Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Layout of the Piano

Now that you have gotten your piano, I am sure you are eager to start playing some of your favorite music. But before you begin playing the piano, you need to know the layout of the piano; that is the keys on the piano.

To begin first look at the piano. You will notice immediately that the piano has black and white keys. A standard piano has 88 keys: 52 white and 36 black. The white keys are called naturals while the black keys are either sharps or flats.

Let's go back to look at the piano. Have you noticed something about the piano keyboard? Look closely, I know you can see it. That's right, the piano keys are placed in a 12 key pattern that repeats over and over. This pattern will help in identifying which key is which.

But what sort of pattern is it? Let's zoom into a section of the keyboard. I will tell you one thing, the pattern of black keys makes it easy to identify the piano's layout. Once we zoom in, you begin to notice that the black keys are divided into alternating groups of 2's and 3's (shown below).

But how does this alternating groups of 2 and 3 help us identify which key is what? It's easy. The keys correspond to the first 7 letters of the alphabet; A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. These letters will also help later on when you want to read sheet music.

For now we will concentrate on familiarizing ourselves with the piano keyboard. From the picture below, you can see which key corresponds to which letter. You will notice that the C will always be the white key before the group of 2 black notes. The D is the white key next to the C while the E is the white key next to the D and after the group of 2 black keys. This continues on with the F key being before the group of 3 black keys, followed by G, A and then B which is the white key after the group of 3 black keys. Once you reach the B, the next white key is C again followed by D, E and so on. This key pattern repeats itself over the whole piano keyboard. You should familiarize yourself with this key pattern to be able to play music later on.

Now, what about the black keys? You are probably wondering what they represent.

Just think of the black keys as a slightly 'altered' version of the white keys. As stated before they are the sharps or flats. Look at the image below and you will be able to see what the black keys represent. You will have noticed that one black key represents both a flat (represented by b) and a sharp (represented by #).

I'll explain a bit further. Let's take a look at the white C key that always sits just to the left of the two black key group. We have the black key that is just to the right of the C key. This black key is called the C sharp and it looks like C#. The sound of C sharp is just a teeny bit higher than the white C key. Play the two keys one after the other and you'll hear the difference, it's only slight. This same black key also represents a D flat, which looks like Db. You will notice that the sound of D flat is slightly lower than the white D.

Another example is to look at the B white key. If you play the black key just to the left of B, this is called a B flat, or Bb, which sounds just a teeny bit lower than the B. This black key also represents A sharp, or A#, which sounds a bit higher than the A. Familiarize yourself with this layout by playing a key while simultaneously stating the key that it represents.

Now that we know the layout of the piano, we will orient ourselves on the piano. The first thing to do is to situate yourself near the middle of the piano on the seat. Now find the C key near the middle of the keyboard. This C key is called the middle C. You can see where the middle C is placed on the keyboard from the image below if you are still unsure. Play the middle C over and over again slowly so that you remember the tone and the placement.

If you wish, you can now play the next 7 white keys with your right hand going up the keyboard (to the right); that is play the white keys middle C, D, E, F, G, A, B and then C (one octave, 8 notes, higher). You have just played the C major scale, congratulations. Keep practicing this scale and repeat the key that it corresponds to out loud to yourself so that you can remember which key is which.

In the next lesson, I will explain the basic layout of sheet music.


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