If you’ve spent time with musician friends, you probably have heard the terms “G major” or “key Db” being thrown around. They are part of a set of symbols that indicate what key the beginning of a song should be sung or played in.
From classical and pop to rhythm and blues and jazz, each is founded upon the concept of key on music. So, let’s learn more about what these keys are and how to find them on a keyboard.
Keys Are NOT Notes
If you’re just starting to learn about piano keys, you may initially think that keys and notes are the same things; well, they’re not. Looking at a key chart, you’ll notice that every key has two corresponding note names. In fact, there’s technically no limit to the number of notes that a key can represent.
It would be impossible to play your keyboard should it have individual keys for sharps, flats, double sharps, and double flats. This is why each achievable note in western music, and a variety of different notes, corresponds to one piano key. They’re called enharmonic notes or notes with pitches that are closely similar that a listener wouldn’t be able to detect any real difference between them.
Of course, this doesn’t mean the notes are created equal. The reason why a single key can play all these different notes is to help composers create a more nuanced piece. G-flat and F-sharp may sound similar on a keyboard, but they actually deliver differently in actual music.
What to Start Learning First
The middle row of white keys or the naturals (C, D, E, F, G, A, B) is what you should first start acquainting yourself with as you start your journey. These keys open the door for learning about the more complex keys.
Now, if you encounter a “sharp,” that means to go a key higher. It could mean either hitting a white or black key as the next key. A “flat,” on the other hand, tells you to go a key lower.
Most beginners are usually scratching their heads by this point. They think sharps or flats simply mean the black keys. They actually aren’t. While black keys all represent sharp and flat notes, not all sharp and flat notes are represented by black keys. Keep in mind that an “accidental,” which is either a sharp or a flat, simply means to go for the next lower or higher note, which could either be a white or black key.
Locating Keys on a Keyboard
There are several techniques for helping you correctly locate a key on a piano keyboard, and they are:
1. Absolute Position
While not typically used by many beginners, the absolute position offers one a great way to learn about the keys on a piano keyboard. It simply involves trying to locate certain keys on the keyboard with your eyes closed.
2. Relative Position
This technique entails combining the knowledge of your hand’s current position on the piano keyboard and the knowledge of keyboard size intervals. You can apply this in terms of “space” by determining where the key is located relative to your thumb or pinky.
You can also use “time” to locate the position of the key by keeping in mind which key you played a couple of notes ago. Of course, this technique is usually best used when one has had the time to practice on the piece.
3. Keyboard Shape
Using this strategy, you simply have to graze the black keys, paying particular attention to the B-C and E-F gaps in order to deduce the hand’s location. It is particularly useful for works that have tons of notes because it allows you to break the piece apart into scales, chords, and arpeggios. This, in turn, makes it easier for you to locate the right notes.
You just let your hand assume a chord’s shape and subtract a note instead of constructing the chord note for note as you go along. In this way, you can cover all the right notes in one swift motion instead of hunting and pecking at each key.
4. Direct Looks
When all else fails, take a peek! You’re still learning, so don’t beat yourself up too much for taking your eyes off the score and looking at the keyboard. While many try to avoid using this technique, sometimes it just has to be done, particularly for pieces with large jumps.
5. Peripheral Looks
With this strategy, you keep your eyes on the score but use your peripheral vision to direct your hands to the right keys.
The Best Way to Locate Keys on a Keyboard
The most commonly used techniques for beginners are “relative position” and “peripheral look” since they generally make key locating easier to master. If you’ve graduated to playing more difficult pieces, though, then “keyboard shape” should be the most ideal technique for you. It allows you to locate keys swiftly and smoothly instead of hunting and pecking each key.
People who are still fresh off the blocks of their piano journey should first consult experts like MuzicTribe to help them master the art more comprehensively. Remember that knowing what you should be working with during that first step can make all the difference to the rest of your journey.