Note Names

Notes are what you get when you give a pitch a name. Musicians all around the world have agreed on some names, so I would suggest using those names. You could call a note “Frank” but nobody else would know what you are talking about.

The easiest way to learn the names of the notes is to visualize the piano. Below is a picture of the piano keyboard with the note names labelled. (Don’t worry, we’ll be making melodies soon, I promise!)

On a piano, there is a pattern of white and black notes. Visually, you can see that it looks like there is a group of two black notes, then a group of three, and then the pattern repeats. “C” is the note right below any group of two black notes (we’re starting with C for a reason, bear with me). Now when you play that note, you know it’s called C.

If you play a different instrument, I would suggest finding someone who can show you how to play a C on your instrument. But as you’ll see later on, it’s also important to know the piano keyboard and the pattern of white and black notes, even if you don’t play the piano.

You may have noticed there is more than one C. The note names go from A to G, and then start over at A. You can play a melody starting on different A’s and it will sound the same, but higher or lower. The distance between one A and another is called an “octave.” Imagine that old man again, and the young child, and imagine they are singing a song together. The old man is probably singing an octave (or two) lower than the child, but they can sing together and it sounds beautiful!

The black notes have names too. The black note between C and D has two names: C sharp and D flat. Or C# and Db for short. The other black notes are named in the same way. The black note between G and A is G# and Ab. As you can see, there are two names for each of the black notes.

There are only twelve notes in all. They just repeat in different octaves.