If we look at the typical piano keyboard the visual impact is beneficial to demonstrate this big picture ….

You will eventually see the repeating pattern of white keys and black keys.  The pattern repeats over and over.  The piano is ideal because even though it is squeezed to save space, the keys and notes are linear;  to the left the notes or tones produced get lower, and to the right the notes get higher.  As we look to the center we can locate what is called ‘middle C’.   We can use this note as a good reference on the piano because it makes the key of C Major easy to see and play.  Other instruments will make it easier to see and play other keys.  This has to be detailed later, but for now, if you start playing the middle C and then play each sequential white note, you are playing in C Major.

A simple count however shows there are 12 notes between each ‘repeat’ of the cycle or each octave visually displayed on the keyboard.  That’s it.   12 notes and then it repeats.  Now that doesn’t sound too mysterious, does it?  The mystery comes in on knowing what notes to avoid.  If you eliminate the notes that are not within the scale or key you are working in, it becomes like the key of C Major on a piano; you will easily see and play the right notes.

    1       2      3      4      5      6        7      8      9      10      11      12
     C C#    Db      D D#   Eb      E      F   F#   Gb      G G#   Ab      A A#   Bb       B

In the key of C Major, it would be a safe guess based on the above, to play white notes.  It the simple chart above you can also see the numbers greyed that represents the black keys.  In this example, the black keys are not within the C Major scale.  For other scales and variations of scales, they WILL!

Generally speaking, if we are playing the C Major scale, playing black keys will not always fit in with the other notes being played.  White keys have a much better chance of ‘fitting in’ with other notes being played.

Which reminds me of a joke about musicians……..

What is the difference between a jazz band and a rock band?

The jazz band plays thousands of chords to three or four people and the rock band plays three or four cords to thousands of people!

Comments
  1. Steph says:

    wow, i wish i played an instrument and this would be beneficial but i will pass your tip on to my family members who play. You have a cool blog going on here. Lots of music lovers should be following you. Keep pressing the likes so they can find you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • midimike says:

      We all know musicians of one kind or another. And even if you do not play, it may help you appreciate not just the musician, but the music you love…. I am enjoying the blog community. Your advice and comments are great. Thank you for thinking about me.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. sonniq says:

    I have always loved teaching music theory. It’s a big math puzzle. As soon as you as you understand the math it opens up a whole new world. If a student learns from a teacher who never had a chance to apply what they learned to their own music they will take a student through a series of method books that would gradually teach them how to only read music and teach them how to interpret the little symbols that tell them how to express the music – the emotion. Take away the music and the memorized pieces and they can’t play. Even after years of lessons if they don’t keep practicing those same memorized pieces, they are lost. If they don’t learn a new piece, they are lost. The average teacher teaches the creativity out of them and is replaced with the fear of not knowing what to do. I teach people to play the piano, not play ‘at’ the piano so they will always be able to play. Sadly, what I am finding more and more, is a lack of new students. Music has largely been taken out of the schools so children aren’t exposed to music, parents can’t afford the lessons or to buy the piano. I am charging almost half what I charged 25 years ago and doesn’t take inflation into account.

    Liked by 1 person

    • midimike says:

      When I was going to school my family moved a lot and I had no idea they even had music classes. A good friend of mine turned me on to the math side of music theory and from there everything made more sense and was actually more interesting. So based on your experience, I am probably better off than had I learned from method books and by shear repetition. Don’t take this wrong, but I refer to musicians that can only play what is in front of them as ‘data entry experts’. A conductor can shape the many instruments and apply dynamics and other textures, but a single performer should be able to feel what emotions inspired the music, not just the mathematics of which finger goes where. Teaching students the art and the science of music will be more successful when teachers like you understand both critical components – and how this can relate to their students. Congratulations!

      Liked by 1 person

      • sonniq says:

        I absolutely agree with you. We always had a piano growing up. My older sister took lessons and today she can’t play a single thing. I took about a year of lessons as a kid and then again as a teenager for about a year until my teacher “fIred” me because i insisted on doing things my way. He was an excellent pianist and played piano bars. I then taught myself. I went back to him at age 17 and told him I’d give him another year so he correct some areas and told him then I was going to teach, and went off to college. I was hired by a fine arts school when I 18. That lasted for a year because all they wanted to teach was classical. I was, by the way, this teacher’s only student who actually played professionally. I visited with him years later. Although I didn’t want to play classical it was the only thing I listed to. I stacked my piano classics before bed on the turn table and went to sleep with it. I loved Andre Previn. But I didn’t want to play it. So I taught myself the math of piano and taught myself chords and had my first paying gig when I was 19. and also started hand writing out charts and piano scores. A lost art among most musicians these days, to hand write scores. I also wrote charts for other musicians for the songs they wrote. Now they can play it into a computer and it will print it out for you. This is why many musicians never learn what they are doing. They can’t write it out for themselves.

        Although I have electric piano I love and I am soon to lose it. It’s starting to go and parts are unavailable. its a Technics EP90. They are out of business. But mother fhas a wonderul Yamaha grand piano in her music room. She doesn’t play very well, mostly self taught herself but does ok. She’s 81 and loves for me to come over and play for her. I turn out the lights. I like to play by sound and feel. Every wrong note is right. She says,” I don’t know how you do it. Just sit and play.” But if you know the math, you can play in any key. But knowing the math isn’t enough. Your fingers have to know how to work together. When I see these music teaching videos on Youtube, “learn how to play a song in 10 minutes” I laugh. One “teacher was telling people to play a D chord – D Gflat A – instead of D f#A. I corrected his error and said “don’t teach unless you know what you’re doing because someone else will have to correct you rmistakes”, and wow, I got all these hate messages for being a bully and even those who told me that I was wrong and he was right. One man said he was glad his kids didn’t learn from me. I said, too bad, maybe if they had they’d know how to play. I hate trolls.

        Liked by 1 person

      • midimike says:

        If I take time I can figure out a written piece. After I play the piece (short segments for rock and roll, not concert pieces LOL) I do not use the sheet music anymore. My wife is a piano player and she can perform what is written. I cannot. I also try to leave the technical explanations to others. I tend to stay in the ‘big picture’ topics, and defer to others. The last thing I want to do is argue about music so I understand your frustration when simply trying to add detail or clarify it.

        Like

      • sonniq says:

        Were we arguing? My grown son plays only by ear. I taught him nothing. it’s hard for parents to teach their children. But he heard it in the womb and at about age 5 sat down and started picking out piano pieces. His first one was Fur Elise. Of course it wasn’t technically correct, but he put together his redition of it that was amazing with no training. He is a boogie woogie player and has the fastest hands I’ve ever seen. He never turned pro, though. He saw the struggle I went through. He plays piano and guitar for himself and jams with his kids. I have a post, http://watchandwhirl.com/2015/01/22/dont-play-the-music-let-the-music-play-you/ Partway down the post is a video of his son, who knows nothing about playing except watching his father, watching his finger movements and tries to do what he does. He doesn’t play with his who hand as most kids would do, but instead plays with his fingers. He really gets to jammin. His whole body starts twitching. he has the potential to be a good player. Kids have no fear about hitting a wrong note. teachers, correcting their students too much can easily teach the creativity out of them by making them think what they are playing is a “mistake”. Those that train themselves “by ear” have a much greater success at creating music than “by the book” piano students. But you, fortunately, have a wife than can help you if you need to know something, so you have a great edge to the average person only playing by ear, The little girl in the photo, my youngest granddaughter, also jams on her guitar with no idea why or how she makes the sounds she does, but to watch her play you’d think she was on stage in a rock and roll band. ( only with no pick – up to an amp!)

        Like

      • midimike says:

        We are not arguing at all. I agree wholeheartedly. You have great observations and experiences. Teaching comes in many forms as you know and you may have taught more than you realize. Don’t sell yourself short. If you were to force lessons or make an issue of learning, in all likely hood your son would be pulled away from music rather than drawn to it. Pat yourself on the back a few times. You have much to be proud of.

        Like

  3. sonniq says:

    I started and stopped a new blog a couple months ago called ‘ My Piano and me’ thinking I would create a piano teaching blog but I couldn’t take on a 3rd blog at this time since I’m also writing a book. Maybe I’ll pick it up again later

    Liked by 1 person

  4. emmalmoore says:

    I took piano lessons many moons ago for a year. Love to pick it up again. Thanks for following my blog. Blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • midimike says:

      I never took lessons. I am self taught and that of course includes friend and family and watching others. I play mostly by ear although that makes it sound simple and I really have to work at it. I’ll keep checking your blog and hopefully you will be playing piano again in the near future.

      Like

  5. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
    I WISH I HADN’T IGNORED MUSIC THEORY WHEN I WAS YOUNGER…TO “JUST SING”.

    Liked by 1 person

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