Piano Note Names

Learn the Names of the Keys

Hi, guys! So, now that we understand the keyboard layout, let’s move on to the names of the piano notes.

First, we’ll learn the names of the white keys, because they’re a little bit easier. We will come back to the black keys a little later. (Once we know the white keys, learning the black keys is going to be a piece of cake.)

The ABC’s of Piano Notes

Hopefully, if you’re reading this, it’s safe to assume you know your alphabet. All we need are the first seven letters of the alphabet to name the piano notes. It’s that easy.

Chart showing names of the piano notes from A through G

As we go from one letter to the next in the alphabet, each note is higher than the one before. On the other hand, if we go in the reverse direction (from G to F to E, etc.), then each note is lower than the one before.

Diagram showing the direction of the piano note names, with notes in alphabetical order going higher and vice versa

The next note after G (moving in alphabetical order) goes back to A, and the pattern starts again. So just remember, there is no letter H on the piano!

Chart showing the repeating pattern of note names A through G

From C To C

At this point, we already got the basics, but we just need to add one tiny wrinkle. Instead of thinking of A as the starting note in the pattern, we’re going to consider C the starting note, like this:

Chart showing the repeating pattern of note names, but this time with C as a starting point

So, why are we calling C the starting note, you ask?

Well, in the previous lesson we learned that the piano keyboard layout is made up of a repeating 12-note pattern. Look at the diagram below, and notice where the note C is located:

Diagram of piano notes showing the note C labelled in context to the 12-note pattern

As you can see, the note C is the note all the way on the left of our 12-note pattern.

That’s why it’s easier to think of the order of piano notes as going from C to C, instead of A to A. C is our starting note, because it happens to be the first note of every 12-note pattern.

But keep in mind, there’s really no such thing as the “starting note” on the piano, or in music in general. Notes go on forever and ever in both directions, up and down, …D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E, F…, without an end or a beginning.

Even so, it’s convenient to think of one note as if it’s the starting point. It just makes the notes easier to learn, easier to memorize and easier to visualize.

Piano Notes In A Nutshell

So, to summarize, we’re going to think of the order of the piano notes as follows:

Chart showing the musical note names from C through B

Then lather, rinse, and repeat, starting the pattern all over again from C!

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Feature image - man sits and plays grand piano in middle of a busy walkway with people all around

See It On the Piano

Now that we got the idea, let’s take a look at some diagrams of the note names on the piano keyboard.

Here are the names of the white piano notes labelled across one octave (or, 12-note pattern) of the piano:

3-Octave keyboard diagram with white piano notes labelled for one octave

The piano notes are arranged lowest to highest, from left to right.

This means that the lowest note is all the way on the left side of the piano. As you move from left to right, each note is higher than the one before.

Obviously, the opposite is true if you move in the other direction. As you move from right to left, each note is lower than the one before.

Check out this chart that sums it all up clearly:

Chart that clarifies how notes to the right on the piano go higher and move alphabetically, notes to the left go lower and in reverse alphabetical order

And here’s a diagram with the white keys labelled across 3 octaves:

Three-octave keyboard diagram with all white notes labelled with their respective note names

For right now, you don’t need to try to memorize all the piano notes and their names. In the next lesson, we’ll learn an easy way to “see” all the notes on the keyboard. The main thing at this point is to simply understand how the note names work.

Close-up photo of a piano music score
Photo of man standing by himself and playing his violin, with a music stand, and his violin case on the ground, and some sort of cool-looking building behind him

From The Piano To The Page

As we now know, each white key on the piano corresponds with one of the 7 alphabet letter names.

However, it’s important to realize that these note names aren’t just for piano notes. In fact, nearly all instruments use the same 7 letter names (besides drums and other non-pitched percussion instruments). Not only that, written music uses these same 7 notes. Each of the piano notes is represented by a corresponding note on the piece of paper.

Amazingly, almost all the music in the world is made with just these 7 letter names! A, B, C, D, E, F, and G – that’s it.

Now, that’s a whole lot better than having to memorize all 80,000+ characters in the Chinese language, isn’t it?

Wrap It Up

Before we finish up, let’s do a quick sum-up of what we’ve learned:

  • The piano notes are named using the first 7 letters of the alphabet: A, B, C, D, E, F, and G.
  • This pattern then repeats over and over across the keyboard.
  • We will think of the note C as our starting point, since it’s the first note of each 12-note pattern.
  • As a result, our note name pattern becomes: C, D, E, F, G, A, and B.
  • The farther a note on the piano is to the right, the higher it is. The farther to the left, the lower it is.
  • Besides piano notes, these same note names are also used for all other instruments and in written music.

Alrighty, so that’s it for this lesson on the note names. Great job, we’re making some serious progress already! Join me in the next lesson, where we’re going to learn how to instantly identify any white note on the piano with its correct note name.