How to Convert Piano Chords Into Letters

By Mary E. Cook

Reading music can be as easy as ABC, as long as you know a few tricks. A piece of piano music has two staffs, the bass and the treble, indicating the right and left hand parts of the music. Each staff has five lines and four spaces that correspond to letters on the piano keyboard. Converting notes and chords to their letters is just a matter of a mnemonic device or two.

Look at the piece of piano music you wish to convert into lettered chords. Start at the top with the treble clef, or right hand portion of the music.

Determine where the chords fall within the staff. For notes that fall on lines, begin at the bottom of the staff to convert them into letters. Each of the five lines corresponds to a letter, EGBDF, beginning from the bottom. Remember the line names with the mnemonic device, Every Good Boy Does Fine.

Repeat step 2 for notes that fall on spaces within the staff. Each space corresponds to a letter, beginning at the bottom. Remember the letters for each space with the mnemonic device, FACE, which are the letter names for each space.

Match your note to its corresponding letter and write them down. Piano chords often span more than one line or space, so you will have multiple letters for each chord.

Repeat the above steps for the bass portion or left-hand part of the music.

Tip

To help remember the letters that correspond with the chords, remember Every Good Boy Does Fine and FACE.

Don't worry about sharps or flats or the shapes of the notes. These have nothing to do with the letter names of each note.

Always begin at the bottom of each staff you wish to read. The letters only correspond correctly when you begin at the bottom of the staff.

About the Author

Mary E. Cook has a bachelor's degree in communications from Virginia Tech. She has worked as a writer, editor and page designer for several daily newspapers in Virginia and South Carolina for the past 10 years. Her work has appeared in Fodor's, The Sun News and Monthly Magazine publications.