How to Read Piano Music

By Contributor
Learn how to read piano music to start tickling the ivories.

Learning to play the piano is a skill many people attempt at some time or another. While there are many aspects you must learn to master playing the piano, the most basic thing you need to know is how to read piano music. You'll need to identify the eight note names and their location on both the sheet music and the corresponding key on the keyboard. Once you have this information, you'll need to practice until you memorize the notes.

Look at the sheet music. Piano sheet music is written on what is called a "grand staff," which consists of two staffs stacked one on top of the other. The top part of the grand staff is the treble clef for the higher notes, which are played with the right hand. Below the treble clef is either white space or words to the song. The bottom part of the sheet music is the bass clef for the lower notes, which are played with the left hand.

Look at the notes on the staffs. The notes are the black dots that appear on the staff. Observe whether the notes have either a line running through it or no line running through it, meaning it is in a space.

The grand staff has the treble clef line on top and the bass clef line on bottom.

Look at the beginning of the grand staff. The symbol on the top is called a treble clef, or G clef. This is the one that you will read to play the notes for the right hand. The symbol on the bottom is called a bass clef, or F clef. This is the one that you will read to play the left hand.

Start with the treble clef. Starting at the first line (which would be the first line on the bottom of the five lines for the treble clef), this note is E. E on the keyboard is a white key that is located just to the right of the set of two black keys. The next line on the sheet music is G, then B, then D and finally F. Starting with the E key on the keyboard, skip every other key to play the G, B and D. The F key is the white key directly to the right of the E key, moving up. and F. Use the saying "Every Good Boy Does Fine" to help you remember the order of the notes that fall on lines. For the spaces, working from the bottom up, the notes are F, A, C and E. Use the saying "Space spells face" to help you remember the order of the notes that fall on spaces.

Look at the bass clef. Starting from the bottom up, the notes that fall on lines are G, B, D, F and A, and the space notes in the bass clef are A, C, E, G and B. Use the saying "Good Boys Do Fine Always" to remember the lines and "All Cows Eat Grass Bananas" to remember the spaces. The B (bananas) will be sitting on the very top line with no line going over the top of it.

For many, remembering the "sayings" can be hard, so there is another way to do it. Start with the very first line for the bass -- G. Use the musical alphabet and walk all the way up to the very top line of the treble clef. The order starts with G for the first line on the bottom, and walks up by alternating between lines and spaces. Play the G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A, B.

At this point you'll come to the white area in the middle of the grand staff. This is middle C, which can be played with either the left hand or right hand. An easy way to recognize a C is to note that is sitting in the middle of the treble and bass and it has a horizontal line going through it. Continue toward the treble clef with the first note reading from the bottom up as the D, then E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E, F and the last one on the very top is G.

Practice correlating the note names on the sheet music or scale to the keys on the keyboard. It may help when you are starting out to place a sticker with the note name on the key so you can make a stronger connection to the note name. Remove the stickers after you've become familiar with the notes.