Looking at a keyboard may seem a bit daunting but there are actually only 12 notes to learn. They are named after letters of the alphabet and range from A – G. These letters are allocated to just the white notes of the keyboard and the black notes are referred to as either sharp or flat (more on this later).
Take a look at your keyboard – you’ll see that the black notes appear in groups of two and three. This is to help you to identify what notes you are playing. Count up from the note on the far left and you’ll see that this pattern repeats every 12 notes along the whole keyboard.
I have a little exercise for you. Find the ‘A’ note on your keyboard, within the cluster of three black notes. From there, work your way up the keyboard, pressing one white note at a time until you get to the next ‘A’.
Next find the ‘C’ note on your keyboard, just to the left of the two grouped black notes. Repeat the exercise, play every white note on the keyboard from ‘C’, working your way up to the next ‘C’.
What do you hear?
Can you tell that when you start from A, the sequence of notes have a very dark and sombre feel to them, but when you play exactly the same notes starting from C, they feel brighter and more cheerful? Repeat the exercise until you can hear the difference (don’t worry if you can’t, this is early days and we have plenty of time to train your ears!)
In Mediaeval times music had a darker feel and so learning music starting on A would have been the logical thing to do. In our modern society our ears are more attuned to the brighter, more cheerful sound so when we begin playing the piano we focus more on C.
So while it might seem strange that C is the first note that we memorise, this is part of the reasoning behind it.