How to read Piano Sheet Music 1

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Are you having trouble reading piano sheet music? Or are you a beginner piano player wanting to learn how to read the notes? Reading sheet music is easier than you think.

The naming of notes follows the order of the alphabet from A to G and then repeats itself:

A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C


The music is notated on five horizontal lines called the staff. For the piano there are two different clefs (clef meaning ‘key’ in French): the treble clef and the bass clef. They indicate the pitch of the notes that are written. The treble clef is a stylized ‘G’ which sits upon and circles around the second line from the bottom. It is also called the G-clef. The imaginary note it surrounds is a G. The notes written in the treble clef are usually played with the right hand.

treble clef-piano sheet music
The Treble Clef

Notes that are situated above or below the staff are notated with ledger lines. For example, middle C – the reference point for musical notation on the piano is sitting on the first ledger line below the staff in the treble clef.

Middle C

 

The White Keys

The notes which are written on the lines above middle C are E – G – B – D – F starting at the bottom. You can use the mnemonic Every Good Band Draws Fans to remember them.

 

On the piano you have these white keys for those notes:

The notes which are written between the lines are F – A – C – E as in face, starting at the bottom.

If you combine the notes written on the lines and between the lines, you get eight notes or an octave moving from E to E, covering all white keys.

The Black Keys

The black keys on the piano denote sharps and flats. A sharp simply means that you move up a half step from any given note. If you have a C for example, C sharp would be the black key to its right. Moving up a half step from G will give you G sharp. The symbol for sharps is . C sharp is written as C.

When written out as notes, a sharp is marked by the symbol which precedes the sharpened note.

The five black keys are therefore C, D, F, Gand A. For E and B there are no sharps on black keys, because if you move up a half step from E you get F (another white key), and if you move up a half step from B you get C (another white key). However, if you play a very complex piece and see an E or B , know that it is the same as F or C.  

Just as a sharp means that you move up a half step from a given note, a flat tells you to move down a half step. If you have D for example, D flat would be the black key a half step below it. Moving down a half step from A will give you A flat. The symbol for flats is . D flat is written D. D and A are actually the same notes and the same keys on the piano as C and  A They are only called different names, depending on the musical context, i.e. the key you are playing in.

When written out as notes, a flat is marked by the symbol which precedes the flatted note.

The five black keys are therefore D, E, G, Aand B. For F and C there are no flats on black keys, because if you move down a half step from F you get E, and if you move down a half step from C you get B. However, if you play a very complex piece and see an For C, know that it is the same note as E or B.

    

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