licks that you think are cool like what I talked about in this article.
In the article I just linked, I talked about songs to learn with just a 25-key keyboard because it is possible to take your first steps on the piano with a small device like that. But eventually, you will need to move on to a much bigger keyboard if you’re serious about learning.
How Many Keys Do You Need To Properly Play “Fur Elise”?
Simply put, you’ll need at least an 88 key piano to play “Fur Elise” as Ludwig Nohl transcribed Beethoven’s original piece. You can do this either with an electric piano or a MIDI keyboard connected to a DAW – as long you have access to the full range. As I said earlier, however, you can find simpler versions or versions arranged for fewer keys.
What Keyboards Are Best For Playing Classical Music?
Classical music needs enough keys to play the pieces without shifting too much and it also needs those classic piano voices. I can’t make a ton of recommendations for what kind of keyboard you can get, although, I know good MIDI keyboards to get.
However, I did reach out to Robin Hall, the creator of the super-popular beginner’s course, PianoForAll, and he told me that one of the best keyboards for someone to get when they’re starting out on the piano is the Yamaha P125 (more on PianoForAll in my guide). You could also go upward from there.
According to him, a digital piano is a lot better to get than a real acoustic piano because they’re much smaller. And they’re quite loud so beginners don’t like practicing on it because they feel shy. He went on to list some of the things that he recommended like it having a pedal input, weighted keys, and touch response.
The M-Audio Hammer 88 Pro is a serious MIDI keyboard. If I were to buy a new MIDI keyboard, it would either be this one or the Arturia 88 KeyLab MKII. That said, there’s something about the M-Audio Hammer 88 that speaks to me, even though I’ve heard great things about the KeyLab as well.
Important Things To Note About “Fur Elise” and Keyboards
1) Most Classical Music Isn’t Played on a Piano With Less Than 66 Keys
Classical music was written on larger pianos, not on modern keyboards, so anything less than 66 keys is not going to be enough to play the pieces correctly. You can use an octave shift function if you want to, but it’s easiest to get the larger keyboard or an actual piano.
2) A 61- Key Keyboard Is Great For Beginners or People Who Don’t Play Classical Music
Most beginners don’t dive straight into Bach or Beethoven at first, they stick to the more popular tunes that are a lot easier to play like “Mary Had a Little Lamb” or “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” to get a sense and direction on how the instrument works. Then, after some time as they advance, Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” and similar pieces might come up.
Smaller keyboards have their function in music, of course, but they’re probably better served for genres where you can get away with less range like pop, rap, country, rock, or blues. A larger keyboard has more keys, so it’s easy to play classical music on them. If you want a keyboard like a piano because you want to play classical, try an electric piano.