Piano tones and the keyboard

This article explains how the piano keys on a keyboard are arranged and the reason for it. You will learn the difference between white and black notes and there to find a certain note.

Different keyboard sizes

Today a grand piano or a upright piano include 88 keys which includes seven octaves plus a few "orphans". Also many digital pianos full size keyboards thereas other variants of keyboards do exist. Less expensive digital keyboards are equipped with lesser keys. In most cases there is no problem to play songs and compositions on a keyboard with 44 or 49 keys, but in some cases it will lack keys (keyboards with 32 keys are also common, but are not recommended for anybody serious about learning to play the piano). See keyboard dimensions below.

Tones and pitches

The reason behind the fact that a piano can contain different numbers of keys and keyboard sizes is that there are only twelve different tones that are repeated with diverse pitches. A pitch is the frequency of the sound measured in hertz, but it is easier to think of low, mid and high ranges. On the left side of the keyboard is the low ranges (bass) and to the right side the high ranges (treble).
Keyboard with marked c notes
On the picture above, you can see the placements of the C note and how it is repeated in different octaves (the interval between two notes of the same kind). So if you should play a C on the piano you can choose from seven alternatives – in most cases you will choose some of the mid range alternatives.

Sometimes the placement of the notes can be referred to as C1, C2, C3, C4, C5, C6 and C7. C4 is therefore the C note in the fourth octave.

The white keys

There are more notes than C and on the picture below you can see all the notes that belong to the white keys on the piano.
white keys on piano
These notes will keep the same relation to each other over the keyboard, you could therefore always find a D to the right from a C. Notice that C and F notes are easier to spot because they are placed directly before groups of two and three black keys.

The black keys

The black keys are repeated in patterns of two and three note groups over the keyboard.
black keys on piano
The black notes are a little more complicated than the white. As you can see from the picture every key have two names. C# and Db are used for the same key depending on the situation. C# is a raised C and Db is a lowered D. The symbols # and b are spelled sharp and flat.

Piano keyboard graphics

Resources for studying

The keyboard graphics below show every key on the keyboard in groups of octaves.

tones on keyboard

Keyboard and keys dimension

A full size keyboard has 88 keys including 52 white and 36 black keys.
keyboard of a piano
Concerning dimensions, the standard length for the overall of the keyboard is circa 123 cm (48 inches). For the keys the dimensions are circa 2.4 cm (0,9 inches) width for white keys and 1.4 cm (0,6 inches) width for black keys. The dimensions vary some depending on models and manufactures.

keyboard of a piano