How To Identify Keys On A Piano (every singer should know this)

You’ve heard me say it before if you’re a regular reader, but every singer should at a minimum be able to tell the musician what key they sing a certain song in. Especially in Gospel churches where most music is done on the fly and you often don’t know who’s playing for you. Knowing what key you’re going to sing in insures that you won’t start in a key that’s too high or one that you haven’t been practicing in. We’ve all seen that happen and it ain’t pretty!

Even if you’re not interested in learning to actually play, learning your keys on the piano is easier than you think. In fact if you can say your ABC’s (you don’t even need all of them, just the first 7) and recognize a very simple, very repetitive pattern, you can learn the keys on a piano in minutes. Look at this graphic of a piano keyboard.¬†piano-notes-and_keys

The first thing I want you to notice is that, as I said, we’re only using the first 7 letters of the alphabet, A thru G. Now look at the black keys. See the pattern? All the way up the keyboard, you’ll see groups of 2 black keys and then 3 black keys. Now let’s look at the key of C. Notice how the key of C is the first white key to the left of the 2 black keys. Because this pattern repeats the entire length of the keyboard, every time you see 2 black keys the first white key to the left of them will be the key of C.

Once you know where the key of C is, it’s as simple as pressing down the next white key and saying the next letter in the alphabet. Look at the graph again: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. We started over at A when we got to G because in America these are the only letters we use in music.

So what about the black keys?? The black keys represent the sharps and flats in music. This can get involved if you’re actually studying music theory, but that’s not our purpose here. We’re just learning how to identify what key we’re singing in. For that we can use this simple rule: The first black key to the RIGHT of a white key is it’s sharp. The first black key to the LEFT of a white key is it’s flat.

So let’s look at the key of C again. Where is C located? First white key to the left of the group of 2 black keys. So if we look at the key of C, what’s that black key to the right of it? It’s C Sharp! Or, you could call it D Flat, since it’s the first black key to the left of the D key. This also works all the way up the keyboard. For example what is the black key to the right of the A key? You could say “A sharp”, but it’s more commonly referred to as B flat. Either way, if you said it to a musician he’d know where to put you.

If you have a pretty good ear- meaning you can listing to music and find that key on a piano, then now you know how to identify what that key is so you can tell a musician. But if you can do that, then why not take it one step further and just learn how to play! Learning to play keyboard will absolutely transform your singing, and you can learn it on line.

By far my top resource on-line for learning about piano, no matter what level you’re on, is HearAndPlay.¬†These guys have a ton of free information that will help anyone at any level understand more than you ever thought you could about playing the piano. It’s really a good thing to be on their mailing list if you’re someone who is serious about learning how to play. You can get some free lessons just by visiting this link. Check it out!
Free Piano Lessons

5 ways learning to play piano will transform your singing ministry

octavesEvery singer longs to be the best they can at their craft. But of all the training, articles, You-Tube videos, books and manuals we consult for help though, the one most powerful thing a singer can do to improve virtually every aspect of his singing is often completely overlooked. That is learning to play an instrument. In particular, learning to play piano.

Today I’ll cover a list of powerful benefits a singer will get from learning to play piano.

1. Harmony becomes instinctive for you

Many singers struggle with learning and remembering their parts in situations where they have to sing harmony with others. Even those who pick it up easily can not often find that harmony themselves without someone teaching them their part. Learning to play gives you a completely new insight into harmony and how it works. You learn how to form chords, how notes harmonize with each other and how to build those harmonies from scratch. As a result singing harmony becomes second nature to you because you now understand how it’s constructed and how it works.
2. You become more creative vocally

Aside from the more common desires we have for more range, better breath control, vocal stamina, power and the like, many of us just feel kinda stuck, you know what I mean? We feel like we’re doing the same stuff all the time. The same vocal inflections, same runs and riffs. Learning to play piano opens your creative mind up in ways you’ve never thought of before. I’ve said before that your voice is a musical instrument and you should think of it that way. Learning to play bridges that mental divide between the physical instrument and the vocal instrument, your voice.

As you get better and better on the piano you’ll find that you get more and more creative with your style choices when you sing riffs, runs and even just normal melody choices within a song.

3. Everything about music comes easier and faster for singers who can also play piano

To learn piano you have to learn some musical theory. You have to learn how music works. Why music always goes in certain directions. Why certain notes work together. Why things repeat in certain places. How music moves in patterns and circles. The more you learn about this in your studies of the piano the more aware it makes you as a singer. Soon you’re learning vocal pieces in half the time. You know what your part is going to be before the director or musician gives it to you. You know what keys you sing all your songs in and how to tell the musician where you want him to go. It’s an entirely new awakening for a singer. You really do become a musician in every sense of the word.

4. You don’t need a musician anymore. You can accompany yourself!!

This is probably the coolest benefit of all. And if you’ve ever been asked to go sing at a church you’ve never been before only to find that the musician (a) doesn’t know the song you want to sing or (b) there IS no musician!) then you know what an incredible sense of freedom that would be. To be able to just sit down and play for yourself. Wow.

5. You’ll start writing your own material

When you learn to play an instrument something happens to your entire creative process as a singer. It makes you think differently. So it’s only a matter of time before you start hearing melodies and getting little phrases to go with them. Before you know it you’re getting ideas for songs. It’s an amazing gift.

There is no other single thing that can benefit a singer more ways than learning to play piano. Contrary to what you might think though, it’s not something that’s out of your reach or too hard to do. Today there not only many home study options available, but several that specialize and focus specifically on learning to play Gospel. When I went looking for some training to improve my own playing some time ago, I came across a company called Hear And Play.

Hear And Play is a Gospel is a piano training company that specializes in learning to play all aspects of Gospel music. These guys have absolutely set the standard by which all other such companies are judged, in my opinion. I’ve learned so much since I started following them and purchasing their training products, and my own playing has improved tremendously. What I like about this company is that no matter what level you’re on; complete beginner who doesn’t know anything at all, or seasoned professional who wants to take his playing to still another level, Hear And Play has training methods and products available for you.

I have been so impressed with this group of young, saved, African-American musicians that I became an affiliate of the company so I can help promote this incredible resource. That simply means that if you end up buying something from them I’ll get a small commission. I don’t mind sharing that with you because I’d tell you about them either way. I highly recommend checking these guys out. Their 300 page course is one of the products I’ve purchased myself and again, I recommend highly.

Click the link below to go check it out.

Take care!

Ron