Adele's 'Someone Like You', released in 2011, is a great song, the closing track of the hit album '21' and also extremely successful as a single. It topped the charts of the US, UK and other countries. The instantly recognizable piano intro (played by Dan Wilson) is sensitive, melancholic and (thankfully) very easy to play, even for beginners! Read on to learn how to play this intro note by note, or skip ahead to Method 2 if you're already familiar with music theory for a shorter, more technical explanation.
Method 1 of 2: Learning the intro (for beginners)
Step 1. Start by placing the left hand on the left side of the keys
In the intro of 'Someone Like You' you play the low (or 'bass') notes with your left hand. The first notes you play are A and E. Press the keys with your pinky finger and thumb at the same time. Your little finger plays the second A below middle C, and your thumb plays the E above A.
- Hold this note for 4 beats. In other words, hold down the keys and count slowly and steadily to 4, "1, 2, 3, 4." and let go.
- If you don't know the names of the notes on the piano, don't worry. Just place your little finger on the white key between the two rightmost keys in the second group of 3 black keys (from the left side of the piano). This is the A. Now place your thumb 4 white keys above the A. This is the E. Note- these positions assume a standard piano.
Step 2. Now move your pinkie to the G#
After the 4 beats A-E, keep your thumb in the same place (E) and move your pinkie to the G#. This is the black key to the left of the A. Now hold these two keys down again for 4 counts.
Step 3. Play an F# and C#
For the next notes you will have to move the entire left hand. Place your little finger on F# and your index finger (or thumb, whichever is more convenient) on C#. The F# is 1 black key lower than G#, and the C# is the left key of the two keys below the E you just played. Hold down both of these keys, also for 4 counts.
Step 4. Finally, you play a D and an A
To be able to do this you will have to move your left hand again. Move your little finger 3 white keys to the left, on the D. Place your thumb on the A above it, so the same A as you played in the beginning (only this time the A is not the lowest, but the highest of the two notes). Hold these notes down for 4 beats.
Step 5. Practice the previous set of notes
Keep repeating steps 1-4 until you can play these two chords flawlessly.
Step 6. Now continue with the right hand
Remove the left hand from the keys and place your right thumb on A, closest to middle C, and your index finger on C#, and pinky on E. Play A, C#, E, C#. Repeat this sequence, playing 4 times per measure (4 notes per beat).
In this song, your right hand does a lot more work than your left. Listen to a recording of the song to get a sense of the intended tempo – it's OK to practice this at a slower tempo at first, then play faster and faster
Step 7. Slide your thumb to the G#
Keep the other fingers in place (index finger on C#, little finger on E), and put your thumb on G# (the black key below A). Play this sequence of notes as shown: G#, C#, E, C#. Repeat this.
Step 8. Slide your thumb to the F#
This sequence of notes is slightly different – you'll have to extend your fingers further than before. With your thumb on the F# below the G# you just played, place the middle finger on the C# above it, then your pinky on the F# above it again! In other words, you're playing two different F# notes this time. Play the sequence: F# (low), C#, F# (high), C#. This can be a stretch with the right hand! Repeat this sequence in the same rhythm as above.
Step 9. Finally, move your thumb back up to the A
You play an A with your thumb, but this time you play different notes with your other fingers: move your middle finger to the D above the A and your ring finger to the F# above the D. Play A, D, F#, D. Repeat as above indicated.
Step 10. Practice This Again
Repeat steps 6-9 several times until you can play it without making any mistakes. Listen to a recording of the song and try to match your speed and style with Wilson's. It may take a while to get that done, but hang in there – it's worth it!
One sure way to learn to play faster is to use a metronome. You can buy these for not too much money at any music store. Metronomes count the beat for you, making it easier to keep the beat. You can even set the metronome to a slower tempo to gradually increase the tempo so that you end up playing faster
Step 11. Now with both hands
Place both hands on the keys and play at the same time. Play each part at the same speed, even though the right hand plays more notes than the left. With a little luck it will sound just like the recording! If you are a complete beginner, this will take a little more time to perfect. Keep it up! Take some time every day to practice, and within 5 days you should really be a lot better!
Method 2 of 2: Learning the intro (for more experienced players)
Step 1. Learn the chords of the intro
The intro to "Someone Like You" has only 4 chords: A, A/G#, F#m and D. These chords are simply repeated in a 4 quarter time, holding each chord for 4 beats. Basically, each of these chords is played as a whole note at a tempo of about 68-70 BPM. Practice this simple chord sequence until you memorize it. That doesn't have to take a lot of time.
- Since the intro of the song is the same as the melody, you can even sing it along! "I heard that you're settled down…"
- A/G# may look a bit intimidating, but it's not too bad – it's just an A major chord, except the bass note is a G# instead of an A. Just move the lowest note of the chord down a semitone and you play an A/G#!
Step 2. Play the bass notes of the chords with your left hand
In the intro, Dan Wilson does not play the chords all at once, but individual notes with the left hand and arpeggios with the right hand. Practice the left-hand chords first. Keep a tempo of 68-70 beats per minute and play each note for 4 beats (in other words, play whole notes).
- As a reminder, the bass notes of the chords are: A, G#, F# and D. Start on the second A below middle C.
- When you've learned the bass line, try playing the notes more musically. Make subtle variations in rhythm to make it sound nicer. For example, try holding each note for 3 beats, and then strike the key again on the fourth beat of each measure.
Step 3. Play broken chords with the right hand
Practice the arpeggios for the chords you learned in step 1 of this section. An arpeggio is simply playing the notes of a chord one after the other, not all at the same time. You play the bass note, third, fifth and then the third note of each chord one after the other from the A and A/G# chords – as simple as that. But, on the F#m chord, you play the bass note, fifth, the octave, and then the fifth note again, and on the D chord, you play the fifth, the bass note, the third, and the bass note again. You play the first two chords, but with the notes in a different order. Play this sequence 4 times per measure (in other words, each note becomes a 16th note). See below which notes to play for the chords (repeat each chord 4 times):
- A: A C# E C#.
- A/G#: G# C# E C#
- F#m: F# (low) C# F# (high) C#
- D: A D F# D (Note: The A in this arpeggio is exactly the same note as the bass note in the A chord.)
Step 4. Now combine everything you have learned
Now play the piece with two hands at the same time. Unless you're already a more advanced player, it may be difficult for you to play the track at the intended speed with two hands – that's no problem. Feel free to start at half speed and gradually increase the tempo until you can play it at a tempo of 68-70 beats per minute.
Step 5. Make the whole thing more musical
One of the reasons the intro to "Someone Like You" is so beautiful has to do with the dynamics Wilson brings to the music. This means that he doesn't hold every note for the same length of time, like a robot. Instead, some notes are held longer and played harder/softer than others. In the intro of this song, the dynamics are still very subtle, but if you listen carefully to the recording, you can definitely hear this. Hear how Wilson lingers on certain notes a little longer and emphasizes others just a little more than others. These sometimes almost inaudible variations turn ordinary notes into something beautiful.