piano keyboard Archive

In my article Understanding The Piano Keyboard For Your Piano Lessons, I discussed the layout of the keyboard and that the black keys are referenced as both sharps and flats. What you’ll learn today is exactly how these keys are named and look on the Treble Clef and Bass Clef staff lines.

Sharps And Flats – Understanding Sharps

The first few piano lessons you’ll take will focus on the white keys on your piano keyboard but after you’ve become comfortable, you’ll begin to see sharps and flats in the exercises and songs in your music books.

The sharp symbol is a slanted version of the pound sign (right above the number 3 key on a computer keyboard) or the hashtag you may have seen on Twitter and Facebook feeds. It implies a higher pitch within the musical range of a song and can be placed on either clef staffs. To see the sharp symbol, let’s take a look at the image below as it sits on the treble staff line:

 

D Sharp Symbol on Treble Clef Staff

D Sharp Symbol on Treble Clef Staff

The quarter note sits on the key of D which is where the sharp symbol sits. What this tells you is to play the black key that is half a step up from the D key on the piano keyboard, seen in the image below:

D Sharp Key

D Sharp Key

Many of the advanced pieces you’ll learn to play will place the sharp symbol on the staff next to the clef so you’ll always know to play D# when that key comes up.

In other pieces of work you’ll play, the composer may have you play the key of D but for later sections, he/she may want you play D# for a few bars. To represent that, you can place the symbol alongside the note:

 

D Sharp Symbol Next To Quarter Note

D Sharp Symbol Next To Quarter Note

Both clef examples above produce the same results on your keyboard.

Sharps and Flats – Understanding Flats

Going in the opposite direction, the flat symbol portrays a lower pitch within a musical piece and can also appear on both clef staffs. It’s in the shape of a lowercase “b” but is pointed at the bottom. In the photo below I’ve placed the flat symbol next to the bass clef sitting on the key of B just like the quarter note:

 

B Flat on Bass Clef Staff

B Flat on Bass Clef Staff

Similar to the sharp symbol, you can place the flat symbol next to the note that needs to be turned from its normal key, in this case B, to a Bb (B flat):

Flat Symbol Next To B On Bass Clef Staff

Flat Symbol Next To B On Bass Clef Staff

Let’s see where on the piano keyboard this particular key is located:

B Flat Key

B Flat Key

In the piano keyboard above, the key we’re looking for is sitting an octave, 1 key and a half step down from middle C. That means you will have to move you hand to the left on the keyboard to hit that particular B flat. Read the following explanation to learn more about sharps and flats.

Sharps and Flats – Using More Than One Symbol Per Line And Space

In the examples above, I showed how the sharps and flats would look individually but you can add all 14 (7 sharps and 7 flats) symbols to the staff lines and spaces. Before I show them on the grand staff, here is a list of each one:

Sharps Flats
C# D# E# F# G# A# B# Cb Db Eb Fb Gb Ab Bb

Let’s first see how the sharps would be placed on the grand staff:

Grand Staff Sharps

Grand Staff Sharps

In this image above, the two sharp symbols are on the keys of F and C, making them into F# and C#. When you play the D Major Scale, you end up playing F# and C# and if this score were to continue, you would automatically have to play F# and C# for both the treble and bass clef staffs.

Now let’s take a look at the flat symbol:

Grand Staff Flats

Grand Staff Flats

 

The E Flat Major Scale above has three flats – Bb Eb Ab and in this scale, you automatically start off by hitting Eb (the black key) instead of the white key. This goes for the key of Bb and Ab as well.

Having your sharps and flats listed next to the clef symbols will save a lot of time as you learn how to play a particular song. They stay present throughout the piece and prevents clutter as you read and learn the notes to play it.

Sharps and Flats – How To Reset Them

I mentioned above that certain notes within a musical piece can be turned into a sharp or flat just by placing the symbol next to the note. There are times when that note needs to go back to normal so that the D# or Bb will be played as D or B on the piano keyboard. The natural symbol will tell you to play the regular key on the keyboard:

Treble Clef Staff Lines w D Natural

Treble Clef Staff Lines w D Natural

Bass Clef Staff Lines w B Natural

Bass Clef Staff Lines w B Natural

With the natural symbols in place, you can play the white key of D on the treble clef and white key of B on the bass clef. You can see which keys to play in the images below and notice that the sharps and flats have been removed:

D Natural Key

D Natural Key

B Natural Key

B Natural Key

Conclusion

Knowing the difference between sharps and flats allows you to play a more diversified range of songs. Your piano lessons will continue to increase in performance and having these two symbols understood will assist you along the way.

Using the last two images above, where would Gb be placed? Leave your answer in the comments below.

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Familiarizing yourself with your piano keyboard is a great way to get your mind and body in sync with it. You help yourself perform better and become one when you have a clear understanding of your keys and how they work. In this article, we’ll take a look at the keyboard and explain in it in detail.

How Does A Piano Keyboard Look & What Are The Key Names?

A piano keyboard has a total of 88 keys, containing a combination of black keys that repeat in patterns of 2′s and 3′s and white keys that run the full span of the keyboard. Each key produces a different sound as you play them one at a time, starting from the first white key on the left to the very last white key on the right.

88keys Piano Keyboard Thumbnail - Click for bigger view

88keys Piano Keyboard Thumbnail – Click for bigger view

The names for the keys come from the first 7 letters of the alphabet – A B C D E F G:

White Piano Keys Named

White Piano Keys Named

The black keys will oscillate between the name of the white key before or after it, using either a sharp or flat symbol:

Black Piano Key Names

Black Piano Key Names

 

What Position Should I Start On The Piano Keyboard?

Regardless of what song you’re playing, you always want to position yourself in front of the middle C key. The photo below shows its position:

Middle C Key Position

Middle C Key Position

 

This is the exact center of your piano and you want to be able to reach all the keys that are within the piece you’re playing. Sitting in the correct position is crucial not only for your piano lessons but for the performances you’ll be playing.

What Is An Octave & Where Is It On The Piano Keyboard?

An octave is a range of keys that start and end with the same key but at a higher or lower pitch. Besides each key having a letter name, the entire keyboard is broken up into two-alphanumeric characters that distinguishes the eight octaves, which is called scientific pitch notation. View the table below to see how the keys are named based on their position:

 

Octave Range

0

A0 B0

1

C1 D1 E1 F1 G1 A1 B1

2

C2 D2 E2 F2 G2 A2 B2

3

C3 D3 E3 F3 G3 A3 B3

4

C4 D4 E4 F4 G4 A4 B4

5

C5 D5 E5 F5 G5 A5 B5

6

C6 D6 E6 F6 G6 A6 B6

7

C7 D7 E7 F7 G7 A7 B7

8

C8

Let’s see how these octaves are laid out on the keyboard. The images below are broken up into sections with some repeating just so you’ll know where they leave off:

Left Side of Keyboard

Left Side of Keyboard

In the image above, you can see that octave 0 has the keys of A0 and B0. The black key, A#/Bb, is also included but we’re focusing on the natural range of each octave. The next two octaves, 1 and 2, contains the range of C1 D1 E1 F1 G1 A1 B1, and C2 D2 E2 F2 G2 A2 B2.

 

Left-Middle of Keyboard

Left-Middle of Keyboard

This image repeats the second octave from above because I wanted to give you an idea of where the third octave lies. The third octave shows the range of C3 D3 E3 F3 G3 A3 B3.

Middle of Keyboard

Middle of Keyboard

The fourth octave, C4 D4 E4 F4 G4 A4 B4, is the most commonly played octave because it sits right in the middle of your piano keyboard. C4 is middle C and as mentioned earlier in this post, this is where you want to place yourself when playing your songs and exercises.

Right-Middle of Keyboard

Right-Middle of Keyboard

Octave 5 is within the middle right of your keyboard and is one octave higher from middle C. Its keys consist of C5 D5 E5 F5 G5 A5 B5.

Right Side of Keyboard

Right Side of Keyboard

Octave 6 and 7 consist of C6 D6 E6 F6 G6 A6 B6 and C7 D7 E7 F7 G7 A7 B7 respectively. The last octave only has one key, C8 because it is the last key on the keyboard.

Conclusion

As you begin taking piano lessons, you’ll become more acquainted with your piano keyboard.

What questions do you have about the piano keyboard? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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