Is it good to use Piano Stickers for Keys w/ Complete Printed Notes to memorize the notes on the sheet and their correspondence to piano keys? Does it work? Or is it better not to do that?

The main point of the question is mapping between notes on the score sheet and the keys. A, B, C,... are just like a bridge to me.

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    This would be like looking at the computer keyboard as you type. Who would do that?! ;) Jan 30, 2018 at 23:59
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit, after several months you can do that. But in the beginning, you can't. The question is, is that better to use a keyboard without any letter for typing?? I'm not sure if we can easily apply computer keyboard to piano. Jan 31, 2018 at 3:24
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    I'll just say what everyone else will say - NO DON'T DO THAT. Stickers should never touch a piano, even digitial. It's a terrible crutch. I suspect you don't got a piano teacher if you're thinking about this. That's job one in learning piano. Jan 31, 2018 at 18:36
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    @Tim A piano has many more than 12 keys. Feb 1, 2018 at 9:44
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit - missing the point somewhat. On a qwerty board, there's twice what I said - each has minimum two uses! On a piano, after one octave, the next up or down has exactly the same named notes. I.e. in between each pair of black keys there is a D. Nothing else - same everywhere. Not a good comparison.
    – Tim
    Feb 1, 2018 at 10:31

6 Answers 6


I cannot find any research on the topic, only various anecdotes from different teachers. There are some common threads:

  • A downside reported by some teachers is that the labels can become a crutch that students have a hard time learning to play without.
  • Actual letter-name labels (e.g., "A", "B", etc.) are not widely believed (by teachers) to help in learning to read music.
  • Instead of letter names, colors, shapes, and other graphical symbols are what teachers who advocate labels prefer. Such teachers often have special books of easy to read sheet music with matching color codes or shapes.
  • Instead of labels, teachers who like labeling in general seem to often prefer a card that goes up at the top of the keys and is lined up before playing. That way the card can easily be moved to other pianos or removed when no longer helpful.
  • Young children, under 8 years old or so, are believed to have the most to gain from labels. Most teachers don't seem to even try labels with older students.

It seems like if you're over age 8 or so, your brain is more capable of using the pattern of white and black keys along with sheet music mnemonics (e.g., FACE and Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge) to learn the note names and read music into the piano.

On a personal note, to me learning note names is not actually very helpful when reading, playing, and sight-reading. Ideally, a shape on the page would be associated in the mind with the motion of the hand, and at least for a while with a specific key on the keyboard that would be visually verified. It's better to go right from that shape means that key than to be thinking that shape is a C and C means that key. Note names are more useful for talking about music and analyzing it, but not when playing.

  • Edit: Every Good Boy Does Fine.
    – John Doe
    Jan 31, 2018 at 0:28
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    @JohnDoe Eager Girls Buy Diamonds First. Early Grackles Beat Dose Falcons. Eyeball Gunk Besets Drowsy Ferrets. Ey Guys Blowup Dat Football! Easy Greasy Breezy Darned Freezy. Jan 31, 2018 at 1:36
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    Labelling just middle C is also an idea. The student can learn to recognize the black and white pattern by seeing where the pattern begins and ends. Jan 31, 2018 at 1:51

Do not bother! there is a pattern to the keys - look at the two black keys, left white is C, right is E. Look at the three black keys, left white is F, right is B. There are four of the seven notes, al clearly marked with no marks!

Looking for, for example, a marked letter C? Why bother, it's always the left of the two blacks! If it said C, carrot, cucumber, concubine, it's still in that same place, and will always be C.

EDIT: I wonder if we've missed a point. The OP asks about 'complete Printed Notes', which could mean a picture of the 5 lines, with an appropriate dot (note) on a line or space. Not seen that, but initially it's not a bad idea.

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    This doesn't exactly answer the question, which seems to be whether letter stickers help or hurt or have no effect. Jan 30, 2018 at 19:48
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    @ToddWilcox - it's unequivocal. Do not bother basically translates as ... well, you work it out. Do you really expect me to say yes, no, don't know? Mark it down again, if it helps the cause...
    – Tim
    Jan 30, 2018 at 20:34
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    It's clear you see them as not necessary, but to me that's different from whether they are helpful or hurtful. John Doe's answer at least implies that he believes they will hurt in the long run. Jan 30, 2018 at 21:14
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    Incidentally, I find that thinking of key signatures in terms of the black/white key pattern is also more useful than thinking of them in terms of letter notes and then having to translate that to position. Sharps get added left to right within each chunk, starting with the chunk of 3 and alternating. Flats alternate the same way, but get added right to left.
    – supercat
    Jan 31, 2018 at 16:36
  • @supercat - what a great way to think of sharps and flats!
    – Tim
    Jan 5, 2021 at 14:06

I wouldn't. It might help in the short run, but in the long run you want as few crutches as possible when learning a new instrument. In fact, you should be working towards seldom, if ever, even looking at the keys, at least for simpler songs.


Many answers already make good points. I don't think there's only one answer to this -- it depends on the context and particularly the student. I think if a student seems to be able to make good progress initially without the labels, it's perhaps better to avoid them. But...

A few points that haven't been highlighted so far:

  • Students with no pre-existing knowledge of music notation will probably benefit more from having note names labeled somehow. The combination of trying to learn to decode basic music notation at the same time as learning the piano keyboard can be a bit overwhelming. For those who already can read music, there's less of an initial cognitive load -- just learning the placement of notes on the keyboard.
  • Younger kids in particular may enjoy the "matching game" of being able to match a key to a note, particularly if an initial book has note names as part of the notation. This is more likely to lead beginners to experiment and try out pieces in a book, even if they are not part of an official "lesson." A lot of the difficulty with young children is keeping them interested and not frustrated, so anything that allows them to learn things, play around, or try out stuff by themselves is potentially a good thing.
  • The frustration problem is also an issue with older learners, particularly those are trying to self-teach. New piano students are already trying to learn how to make their hands move, how to strike the keys properly, etc. And on top of that, they are trying to decode music notation and learn the location of keys. For some people, having note labels more readily available can alleviate at least some of that frustration initially. Particularly for the self-taught, creating a new habit and learning an instrument by oneself is already a big commitment. Finding ways to make it easier to get started can be helpful. Without a teacher there to correct you, it can be harder to verify you're hitting the right notes in the first place.

Also, I'm not sure I agree with those who deemphasize letter names for notes (or who would substitute colors or shapes, except perhaps for very young children who don't know letters yet fluently). The theory seems to be that one should make a direct connection between the visual location of the note on the page and the physical location on the keyboard; the note name is secondary.

But I think that can be its own sort of "crutch." We have a name for music notation that shows one how to physically arrange one's fingers on an instrument -- it's called tablature. There used to be tablature for keyboard instruments, as well as various other instruments, though nowadays it's mostly seen for guitar. The standard staff music notation we use is meant to be a somewhat universal system (at least for Western music), which can be helpful for any instrument and music in general. Part of that is associating the abstract names (i.e., letters) with particular notes.

I've seen way too many sophomore (even junior) music majors in college who still needed to write down note letter names next to notes to be able to read music properly, even though they've played an instrument or sung for over a decade. (I've even seen said students have to draw a picture of a keyboard on a page to decode what notes were which, before they could identify a chord or something.) Avoiding letter names can create its own problems in the long run, assuming the student ever wants to talk about music with anyone else, learn any music theory, or understand music written for anything other than piano. If one wants to use shapes or colors, I think that's fine if combined with letter names in the shape or color so students will eventually make the letter-name connections. If you're going to use a crutch, why not make it a useful and educational crutch?

I also agree with all of those who note that labeled can also be a crutch that can take a while to wean a student off of. But sometimes one needs a crutch to get over the initial difficulty. (Think of how many young piano students quit after a year or three, many because they simply have difficulty decoding music notation and matching it to the keyboard.) There's no single answer for which is better in the long-run -- I think the needs and personality of the individual student should factor in.


I wouldn’t bother with it. When I was in the 5th grade I could read music and translate that to my fingers on the violin but I really couldn’t name the notes. I was good for a beginner, best in the class before having to drop out because my parents couldn’t keep up on the instrument rental fees. Now I’m 41 and trying to teach myself the piano and I believe I’m over thinking this myself. I too was looking for the answer to the original question and I think I’ve found my answer, to concentrate matching the notes to the keys and follow up with naming each note later. It’s a daunting task trying to do both and it’s taking the fun out of it.


Piano Stickers for Keys w/ Complete Printed Notes

I would not do that. Printing sheet music that's small enough to fit on the key would make it unrecognizable when playing. Your fingers would also cover them up and you'd have to take the time out to move your fingers, get close and identify the note, then look up at the page to double check. It's quite a lot of steps.

If you really think you need to label the keys (which there's no shame in doing) I would go the harp route. That is, on most harps with nylon strings (whether a concert or lever harp) all the C notes are marked in red by dyeing the string, while all the F notes are marked with either blue or black dye. Using some red/blue electrical tape you can mark the ends of the C and F keys which would give you a good base to go by to find every other key, and since they're so bold in color it won't be hard to see them. Then you could have a special scale sheet that emphasizes these notes, highlighting them in red/blue. Eventually you shouldn't need them and electrical tape is very easy to remove and clean the residue.

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