Remembering the note of every piano key is a must for any pianist, you don’t need me to tell you the importance of it.
Learning to recognize any of the 88 notes on the piano keyboard in a split second is one of those rites of passage that every beginner needs to go through.
In this article, I’m going to show you some easy ways (and more sensible ways) to remember them. I won’t bog you down with complicated music theory, just simple and effective methods.
And no, we don’t suggest coloring them like a rainbow as you see in the image above (though…each to their own!)
By the way, this post is not about learning how to read sheet music – that is an entirely different kettle of fish.
Note Recognition (Mnemonics)
The first is just straight up remembering the notes by using mnemonics. A mnemonic is an aid to help you remember what otherwise would be a random bunch of letters.
Most teachers will introduce you to mnemonics for helping to remember the notes on a piano.
A couple of rules of thumb before we begin. Mnemonics are always ascending (going bottom to top), and they always either apply to either lines or spaces (never a combo of the two).
Treble Clef Mnemonics
These are the notes your right hand will play.
Every Good Boy Deserves Food: these represent the lines on the treble clef staff, from bottom to top: E, G, B, D and F.
FACE: these represent the spaces between the lines in the treble clef, from descending to ascending: F, A, C, E.
Bass Clef Mnemonics
These are the notes the left-hand plays.
Good Boys Do Fine Always: these represent the lines on the bass clef staff, from bottom to top: G, B, D, F, A.
All Cows Eat Grass: these represent the spaces between the lines on the bass clef, from descending to ascending: A, C, E, G.
Learning mnemonics is one thing, but personally, I don’t like the idea of remembering random phrases to work out where things are.
Landmark notes are a good alternative.
With this approach, instead of trying to remember every note, you just remember a certain few.
You learn 4 notes on the treble clef stave and 4 notes on the bass clef stave.
Once you’ve memorized them, you can then read adjacent notes using the interval method.
Piano Key Stickers
Old school, but still effective.
Removable piano note key stickers help you recognize the notes on the piano keyboard. You can get sticker sets for different number keyboards, plenty for 88 key combinations. The best ones show the notes when written in sheet music (on the treble or bass staff) as well as the letter name of the piano key note.
For younger kids, you can get ones with little illustrations to keep them interested in learning to play the piano.
Hint: Be sure to remove these stickers once you’ve memorized them.
Train Your Ears
Of course, learning to recognize notes by ear – from just how they sound – is the ultimate goal. So you can recognize a b flat from a C by just hearing it.
It sounds difficult, but it’s not impossible to learn notes by ear. The good news is that these days there’s an abundance of online tools and apps to help you learn.
Some notable ones are:
- Theta Music Trainer
- Memorize.com has a ton of memorization games, including games for memorizing the notes of the piano and games for reading sheet music.
- MusicTheory.net has free and paid for (Tenuto) exercises for note identification
With the methods we’ve discussed, you should be able to memorize piano notes after a period of time.