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What to Know About the Piano Keyboard Layout

If you’re new to the piano, chances are you have a lot of questions. And, at the start, most of these questions are going to revolve around navigating the piano keyboard.

It might seem overwhelming when you’re faced with all those piano keys. And with no idea of what sound they make, or even why they’re laid out as they are, the keyboard can look very confusing for a beginner.

But, with the help of this guide, you’ll soon know everything about the piano keyboard layout.  You also need to learn the piano chord progression.

How Many Keys on the Piano?

Almost every modern piano keyboard includes 52 white keys and 36 black keys, making a total of 88 keys.

Some keyboards have fewer keys, which can be helpful for beginners to learn the basics before they move onto a full-size piano. For example, some piano keyboards have only 32 keys, comprised of 19 white keys and 13 black keys.

And, there are some professional-level pianos with as many as 108 keys. But, no matter how many keys a piano has, the black and white keys are always laid out in a specific way.

The Pattern of Piano Keys

Don’t let the number of keys on your piano intimidate you, understanding the layout of a piano keyboardis a lot easier than it looks.

It helps if you have a keyboard in front of you to see for yourself. But, if not, a diagram works too. Let your eyes follow the keys from left to right. Can you see how the black and white keys follow a pattern?

The patterns of black keys tend to stand out more for most people. You should able to see that there is block of two black keys, a gap, and then a block of three black keys. Another gap follows, then another block of two black keys, and so on.

These black keys are called accidentals, and they’re useful for finding the notes represented by the white keys. Because, without the pattern of black keys, it would be almost impossible to tell the white keys apart.

Keyboard Notes

Of course, the real beauty of a piano keyboard is the infinite number of sounds and melodies you can create when pressing down on the keyboard keys.

But first, you need to learn which notes the keys represent.

The Musical Alphabet

Since the musical alphabet only seven letters, from A to G, you might consider it easier to learn than the regular alphabet.

But with an average of 88 keys on a keyboard, how does that work? Well, this musical alphabet is repeated over and over again on the white keys of the keyboard. So, after the white key which indicates the G note, the following white key will be an A, then B, and so on. The black keys represent notes too, but there isn’t one of these for each letter.

Because of this repeated pattern, even if you only know which note one white key represents, this can help you work out the rest.

Finding Middle C

Unfortunately for beginners, piano keyboards don’t have letters printed on them. So, how can you know which key represents which note?

The first step for navigating a piano keyboard is to find the middle C. As the name suggests, the middle C key is in the center of the keyboard.

To tell the C note from the other notes, you need to locate the white key to the left of two black keys. Once you locate middle C, you can find the other C notes. Every C is the white key that comes before two black notes, the pattern is just repeated over and over.

Distinguishing Between The C-Notes and F-Notes

Now you have a good idea of which white keys represent the C-notes, you can work backward to find A and B and then continue along to the right to find D, E, F and G.

But, at a quick glance, it can be easy to confuse the C keys and F keys because F also comes before a group of black keys. Which is why it pays to remember that:

  • C comes before TWO black keys
  • F comes before THREE black keys

The easiest way to learn this is to remind yourself that C comes before F in the alphabet, just as two comes before three. Or, the simple rhyme, ‘The C isn’t before three’ might make help you more.

However you choose to remind yourself, once you have the C and F keys figured out, it’s much easier to use these as a reference point to remember what notes the other white keys represent.

Sharps and Flats

Although you shouldn’t worry too much about what the terms 'sharp' and 'flat'  mean, becoming more familiar with which notes the black keys represent will help you find your way around the keyboard.

Now you know where the middle C is, step your finger up to the black key just to the right. This is C sharp. But, this black key also represents D flat. Step down to the white key to the right and you’ll find D.

So, although it’s a little confusing to get your head around at first, this one sound has two names, depending on if you step your finger up or down. The same goes for the other black keys. For example, the black key between G and A is both a G sharp and an A flat.

You’ll also notice that, with no black key between the B and the C, or the E and the F, there are no such notes as B sharp, C flat, E sharp or F flat.

Understanding the Piano Keyboard Layout

Thanks to this handy guide, you should now recognize the repeated pattern of black and white keys on every piano keyboard layout.

And, by understanding the notes that these keys represent, you’re one step closer to being able to play the piano!

How easy has it been for you to find your way around a piano’s keys? Let us know by commenting below!

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