Parents often approach me with questions about how to read and interpret all of those tricky sign and symbols in their child’s piano book. This is understandable, because if a parent has no music background, reading music can seem like a foreign language.

I’m always looking for ways to help parents crack the code behind music and to make it easy for them to help their child practice.

I’m compiling a series of bite-sized piano and music facts to help parents understand what is going on in their kids’ piano books.

I’ve posted a series of Piano Parent Tips over on my studio and blog Facebook page.

I wanted to keep all of the tips into one place so that they are easy to share and access. I’ll also add more here over time so be sure to check back.

Finger Numbers

Piano fingers are numbered 1 to 5 in each hand, starting with the thumbs.

(Related: If your student needs piano practice motivation at home, see this post about Motivation Medicine.)

Piano hands are abbreviated LH for Left Hand and RH for Right Hand

(Related: My favorite keyboard for beginning piano students.)

Numbers printed above or below notes indicate which finger to use.


Piano keys are named with letters A through G. This series of notes repeats over and over from left to right on the keyboard.

(To help young piano students learn the keys of the piano, I highly recommend using the book Handy Houses. It reads like a story book and uses a simple and fun approach to learning the keys.)

C is an important note on the piano. It is located just to the left of the 2 black keys.

(Related: Iwako erasers fit perfectly on piano keys and are a fun prop to use at the piano. Here are several ideas for how to use them.) 

The Musical Staff

Each note on the piano has a home on the staff. The staff is made up of 5 lines and 4 spaces. Notes either sit on a line or in a space.

(Related: Create a productive music environment in your home by instilling a culture of practice in your family.)

Piano music is notated on the grand staff, which includes a staff for each hand. Every key on the piano has a home on the grand staff.

The right hand usually plays notes in the treble clef and the left hand usually plays notes in the bass clef.

(For more practice tips read 101 Piano Practice Tips by Tracy Selle.) 


Notes appear either on a line or in a space (between the lines) of the staff.

Notes in consecutive order alternate between lines and spaces.

Ledger lines are small lines that extend above or below the staff.

Middle C is the C near the middle of the piano and on the staff. It is on a ledger line in between the treble clef and bass clef staves.

The Bass Clef is also referred to as the F Clef. The bass clef symbol begins with a large circle that sits on the F line. The 2 smaller circles surround the F line. This makes the note F easy to spot.

The Treble Clef is also referred to as the G Clef. The treble clef symbol forms a loop around the G line. This makes the note G easy to spot.

Related Posts:

Beginning Piano For Adults – the best way for parents to keep up with their kid’s piano playing skills is to learn piano themselves. This online course makes it easy to learn and practice piano from home with a busy schedule.

Learn Piano With Flowkey – Flowkey is my favorite online tool for piano tutorials. It features courses for beginners plus tutorials in all levels for hundreds of songs in all styles.

9 Apps For Learning and Practicing Piano – These 9 apps are an excellent supplement to piano practice.

Parents’ Guide To Piano Recitals – This post will help parents understand everything that goes into preparing for a piano recital and how to help their kids have the best possible experience.


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