Chapter One : Keyboard Structure > Easy Piano by Ear

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Chapter One : Keyboard Structure

Keyboards come in several optional sizes. A full keyboard consists of 88 keys and can be as minimal as 49 keys and fewer. All keyboards regardless of size have the same arrangement of alternating white and black keys. Black keys repeat in a pattern of 2, then 3, 2 then 3.

The black keys are the markers we use to locate and identify the white keys. There are in fact only 7 key names to learn. The musical alphabet is : A,B,C,D,E,F,G. We’ll just deal with the white keys for now, A to G. (and then the names repeat).

Location of the Keys:
C,D,E, are the 3 keys surrounding the 2 black keys (reading left to right)- followed by F,G,A,B grouped around the 3 black keys which brings us back to C (the white key to the left of the 2 black keys). This succession of 8 keys is repeated over the entire keyboard… all we ever need to know  is just these 7 key names.

The distance from one C to the next C higher (or lower) is called an octave. D to D is an octave. E to E is an octave  and so on.


The Treble Clef and Staff:

The image (written capital S backwards) above  is called a treble clef, also called the G clef because it winds itself around the line on which the note G is written.  The treble clef indicates notes above middle C.  The staff is the lines and spaces the notes are written on. The drawing above shows the treble clef and the staff  with the associated note, letter name and key location. The note with the line drawn through it is middle C. The notes are drawn as whole notes.

The Black Keys Ascending to the Right :

Using the illustration below, let’s talk about the naming of the black keys for a moment. The black key to the right of C is called C# (C sharp) the pitch rises from C to C#, the key to the right of D is D#, the pitch rises, the key to the right of F is F#, so …all the black keys to the right of the white keys are called sharps… the pitch is rising.

The Black Keys descending to the left:
Now let’s talk about the reverse. When the tone or pitch of the black key is lowered (to the left) of the white key, the black key is called a flat (b). Therefore the black key to the left of D is Db, to the left of E is Eb, to the left of G is Gb and so on. The tone is lowered.
Keys are called sharps when pitch is rising and flats when pitch is lowered, in reality that gives each black key 2 different names….strange but true.

ch-1a keyboard-with-letter names

Link to You Tube demonstration video:


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