Learning Piano Music Notes

It's all about learning the patterns! This page on piano music notes will go beyond the basics.

For an overview of just the basics go to, how to read piano notes.

On this page, we’ll be talking about:

1. How to read notes that are not on the lines and spaces
2. Sharps and Flats
3. The types of notes and how many beats or counts they get.

Piano Music Notes

Here's a quick refresher of the lines and spaces.

Grand Staff - Written MusicGrand Staff

Ledger Lines 

First, we’ll start with reading the notes that are not on the staff. The staff is the group of 5 lines.

(To see the notes on the lines and spaces, look at the note charts.)

First a reminder: notes on the piano alternate from line to space or space to line. When going up the musical alphabet, you are going from line to space or space to line. This is critical to playing piano music notes!

In order to read the piano music notes that are not on the staff, this is what you need to do. Keep counting up from line to space through the musical alphabet until you reach the note you want to know.

For example, the very highest note on the treble clef staff is an F. The next one in the musical alphabet is G. G sits on top of the staff.

Notes Above Treble Clef

To make a note even higher than that one, you need to draw a line. It’s called a ledger line.

To learn the notes above or below the staffs, just count up or down the musical alphabet. Remember to alternate line – space – line – space. 

Sharps and Flats

You will also see sharps and flats in front of notes. The sharpPiano Music Notes: Sharp tells you that you must play the note one semi-tone higher than the note written. If you see a sharp before an A, you play the black note directly above the A – A#.
A flatPiano Music Notes: Flat is the opposite. It means play the note one semi-tone below the note you see written. For example, instead of playing A, you play the black note right below A, Ab.

In playing music, you will come across key signatures.They tell you that certain piano music notes will need to be sharp or flat all the time. You will see a natural sign - Piano Music Notes: natural sign if it’s not supposed to be sharp or flat. The main thing is to remember that those notes are sharp or flat always while you’re playing in that key. For more information on key signature’s, click here.

Notes and Beats

Now to read piano music notes, you need to know more than where they are on the keyboard. You also need to know how long to hold them. It has to do with counting.

When you are playing something, think of a drum beat in the background. You have to keep in time with that beat. Now picture the drum beat going.

Whole Note

whole note will stay held down for 4 of the beats. A whole note gets 4 counts.

Whole Note - Learning Piano

Half Note

half note will stay held down for 2 of the beats. A half note gets 2 counts.

Half Note

Quarter Note

quarter note is the drum beat. It plays at the same time. 
A quarter note gets 1 beat.

Quarter Notes - Piano For Beginners

Eighth Notes

An 8th note will play 2 times for every one drum beat. Two 8th notes get one count. One 8th note gets half a beat.

Eighth Notes - Learn to Play Piano

Sixteenth Notes

And finally, 16th notes. They play 4 times for every drum beat. Four 16th notes get one count. One 16th note gets a quarter of a count.

Sixteenth Notes - Learning to Play Piano

Next Steps:

To learn all of these parts of music at once is a little overwhelming. It can be good to take things slowly and learn and practice, learn and practice. I always recommend taking a course in order to really get things down. It will really speed up your learning and playing in the long run.

For this area of things, I especially recommend an online course. Most of what you need to know is a matter of practice. Plus, the online courses are cheaper than piano lessons. You have now learned a great deal about piano music notes!

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