Beginning Piano Instruction: The Musical Alphabet

Beginning Piano Instruction: The Musical Alphabet

Author: Harry Wilkinson

Learning the musical alphabet notation and where each note is on the piano keyboard in relation to the two and three black keys.

The musical alphabet is the most common form of music notation, particularly in the United States and the U.K. It consists of seven musical tones named for the first seven letters of the English alphabet:

                                                                     A B C D E F G

These tones can be varied using what is known as accidentals in music.  Accidentals raise or lower a tone a half step, and are signified by sharps (up a half step) and flats (down a half step).  However, for the purposes of this lesson, we will just focus on the seven musical tones.

Another form of notation in music is known as solfege.  Solfege uses the same seven tones, but names them Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, and Ti.  Many recall the famous song from "The Sound of Music" which uses these tones. Solfege is useful for singing and is also common in most countries where English is not the main language.  However, the musical alphabet notation is more easily identifiable on the piano keyboard because the solfege designations can change depending upon where "Do" located.  Therefore, the musical alphabet is an easier method for beginners to use.

The full seven tones of the musical alphabet, starting with the lowest 'A' on the keyboard, repeat themselves seven times on a standard piano keyboard, with 'A', 'B', and 'C' repeating and eighth time at the highest end. Memorizing the location of each letter on the piano can be done easily by using the two and three black keys as a guide. The notes are clustered around these two groups of black keys throughout the piano, so once you know where they are located you can find them anywhere on the piano.

In the previous packet, we learned that we can find Middle C by locating the two black keys directly under the brand name of the piano (such as 'Boston' or 'Yamaha') and the playing the white key just to the left of them.  Once we know where Middle C is, we can find C anywhere on the piano by going to the two black keys and playing the white key to the left.

So, the 'two black key' cluster starts with C.  It is followed by 'D' in between the two black keys, and 'E' to the right of them.  'C-D-E', then, is the 'two black key cluster'.

The 'three black key cluster' consists of the rest of the musical alphabet; F, G, A, and B. 'F' is the white key just to the left, followed by 'G', then 'A' as the third key in and finally 'B' to the right of the three black keys.

Using this information and the supplemental materials below will help you find and memorize the musical alphabet on the piano.

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Learning the Musical Alphabet

Learning the musical alphabet A through G and finding them on the piano.

The Musical Alphabet