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Piano Notes And Keys - Piano Key Diagram

Understanding piano key notes and piano key layout

"I'm really struggling to understand how the piano notes and keys on the sheet music match up with what you actually play on the piano. I get mixed up with whether to move my hand to the left or right, up or down. Pls Help!

Erin "

Dear Erin,

Don't worry, you'll get the hang of this, it will just take a little time. Many of my students struggle with the same thing, and then eventually, they have the 'ah hah' moment and they 'get it'! I'm sure you will, too.

I'll try and explain using a piano key diagram how the sounds on the piano keyboard keys go higher and lower, what the corresponding music notation looks like, and how they work together.

Let’s take a look at the piano key layout.

If you play some random piano key notes moving in the direction to the right (we sometimes say moving ‘up’ the keyboard), the sound gets higher (ie moving ‘up’).

And the further left the notes go, the ‘lower’ (ie moving ‘down’) the sound gets.


Moving Up/Down Piano Key Diagram - Piano Notes And Keys

All you need to do is take your index finger and play random notes, to the left or right, and you’ll see, and hear, what I mean – how the sound changes and gets higher the further you play notes to the right, and lower the further you play to the left.

This might seem pretty obvious, but it gets a little tricky once you start to learn how to read piano music and play the notes simultaneously.

If you take a look at the sheet music below, see how the music is always going from left to right? Whether the sound or pitch of the music is going up or down, high or low, the music will always flow from left to right (ie like reading a book).

BUT (and this is where it can be challenging!) your hand movement on the piano itself will sometimes go from right to left (ie if the sound is going down) while your hands will move from left to right if the sound is going up.

So, taking the music extract below as an example, in the first bar the actual piano keyboard keys (and therefore your fingers/hands) would be moving from left to right (going up); while in the second bar, the piano keyboard keys (and fingers/hands) would be moving from right to left (going down). The left hand shows a similar example in bars 3 and 4.


So as you can see, when you are learning how to read music notes, you’ll need to know and understand from looking at the music note symbols what ‘direction’ the music is going in (ie either up – to the right; or down – to the left) and what to play on the piano notes and keys.

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