• Keyboard Geography: How To Find Notes On The Piano (Beginners Only)

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    The goal of this lesson on keyboard geography is to help you identify notes on the keyboard.

    One of the first things that all beginners must learn while getting started is how to master the name of the notes. If you’re just getting started with the keyboard, and you need help in the area of note identification, this lesson is for you.

    At the end of this lesson, you’ll be able to name any note on the keyboard at random. But before we do that, let’s take a look again at the concept of notes.

    A Quick Review On The Concept Of Notes

    Although there are so many ways to define a note, we’ll go by the definition below:

    A note is a musical sound of a definite pitch

    Let’s go ahead and explore the definition above by expounding on some of its keywords like:

    Sound

    Musical

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    Pitch

    Definite

    On The Keyword “Sound”

    The raw material for music is sound. One can hardly talk about sound without getting scientific about it. However, because of the constraint of time and space, here’s a simple definition of sound:

    Sound is basically a waveform that is produced by vibration and is perceptible by the ear.

    The product of the vibration of the strings of a violin, the head of a drum, the columns of a horn isĀ sound.

    On The Keyword “Musical”

    All the sounds around us can be categorized into musical and non-musical sounds.

    Sounds from musical instruments like guitar, bass, etc., are said to be musical while sounds from a car crash, power plant, moving vehicle, etc., are said to be non-musical.

    On The Keyword “Pitch”

    When a sound is produced, the human ear doesn’t have the ability to determine the frequency of that sound, which is determined by number of times that sound vibrates in one second.

    The human ear has the ability to perceive the “pitch” of a note (which is given by its degree of lowness or highness) when played.

    When C:

    …and Eb:

    …are played on the keyboard, what the human ear perceives, that makes Eb:

    …to have a degree of highness that C:

    …doesn’t have is called pitch. Conversely, the degree of lowness that C has, that Eb doesn’t have is also called pitch.

    “In A Nutshell…”

    Pitch is the level of lowness or highness of a musical sound. When these two notes (C-F):

    …are played, what distinguishes both of them is their pitch. One of the pitches would sound lower, while the other one would sound higher.

    On The Keyword “Definite”

    There are twelve musical notes:

    …seven natural notes (on white):

    …and five accidental notes (on black):
    All musical notes are basically duplicates of these twelve notes:

    Although there are several sounds, it’s only a musical sound that has a definite pitch that can be considered as a note. In other words, what makes a sound a note is its ability to have the same degree of lowness or highness (aka – “pitch”) that any of the twelve musical notes have.

    So, any sound that is neither a natural nor an accidental, is not considered as a note. Now that we’ve covered the concept of notes, let’s proceed to the identification of notes.

    “On The Identification Of Notes…”

    There are so many ways to name notes on the piano. Alphabets (like A, B, C, etc.), sound syllables (like do, re, mi, etc.), and numbers (like 1, 2, 3, etc.), are used to distinguish notes on the piano.

    “Here’s The Use Of Alphabets…”

    Using the first seven Roman alphabets:

    A, B, C, D, E, F, and G

    …notes can be named on the piano.

    A:

    B:

    C:

    D:

    E:

    F:

    G:

    Beyond the knowledge of the letter names of notes (A, B, C, etc.), is the challenge of being able to identify notes on the piano and that’s what a vast majority of beginners are battling with.

    So, in the next two segments, we’ll be exploring how notes can be identified on the keyboard.

    Notes That Are Related To The Set Of 2 Black Notes

    Black notes on the piano are grouped into sets of twos:

    …and threes:

    …and in this segment, we’re focusing on notes that are related to the set of 2 black notes.

    How To Find C On The Keyboard

    The note C:

    …comes immediately before every set of two black notes:

    …on the keyboard.

    Immediately before this set of 2 black notes:

    …is a C:

    Before this set of 2 black notes:

    …is C:

    Before this set of 2 black notes:

    …is C:

    In a nutshell, C:

    …is related to the set of 2 black notes:

    …on the keyboard because it comes before every set of 2 black notes.

    How To Find E On The Keyboard

    After any set of 2 black notes on the keyboard:

    …is an E note:

    Immediately after this set of 2 black notes:

    …is an E:

    After this set of 2 black notes:

    …is an E note:

    After this set of 2 black notes:

    …is an E note:

    “In a nutshell…”

    E:

    …is related to the set of 2 black notes:

    …on the keyboard because it comes after every set of 2 black notes.

    Putting It Together

    C and E are related to the set of 2 black notes on the keyboard. Using this set of 2 black notes (as a reference):

    Before the set of 2 black notes:

    …is a C:

    …and after the set of two black notes:

    …is an E:

    How To Find D On The Keyboard

    In between C and E:

    …is a D note:

    Therefore, in between this C and E:

    …is a D note:

    In between this C and E:

    …is a D note:

    Notes That Are Related To The Set Of 3 Black Notes

    How To Find F On The Keyboard

    The note F:

    …comes immediately before every set of three black notes:

    …on the keyboard. Immediately before this set of 3 black notes:

    …is an F:

    Before this set of 3 black notes:

    …is an F note:

    Before this set of 3 black notes:

    …is an F:

    In a nutshell, F:

    …is related to the set of 3 black notes:

    …on the keyboard because it comes before every set of 3 black notes.

    How To Find B On The Keyboard

    After any set of 3 black notes on the keyboard:

    …is a B note:

    Immediately after this set of 3 black notes:

    …is a B:

    After this set of 3 black notes:

    …is a B note:

    After this set of 3 black notes:

    …is a B note:

    “In a nutshell…”

    B:

    …is related to the set of 3 black notes:

    …on the keyboard because it comes after every set of 2 black notes.

    Putting It Together

    F and B are related to the set of 3 black notes on the keyboard. Using this set of 3 black notes (as a reference):

    Before the set of 3 black notes:

    …is an F:

    …and after the set of three black notes:

    …is a B:

    How To Find G and A On The Keyboard

    In between F and B:

    …are G and A notes:

    Therefore, in between this F and B:

    …are G and A notes:

    In between this F and B:

    …are G and A notes:

    Final Words

    With all that we’ve covered in this lesson, I’m doubly sure that finding notes on the piano would be a walk over for you.

    We’ll be drawing the curtains here in this lesson, and I’ll see you in the next lesson where we’ll be exploring how to find accidentals (the black notes) on the piano.

    All the best!

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as a music consultant and content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with thousands of musicians across the world.


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