Key Lables: Yes or No?

Sunday, July 8, 2018 by Daniel Ales | Practice Tips & Tricks

In the world of piano teaching, the concept of labeling piano keys for students is very controversial. Some say there is no problem with it, and others say it is a crutch. Some say it’s okay as long as you don’t label all of them but only key keys, and yet others use a completely alternate form of helping students remember the geography of the keyboard. So all that to say that no matter the method I believe it is every teachers goal to help their students succeed at the piano and below are two suggestions of how parents/students can set up their keyboard at home to make practicing a little easier in those first few months, because the truth is, if you play piano long enough, eventually you will remember the key names without the use of any aids and that is the ultimate goal.

Suggestion #1: Mark Middle C

I know some teachers shy away from stickers, and for the most part, so do I. But I have found that at least one sticker on the piano is a LIFE SAVER. I am already losing hair, and this keeps me from pulling the rest of it out. Get a bright shiny sticker, (I prefer ones in the shape of stars) and place it on Middle C. If you, mom/dad, don’t know where this key is, it is the forth C counting from the far left or low side of the piano. Your child should know by their 2nd or 3rd lesson with me that the music alphabet consists of only seven (7) letters. A,B,C,D,E,F,G. These are the names of the White Keys. The lowest key on a typical 88 key keyboard is ‘A’ stepping up or to the right on the white keys takes you up the alphabet and after you find G, the next white key to the right  is ‘A’ again and the alphabet starts over. Using this method, you can find the forth C from the bottom and this will be Middle C.

A B C1 D E F G A B C2 D E F G A B C3 D E F G A B C4 D E F G A B C5 D E F G A B C6 D E F G A B C7 D E F G A B C8

The reason I like this little sticker, is because when students begin to read notes on the staff, and in my studio that happens within the first few lessons, Middle C is the note that typically separates the Treble Clef (right hand) from the Bass Clef (left hand). And in my studio we start with middle C and then work out from there, slowly adding notes until students are comfortable reading just about anything on the staff.

Suggestion #2: Write on the Keys

I know this might be a scary suggestion to a lot of parents, especially if the piano you have has been in the family for a while and you can not imagine putting a mark on it. But I have done this to dozens of pianos, and it has never harmed a one. I am not suggestion taking a Sharpie and defacing the keys. All you have to do is take a pencil and lightly write the note name on the white keys. The great thing about a graphite pencil is that the oils from the skin of the fingers will quickly wipe away any pencil markings that you put on there. And if the child is old enough, have them write down only the names of the keys that they are using in the song that they are practicing. The names will wipe off by the end of practice and then they will have to write them down again the next time they practice the song. In this way, it reinforces the note names in the child’s brain.