Lesson 1: Piano Keys and the Music Alphabet

Lesson 1: Piano Keys and the Music Alphabet

In this lesson we’ll be looking at the layout of the piano keyboard and how the keys are labelled.

The piano has 88 keys: 52 white and 36 black. To understand how the keys are structured and named, it’s helpful to begin by looking at the black keys.
Black keys come in either pairs or sets of three, and alternate in a pattern across the keyboard, starting with a set of three at the top. In all, there are 7 pairs and 7 sets of three. All black keys have at least one white key in between, and there are two white keys in between each pair and set of three. At the very bottom, or the far left, of the keyboard, there is one black key by itself, which is the only black key not part of a group. The picture below shows a pair of black keys as well as a set of three; notice the white keys separating each grouping.
Piano keys are named by letters, and the music alphabet consists of 7 letters: A to G. The white keys are the easiest place to start when learning where each lettered key is on the piano. You can find any white key by looking at its relation to the black keys. Remember, always count black keys from left to right! You can use the picture below to help you:
A: In between the second and third black keys in a set of three.
B: To the right of a set of three black keys.
C: To the left of a pair of black keys. The C directly in the center of the keyboard is called Middle C.
D: In between a pair of black keys.
E: To the right of a pair of black keys.
F: To the left of a set of three black keys.
G: In between the first and second black keys in a set of three.
The white keys are in patterns as well, and come in groups of A through G, starting over at A again for each new group. There are 7 A to G groups starting from the bottom of the keyboard. At the top of the keyboard, you’ll notice the last three white keys are A, B, and C, as the piano does not have an 8th full set of letters.
Try finding all the groups of black keys—pairs and sets of three—on your piano. Once you can do that, see if you can find all the white keys of a certain letter. Take your time at first to consider the location of each key. When you can identify all the letters confidently, try to be able to play any key you want without needing to think twice about it!
In the next lesson I’ll be covering the main note names and values.
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