This is probably a really stoopid question but.....I'm trying to learn to play a virtual keyboard online(Virtual Piano) but its really hard to use the black keys since you need to press Shift+(another key). I thought I read somewhere that each black key has an equivalent sound in some white key or that all western music is in the diatonic scale which doesnt need black keys so I'm wondering if I can learn to play existing music without using the black keys?

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    You most definitely cannot play anything beyond extremely basic music without the black keys. – Pat Muchmore Jul 26 '14 at 17:34
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    A lot of popular music can be transposed (meaning you shift the pitch up or down from how it was originally written) into C major or A minor and played entirely or almost entirely on the white keys. You'd be far better off just picking up a cheap toy keyboard, though. – tgies Jul 26 '14 at 23:02
  • check this out youtube.com/watch?v=s8De5eg1kic – wim Jul 27 '14 at 2:00

You can play any diatonic or modal melodies on white keys only, but anything beyond extremely basic harmonies will require the use of more than seven pitch classes (ABDCEFG).

Of course, a virtual piano played on a computer keyboard is extremely limited to begin with, so perhaps playing melodies is all you're interested in.

To play a diatonic or modal melody on white keys only, you will need to identify the key signature of that melody, and then transpose the notes up or down a number of half steps until they all lie on white keys. If the melody has any chromaticism, or deviation from the key signature using accidentals, this may not be possible.

If the key signature has one flat, for example, you would transpose down five half steps. Two flats and you would transpose up two half steps. Three flats, down three half steps, four flats, up four half steps. See if you can catch the pattern. For sharps, reverse the direction of transposition.

  • true, basic melodies is what im currently interested in. I have seen people playing simple version of the Titanic song, Requiem for a Dream etc on Youtube with this software using only white keys. – user1278255 Jul 27 '14 at 1:43
  • im too much of a newbie to understand key signatures and transposing yet though. i'll look into it in more detail on google. or maybe someone has given an even more indepth answer on this site. – user1278255 Jul 27 '14 at 1:45

This new virtual piano offers an alternative key mapping with no need to press the Shift key to play black keys as it emulates the layout of a real piano:

A23 Virtual Piano

Hope it helps :)

  • The first USEFUL comment, and it gets voted down! – Laurence Payne Jul 18 '18 at 13:09
  • This needs defninitely an upvote! Thanks for pointing this out! – Robert Wildling Mar 6 '20 at 10:44

If you can transpose some songs to get to any of the following scales, then you can use only white keys for those songs:

  • C Major
  • C Major Pentatonic
  • F Major Pentatonic
  • G Major Pentatonic
  • A minor Natural
  • A minor Pentatonic
  • D minor Pentatonic
  • E minor Pentatonic
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    Well, this could be true, but what with accidentals, notes that are not in the scale? This happens quite often in music. – Tim H Jul 18 '18 at 8:11

No, unless you cherry-pick the songs you want to play very carefully, you'll need black notes. If you're just picking out the melody with one finger, what's the problem with using Shift? But you've already been offered at least one alternative 'piano' where this isn't necessary. And there's this 'Virtual Piano' where you just mouse-click the keys.


Or any number of apps for phones and other touch-screen devices where you can even play chords!

What you may have heard is discussion of the fact that 'sharp' and 'flat' doesn't necessarily mean a black note, it just means 'next note up/down'. Often this WILL be a black note. But not always. Look at the layout of the piano keyboard to see why.

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