How to Read a Piano Scale

Reading a piano scale will make it possible for you to understand the grand staff and how it relates to the keys on the piano. The grand staff makes it possible for the pianist to see both the left- and right-hand parts of a scale. The right hand will play in the treble clef and the left hand in the bass clef. Learning to recognize these clefs and how to associate notes with keys will make reading a piano scale possible.

Step 1

Learn about the treble clef and how it relates to notes on the piano. The lines of the staff are spelled E-G-B-D-F and the spaces are spelled F-A-C-E from bottom to top. The treble clef looks like a stylized G with a loop that curves around the G-line.

Step 2

Memorize the notes of the bass clef. The bass clef lines spell G-B-D-F-A from bottom to top. The spaces spell A-C-E-G. The bass clef looks like a stylized F and the two dots are placed on either side of the F-line.

Step 3

Determine the first note of the piano scale that you have to read by using your knowledge of the note names in the treble and bass clefs. Middle C is located in between the treble and bass clefs and has a single line that goes through the notehead.

Step 4

Learn where middle C is on the piano. Middle C is located closest to the center of the piano and sits to the left of the set of two black keys.

Step 5

Identify the first note of the scale in relation to the correct key on the keyboard. The keyboard has a series of seven white keys and five black keys that repeat each octave. The first white key starts to the left of the set of two black keys and is named C. Starting from the set of two black keys, the black keys are C-sharp, D-sharp, F-sharp, G-sharp and A-sharp.

Step 6

Read the piano scale by either playing the notes on the piano after finding the correct starting pitch, or simply reciting the names of the notes to indicate that you understand how to read the written pitches.


The black keys can also be flats. For instance, a C-sharp is also a D-flat; a D-sharp is also an E-flat.

If you want to play piano scales properly, purchase a book that teaches correct fingering technique. For instance, a C-major scale starts with the right thumb on C. D and E are then played by, respectively, the index and middle fingers, while the thumb slides under the fingers to play F. The scale continues up to the octave C using the index, middle, ring and pinky fingers.


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