In this article, I’m going to give you some important piano lesson tips that will make this complicated language we call “music” feel far less daunting to learn as an adult student.
So if you’re excited to learn the piano (and consider yourself an adult piano student), then let’s gets started!
- If you’re interested in learning how to play piano or keyboard in a fun and interactive fashion, then look no further then Piano for All. This course features 10 in-depth eBooks that contain 200 video lessons and 500 audio lessons. And best of all, the course works on PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, or any Android phone or tablet. Get your copy of Piano for All today while supplies last!
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Photo Model Keys Weight Price Casio PX-870 88 $$$ Redesigned Cabinet, Speaker System Yamaha P-515 88 $$$ Natural Wood X Key Action Yamaha DGX-660 88 $$ Graded Hammer Standard (GHS) Keyboard Roland FP-30 88 $$ Built-in Bluetooth Wireless Connectivity Yamaha YDP-164 88 $$$ GH3 action, CFX Grand Piano Voice
The Musical Alphabet
While the English language has 26 letters to its alphabet and the Khmer (Cambodian) language has up-to 74m the musical language – or “musical alphabet” as we call it only has seven (7).
Those 7 letters follow the English alphabet as such:
A – B – C – D- E – F – G
And that’s where it ends. See—you are already ahead of the curve here?
7 letters in this supposedly daunting language of music and you already know them all!
They are used in every song in Western Music (hemisphere, not “Country and Western”). The Miles Davis song “So What” uses them beautifully. “Mary Had A Little Lamb” uses them. You favorite songs from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s through today use them.
Now, let’s take this musical foundation and fiery, new inspiration and learn how to apply and expand upon it.
Applying the Musical Alphabet to the Piano
Seven letters (A thru G) is easy to comprehend. An acoustic piano has 88 keys on it, however, so how do you apply those seven letters to the actual piano keys?
You use “landmarks” and simple memory/pattern methods. Here’s a list of simple points that I will expand on immediately following said list:
- A full piano has 88 total keys.
- Acoustic and electric pianos/keyboards both have two colors of keys; BLACK and WHITE.
- BLACK keys on both acoustic and electric pianos/keyboards are grouped in alternating pairs of 2 BLACK keys and 3 BLACK keys as such:
- The lowest WHITE key on a full piano is assigned the letter “A.”
- The highest WHITE key on a full piano is assigned the letter “C.”
- The lowest BLACK key on a full piano is a singular key (we’ll get to its name/shortly).
Here is a picture of a full, 88-key piano keyboard in all its glory from LOW A to HIGH C (Ooooooooh YEAH!).
- The lowest WHITE key is “A” and each white key after it follows the musical alphabet in repetition A-thru-G U … A-thru-G … A-thru-G etc.
The First Big Challenge to Understanding the Piano
Ok… seven letters in the musical alphabet and one obstacle hurdled.
Now let me walk you through the biggest obstacle (in my opinion) there is to understanding music theory, the piano keyboard and reading music in general.
The technical term is called “enharmonics.”
What enharmonics means is that one piano key can have more than one name and/or alphabet letter assigned to it.
What it means broken further down is that your name could be “Michael” but some people call you “Mike” or “Mikey.” Your friend’s name could be “Christopher” but people call them “Chris” or could call “C.”
So think of enharmonics as a nickname of sorts.
These nicknames apply to both BLACK and WHITE keys. Most students think they apply only to the BLACK keys and there is a good reason why. Let me make another list to help you understand the reason:
- Both BLACK and WHITE keys are assigned the same 7 musical alphabet letters A-thru-G.
- BLACK keys, however, ALWAYS have an extra 2nd or 3rd word attached to their nicknames.
- You can think of those extra word(s) as C-Dawg or C-Double-Dawg.
- Or as a more mature example (since you are an adult student) think of them as your 1st, middle and last names, such as: “Chris” or “Chris Ryan” or “Chris Ryan Novak.”
Before we continue with our list, let me clear up one more thing. As an adult student you are fully aware of basic addition and subtraction. This applies to enharmonics in this way:
Addition is “plus” and makes things bigger or higher in number.
Subtraction is “minus” and makes things smaller or lower in number.
Now use “plus” or “minus” as your nickname, such as “Chris Plus” or “Mikey Minus,” etc.
I know it’s slightly silly, but it is also super easy to remember.
Moving on with the topic, replace “plus” with “sharp” and minus with “flat” and !voila!…you have Suzy Sharp or Freddy Flat.
A “sharp” makes a sound/note/pitch/key sound higher to the listener (thus the reference to addition).
A “flat” makes a sound/note/pitch/key sound lower to the listener (thus the reference to subtraction).
If you’re interested in learning how to play piano or keyboard in a fun and interactive fashion, then look no further then Piano for All. This course features 10 in-depth eBooks that contain 200 video lessons and 500 audio lessons. And best of all, the course works on PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, or any Android phone or tablet. Get your copy of Piano for All today while supplies last!
The Direction of Sound on the Piano Keyboard
This is a pretty easy thing to comprehend, especially since you’ve already completed the hurdle of enharmonics and got used to a couple new nicknames, to boot.
The musical alphabet going forward moves/sounds higher as the letters move left-to-right.
So A – B – C – D- E – F – G goes from lower-sounding to higher-sounding.
The musical alphabet going backwards moves/sounds lower as the letters/piano keys move left-to-right.
So G – F – E – D- C – B – A goes from higher-sounding to lower-sounding as the letters/piano keys move right-to-left.
Here are two (2) videos as an example:
And believe it or not, learning to actually read music and piano sheet music is like climbing a ladder: you go up and you come back down.
Applying the Musical Alphabet to Piano w/Enharmonics
Let’s carry on with another list remembering that one piano key can have several different musical alphabet letters assigned to it:
- BLACK keys are always either SHARPS, FLATS, DOUBLE-SHARPS OR DOUBLE-FLATS. Yes, Sir Elton John or Ben Folds Five or 3 Doors Down or even Three Dog Night there are double sharps and double flats and they are the things/symbols that give your “nickname” three (3) words.
- The symbol for “sharp” is similar to a “#” sign.
- The symbol for “flat” is similar to the letter “b” in lower-case.
- The symbol for “double-sharp” is either an altered “x” or a double x like so: “xx”.
- The symbol for “double-flat” is “bb”.
So a “sharp” goes one rung up the proverbial ladder and a “double-sharp” goes up two.
Inversely a “flat” goes one rung down the proverbial ladder and a “double-flat” goes down two.
This means that even though there are only seven letters in the musical alphabet, each letter can have five nicknames/symbols/enharmonic functions.
So the 7-letter music alphabet actually is more complicated than I’ve been saying, huh? And each letter has 5 names making 35 and if we look at that exponentially it’s just impossible to learn, right??
Not really. Let’s take a further yet surprisingly simpler look:
BLACK keys can only be #’s, b’s, xx’s or bb’s as stated above (four respective symbols).
WHITE keys can be those as well, but they can also be “naturals” (thus the 5th symbol in the equation).
The symbol for a “natural” is…
… and all 5 symbols (called “Accidentals” in music theory) together look like this:
Notes that are “natural” don’t always get cool nicknames or symbols. For example, the “natural” in note “C Natural” is often implied and therefore just called “C.”
Let us now look at the seven-letter musical alphabet spelled out fully and simply as such:
A … A# … Ab … Ax … Abb
B … B# … Bb … Bx … Bbb
C … C# … Cb … Cx … Cbb
D … D# … Db … Dx … Dbb
E … E# … Eb … Ex … Ebb
F … F# … Fb … Fx … Fbb
G … G# … Gb … Gx … Gbb
Finding the right teacher and/or online learning source for your needs is an important process and a big discussion. Lucky for you we covered that in our Online Piano Lessons vs Piano Teacher article, so check that out at your first opportunity!
There are a lot of adults out there who have been asking themselves “should I learn to play piano?” To all of you I hope the answer is a resounding and inspired “YES!”
You learned at the beginning of this article that you already knew more than you thought you did. Now, nearing the end of it I hope you have found that you have a solid grasp of the full, piano keyboard and how the musical alphabet is applied to it.
7 letters (notes) with cool nicknames (enharmonics) going up and down the ladder (piano keyboard) to make beautiful sounds. That’s it!
If you’re still interested in learning how to play piano or keyboard, get your copy of Piano for All today, which features 10 eBooks, 200 video piano lessons and 500 audio piano lessons!
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