Music Notations - Free Piano Lessons for Beginners

Here are some basic music notations that you need to know before you begin the actual piano lessons:

Music notation is the written form of music. Music is often called a universal language. We all know that in order to speak a language, we first need to learn the alphabet. Unlike the English alphabet (which has 26 letters) the musical alphabet has only seven letters - A,B,C,D,E,F, and G and then back again to A. Sometimes we use solfege (sohl-fezh) of solfeggio (sohl-fed-joh) with syllables do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti and do (if you've seen the movie "The Sound of Music" then you know what I mean) to name the notes. If you have a piano, you will find these notes several times accross the keyboard. In the English alphabet we start by learning the letter A, but in this free piano lessons, we first need to learn the note C.

When you look at the keyboard, you will see that there are black keys which are grouped into 2's and 3's. On the left side of each group of 2 black keys, you will find the note C. Play all the C's on your keyboard. When you sit in front of the piano, you will find the middle C. On the right side of middle C is the D note and on the left of C is the note B. On the left side of the 3 black keys is the note F. Play all the F notes on your keyboard. On the right side of F is the G note and after G is A. So the music alphabet is A,B,C,D,E,F,G and then back to A. There are a total of 12 keys on the piano (including the black keys). The piano keyboard is just the repetition of these notes.

An octave is the interval or distance between the first and eighth degrees of the diatonic major scale. The middle C to the next C is eight notes apart therefore is called an octave.

The music staff (staves in plural form) is the group of five parallel, horizontal lines upon which music is written.


Piano music is written on two connected staves called the grand staff. Some music for the keyboard uses only one staff which are called leadsheets.

grand staff

Pitch - the highness or lowness of a note, as determined by its frequency. Leger or Ledger lines are short lines written above or below the staff for notes that are pitched outside the staff.


Clef - the symbol at the beginning of a staff that indicates which lines and spaces represent which notes.

g clef / f clef

Notes - are the written symbols of music found on the spaces and lines of the staff.


Here are the values of notes and rests used in music notations:

values of notes / rests

Notice that:

* a whole note is equivalent to 2 half notes
* a half note is equivalent to 2 quarter notes
* a quarter note is equivalent to 2 eighth notes
* an eighth note is equivalent to 2 sixteenth notes

It's also the same with the rests.


dotted notes / rests

A dot, when placed beside a note or rest increases the duration or value of that note or rest by half.

PIANO FINGERINGS (number names of the fingers)

piano fingerings

For your RIGHT HAND:
1 - thumb

2 - index finger
3 - middle finger
4 - ring finger
5 - pinky finger

For your LEFT HAND:
1 - thumb
2 - index finger
3 - middle finger
4 - ring finger
5 - pinky finger

Remember, the thumb is always number 1.


Time Signature - is made up of two numerals, placed one above the other. The upper numeral tells us how many beats there are in each bar or measure, while the lower numeral tells us which kind of note gets one beat.

2/4 - means there are 2 quarter notes or beats in a measure/bar

3/4 - means there are 3 quarter notes or beats in a measure/bar

4/4 - means there are 4 quarter notes or beats in a measure/bar

6/8 - means there are 6 eighth notes or beats in a measure/bar

Key signature - the sharps or flats written on the staff at the beginning of a piece to indicate the key.

At the beginning of any piece of music, next to the time signature, you will notice that sometimes there are sharp or flat signs and sometimes none. If there are no symbols(#'s or b's) that means you are on the key of C (they say this is the easiest key because you will be playing mostly the white keys). But for example, you have a piece of music with you and the key signature has 3 flats, do you know what key you are in? You are on the key of Eb.

See piano tips and tricks (free piano lesson) (Formula on sharps and flats) to learn how to know the key signature of the piece/song you are about to play:

As I mentioned awhile ago, the staff is made up of five lines and four spaces. Here are some of the notes that you will find on the lines and spaces:

G clef

F clef

In this piano lesson, you can also use a secret formula which I find very helpful for my piano students so that they can remember the letter names of the notes on the staff: For the line notes, use the phrase "Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge". This simply means that the bottom line note is E (first letter of Every), the second one is G (first letter of Good), then B, D and F. For the notes on the spaces, use F,A,C,E as in your face.


HALF STEP - is the distance between any key and the nearest key to it.

A SHARP (#) placed before a note raises it a H.S. (half step) or semi-tone

* From C, if you put a sharp symbol before the note, it becomes C# or from D to D#...etc

A FLAT (b) placed before a note lowers it a H.S. or semi-tone

* From G -> Gb or D -> Db ...etc

WHOLE STEP - is twice the distance of a half step or is equivalent to 2 half steps (major 2nd)

* From C to D is a WS (whole step), G to A, E to F#...etc. and there should be a note in the middle of the 2 notes.

Therefore, 1 W.S. = 2 semi-tones and 1 H.S. = 1 semi-tone

When you see a NATURAL SIGN in front of a note that has been played on a black key you must play it on its natural, the white key.

Starting from the middle C, play all the white notes in succession up to the next C. This is called the C major scale. From the middle C to the higher C is called an octave (eight notes of the scale). Piano is made up of the same notes (all twelve of them chromatically or by semitones). You will find the same notes several times accross the keyboard.

Here is a diagram of the C Major Scale:

Notice that from C to D, D to E, F to G, G to A and A to B is a whole step (WS) and from E to F, B to C is a half step (HS). This is the formula for the any major scale: WS-WS-HS-WS-WS-WS-HS.

To learn more basic stuff go to:

basic sight reading

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