The Secret to Understanding
the Layout of Piano Keys
First, take a moment and look at your keyboard instrument...
Can you spot the note pattern in this piano diagram?
For some beginners, the layout of piano keys can be hard to recognize if you’re not familiar with the piano keyboard. Keys are organized in a distinctive 12-note pattern that repeats across the entire piano key layout.
We’re going to do a few visual reference exercises to help improve our ability to uncover this hidden note pattern.
Or are you looking at these piano keyboard keys and saying to yourself ... “What is
all that? ... What does it mean?” and “Where do I start?”
To a new piano student, it’s only natural to be a little confused
by this puzzling black and white layout. Piano keys are not hard to figure out, however. As we shall soon see...
Number of Notes on a Piano
When you look at a layout of piano keys, you see white keys and black keys. You might have already guessed that each key stands for a note. Yes, but how many notes are there?
If you’re starting out with a smaller
49-key electric piano (like I did) you’re probably thinking you have 49 notes... right? Or maybe you’re starting out with a real acoustic piano with a full set of 88-keys. Great, but how many notes would you have then … 88?
Nope ... you’d only have 12
Surprising, but true. The layout of piano keys is comprised of only
twelve notes that are repeated over and over again within a specific pattern.
The best way to recognize this pattern within the piano key layout is to first notice the system of black keys on the piano.
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A Closer Look at the Keyboard
Take a look at your own piano keyboard for a moment, and notice how the black keys are grouped together in two’s and three’s.
Now I’m going to ask you to play something...
Find each set of two black keys as shown in this piano diagram. Then, look over your own piano keyboard keys until you have found and played all the black sets of two...
Now go back and find each group of three black keys on your piano as shown in this piano keyboard diagram. Look over your entire layout of piano keys until you have found and played all the black sets of three...
Finding our C Notes
Good, now once again I want you to focus on the set of two black keys. But this time I want you to locate the white
key that is to the immediate left
of each group of two black keys...
We call this our “C” note, and it is the only note (out of 12) we are going to name at this time. As you can tell from this piano keyboard diagram, our “C” note repeats several times through out the layout of piano keys.
Now I’d like you to go ahead and find all the C notes on your
piano and play them all. If you have a 61-note keyboard (like the one in this piano diagram above)
, you will have 6 C’s
If you have a 49 piano key layout, you will have to find only 5. But if you have a full set of 88-key’s, (you’ll have your work cut out for you)
as you locate a total of 8 C’s!
Note: Don’t forget to play the highest C note on your keyboard. Yes, that’s probably the note all the way to the far right of your piano.
Keyboard keys don’t extend past the high C note, so it’s easy to miss this one (especially since it doesn’t sit to the immediate left of two black keys).
But if you follow the logic of the layout of piano keys, you’ll realize that it definitely qualifies as one of our C notes. So please don’t leave it out. *
Notice that the C note residing almost in the exact center
of your piano or any
piano keyboard is known as “Middle C”. Look on your own piano key layout and find Middle C.
If you have a genuine 88-key acoustic piano at home, your Middle C will most likely be located in the vicinity of where your piano manufacturer’s logo appears... just above the black keys. Now how did I know that? No, I’m not psychic. That just happens to be how most acoustic pianos are designed (bless them)
As you play the Middle C note, just keep in mind that we’ll be referring to it quite a bit in future piano lessons. So it’s important you know where to find it on your piano. Keyboard keys, such as Middle C, will be our base, and we will refer to it as “Number 1
” or as our “first position
Uncovering the Hidden Pattern
Okay, I’m about to tell you
Have you been able to
the million-dollar secret... Remember when I told you earlier that there were only
12 notes on the piano, and they repeat themselves over and over again in a pattern?
notice the pattern yet?
Take a close look at this
multi-colored piano diagram...
You’re looking right at it!
This is the exact pattern layout that piano keys are organized in. If you count all the differently colored notes in this picture, plus the black notes ... you’ll get 12
Now take a look at this piano diagram repeated five times in a row...
... Beginning to get the picture? The piano key layout simply repeats the same 12-note pattern over and over again. Each pattern consists of a group of 2
black keys, a group of 3
black keys and 7
white keys. In a full 88-key instrument, the layout of piano keys is repeated over seven
So now take another look at your piano keyboard keys and you should be able to see these individual
12-note patterns more clearly. Can you see them now? Wonderful... I think we’ve just solved the puzzle!
We've just learned how to recognize the layout of piano keys!
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