Beginning Piano Instruction: Keyboard Geography

Beginning Piano Instruction: Keyboard Geography

Author: Harry Wilkinson

Basics of finding your way around any piano keyboard.

The piano keyboard is made up of a pattern of white and black keys, each with its own unique tone.  The white keys are all musical notes (A, B, C, D, E, F or G, in the musical alphabet), while the black keys take the tone of the white key either up or down a half step ('sharp' or 'flat').  We'll discuss these concepts in more depth in other packets.

Let's start with the black keys.  The black keys are divide into groups of two and groups of three that alternate up and down the piano.  They are useful to use in starting to learn about the piano keyboard because they can guide us in memorizing the position of the musical notes on the white keys.

For instance, using two black keys we can find the most important key on the piano keyboard-- Middle C.  Middle C is important because it divides the piano keyboard into high and low tones.  All keys to the right of Middle C are high tones and are ascending (going up).  All keys to the left of Middle C are low tones and are descending (going down).  The high tones to the right of Middle C are generally played with the right hand, while the low tones on the left are usually played by the left hand.

So let's start by using the two black keys to find Middle C.  You can find Middle C on any piano, acoustic or digital,  by finding the name of the piano which sits above the midpoint of the keyboard. (See video below).  If you don't see a product name (like Yamaha, Technics, Boston, etc . . . ) centered above the keyboard, you are probably not looking at a piano but an electronic keyboard (if you have on of those you'll just have to estimate where the middle of the keyboard is). 

Once you've located the piano name, look for the group of two black keys just below it.  When you've found that group of two black keys, look for the white key immediately to the left of them.  That key will be Middle C.  This will be the same for any piano you encounter.

Once you've found Middle C, use you're right hand index and middle finger to FIND AND PLAY all of the groups of two black keys GOING UP (to the right) the keyboard. 

Did you find them all?  Great!  Next, use your left hand, same fingers, GOING DOWN (to the left) from Middle C and find all of those groups of two black keys.

Then go back to the middle and, using your index, middle, and ring fingers, find all the groups of THREE BLACK KEYS GOING UP.  After that, go back to the middle again and use your left hand to find all the groups of THREE BLACK KEYS going down. 

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Keyboard Geography

Finding the black keys