How To Memorize Piano Keys

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Do you or your students struggle to remember which notes belong to which key on the piano?

When I first learned the notes on piano, I struggled every single time I sat down to remember which key was which. 

As a music teacher and private lesson instructor, I notice the same thing in my students. 

I did some research and got creative to come with different ways to teach how to memorize piano keys. 

Memorizing piano keys is a matter of understanding the patterns of the black and white keys, practicing consistently over time, and using engaging games (even as adults) to keep yourself motivated to learn. 

Look ahead for more information. 

How To Remember Piano Keys

For beginners, remembering piano keys comes down to noticing the patterns of black and white keys. 

White Keys Going Up Or Right

First, take note how all black keys come in groups of either 2 or 3 (ignoring black keys towards the edges of the piano). 

Look at a group of 2 black keys towards the middle. The white key directly to the left (or lower) than the left-most of the 2 black keys is called C.

The note, C, is considered to be the home base for figuring out the rest of the notes. 

Going to the right (or higher) from C, each white key is the next letter in the alphabet. 

Starting on C and going right, we have D, E, F, and G. 

In music, we only use the first 7 letters. Once we hit G and go higher, we start over with A. 

Starting back on C again and going right or higher, we have C, D, E, F, G, A, B, and then another C. 

Notice, the C is still the left-most white near the group of 2 black keys. 

White Keys Going Down Or Left

Now, practice figuring out the white keys going lower. On a keyboard, this means going to the left. 

Again, look for the group of 2 black keys. Once you’ve found it, look for the white key to the left of the left-most black key. 

This is C. 

Now, we figure out the note names in reverse. When we hit A, we start over at G. 

Starting with C, we go C, B, A, (start over) G, F, E, D, and C again. 

Did you notice the next C is still to the left of the group of 2 black keys? 

This is key (pun intended) for starting to learn how to remember piano keys.  

image piano key names

What Are The Black Keys?

The black keys are altered forms of the white keys. When the white key is raised a little, you play the black key to the right of it and call it a sharp (#) note. 

If the white key is lowered, you play the black key to the left of it and call it a flat (b) note. 

This is advanced and tricky, but comes with practice. 

Start with the white keys.

Quiz Yourself

Ask yourself the following questions and write down the answers. Use the graphic above to check your answers, but answer the question without looking first. 

Note: These are the exact questions I ask even my youngest piano students. 

  1. What is the note called on the white key to the right of the group of 2 black keys? 
  2. Look at the group of 3 black keys, what is the white note to the left of the group? 
  3. What is the note to the right of the group of 3 black keys? 
  4. Describe how to find the note C. 
  5. Start on C and go up one white key. What is this note? 
  6. Start on B and go down two white keys. What is this note? 
  7. Find F. Move up two white keys and say the notes name.
  8. Start on C and go up until you hit the next C. Say the names of the notes as you play. 
  9. Start on C and go down until you hit the next C. Say the names of the notes as you play. 
  10. Find A. Go up from up A to the next one and then back down. Say the names as you play. 

How To Memorize Piano Keys/Notes Game

There are many games out there to help all ages of piano players memorize piano keys. This is a simple one my students love to play. 

All you need to play is a set of flashcards with the keyboard on it and different notes indicated in some way. 

If you want my FREE piano key flashcard set, click the button below. 

Make sure you print off 2-3 copies of the flashcards. The game works better if you have more cards to go on. 

A thicker card stock will work great, but simple printer paper does just fine as well. 

This game is basically Tic-Tac-Toe but with piano keys. You’ll need two players. 

Draw a Tic-Tac-Toe board. In order for the player to mark an X or an O, they must first draw the card and get the note right. 

The note is marked on the back of the card. 

If the person gets it wrong, the turn passes to the next player, but ONLY if the other player catches it’s wrong. 

Speaking with confidence may fool a player not paying attention. 

I love tricking my students, and this doubly teachers them: 

  • Answer questions with confidence
  • Question what others tell you with a critical mind

The first player to get 2 wins, wins the match. 

It only takes a few minutes, but this is one anyone can play with anyone if the cards have the answers somewhere. 

Conclusion

I hope you found this guide on how to memorize piano keys helpful. It’s an essential skill for all piano players of any level to have, so getting the foundation set early on is important. 

Use my game and graphics to help you or your students better remember piano keys. 

Online programs are helpful too. I love using Flowkey for learning any of their 1,500+ songs or following their well-rounded piano courses. 

Yes, this is an affiliate link, but I can’t stress enough how awesome these guys are. 

Zach VanderGraaff

Zach VanderGraaff is a K-5 music teacher with Bay City Public Schools in Michigan. He's a Past-President of the Michigan Kodaly Educators and Executive Secretary of the Midwest Kodaly Music Educators Association.

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