Notes of the Piano - Naturals & Accidentals

Notes of the Black and White Piano Keys

Girl's hands and piano keyboard close-up view, education concept
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White piano keys are called naturals. They sound a natural (♮) note when pressed, as opposed to a sharp or flat. There are seven naturals on the keyboard: C-D-E-F-G-A-B. After the B, the scale repeats itself on the next C. So you only have to memorize seven notes!

Look at the image above; observe:
   ●  The alphabetical order from left to right.
   ●  There is no H note!*
       After G, the letters start back at A.

Try It: Find a C note on your keyboard, and identify each white key until you reach the next C. Do this until you feel comfortable enough with the keyboard to name the notes in random order.

* (Some Northern European countries use H to signify a B natural, and B to signify B flat.)

Notes of the Black Piano Keys

Black piano keys are called accidentals; these are the sharps and flats of the piano.

On the keyboard, there are five black accidentals per octave. They can be either sharp or flat, and are named after the notes they modify:

  • Sharp (♯ or #)
    A sharp makes a note a half step higher in pitch.
    On the keyboard, a note’s sharp is the black key directly to its right.**
    Try It: Find a C note on your keyboard, and identify its sharp.†
  • Flat ( or b)
    A flat makes a note a half step lower in pitch.
    On the keyboard, a note’s flat is the black key directly to its left.
    Try It: Find a D note and identify its flat on the keyboard.

**Some notes aren't followed by a black key (B and E) so the white note that follows each acts as its accidental. This is because the keyboard layout is based on the C major scale, which contains no sharps or flats. 

 Both examples point to the same black key. When notes go by more than one name, it’s called "enharmony."

Memorizing the Notes on the Piano Keyboard

  1. Identify the white keys individually, and practice naming them until you can find each note without counting from C.
  2. You don’t need to memorize each sharp and flat by name just yet, but remember how to locate them on the keyboard using the natural keys.

Range of Notes on a Standard Piano

A standard 88-key piano contains just over 7 octaves, made up of 52 white keys and 36 black keys. Its notes range from A0 to C8.