- Playing the piano will help you in your music theoretical studies by allowing you to engage with music.
- A pattern of black keys grouped into twos and threes repeats on the piano keyboard for seven octaves.
- The white note C is to the immediate left of the two-note black key pattern, while the white note F is to the immediate left of the three-note black key pattern.
- Piano players, also called pianists, read music on the .
- is the note that appears on the line between the two staves in a grand staff.
- When counting intervals on a piano keyboard, always count the first note as “one.”
Many students find studying music theory easier when they engage with music . In other words, physically creating sounds by playing a musical instrument (such as the piano) helps you to better visualize and the music you are writing down or studying. This allows students to understand the relationship between different pitches more quickly.
Learning to play notes on the piano is one easy way to engage with music kinesthetically. You may find access to a piano keyboard (acoustic or electronic) at your school. You may also purchase an inexpensive electronic keyboard if you like. Another option is to download a free piano app that you can play on your phone, such as Tiny Piano.
shows a photograph of a small portion of a piano keyboard:
Notice that the keyboard has both white keys and black keys. The black keys are grouped into sets of either three or two.shows a larger portion of a piano keyboard:
Notice that the sets of three and two black keys alternate throughout the entire length of a piano keyboard, repeating the pattern for each .
When you sit at the piano, it is important to sit up straight, keeping your head over your shoulders, which should be kept down. Your elbows should be a comfortable distance from your body, and your fingers should remain arched (as if you were pulling a library book off of a shelf). Keep your knees and wrists flexible (not stiff), and keep your feet flat on the ground unless you are using the pedals.
shows a brief video that explains how to achieve proper posture at the piano:
shows a piano keyboard with the letter names of the white key pitches labeled:
You can see in the previous chapter, pitches in Western musical notation are designated by the letters A, B, C, D, E, F, and G, repeating in a loop. Because of the principle of in the Western system, pitches separated by an have the same letter name.that the same letter names appear on different keys of the keyboard. As discussed in
On the piano keyboard, when the black keys appear as a set of two, the note to their immediate left is C. With a set of three black keys, the note to their immediate left is F.
Music for the piano is typically written in both the treble and bass clefs on a , as shown in:
To make a grand staff, a staff with a treble clef is placed above a staff with a bass clef. The two staves are connected on the left side with a line and a brace. Typically, the pianist plays the lower notes (in the bass clef) with their left hand and the higher notes (in the treble clef) with their right hand.
shows the lines and spaces on the grand staff labeled with letter names:
As you can see, the letter names of the lines and spaces of the treble and bass clefs match what was discussed in the prior chapter (Reading Clefs). Let’s take a closer look at the ledger-line notes that might appear below the treble staff and above the bass clef staff. shows some of these notes, labeled with letter names:
Each vertical pair of notes inis the same pitch, even though the notes are notated in two different clefs. (The notes with upward-pointing stems belong to the treble clef staff, while the notes with downward-pointing stems belong to the bass clef staff.) shows the staves of vertically condensed:
This example shows how these notes would appear if there were not so much space in between the treble clef and bass clef staves of a grand staff. The letter names are the same inas they were in .
shows a vertically condensed grand staff with the note C boxed:
This boxed C is called , so named because in the vertically condensed grand staff shown in, it appears in the middle of the treble and bass clef staves. Additionally, middle C is the note that appears to be around the middle of a piano keyboard, usually underneath the brand name.
shows vertically expanded to its regular spacing, with middle C still boxed:
Though it now appears in both the treble clef and bass clef staves, this note would still sound as the same pitch.
Often in music theory, you will want to measure or describe the distance between notes—either on a piano keyboard or on a staff. This “count” of notes on a piano keyboard or staff is called a . When counting generic intervals, it is important to know that when you count a note to itself, it should be counted as one and not zero.shows two notes, an F and a C, on a staff with a treble clef:
If you count the notes F to C in(by counting each line and space between the two notes), you may be tempted to do this: F to G is one, G to A is two, A to B is three, and B to C is four. However, this would be incorrect. Instead, you need to count F to itself as one, F to G as two, G to A as three, A to B as four, and B to C as five. Therefore, we would say that F and C are five notes apart, not four. Music theorists and musicians would call the distance between these two notes a “generic fifth.”
- Piano Posture Tips (Liberty Park Music)
- Naming White Keys Practice (musictheory.net)
- The Grand Staff (musictheory.net)
- Grand Staff Note Reading Game (readmusicfree.com)
- Generic Intervals (musictheory.net)
- Blank Keyboards for Students or Teachers
- Drawing the Grand Staff, Identifying Notes (.pdf)
- Identifying Notes on the Grand Staff without Accidentals (.pdf, .pdf, .pdf, .pdf, .pdf)
- Identifying White Keys on the Piano (.pdf, .pdf)
- White Keys on the Piano and the Grand Staff (.pdf, .docx)
- The Piano Keyboard and the Grand Staff with Ledger Lines (.pdf, .docx)
- Generic Intervals (.pdf, .docx)
- Grand Staff Note Names with Ledger Lines (.pdf, .docx)
- Piano Keyboard © Wiki Commons is licensed under a Public Domain license
- Full Piano Keyboard © Wiki Commons is licensed under a Public Domain license
- Keyboard White Keys © Sarah Louden is licensed under a CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) license
- Grand Staff Brace Line © Sarah Louden is licensed under a CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) license
- Grand Staff Notes Labelled © Sarah Louden is licensed under a CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) license
- Ledger Lines Grand Staff Same Notes 2 © Chelsey Hamm is licensed under a CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) license
- Ledger Lines Below Staff Same Notes 2 © Chelsey Hamm is licensed under a CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) license
- Middle C Staff Close Together © Sarah Louden is licensed under a CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) license
- Vertically Expanded Grand Staff C Boxed © Sarah Louden is licensed under a CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) license
- Generic Fifth © Sarah Louden is licensed under a CC BY-SA (Attribution ShareAlike) license
Relating to movement of parts of the body
Two staves placed one above the other, connected by a brace. The top staff has a treble clef, while the bottom staff has a bass clef.
C4; the C near the middle of the piano keyboard, written on the first ledger line below the treble clef staff or the first ledger line above the bass clef staff
To imagine hearing a sound in one's mind
Two pitches with the same letter name (e.g. "C"), twelve half-steps apart
The assumption that pitches separated by one or more octaves are musically equivalent (e.g. an octave above "A" is "A")
The number of scale steps between notes of a collection or scale