How Learning an Instrument is Like Meeting a New Person

Meet & greet

When we meet a person for the very first time we usually start off the initial conversation by asking a question to break the ice, "what is your name?". Playing an instrument is much like getting to know a person. The first thing we should find out is the name of each note. After finding out the person's name we do our best to memorize their name. Same thing with our musical notes. We should know them forward. We should know them backward, sideways, diagonally, upside down…. I think you get the picture. In my career as a musician I’ve run into other performers who were good on their instrument but kept themselves from being great by not even knowing the basics like the names of each note. You’ve probably heard a singer talk about their KEY when they sing or a musician ask what KEY the song is in. This is where knowing the note names will come in. When someone wants to know the key of a song they’re really just asking which note the song is based around. We’ll dive into that more in another lesson.

Tell me about yourself

Now let’s learn the notes. The beautiful thing about these is they’re alphabetical. A-B-C-D-E-F-G and then you’re right back to A.

You’re already halfway there. On the piano you have the black notes. The black notes are known as either sharps or flats, depending on how you look at them. A black note will be a sharp when it’s to the right of the white note. It will be a flat when it’s to the left of the white note.


When naming in order you’ll have A-B flat-B-C-D flat-D-E flat-E-F-G flat-G-A flat then back to A.

Don’t get too bogged down worrying about when a black note is a sharp and when it’s a flat, we’ll cover that more once we learn about scales.

So in review:

  1. Remember there are 12 notes

Memorize the names of each note

  1. Black notes to the right are sharps
  2. Black notes to the left are either flats
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