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Visualizing the Musical Alphabet on the Piano Keyboard

Now that you know the basic music note terms natural, sharp, and flat, let’s look at the musical alphabet on the piano keyboard. Regardless of the instrument you play, many things make more sense and are more easily remembered when visualized on the piano keyboard.

White Piano Keys

The white keys on the piano are all the natural notes - A, B, C, D, E, F, and G.

Black Piano Keys

In between most of the natural notes (white keys) there is a black key. The black keys are sharps and flats.

You will notice that the black keys each have a name with a sharp and a name with a flat. It’s important to understand the same note can have more than one name. Two note names describing the very same note are said to be enharmonic. Later you will learn the rules for when you use the sharp note name or the flat note name.

Big Cats Eat Fish

Another thing you should notice is there is no note between B and C and no note between E and F. They just skip to the next natural note. This is important to remember. You can remember these two exceptions with a phrase like Big Cats Eat Fish. (There is a reason for these two exceptions, but an explanation would be too complicated for this lesson. You will learn why in later lessons.)

The Notes of the Musical Alphabet

Starting on the note A on the left of the piano keyboard, follow the notes going up the piano keyboard (moving right). The 12 notes of the musical alphabet are:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 1
A A♯ or B♭ B C C♯ or D♭ D D♯ or E♭ E F F♯ or G♭ G G♯ or A♭ A
(next octave)

The order of the 12 notes is always the same. The same cycle of 12 note names just repeats again and again. As I said before, it is the same for all musical instruments.

Now that you know how the musical alphabet works, let’s look at how it works on the bass...