Keyboard Playing Basics – Western Notation

Hello there!

In this series of posts, I will discuss the basics of music and keyboard playing, which I’ve learnt so far. This will be useful to those who want to learn keyboard on their own and make out the notations of any song.

In this post specifically, we’ll see the Western notation.

Note that the keyboard is fundamentally different from the piano. Piano is an acoustic instrument whereas keyboard is an electronic instrument. There are many in-built sounds and rhythms in a keyboard. So, one can play a guitar, a harmonica, a violin, a flute; all in one. Keyboards also have a recording facility, so that you can store your songs and enjoy them later 😛

Have you observed a keyboard carefully? There is a fixed pattern of black and white notes, which repeats itself. In most of the keyboards, it will get repeated 5 times. And that pattern is as follows:

3 white keys with 2 black keys in between


4 white keys with 3 black keys in between

This makes 12 keys in total. See the figure below, if you don’t have the instrument with you.


Each key denotes a note or a sound of specific frequency. These frequencies are decided by what is known as geometric progression in mathematics. They are arranged in an ascending order from left to right. Let’s look at the nomenclature of these “notes”.

There are 2 types of nomenclature systems; viz. the Indian system and the Western system. The Indian system is position-specific whereas the Western system is independent of position. We’ll come back to this in a while.

In Western system, the white notes are named as


This pattern repeats itself, so again, you have a C,D,E,…..  and so on.

These 7 notes and the 8th note in the next pattern, which is again a C, produce a melodious effect and are said to form an “octave”.

In between the white notes, you’ve black notes as well. They’ve been named (in order, from left to right) as follows:

C#, Eb, F#,Ab and Bb_____(1)

C# is read as C sharp and Eb is read as E flat.

Since the first black key comes immediately after C, it is called C#. This key is also called Db, because D is the next note. So, black keys have 2 names. The alternative set of names will be

Db, D#, Gb, G# and A#_____(2)

The first set of names mentioned above is more commonly used.

So, if I arrange all keys in the “pattern”, I will get the following:

C, C#, D, Eb, E, F, F#, G, Ab, A, Bb, B and again C, C#,…..

This is all about Western notation. We’ll see the Indian notation and the concept of scale in the next article. 🙂


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