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How To Read Piano Notes

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Learning how to read piano notes is not as hard as it looks. It just takes a little practice and playing around.

The very first step is to learn the names of the notes. This is not difficult, because notes are named after letters. The good news is that the musical alphabet is much shorter than the English one - it's only seven letters long. It consists of the first seven letters of the English alphabet - A B C D E F G.

The notes - A B C D E F G - are called the natural notes. The natural notes are the white keys on a piano keyboard. You probably noticed that between the white keys there are also black keys. These are sharps and flats. All together (natural notes, sharps and flats) there are only 12 notes. These notes repeat over and over in what we call octaves.

Reading Piano Music

Please note: the following is only a very basic explanation of how to read piano notes. For a more in-depth and practical guide, see Learn & Master Piano with Will Barrow.

Most piano music is written on the staff. The staff has five lines and four spaces between the lines. Piano staff is actually two staves joined together - Treble Staff (or Treble Clef) and Bass Staff (or Bass Clef). The notes in Treble Staff are usually played with the right hand. The Bass Staff is usually used for notes that are played with the left hand.

The Treble Staff



Treble Clef


On the picture above you can see how Treble Staff looks like. The symbol on the left is called the treble clef. Treble clef tells you that the staff is treble. The first line in treble clef is an E. The last (top) line is an F. To help you remember where the notes go you can use mnemonics - simple techniques to assist you in remembering things. This is an easy and fun way to learn how to read piano notes.

On the treble clef the letters denoting the spaces form the word - FACE. F is the lowest space and E is the highest.

Treble clef space notes


Letters on the lines are E G B D F. One of the most common phrases to remember this is - Every Good Boy Does Fine. If you're an Elvis fan, you can also use - Elvis' Guitar Broke Down Friday.

Treble clef line notes


The Bass Staff



The bass staff is marked with a bass clef (the symbol on the left).

Bass clef


The spaces on the bass clef are A C E G. This can be easily remembered by a phrase - All Cows Eat Grass.

Bass clef space notes


The lines on the bass cleft are G B D F A or Good Boys Don't Fight Anyone.

Bass clef line notes


When the treble and bass staff are combined they become the grand staff.

There you have it, these are the basics of reading piano music. Start by learning the treble and bass staff and where the seven notes sit on them. Always remember, practice makes perfect.

When you're ready to further enhance your piano skills, take a look at this course.

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