• Do You Know The 24 Keys On The Keyboard?

    in General Music,Piano,Theory

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    In this lesson, we’ll be learning about all the keys on the keyboard : 24 of them.

    If you’ve been around musicians for a while, you probably could have heard stuff like “I’m playing in key Db” or “We’re modulating to key G major” etc.

    If you’re classically trained or can read sheet music, you’ll agree with me that there are a set of symbols that indicate the key of the song at the beginning of most songs.

    The concept of a key on music is the foundation that that a lot of music styles have in common; whether it’s a radio jingle, congregational song, classical tune, or a jazz song.

    So, give me your undivided attention for the next 5 to 10 minutes and I guarantee you that you’ll learn about the concept of key and most importantly, the 24 known keys on the keyboard.

    “What Is A Key?”

    I’m certain you have an idea of what a key is, however, I want to assume that you don’t. So, kindly permit me to refresh your mind on the concept of key

    Definition Of A Key

    A key is a musical environment formed by the establishment of a particular note as a key center or tonal center.

    There are twelve unique notes on the piano:

    …and these twelve notes are not to be considered as keys until they are established as key centers. For example, the note below is C:

    However, the key of C requires the establishment of C as a key center and this would involve other tones:

    …which in this case are D, E, F, G, A, and B.

    The musical environment formed by these notes:

    …with the intent and purpose of establishing C (which is a note):

    …as a key center produces the key of C:

    At this point, you should be able to see the difference between C as a note:

    …and C as a key:

    Classification Of Keys According To Tonality

    Tonality refers to the character of a key.

    Keys are broadly classified as major and minor according to their character. The major key has attributes of happiness, light, etc., while the minor key has attributes of sadness, darkness, etc.

    So, for every major key, there’s a contrasting minor key. The key of C major:

    …and the key of C minor:

    …are keys that share the same letter name (which is C):

    However, they differ in terms of attribute. Most songs composed in C major would sound happy while most songs composed in the key of C minor would sound sad.

    Exposed: 24 Known Keys On The Keyboard

    Although there are 12 notes on the keyboard (and other musical instruments as well), the number of keys are 24 because of there is a major and minor key associated with every note on the keyboard.

    For example, the note C:

    …is associated with the key of C major and C minor.

    Let’s go ahead and explore these keys.

    12 Major Keys

    Although there are more than 12 known keys in music theory, however, considering the fact that certain keys have enharmonic equivalents, it’s absolutely correct to say there are 12 unique major keys on the keyboard.

    Example of enharmonic equivalent keys are C# major:

    …and Db major:

    Although they are theoretically different, they practically sound alike.

    “Alright, Here Are The 12 Major Keys On The Keyboard…”

    C major:

    G major:

    D major:

    A major:

    E major:

    B major:

    F# major:

    Db major:

    Ab major:

    Eb major:

    Bb major:

    F major:

    12 Minor Keys

    Minor keys are contrasting tonalities to major keys and there are twelve of them as well. Although minor keys are entirely different from major keys, they relate in two ways; as parallel keys and as relative keys.

    Attention: We’ll be covering these relationships in subsequent lessons.

    “Alright, Check Out The 12 Minor Keys On The Keyboard…”

    C minor:

    G minor:

    D minor:

    A minor:

    E minor:

    B minor:

    F# minor:

    C# minor:

    G# minor:

    Eb minor:

    Bb minor:

    F minor:

    Final Words

    Now that you’ve learned the 24 keys on the keyboard, it is important for you to go ahead and learn the scales and chords of each key.

    Hopefully, we’ll cover that in a subsequent lesson.

    All the best!

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    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku (aka - "Dr. Pokey") is a Nigerian musicologist, pianist, and author. Inspired by his role model (Jermaine Griggs) who has become his mentor, what he started off as teaching musicians in his Aba-Nigeria neighborhood in April 2005 eventually morphed into an international career that has helped hundreds of thousands of musicians all around the world. Onye lives in Dubai and is currently the Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group and the music consultant of the Gospel Music Training Center, all in California, USA.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.


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