Introduction to Reading Piano Notes | 5 Easy Steps

reading piano notes

New to the piano? Reading piano notes is the first step to tackling a piece of music. Check out these tips from Brooklyn, NY teacher Liz T. to get started.

To be able to play the piano successfully, you must start learning how to read sheet music right off the bat. Follow these simple steps, and you’ll be reading piano notes in no time!

Intro to Reading Piano Notes

Step 1: Label white spaces with FACE and EGBDF for the treble clef

We’ll take the treble clef first. This is the staff that shows which notes you are to play with the right hand. If you are learning for the first time, you must familiarize yourself with the letter names of the lines and spaces. On your staff paper, label the white spaces with FACE starting with the first space at bottom of the page and going up, then the lines EGBDF, starting at the bottom line going to the top line. There are little tricks to help you remember the names of the lines and spaces – for example, just remember the phrase “Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge.” Work on memorizing this a little bit each day.

Treble clef

Step 2: Write the note letter names

Now take a piece of music you want to learn, and underneath the music notes of the right hand in the treble clef, go ahead and write the letter names. (Use a pencil, that way you can erase it later!) This isn’t a great habit to get into in the long run, but it’s perfectly fine for just starting out. Or if there is one note you’re having a hard time remembering specifically, feel free to just write that one note letter name. Keep in mind we are only focusing on the white notes at first. Don’t worry about the black keys, your sharps and flats, just yet.

Step 3: Memorize letter names, and move onto bass clef

After you’ve memorized all of the letter names on the lines and spaces for your right hand (the treble clef), you can move on to reading piano notes on the bass clef, where the notes on the lines and spaces will be played with your left hand.

Step 4: Name your spaces ACEGB and GBDFA

Practice drawing the bass clef, which will start on the F line. Then with the spaces at the bottom of the page, name your spaces ACEGB (remember “All Cows Eat Grass,” and don’t forget to add your B at the top!). Then name your lines starting at the bottom of the page GBDFA (“Good Boys Deserve Fudge Always”). Memorize these notations as well. Now transfer these letter names of the lines and spaces to your piano song from step #2, and name all the notes with your left hand in the bass clef.

Bass Clef

Step 5: Find a hand diagram and label each finger 1-5

There is another method with numbers that may be easier for you to read. Find a diagram of your hands and looking at the right hand starting with your thumb, label each finger with 1-5. Do the same with your left hand. There are many easy piano songs to begin with, such as “Three Blind Mice”, “Hot Cross Buns”, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, and “Jingle Bells” that only use notes C-G, or numbers 1-5. Starting on middle C of the piano, put both thumbs on the note, and align both your hands so that your right pinky ends on 5 (G) and your left pinky should land on 5 (F). You can write in the numbers next to letter names, if that helps you out more. Remember to begin with only the white notes.

hands

Now, as you read through your song, play and sing the letter or numbers while playing, which will help you memorize the names of numbers of the notes. Once you’ve practiced this for a while, try erasing the letter names and testing yourself to see if you still remember the playing pattern and tune of the song.

With these steps, reading piano notes and music will start to become natural to you. For each piece you learn, write in the letter names or fingers, and then erase them when you get comfortable enough. Pretty soon you won’t even need to write them in!

If you need further instruction on learning how to read piano notes, consider taking piano lessons. A professional piano teacher can walk you through these steps and ensure that you’re building your skills on a solid foundation of music theory.

LizTPost Author: Liz T. teaches online singing, acting, and music lessons. She is a graduate of the Berklee College of Music with a B.M in Vocal performance and currently performs/teaches all styles of music including Musical Theater, Classical, Jazz, Rock, Pop, R&B, and Country. Learn more about Liz here!

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Photo by Basheer Tome

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11 replies
  1. emmanuel balogun
    emmanuel balogun says:

    Nice one for a beginner..But as a learner of keyboard, my challenge now is on ear-training-ie how to distinguish clearly soh sound for instance from lah or fah on a given key!.. How can u help??

    Reply
    • Brooke Neuman
      Brooke Neuman says:

      Hi Emmanuel-Thanks for the kind words. Check out this comprehensive beginner’s guide to ear training for some help: /blog/ear-training-guide-z02

      Reply
  2. Michael C.
    Michael C. says:

    Hi I’m trying to learn a song from a piano book for my graduation but I’ve only taken basic right hand piano lessons. I do not know how to play with my left hand but I also really want to play this song. Is there some way I can learn the song in time?

    Reply
    • Brooke Neuman
      Brooke Neuman says:

      Hi Michael-Thanks for reaching out. Depending on your time frame, we can help set you up with a piano teacher near you. Or you can try searching YouTube for a tutorial.

      Reply
  3. Emma Mize
    Emma Mize says:

    This is still confuseing I don’t know how to play but twinkle twinkle little star and that’s what I taught myself and I am a beginner tryed many methods and tryed them each day but still didn’t work

    Reply

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