Understanding Musical Pitch For Piano Lessons

Every time you hit a key during your piano lessons, you’re producing varying sounds that you’ll eventually become attuned to within a short period of time. Your sense of hearing a specific tone or musical pitch, will increase and will help you become a better performer. In this article, we’re going to learn the three components of a pitch, how often to tune your piano, and how to memorize certain tones.

Musical Pitch: What Is It?

Musical pitch is the result of hearing a sound that is either very high or very low. Depending on the clarity of ones’ hearing, the pitch or tone can range from being perfect (completely in tune) to imperfect (out of tune). If you’ve ever watched American Idol, you will have seen a combination of people who sing quite well and those who are completely unaware of their singing ability.

There are three parts that incorporate a pitch: duration, loudness, and timbre. Let’s take a moment to analyze each part.

Pitch Duration

Pressing a key on the keyboard and holding it down will make the length of that tone last for a few seconds. If that key is pressed and immediately released, it will end quickly. This is what pitch duration entails, the amount of time the tone lasts after being produced.

Play the audio files below to see the difference in each musical pitch duration (each audio file will open in a new window):

Short Duration: CDEFG

Long Duration – CDEFG

Pitch Loudness

The amount of pressure you use to play a note on a piano keyboard will determine its pitch loudness. Some of the finger exercises and songs you’ll learn are played softly and others very loudly. There are numerous symbols called dynamics that tell you how to play them, causing a natural flow within the melody. Below is a list of the dynamics used within music sheets that’ll tell you what force is needed to play a them:

Dynamics Chart For Piano Lessons

Dynamics Chart For Piano Lessons

Pitch Timbre

If you listen to Moonlight Sonata, Op. 27, No. 2 (Complete) (you can get it here), you know that it’s being played on a piano. Each key is very distinct and if you’re familiar with how notes sound on a piano, you can instantly tell that a piece is being played on one.

Pitch Timbre is the ability to tell what instrument is creating the sound you hear. The notes played on a piano and clarinet are the same but they have a texture that differentiates them from one another. Click the audio files below to hear the F4 key be played and see which instrument the sound belongs to (audio files will open in a new window):

Instrument #1

Instrument #2

Instrument #3

Instrument #4

Each instrument played the same note but had a different tone quality to them. Were you able to tell what instrument was played? Leave your answers in the comments below.

Musical Pitch: Will My Piano Always Be In Tune?

When you initially buy your piano its musical pitch should be perfectly tuned but as time goes on, the wood that holds the strings in place, the sound board, will swell or flatten out, causing the notes to be on and off tuned in varying degrees. Depending on the climate you live in and how often you play, you’ll want to get your piano tuned 2 to 4 times a year. You can always ask your piano technician their opinion after a few services.

Musical Pitch: How Can I Memorize Different Pitches?

Every time you go through your lessons, you’re training your sense of hearing to what’s being played. Subconsciously, you’re memorizing the musical pitch of your piano and as long as it’s in tune, this is what you’ll hear.

Another way to memorize different pitches is to practice the major and minor scales. The most popular is the C Major Scale because it includes all of the white keys and is easier to play. If you want to practice hearing the black keys, the B Major Scale includes them all.

Here’s an example to get you started. My article Beginning Piano Lessons – Learning The Treble Clef Staff will accustom you to the keys shown below:


D F A Notes On The Treble Clef

D F A Notes On The Treble Clef


D F A Keys On The Piano Keyboard

D F A Keys On The Piano Keyboard


D# F# G# On The Treble Clef

D# F# G# On The Treble Clef

D# F# G# Keys On The Piano Keyboard

D# F# G# Keys On The Piano Keyboard


Becoming accustomed to the sounds you play for your piano lessons increases your awareness of proper musical pitch. The more you practice, the better you’ll be as a pianist. One piece that you can learn to get the full range of the piano keyboard is the Moonlight Sonata (Complete) by Beethoven. Click the image to the left to purchase the music sheet and begin learning this beautiful, yet haunting song.

Have you heard someone sing off pitch or play an instrument that definitely needed tuning? Tell me your story in the comments below.

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