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The majority of keyboard music uses standard notation as it is one the most common ways for musicians to exchange ideas. The understanding of how pitch, rhythm, articulation, dynamics, etc. can be used within a tune are embellished by the ability to sight-read.

The Staff

A staff consists of five lines. The notes are placed on the lines and the spaces so each line and each space represents a note.

The Treble Clef (G clef)

When a treble clef sign is placed on a staff it indicates where the G note is located. The right hand will mainly be following this staff.

The Bass Clef (F clef)

When a bass clef sign is placed on a staff it indicates where the F note is located. The left hand will mainly be following this staff.

The Grand/Piano Staff

When both staffs are presented together it indicates where both G and F clef are in relation to each other a brace is added to the staffs.

There is an acrostic saying to help you remember the lines of the treble clef (Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit). The notes in between the lines of the stave spell the word "face." (F A C E). These can be helpful as long as they donít confuse the fact that the letter names are simply the alphabet from A to G and then continuing on with A after G.

Ledger Lines

Ledger lines are placed above or below a staff to extend to higher or lower notes. As with the staff, both lines and spaces created by ledger lines can have notes placed on them.

Up/Down, High/Low

One thing to get aquainted with is where the high and low sounds are, both on the keyboard and music. The high notes being to the far right of the keyboard (the top of the music) and the low notes being to the far left of the keyboard (the bottom of the music). When reading music, notice which way the notes go on the music (up a note [higher], down a note [lower]) and do the same movement on the keyboard.


The word pitch helps us describe a sound, (high pitch/low pitch). In music pitches are given names. The first seven letters of the alphabet act as the names for each pitch (A, B, C, D, E, F, G). These are repeated over and over and help indicate where one note is from another. The example below shows all the notes most commonly used on piano. In the middle of both the music and the keyboard is a C. This is most commonly referred to as "Middle C" and is the best note to get familiar with when starting off. Other notes can be used as goal notes to help you memorize their positions on both the music and the keyboard:

  • "C" two octaves above Middle C

  • "C" one octave above Middle C

  • "G" above Middle C and also the note represented in "G Clef"

  • "Middle C"

  • "F" below Middle C and also the note represented in "F Clef"

  • "C" one octave below Middle C

  • "C" two octaves below Middle C

    The next step is to memorize the notes in between these goal notes and become more acquainted with their position on both the music and the keyboard.


    The the range of the piano is large, and covers the ranges of most other instruments. It spans approximately 7 octaves or 88 notes. The range of synthesizers, organs and electric pianos ranges will differ depending on their size but most synths will have ability to reach whatever range you desire.

    Sharps and Flats

    When a sharp or flat sign is placed in front of a note it changes the pitch of that note.

    Sharps indicate to raise the note a semitone.

    Flats indicate to lower the note a semitone.

    Notice that the sharps (#) are written before the note on a music stave and after the note when written as a letter name. This applies to both sharps (#) and flats (b).


    The word rhythm helps us to describe the length or duration a note should have. In music rhythms are given names. Each rhythm also has an accompanying rest which can replace that rhythm with silence for the same amount of time.







    Another way to look at the length of notes is to see them branching out in groups each equalling a bar.


    Tempo is a word that indicates the speed of a tune. It is usually notated by a crotchet symbol placed at the top left corner of the music indicating the number of beats per minute. This symbol is often called a metronome marking or what you set the "click" to on a sequencer.

    Time Signatures

    When a time signature is placed at the beginning of a staff (just after a clef) it indicates how many beats are in each bar.

  • The top number meaning the number beats per bar.

  • The bottom number meaning the type of rhythm for each beat.

    The time signature 4/4 represents 4 quarter note beats per bar.


    Underneath each rhythm is a way to count aloud and hear the rhythmís length, just like drummers. The syllables that you say create the sound of each rhythm ("1e+a" or "One-e-an-ah" gives us four syllables to represent the sound of four sixteenths in one beat). Of course you could say any word that gives you the right amount of syllables (e.g. 1 banana 2 banana etc.) as including the main beats within the count helps us to know where we are in the bar.

    Here are a few rhythm tapping exercises to start getting used to. Remember to always count aloud and tap when you see the rhythm correspond with the count number. These exercise are designed to have both hands going at the same time. (Right-hand stems up, left-hand stems down). You do not need to play these on your keyboard, just tap away on a table or your legs. The whole idea is to start slow and gradually get faster each go, so you can HEAR the rhythms. Notice too that you will be counting the subdivisions of the beats for the faster rhythms.

    Try to clap the following rhythms while counting aloud. Remember to hold your hands together for the long ones (whole, half...).




    Dotted Notes

    Some notes have dots after them. When a dot is placed after a note it extends the length of that note by half of its original value.

  • A half-note is 2 beats (or 2 quarter-notes) long. With a dot it is now 3 beats long and is kinown as a dotted half-note.

  • A quarter-note is 1 beat (or 2 eighth-notes) long. With a dot it is now 1 and a 1/2 beats long and is known as a dotted quarter-note. Any note can be extended with the addition of a dot.


    When a note has a curved line connecting it with a note of the same pitch, the note lasts for the duration of these notes combined. This is used to make notes longer and enables notes to cross the barline.

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