How to Identify Notes on the Piano

Piano Lessons / ivory piano keys / How to Identify Notes on the Piano

Hi, I’m Robert Estrin and this is LivingPianos.com. Today’s subject is about how to identify notes on the piano. You have 88 keys on the piano. What are they? I’m sure many of you already know the answer to that question. But for those of you who don’t know what the keys are on the piano, I will explain. We get a lot of pianos here at Living Pianos. Sometimes somebody has carefully put little letters on every one of the keys across the keyboard. Is that necessary? No, it’s not necessary! So, how can you figure out all these notes?

Why do pianos have black and white keys?

I have a video on that subject which you can watch here. The simple answer is, if they were all white keys, you wouldn’t be able to find any of the notes. You would have no reference. If you look at the way the piano keyboard is oriented with groups of two and three black keys, it’s a repeating pattern. Now, here’s how to find the notes on the piano. You have groups of two black keys and groups of three black keys. Any group of two, if you go to the white key just to the left, that is C. Now, what is so significant about that? Well, from there, you can go up the alphabet on the white keys. C, D, E, F G. Then it continues with the first letter of the alphabet. A, B, C. The octave higher C is also below two black keys. So now you can find all the keys on the piano. Any time you have two black keys, the note to the left is a C. The highest note on the keyboard is also a C.

What about the black keys?

The black keys are designated by either sharps or flats. But white keys can also be sharps or flats. Any two keys that are next to each other, black or white, are all called half steps. Two keys together with no keys between are a half step apart. There are white keys that are a half step apart. So what’s the significance of this?

A sharp raises a note a half step.

If you have a C sharp, it raises it a half step to the black key to the right of C. If you have D sharp, it would go up a half step as well to the black key to the right of D. You can even have an E sharp. It would be the same key as F on the piano because a sharp raises a note by a half step, and the next key on the piano is a white key.

There are also flats which lower notes by a half step.

It’s the same principle. So if you have a C flat, it’s the same key as B on the piano. But it would be indicated in your score as C flat. A B flat would be a half step lower than B, etc. So that is the way black keys are designated on the piano. You may wonder why white keys would sometimes be indicated with flats or sharps. Scales are written diatonically with all the letters in order without skipping or repeating any. On the staff they appear on consecutive lines and spaces. They are actually easier to read that way, believe it or not!

I hope this is helpful for you! Now you know all the notes on the piano. You can figure all 88 out just from that brief tutorial. Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.

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Contact me if you are interested in private lessons. I have many resources for you! Robert@LivingPianos.com

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