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Piano Keyboard Layout

How to Navigate the Piano Keyboard

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C notes highlighted on a piano.

C notes highlighted on the keyboard.

Image © Brandy Kraemer

In this lesson, you will learn:

  1. The layout of the piano keys.
  2. How to find the piano’s C note and use it as your compass.

Pattern of the Piano Keys

Don’t be intimidated by the length of your piano keyboard, it’s a lot simpler than it looks. Take a look at the keys – do you notice a repeating pattern?

There are sets of two black keys, and three black keys; these are called accidentals, and you’re going to use them to find other notes (afterall, without this pattern it would be nearly impossible to tell the white keys apart). Now you’re able to locate the most crucial note on the board, the C.


Finding the C Note on Your Piano

As a pianist, your life is going to revolve around C, so let’s get you introduced.

The C note is always the white key right before the two black keys. This is the same throughout the entire piano keyboard – the pattern simply repeats itself.

Try It: Locate and play every C on your keyboard using the accidentals as your guide (in picture #1, each C note is highlighted).

Telling the C-Note & F-Note Apart

Remembering C’s location can be tricky at first, because it comes before a group of black keys just like F (see image #2):

  • C comes before the group of two black keys.
  • F comes before three black keys.

There are a few tricks you can use to memorize which note is which:


  1. The shape of the letter C has two open end-points, while uppercase F has three (including its bottom).

  2. In alphabetical and numerical order, both C and 2 come first.

Another trick is to instead concentrate on the group of white keys each note precedes. For example, use the phrase Cab Fare to help you remember that C begins a group of three white notes, while F begins a group of four.


Continue This Lesson:

Back to Beginner Lesson Index | ► Why There Are Only 5 Black Keys per Octave
                                                      | ► Locate the Middle C Key on the Piano

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