Piano 101: A Beginner’s Guide to Learning the Keys


The quickest way to learn the piano is to master the keys. That not only entails being able to locate specific keys on the piano keyboard but also the ability to draw an accurate correlation between individual keys and their corresponding notes. 

Fortunately, mastering piano keys is easier than many aspiring pianists think. It mostly requires a combination of time, patience, and persistence. 

In this article, I’ll introduce you to beginner tips for learning the piano keys. You’ll do well to familiarize yourself with these tricks before signing up for piano classes.

1. Pick the Right Platform 

The platform you choose to learn the piano will not only impact the ease with which you can master the keys. It will also determine how long the entire training program lasts. 

Now, there are numerous piano learning platforms that you can explore, including those that offer in-person and online classes. The idea is to define your needs and then pick a program that serves your core interests. 

Lumi stands out as a credible platform for anyone who desires to learn to play piano. The app comes with tons of salient features for piano students, including an interactive keyboard and a massive song library.

2. Learn Basic Music Terminologies

It doesn’t matter whether you’re planning to join physical or virtual piano classes. You won’t get far with your training unless you acquaint yourself with basic music terminologies. 

Start by understanding the differences between a key, scale, and note. You’ll also need to make a clear distinction between volume and pitch, tone and tonality, phase and polarity, and other commonly confused musical terms.

3. Understand the Keyboard Layout

Pianos may have certain fundamental design differences. However, these musical instruments generally maintain a common keyboard layout. 

Below are the top elements of a piano keyboard layout to understand;

Keys Appearance 

Piano keys come in white and black colors, with each representing distinct musical tones and intervals. 

White keys are typically more than their black counterparts. In a piano with 88 keys, 52 are typically white, while 36 are black.

Number of Keys

Many contemporary pianos have 61 keys. This is considered the standard number. 

But as already hinted, some pianos may have up to 88 keys. You could also find pianos with less than 61 keys. 

The number of keys on a piano keyboard corresponds with experience level, with more keys designed for expert pianists. More keys also translate to a larger piano size, which is another critical factor when shopping for a musical instrument. 

Keys Arrangement

The white keys on most pianos appear evenly distributed throughout the keyboard’s platform. However, the black keys are typically bundled into groups and threes and then twos. 

The layout of the black keys, coupled with their raised positioning, makes them easy to play without necessarily looking at the keyboard.

Keys Labeling

The white keys on a piano keyboard are named and/or labeled after the first seven letters of the English alphabet – A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. 

The black keys are labeled sharps or flats, depending on their prefix letter. For instance, the black key between the white keys D and E is called D sharp or E flat.

Order of the Keys 

Since the keys on a piano keyboard are labeled after the letters A – G, it’s intuitive to imagine A as the first letter. 

However, the scale on piano keyboards begins with C. The pattern proceeds to D, E, F, and G before repeating from A to G. 

As expected, C is the first key to the extreme left of the piano keyboard.

4. Know the Sound Dynamics

White versus Black Keys

The white piano keys produce natural sounds, while their black counterparts produce flat or sharp notes. 

As a beginner, you want to play around with the white keys before experimenting with the black ones.


Octave refers to each group of notes that begin from C and run through B. They’re seven and include C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. 

An octave plays various essential roles on a piano keyboard. Most notably, it determines the pitch of each note. 

Notes located on the left side of a piano keyboard typically have a lower pitch than those on the right. Also, remember that the number of octaves depends on the total number of keys a piano keyboard has.

5. Don’t Forget Proper Hand Positioning

‘What’s the best hand positioning when learning to play the piano?’ This is one of the frequently asked piano-related questions, especially among beginners. 

Proper hand positioning improves musical harmony. It also minimizes finger fatigue and injury. 

The next question would then be, what’s the right way to place your hands on a piano? 

Seasoned pianists recommend positioning your hands on the piano keyboard with the fingers slightly curved and the thumbs resting on the middle section of the C note. It’s also imperative to keep your wrists level with your hands and not curved upwards or downwards. 

Note that proper piano hand positioning isn’t something you can quickly master during active piano lessons. Therefore, adequate preparation is paramount. Engage more regularly in exercises that improve manual dexterity prior to enrolling in a piano class.

Final Word

Learning various aspects of the piano keyboard can make a significant difference in honing your piano-playing skills. In the final analysis, remember that patience and perseverance are key to becoming a master pianist.