How to Read Piano Notes – Best Tips and Advice




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Looking for tips on how to read piano notes? Reading music and learning how to play the piano go hand-in-hand. To be able to understand what you are playing faster makes it even easier for you to enhance your creativity.

Therefore, beginners and any other musician ought to understand the art of sight-reading as it is one of the essential skills to have.

Here, we are going to help you learn the basics of how to read piano music notes, which in turn makes it easier for you to become more familiar with the keyboard. Additionally, this article we’ve written will enable you to memorize piano notes and expand your playing skills.

Basic Symbols of Notation

Since music is made up of lots of symbols, it is essential to, first of all, learn about the basic ones. The following are some of the basics of piano notes that need to be understood.

The Staff

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

The staff is the first step in learning how to read piano notes. This is because music is written on the staff. It comprises of five lines and four spaces, which are labeled to imitate the first seven letters of the alphabet that is from A-G.

The Treble Clef

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The treble clef is one of the two main types of clefs and is also known as the G clef. The reason for this is because the ‘G’ inner swoop of the treble clef encircles itself on the ‘G’ line of the staff. The treble clef is mainly notates the higher registers of music on your keyboard.

To remember the note names of the treble clef, piano players use common mnemonics. For you to memorize the lines, use this cue, “Every Good Boy Does Fine” (EGBDF). The spaces are just straightforward to remember since they spell out the word face (FACE).

Bass Clef

Image credit: Collins Dictionary

When learning how to read piano notes, you’ll come to find out that the bass clef is generally a straight opposite of the treble clef. Commonly referred to as the F clef, the bass clef notates lower registers of music, and this you’ll experience on your keyboard if the notes are written in the bass clef.

To remember note names of the lines in the bass clef, here is a cue to help you; “Good Boys Do Fine Always” (GBDFA). As for the spaces, “All Cows Eat Grass” (ACEG), will do just fine.

The Grand Staff

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

The grand staff is made by combining the bass and treble clef with a ledger line (short lines that are placed below and above the musical staff), middle C. A brace, which is a perpendicular line and bracket, connect the two staves.

The middle C determines which notes you are going to play and with what hand you’ll use to play them. For instance, every note below the middle C, including the bass clef you’ll play using the left-hand side and vice versa.


Image credit: Wikihow

Notes are usually on the staff and explain to us the note letter we are supposed to play on the piano and the duration we need to play it. Dividing the notes are three parts known as the note head, the stem, and the flag.

The notehead is usually filled (black) or open (white), and where the note head sits determines the note, you’ll play. Other than on a line or space, you can also spot note heads sitting below or above the five lines and four spaces of the staff. If this is the case, then there is a ledger line drawn below, through or above the note head, to show the note letter to play. 

The second type, which is the note stem is a very thin line that extends either up or down from the note head. If the note stem is extending from the left, then it is pointing downward, and similarly, if it is extending from the right, then the note stem is pointing upwards.

However, the directions mentioned above don’t affect how to play the notes. Their only purpose is to make reading the notes an easy process while allowing them to fit neatly on the staff.

Here is a rule to remember; notes below the B line have upward pointing stems, while those at or above the B line on the staff have downward pointing stems.

Finally, on the notes, we have the note flag, which is a curvy mark to the right of the note stem. The primary purpose of the note flag is to tell you how long you should hold a note.

The Note Values

Note Values

As earlier pointed out, a filled or open note head shows the note’s value and how long that note should be held. A closed note head with a stem is a quarter note, and it only gets one beat.

Additionally, an open note head with a stem is known as a half note, which only gets two beats. And finally, a whole note is an open note that resembles the letter ‘O’ and has no stem, and you should hold this one for four beats.

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Dots and Ties

Dot and Tie

Dots and ties are just some other ways that can be used to extend the length of a note. A single dot right after a note head adds another half of that note’s duration to it. It means that a half note with a dot equals a half note and a quarter note altogether.

Ties are also used to extend the duration a note should be held. For instance, three notes tied together should be held as long as the value of all the three notes together. Ties are just the addition of notes, and they are used to indicate held notes that crossbars or measures.



It is also possible to shorten the amount of time you should hold a note. First of all, faster notes are symbolized by flags or with beams between the notes. This means that each flag halves the value of a note. Beams, however, allow us to read the music sheet easily and keep the notation neatly spaced.

Essential Information

Learning how to read piano notes entails a lot, and the difficulty in attaining proficiency in sight-reading varies in different individuals. With the piano, it’s not only about being able to read the music sheet alone but also you have to combine it with other functions altogether.

Although there are many ways that you can use to help you have a better understanding, the steps above can do it quickly enough. However, this depends on you since some novice piano players can learn quickly, while others lag along the way. Another important thing when learning about the piano notes is memorization.

After you have learned and understood what the notes mean and their functions, being able to remember them solves the question of time-wasting. So, make sure you use the above-suggested mnemonics to familiarize yourself with the notes.


In conclusion, piano lessons are some of the best ways that can help you learn how to read piano notes. The lessons are taught by professional music instructors who should ensure that you build a strong foundation when it comes to music theory.

Therefore, both your piano playing skills as well as your sight-reading abilities develop profoundly.

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