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My 7 yr old daughter has been given a Yamaha PSR-60. She starts Piano lessons in a few months, but in the meantime would like to understand a bit more about the keyboard.

How can we tell what the notes are for each key?

I guess something like this would be helpful: example keyboard notes

Many thanks.

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  • The picture you posted is what you are looking for, or? which language do you speak at home?
    – Sergio
    Jul 27, 2013 at 17:41
  • We have 49 keys on the yamaha, but the picture example has only 36 keys. We speak english (UK).
    – Chris Snow
    Jul 27, 2013 at 18:01

5 Answers 5

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I think that picture is what you need. There is a pattern from C to C, an octave. All the notes are in that octave and then they just repeat themselves. So, actually the picture didn't need to have more than 12 keys, after each 12 keys the pattern repeats itself. I think this is good info for a 7 year old who will start piano lessons.

What that image does not have is the different octaves which in piano we call C0, C1, C2, etc. This means the lower octave (starting in a low C note) is (according to this manual) C1, so the next C on the way to the bright notes will be C2, etc.

You can also call the other notes by their octave name, like D2, F4, etc.

Let me know if you still wonder about something.

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    Yes, to both. According to the manual C1 is the first octave, but this can also be changed by choosing in the keyboard menus. Maybe she just needs to think about the 7 notes of a scale, the 12 semi-tones/keys might be complex to start with. You know your daughter, so you can choose. Good luck!
    – Sergio
    Jul 27, 2013 at 19:02
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    It might be useful to affix stickers with the note-names onto the keys; even just marking the c's with a dot might provide a useful reference point.
    – Dave
    Jul 28, 2013 at 2:51
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    @Dave, I'm divided about the note names on the keys. Why to teach them to look for a note in the affix/sticker when after they will not do that. It helps the first hour but rest of the life you will not need that anymore.
    – Sergio
    Jul 28, 2013 at 9:56
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    Too true ! I'm still trying to remove letters from the keys of my grand after some (un)helpful person used felt tip !
    – Tim
    Jul 28, 2013 at 11:17
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    @Chris: What that image also does not have are the (enharmonic) alternative names of the black keys. F# = Gb; G# = Ab; A# = Bb; C# = Db; D# = Eb. Aug 5, 2013 at 22:00
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As a start point,make up many (and there are) words, using the letters A,B,C,D,E,F and G. E.g. DAD, CABBAGE etc. Then encourage her to play the words on the keys. Each will make its own tune, and for now it matters not which octave each letter (or each word ) is played in.

DO NOT put the letter names on the keys ! They are already in a quite easily understood pattern, so it's a waste of time. A D note, for example, will always be between the TWO black notes, so E is to their right, and C is to their left. There's 3 sorted very easily !

Get her to play a word in 3 or 4 different places, same pattern, and she will soon find her way round the keys.

Incidentally, reading the little black dots on the music has no DIRECT correlation to the black and white keys. So don't try to put this into the equation till the keyboard itself is well known.People will disagree with this statement, but I believe it's true. There is no logic in the fact that bottom line, treble clef is an E above middle C. Convention puts it there, so initially she would be trying to learn TWO different skills. Why bother ?

Even when she IS playing from music, don't worry too much if she plays in tne 'wrong' octave. The tunes will still sound good, and it's sometimes fun to move a tune about.

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I’m not a pianist, but I now play the piano and read piano music every day. Here’s the best advice I ever got for finding my way around a piano keyboard*:

  • D sits in an armchair (between 2 black keys)
  • G and A sit on a sofa (in 3 black keys)

Sure, you need to learn a lot more than that, but that is what got me started with reading piano music. And so it is always the first thing I pass on if I am casually asked “what are the notes on a piano?”

In the end, you just need to find a way to get started, and everything else will follow. That’s why I like this 10 second “lesson”.

*The advice came from a piano teacher who was the wife of a sheep/goat farmer my mum used to work for - yes really…

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Old post, but adding an answer for new visitors.

It's interesting that many beginner piano methods do not show a piano keyboard labeled with the pitch letters. I'm sure those methods assume a teacher will explain that. But, Czerny's methods The Young Pianist op 823 and Complete Theoretical and Practical School op 500 do show labeled keyboards...

enter image description here

A lot of people recommend against actually labeling the keyboard, but there is some logic behind it, as some methods provide labeled keyboard pictures.

You could consider putting a printout on the wall or in one of those plastic sleeves to keep on the music stand for reference. The OP's linked keyboard image is not good, because it labels all the black keys with sharps only. It should have sharps and flats.

There is a reason to not label the keys. Consider, for example, key number 42, the white key above middle C. As a natural it's a D, but it can also be C double sharp, or E double flat. Most beginner's material won't use double sharps or flats, but those do occur in real scores. If the idea sets in the beginner's mind that keys have fixed pitch letters - actually labeling keys with letters will promote that - the flexible naming of keys with sharps and flats could be confusing to learn later on.

A compromise option could be to just label the key for middle C to get a reference point. If you use masking tape on the key, you can write on the tape and then remove it later, so your keyboard is not permanently marked. You could also mark the Cs at the octave above and below to help reinforce the repeating of keys at the octave.

Sight reading children's five finger exercises is common at this beginner stage. Learning the pitch letters is obviously important, but you should also start learning to read intervals at the beginning too. Like, five spaces/lines up from middle C (in C major, staff with no key signature) at the keyboard means five keys up from middle C on the keyboard, which will be G. Reading those steps up the staff/scale is just as important as knowing the letter is G. In fact, after the beginner stage, reading staff as intervals rather than letters, is the better way to approach reading scores.

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The NAMES of the notes don't matter. We don't read music that looks like:

A B C..|D E F..|

We read music that looks like:

enter image description here

Aim for direct correlation between staff position and keyboard position. Letter names are just a side issue.

Think about it, before slapping this idea down. I'm not suggesting discarding note names altogether. But why must they come between 'see this' and 'play this'? How do they HELP?

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    Well, that's an interesting assertion. While it's true that the names don't matter in the sense that they're just labels—we could call it C, do, ut, 0 or purple; they're not intrinsically linked to the pitch—but surely we need some label to talk about it, even between teacher and student. And note, the OP wasn't necessarily talking about decoding written music; a lot of pedagogies take Tim's advice and start with the physicality of the instrument for at least some time, whether half a lesson or a year, before getting into reading music. Dec 20, 2021 at 17:47
  • Sure. But play it first, THEN label it. We focus too much on the labels.
    – Laurence
    Dec 20, 2021 at 18:34

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