New pianists learn notes first. An understanding of musical notes and their values is the foundation for learning any instrument. That includes the piano. The values of the notes are easy to remember because their names denote their values.
* Whole note: A whole note looks a bit like an egg on its side. It is round or oval-shaped and not shaded/solid. A whole note is held for four beats in 4/4 time.
* Half note: A half note is so called because it is held for half as long as a whole note. In other words, it is held for two beats. It resembles a smaller version of whole note, but with a line attached to its side.
* Quarter note: A quarter note is held for a quarter of the time a whole note is held: one beat. A quarter note looks like a half note, with one minor difference. While the half note is not shaded, the quarter note is.
* Eighth note: The eighth note is, of course, an eighth of the value of a whole note. In other words, it is held for half a beat. It looks like a quarter note with a curly "tail" at the end of its line. Eighth notes can also be joined together in groups of two, three, or four. If they are joined, they are connected by a bar across the top, rather than having a "tail."
* Sixteenth note: The sixteenth note is one-sixteenth the length of a whole note when held. It is held for a mere quarter of a beat. A sixteenth note looks similar to an eighth note, but has a double "tail." When two, three or four are joined, they are connected by a double bar.
There are also 32nd notes and 64th notes, but we'll save those for later.
There are seven different names for the keys on a piano. If you look at the keyboard on a piano, you'll see that the keys repeat their order every eighth white key. The names of the keys are denoted by letters of the alphabet.
The middle white key on the piano is called "middle C." Going up the scale from C, the rest are D, E, F, G, A, B, and they start again with C. The notes from any C on the keyboard to the next C make up an "octave." It is so called because it contains eight keys, or eight notes.
The notes in a song or scale are written on a "staff." These are the series of lines and spaces that you've probably seen on a piece of music. The staff consists of a treble clef and a bass clef. Each line and each space on the clef denote a particular key/note. The notes on the treble clef begin on the bottom line of the staff with E above middle C. The notes on the bass clef begin on the bottom line of the staff with the G below middle C. Which type of note appears on which line or space on the clef determines which key is played and for how long that key is held. In other words, if a whole note appears written on the bottom line of the treble clef, then the instrumentalist would play an E above middle C. It would be held for four beats. Once the note types and names are learned, the beginner is ready to start playing!
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