Understanding Everything About a Piano Keyboard

piano-keyboard

A piano keyboard is the first place where you’ll learn to pick up on the patterns that give life to a piece of music. Keep reading to learn about them and you’ll be playing your heart out in no time!

The Keys

All of the keys on a piano are grouped, making it easy to distinguish patterns, even if this is your very first lesson. The black keys are grouped in twos and threes. These are called “sharps” and “flats”.

All sheet music is written on an alphabetic scale from A to G. Whether or not you are playing up (toward the right) or down (toward the left) will determine whether the black keys are sharp or flat. But we’ll get to that in just a bit.

First, let’s find Middle C.

Middle C

If you don’t remember anything else from your first lesson at a piano keyboard, remember where to find Middle C.

Usually this will be the key in the very centre of your keyboard. If you look to the middle of your piano keyboard, you will see two groupings of black keys. On the left, a grouping of three, on the right, a grouping of two. The white key to the immediate left of the group of two will be Middle C.

So many of your future lessons will be centered around this one place on the keyboard, so learn where it is, and be able to find it quickly.

Scales

One of the easiest ways to figure out the patterns on your piano keyboard is to play scales. This will also help you remember the names of your notes. Start at Middle C and play only the white keys to the right, until you get to the eight one.

Congratulations! You’ve just played your first scale! The C scale is the easiest one in sheet music because you don’t have to use any of the black keys to play a perfect scale.

If you start at the 8th key you stopped on and keep moving to the right, you can repeat the pattern until you run out of white keys. Starting to hear the pattern?

“Do re mi”

Do you remember watching “The Sound of Music” or singing “Do re mi” in elementary school? If you’re learning to play the piano, you’ll be glad you did and already know more than you think.

The eight notes of “Do re mi” represent each note of a musical scale, the one you just played from Middle C, upward.

A scale can be played starting with any note on the piano keyboard, but sometimes you will have to also play some of the black keys in order for it to work.

“ABC’s”

The notes go in alphabetical order. If you start at Middle C and play a scale it will be:

C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C

Once you recognize the names of the keys you are playing, you can begin to learn how to read music. Reading music means you understand how the notes indicated on sheet music correspond to which key should be played.

Naming the Notes on a Piano Keyboard

Now that you’ve mastered the C scale, let’s take a look at those mysterious black keys.

Find a group of two black keys. The white key to your left, as you now know, is a C. And the next white key is a D. Wait, that made sense until you realized there is a black key in the middle!

Remember, the black keys are called “sharps” and flats”. The first black key to the left in the group of two is either a C sharp or a D flat. So with that rule in mind, see if you can guess what the black key next to it would be…….

If you said D sharp or E flat, you’re right! Take some time to work your way up the keyboard and see if you can name every note between Middle C and it’s ending C on that scale.

But before you do, here’s a tip to make it easier:

Sharps can only go up

So let’s say you’re starting at Middle C and moving to the right. Here’s what your keys will be – black and white:

  • C
  • C sharp
  • D
  • D sharp
  • E
  • F
  • F sharp
  • G
  • G sharp
  • A
  • A sharp
  • B
  • C

 

You’re going UP a scale, so the names of those black keys will be “sharps”.

Flats can only go down

Starting again at Middle C and going to the left, keeping pressing each key on the piano keyboard until you get to the next C and here is your pattern:

  • C
  • B
  • B flat
  • A
  • A flat
  • G
  • G flat
  • F
  • E
  • E flat
  • D
  • D flat
  • C

See how the direction of the music determines whether a note is sharp or flat?

Notice anything else? There is no “F flat” or “C flat”. Why? Take a look at your piano keyboard and see if you can guess.

That’s right, there is no black key below the F or C keys. By the same rule, there is also no “B sharp” or “E sharp”.

Octaves

Now that you have a basic understanding of scales, let’s talk about octaves for just a moment.

Each set of scales is based on an octave. The C scale you played from Middle C to the 8th white key was one octave. If you moved to the right and continued the pattern, you went up an octave. If you started at Middle C and went left, you would be going down an octave.

Understanding octaves will also be important to you if you are planning to learn how to read music.

Practice makes Perfect

Having more than a basic understanding of the piano keyboard will make you a better musician. Take the time to practice the scales and memorise the names of the notes.

If you’ll spend a little time each day doing these things, you’ll be familiar with it in no time. Soon it will become second nature, and you won’t even have to think about it! Good luck!