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Get ready to put you language skills to the test because you came here to learn to read piano music. This is one of the most important piano lessons you can ever master. Of course you could learn to play piano by ear but this post will focus on your mind power.

After you master this lesson, refer to the post How to Play Piano – Easy Piano Lessons to further your experience and gain some more insight. Depending on your piano skills already, this is a piano lesson beginners to music literacy can benefit most from. I recommend you use easy piano sheet music to follow this lesson. Well, those notes aren’t going to read themselves!

If you don’t have easy piano sheet music, Sheet Music Plus will make your life easier. There is a link to the article for you above! You’ll need them if your going to play Shallow from a star is born , someday!

HEADS UP! This blog uses piano language. The language that all pianists magically use to telepathically communicate with each other!

New to This? No Treble!

Objective No.1: Don’t think too much!

Some people are intimidated when they try to read piano music and interpret it. To simplify this task a little, you must understand one thing. The notes on the staff tell your fingers where they belong on the keyboard. The staff refers to the lines and spaces where notes are played.

In piano, there are two clefs:

Treble – represents the right hand

Bass – Represents the left hand

For now, let’s just focus on the treble clef and the motion of the right hand.

All because you can read the music notes, doesn’t mean your hands will just cooperate. Music comes to people in different ways. Many people can grasp music with little effort, while others will need some guidance. It depends on your learning patterns and styles. Reading piano notes typically comes easier to visual learners. If you find this difficult or frustrating, don’t give up!

The Alphabet Comes in Handy

The piano is made up of notes which are given letter names in the order of ABCDEFGA. From A to A is called an octave. The notes are the same but the tone is different. Once you know this you can apply that knowledge to the next step. There are 5 lines on the staff and each line gets a letter. From the bottom to the top it reads EGBDF. You can think of an easier way to remember that by using a phrase like Every Good Boat Does Float.

These cards show EGBDF on the stave and where they are played on the keyboard.

Obviously, composers didn’t want to waste perfectly good space on the paper so they put notes in-between the lines. From the bottom to the top it reads FACE. Just remember that everybody has a FACE and you’ll do fine. If you put these notes all together, you will read EFGABCDE.

Memory and Practice are Key

If you’ve got the hang of this, just work on memorizing this as it will be well worth your time. Sometimes I sit there and look at the notes and say wait…E….F? It helps to know them for memory so you don’t have to stop every time you hit a bump in the road. Memory is key here, so a bit of mind power never hurts. 

Remember that practice makes perfect, so if you can’t get the hang of it right away, don’t worry too much. 

Now… you might be tempted to look at your hands. This is helpful in the beginning, but it only compounds the issue down the road. It will save you time and energy if you can learn simple melodies and play them without looking. Some ideas could be Mary Had A Little Lamb or the Elder Scrolls melody or Du Hast Mich. No…nevermind don’t play anything like that…

The best pianists know how to feel the keyboard and not always look. I was always taught to cover my hands with a towel if looking down was a consistent issue. Once you’ve mastered these piano lessons, you will be ready to graduate to the bass clef!

The Bass of Music

The bass clef shows notes played primarily by the left hand. Of course, whoever designed music had to make it as difficult as possible…Why couldn’t the clefs just be the same? It might sound difficult but once you see that the bass clef notes are just 2 notes higher than the treble clef, it gets much simpler!

In the bass clef the notes on the lines read from bottom to top GBDFA. A neat saying to remember is Good Boats Do Float Always. The concept is the same here, but it can still be tricky. I suggest you don’t read both clefs at the same time in order to avoid confusion, but whatever floats your boat…

These ones show GBDFA on the stave and where they are played on the keyboard.

Now, try the melodies that you mastered in the treble clef down on the bass clef with your left hand. Challenging eh? 

Finger Markings

Remember to use all five fingers! It is tempting to move your fingers in awkward positions to hit a note but this will slow your progress. Most sheet music has something we call finger markings or fingering…but I much prefer finger markings for obvious reasons.. This is when the number of the appropriate finger is placed above the note.

If you set your hands on a flat surface, they will be marked as follows: (starting with your left hand pinky) 54321-12345 (ending with your right hand pinky). The good thing about this is that the finger markings never change, so 5 will always mean pinky and 1 will always mean thumb! This knowledge will come in handy when you’re going to play Chopin someday.

What Did You Take From All This???

There is no shortage of the possibilities that a musician can experience once these lessons are mastered. Proficiency is key to getting maximum enjoyment from the piano music you play. You may even graduate to composing your very own music and sharing it with others. Remember that this skill comes differently to all musicians and will take practice and dedication no matter what.

If you are not the visual learning type, you can learn to play piano by ear. You could become adept in music theory (what this article covered) or playing by ear. The best way, by far, to practice is to use easy piano sheet music and play SLOWLY. 

This is the first two bars of Beethoven’s Fur Elise. Think you can play it now?

Don’t forget to read the article Learn How to Play Piano – Easy Piano Lessons for more instuctions and videos! Also, dont forget to read up on how Sheet Music Plus Piano will make your life much easier.

As always, social engagement is important to this community. Feel free to provide your experience on this topic in the comments section below and help your fellow pianists out!

Now, you can Hit that Treble!

-Deeply Trebled

This site is dedicated to your success!


20 Responses

  1. I’ve been wanting to play the piano, but I always thought it was going to take me a bit more time to grasp the concepts. The idea of fingering and paper simply changed my mindset. Could it be much easier than I thought? It seems like a few simple memorizations will give me the foundation. But I guess practice is the key :).

    • Hey JB,

      I hope you decide to take up the piano. You sound like a prospective student. Music comes to people differently and at different paces. If you are a visual learner then it will come quickly to you, or you could learn by ear. I can’t promise how easy or difficult it will be for you. A few simple memorizations and practice will definitely give you the foundation to succeed! 

  2. Hello, I really want to first appreciate your effort in putting this great website together and writing this article. This is one vital aspect of music that is being neglected in most parts of the word today. I did not even start learning the piano with music notes. I learnt it later on. This article helped expand my knowledge.

    • Thank you very much, Benny!

      I put a lot of time and effort into this site so I can share the passion of music with others. I really appreciate your support!

      I will agree with you that learning to read piano music note is from a bygone age now. So, I’m trying to bring it back. It is an essential skill to have. Many people learn to improvise, which I admire. Playing piano by ear is also an important skill. I hope you play your soul out, man!

  3. Thank you for sharing your article. It is making learning how to play piano music much more interesting and much more funny. Although, I still think I am totally lacking any talent in music at all. That would come to my question actually, do you think that anybody can learn how to play the piano, or any other instrument? Also without talent? 

    I like to listen to some masterpieces, like Mozart or Chopin, but I have not played a single song.I like your idea and I think you can help more people interested in finding an easier way of how to play the piano.

    • Hey sup Julius,

      Don’t doubt yourself or your capabilities, my friend. To answer your question, I think anybody can learn piano and music theory. Not everybody has the willpower or interest to do this though. Music speaks to everybody in different ways. As you said, you like Chopin and Mozart, so you might be able to try playing your favorite piece by ear! I hope you decide to give it a try. Thank you!

  4. Every time I read your articles, they are always simple to read and you have a very good way of keeping me glued to be my screen. Thanks for writing bearing in mind that we all do have the same abilities.
    My pick from this article is my need to sit down and memorize the notes, they won’t just stick. I need to work.

    • Good to hear from you again, Parameter!

      I’m honored by your comments and engagement in my posts!

      Yes, it does take a lot of work and practice to master the piano. Use your abilities to make music and stay dedicated then you’ll do fine! Memory is important for mastering exercises, but eventually you will be able to play by doing sight reading.

  5. Great post, I have always wanted to read and play piano, my neighbor has a piano and all I can play is chopsticks, so I love this! “New To This, No Treble”, cute and catchy, I had no idea that treble meant the right hand and bass meant the left, I have saved this to my favorites and I will be trying some of these skills I have learned tomorrow when I go over and watch her dog. I can’t wait, thanks again, great post loaded with awesome information and challenges for me.

    • Hey Bobbi,

      That’s awesome to hear! I’m glad you are interested in  perfecting you piano skills. I am eager to hear how much progress you make.

      I use both clefs as a general guideline when teaching students. For most pieces you will be playing treble notes with the right hand and bass notes with the left hand. This is not always the case as you play more complex pieces like Liszt Un Sospiro where there is constant clef swapping. There is a link to a video below!

      Liszt Un Sospiro By Paul Barton

      I hope you make some progress and thanks for referring to this article.

  6. Dear Deeply Trebled,

    I was doing all fine following along in the lesson until I hit a huge bump when you asked if I could now play Beethoven’s Fur Elise- it looks so complex for a beginner like me. But as you have advised, I must learn every baby step first.

    I’ve never known that what I used to call the G clef (treble) is exclusively for the right hand on the piano, and the bass clef is meant to be played only by the left hand. 

    I can confess that I’ve always feared learning sheet music- which in turn always affects my progress in learning to play any instrument well. For instance, I failed at learning piano, so I thought I could try guitar, but recently I’ve bought a bass guitar and it’s like I’m yet to know if I’m any way remotely musical or not!

    – Boniface 

    • Hey Boniface,

      Baby steps are key if that is conducive to your learning style. The task of playing the first two bars of Fur Elise is a challenge if you are just starting to learn. It involves you putting the knowledge from the article into this as the pianist will be using both hands. 

      The treble clef is used for the right hand and the bass for the left as a general guideline. As you progress, you will encounter more complex pieces where the treble is played by the left hand like in Un Sospiro by Franz Liszt. For now just know that the clef represents the location on the keyboard. There is an example of that piece below.

      Liszt Un Sospiro By Paul Barton

      Learning sheet music can be a daunting task. I am sorry you experienced so many set backs. Have you ever confided in a teacher or did you try learning on your own? Maybe that could help! Good luck and I hope you get joy out of music again!

  7. Thank you for sharing this amazing article.It reminds me of my first lessons when I first started. My acronym was Every Good Boy Does Fine and yes, I have a FACE! Although, I am a musician that many people claim has talent, I don’t think of it that way. I also love to play Chopin pieces and I’ve not attempted Un Sospiro by Liszt yet.

    • I’m glad you stumbled across this site and found the lessons beneficial. Being that you have advanced piano skills, I didn’t think this could help. You have showed that people spend their whole lives learning. I appreciate you sharing your stories with me and everyone else.

  8. Playing piano by ear is also an important skill that I have. This is one thing that is paramount to succeeding. I did not even start learning the piano with music notes but I will now. This article makes me want to get back to enjoying music again and learn from this article. Thank you very much, Deeply Trebled for working so hard – your posts are   so original!

    • Hey there,

      Yes, playing piano by ear and mastering music theory will benefit you greatly in your piano technique. It is indeed important. I am glad that you want to start up again because of this article! Keep it up!

  9. I have a great interest in piano and stumbled across this article at a great time. I just love Music!. And I also have a wish to play piano now. I tried when I was younger but didn’t do too well. But after I saw your article and read to the end, I think it’s not going to be that tough, this time. Thank you so much for sharing such an wonderful article. Now I have some confidence inside me to go through it. Your article had really inspired me to learn piano. Thank you again, Deeply Trebled!

    • Hi!

      It’s good to hear that you have some experience with piano and are willing to start up again. This article was just the start and I am grateful that you could learn something from it! Keep up the good work and stay on the lookout for new articles.

  10. Hey, I enjoyed reading this article like a lot while reading your article and find it very good for nudging me in the right direction. I will be making purchases through your links to support you from now on. This site is very unique and helps me “get out’a treble!” I think I’m going to purchase the Yamaha P71 to start off. Then I will refer back to this lesson and the others on this website for future reference.

    • That’s great to hear! Just a little nudge is all it takes to start people off. I appreciate the support by purchasing through my links. Although I have not put any on this page, they are on the product reviews for future reference. The Yamaha P71 has a lot of nice features for you, I’m gad you like it.

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