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  • by Mary Barton

Music Math: So Many Notes = Not So Many Notes!

Updated: Dec 26, 2019

Ever looked at a piano keyboard and thought, “I could never learn all those notes”? The good news is, you don’t have to!

But aren’t there 88 keys? 88 different notes?

Yes and no!

There are only 7 notes in music: A-B-C-D-E-F-G, and if we add in sharps and flats, which are basically tones between the notes, it really is only 12 unique tones.

On a piano keyboard, these 7 notes simply repeat over and over from lower to higher pitches (think of how a man’s voice is lower than a woman’s), in an easy, visually identifiable pattern. For example, every C on the piano is the first white key under the 2-black-key groups and every F is the first white key under the 3-black-key groups, and so on. You can learn to identify every one of the white keys in the first lesson. It’s that simple.

The difficulty comes when we have to learn how to identify those same notes on a sheet of music. But even those are in patterns and become second nature with regular practice.

And you don’t have to learn to read all the notes at once. We start off with the basic and, perhaps, most used notes, and expand from there. Acronyms, rhymes and other mnemonic devices help us remember note places and names. Learning landmark notes also helps us identify where we are quickly. For example, if you can learn to identify “Middle C” in a music score, you know where you are on the piano. If you can identify the next C above and below Middle C on a music score, again, you know where you are. Add in a G above and an F below etc., and whenever you see those notes, you can easily figure out what notes precede or follow.

So don’t be afraid of the seeming magnitude of “notes” on the piano. In reality, there are only 7. It truly is easier than you think!

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