Naming Keys by Seconds and Thirds

Donna McFarland
A free video tutorial from Donna McFarland
College Music Instructor and Author
4.7 instructor rating • 1 course • 3,567 students

Learn more from the full course

Name that Key!

Name the Keys on the Piano and the Notes on the Staff

33:41 of on-demand video • Updated

  • Students will learn the names of the keys on the piano and how to identify note names in treble and bass clefs.
English Now that you know the names of the keys on the piano, it's time to get really good at them. Every key that is touching another key is a second apart. These are seconds. These are seconds. These are seconds. If the keys are adjacent, they're seconds and their letter names will follow the musical alphabet. The first thing we're going to work on is naming the keys up and down the piano keyboard by seconds. We'll start at C. C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. Those notes are all seconds apart. They follow the musical alphabet. As you practice this, don't just recite the letters of the alphabet, but think about what each note looks like. The C to the left of the two black keys. The D in the dog house. The E, the elephant next to the dog. The F in the front pond. Pay special attention to the F that's next to three black keys and the C next to the two black keys. You want to practice naming the keys going up until they are easy, which should not take too long. C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. And when that becomes easy, practice them going backwards. C, B, A, G, F, E, D, C. Think about them as you're doing them, but eventually this should become pretty quick and easy. C, B, A, G, F, E, D, C. When you can do that you know the seconds really, really well. The next step is to name the keys by thirds. Thirds on the piano are two white keys with a white key in between. Those are thirds. Those are thirds Now we're going to name the keys by thirds. C, E, G, B, D, F. Go all the way until you get to the next C which will be two C's up from where you started. After you're really good at going up, then you're going to work on coming back down. Start at the top C. C, A, F, D, B, etc.. All the way back down to a C. You want to work on naming the keys by thirds going up and down until it's very easy. This will not only help with the names of the keys on the piano, but it will also help with the names of the notes on the staff later on. In the next activity you'll get to practice naming the notes of the keys. Don't worry about if you don't have an actual piano keyboard. You can download the paper keyboard and tape it together and make your own keyboard to practice the names of the keys.