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Black Keys On Your Piano

The standard modern-day piano has 88 keys—52 of which are white while 36 are shorter black. If you’ve ever wondered what the black keys on the piano are for, this article will walk you through their functions. 

What Are The Black Keys on The Piano?

The black keys on the piano are often referred to as the flat and sharp keys

The purpose of these keys (1) is to make a note half a step–or a semitone–lower or higher than the corresponding white key

Tones and semitones are also known as steps or half steps. The distance between each key on the keyboard is referred to as a semitone. Each sharp or flat is a semitone away from the corresponding white key. It is important to take note of the distance between E and F as well as the distance between B and C. If you look at the piano, you will notice that there are no black keys between them. This is because the distance between these keys is also a semitone.

PianistTake a look at this image. Notice how they are spaced by twos and threes? This grouping system makes it easier for the pianist to remember the names for the white keys. Each black key is both a flat and a sharp. 

You might be asking, what is flat and sharp? Here is a quick definition:

  • Flat (2) – A flat, also known as bemolle in Italian, is the opposite of a sharp. It is a note that is half a tone lower than the corresponding white key. In music sheets, you will notice that this symbol <♭> is used to notate flats.
  • Sharp (3) – A sharp, also known as dièse in French, is the opposite of a flat. It is simply a note that is half a tone higher than the corresponding white key. In music sheets, you will see this symbol ♯ used to notate sharps.

To understand better, find the Middle C on your piano. I have helpfully marked mine with a red star.

Black Piano KeysMoving to the right of Middle C, we have C#, D#, F# G#, and A#. Technically, B# and E# are considered to be C and F. They are very rarely addressed as B# and E#. To make things easier, always remember that a sharp is always to the right of the note.

FlatsGoing back to Middle C and then going left, you have B♭, A♭, G♭, E♭ , and D♭. Once more, it is important to know that C♭ and F♭ are not referred to that way. Instead, they are referred to as B and E. To make it easier to remember, flats are always found on the left of each note. 

If you can, try pressing all the keys we just learned and familiarize yourself with the way each of them sounds.

How to Play Black Keys on the Piano

Play Black KeysMoving on, I will now teach you a quick exercise to help you get used to the black keys on your piano or keyboard.

Step 1:

When playing the black keys, you do not want to use your thumb. It is better to use your three middle fingers only. By doing this, you will make it easier for yourself to shift from playing black keys to white keys. 

Of course, there will come a time when using your thumb on black keys is unavoidable, but until then, try to stick with your three middle fingers.

Index FingerStep 2:

Sometimes when you have fingers on the black keys, you will need to use your thumb to play the white keys below them. 

Go ahead and try it! 

Put your right index finger on Middle C and then use your middle finger for C#. While doing this, use your thumb to press on D. This technique will be useful to you once you start learning scales.

Thumb on AStep 3:

For this step, we will do the same steps as Step 2, but instead of using your right hand, use your left this time. Play the B key using your index finger. Using your middle finger, play B♭. Finally, using your thumb, play A. Now that your thumb is on the A key, do you notice how easier it would be to play the lower keys? Keep practicing until you are used to it!

Smooth MotionStep 4: For the final step, let us try and play a scale. Start with your index finger on Middle C. Now work your way to F, playing both black and white keys. Do not forget to use your thumb for D and end on F with your ring finger. Try to play in a smooth motion. Do not be afraid to repeat if you have to!

Recap: What Are the Black Keys on the Piano Called?

Now that you know how to play the black keys as well as their purpose, it will be much easier for you to start your piano learning journey! Once you get a hang of it, playing the black keys becomes easier–almost like muscle memory. 

Just in case you need a quick recap, here are the black keys on the piano as well as their purposes:

Sharps

MIddle CAlways remember that the sharps are the black piano keys to the right of each note. From Middle C, the sharp keys are C#, D#, F#, G#, A#, and then C(B#) and F(E#). 

Flats

FlatsOn the other hand, flats are the black piano keys to the left of each note. From Middle C, the flat keys are B♭, A♭, G♭, E♭, D♭, and then B(C♭) and E(F♭).

Now that you know the purpose of the black keys on your keyboard, you can then continue to learn the white keys on your piano, as well as songs you can play as a beginner. 

If you are looking for a full lesson on how to play the piano, we have you covered! Check soundfro.com for the best online piano lessons in 2020.

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