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Just for Kids - Kid Q&A


ere are the questions and answers from other kids. Chances are that you'll find one (or more!) here that answer something you've been wondering about! If you don't find the answer to your question here, ask your own question! Along with your question, send us your first name only, age, city, state, and country (if you live outside the U.S.) and we'll do the rest.


"Why is the middle of the keyboard Middle C instead of Middle A? It seems like it should start with an A in the middle, because that is the first note you learn.

Sarah, Age 7, NC"

Well, Sara, Middle C isn't the middle of the keyboard either; the middle of your piano keyboard is in the crack between E and F--44 notes on each side (count them!).

Middle C is called that because it's the missing middle line between the treble and bass staffs. If you drew a line between the two staffs and then pushed them together so that you had one big staff (called The Grand Staff) of 11 lines, the lines and spaces would all go straight up the white key scale without any skips, from low G to high F; and the middle line would be Middle C.

The other thing is that the keyboard didn't have 88 notes when the piano was invented--it only had about 49. Then it got about 61, then 63, and finally 85 by the middle of the 19th century. Finally they stuck 3 more on the top for 88. There's even one piano made today with 96!

'A' might be the first LETTER that you learned, but I'll bet the first NOTE was --Middle C!

Dr. Bill

"Hi!  My name is Samantha and I have a question. My teacher says I should look at the notes, not the keys.  I always want to look at the piano.  What can I do to stop looking down at my hands? Thank you.

Samantha, age 6, Pennsylvania"

Hello Samantha!

Yes, looking at the keys instead of the notes is something that all new ones to the piano have a hard time with.  Here's a few games to play to help you have the confidence to keep your eyes on the notes.

Put your right thumb on middle C, and fingers on D E F G.
When you first play this game, you can look at the keys and watch your fingers.
Ask Mom or Dad to say one note at a time (CDEFG) and play that one note.  When you can do this well, look up straight ahead of you - perhaps you could put a picture at the top of your piano to look at.  Play the game again and see if you can get the notes without looking down at the piano!

Don't forget the left hand.  Thumb on C, then fingers on B A G F.

When you can do this well, change hand positions - e.g. thumb on G etc.  Remember to play the game looking down at your hands first, and then looking straight ahead of you.

When you get really good at this game, make it harder by trying to play two notes at a time.  Then three notes etc.  E.g., Mom might say, GFDE and then you have to play all of these notes one after another in the order Mom said all without looking at your hands - eyes straight ahead.  

Take it nice and slow to begin with.  Pretty soon you'll be able to play this game faster and faster.

Another game to play is to put your hands behind your back, and when Mom or Dad or your teacher says, "Ready, set go!" find the note they ask for with your EYES CLOSED.  You're only allowed to use the feel of the black notes to tell you where you are on the keyboard.

When you practice with your music, just take one bar at a time, say the notes allowed so you know where they are, and then try and play one note at a time not looking down at your hands.  Concentrate, just like you did when you were playing the game looking at the picture. You could even ask Mom or Dad or your teacher to put a piece of paper over your hands so that even if you do look down, you can't see the notes!

When you can play one bar without looking down, try the next bar - remember to say the notes out loud first, and then try to play them.

Do you know a piece of music so well you don't need to look at the notes to play it?  Play that piece of music with your EYES CLOSED!

Just before your next lesson, you can test yourself how well you're doing.  Ask Mom or Dad for help, and tell them, I'm only allowed to look down at my hands three times when I play this piece.  Ask them to watch your eyes as you play, and count how many times you sneak a look.  If it's only three times, they may give you a small prize - perhaps something yummy, a cool sticker, or a nice big hug and WELL DONE!

Keep at it Samantha.  Looking at the notes instead of the keys is a hard thing to do, but you'll get really good at it if you practice finding the notes without looking down!

All the best Samantha


Hi! I want to know what the middle pedal on the piano does. Heather, Sturgis, MI

Hi, Heather. I want to apologize for the delay in returning your message, I was out of town for a while and am now getting caught up on messages.

The middle pedal, officially called the SOSTENUTO PEDAL, was patented in 1874 by the Steinway Corporation of America. The sostenuto pedal does only one thing when it is depressed: it will catch and hold any dampers that are already fully raised from the strings. The dampers are those things that lay across the strings and go up and down when you play a key. When the sostenuto pedal is properly used it will keep the dampers which have been raised, up until the sostenuto pedal has been released. Soundwise, what you get is one note or a bunch of notes that will be sustained for as long as the sostenuto pedal is engaged. What makes it so cool is that you can use the right pedal (damper pedal) as well as the left pedal (the una corde pedal) while you are also using the sostenuto pedal. The only trick is to not let the sostenuto pedal up until you really and truly want to release the sounds you have been sustaining.

To properly play the sostenuto pedal, the note or notes that you want to have the sostenuto pedal play must be played and held by the fingers until the sostenuto pedal is FULLY put down to the floor or depressed. The right pedal must not be depressed at the same moment the sostenuto pedal catches the notes to be held, because then ALL the dampers will be caught by the sostenuto pedal and all the notes will be held instead of the specific note or notes you want held. But once the sostenuto pedal has been put down, the pianist can go ahead and use the damper pedal as much as needed. The note or notes caught in the sostenuto pedal will continue to be held through any changes made by the right pedal. The sostenuto pedal has to be kept completely depressed when you are using it; even the smallest, tiniest, bit of a release will result in the catching of other unwanted tones.

It takes a bit of practice to get used to using it correctly, playing the notes (while making sure the damper pedal is not on) and then depressing the middle pedal quickly. Hope this answers your question.

I was wondering if you could tell me how the dampener pedal works (the one on the far left?)? Jenny from La Verne, CA

Dear Jenny; I'm Dr. Bill Leland and I write a lot for The Piano Education Page--you can see what I look like if you want by looking at my Artist-Educator interview.

I'm not sure what you mean by "dampener pedal". The damper pedal is the one on the right which raises all the dampers (the felt pads which rest on the strings to stop the sound) and lets all the strings vibrate without having to hold keys down. But the pedal on the left is the soft pedal, and it works differently on grands and uprights. If you have a spinet, console or upright piano, the left pedal will push all the hammers closer to the strings so that it's easier to play softly; lift up the top lid and look inside while you work the pedal.

On a grand, the left pedal is called the "una corda" ("one string"). It shifts the whole action to the right a little so that each hammer only hits two strings instead of all three; when you push it you can see the whole keyboard move. Some very small grands don't have this; the pedal works like an upright pedal.

Let me know if you need more help, because the middle pedal also does different things on different pianos and some pianos only have two. PRACTICE!!!

Dr. Bill.

I am an 8 year old. I have been playing for 2 years. How can I improve my reading? 8 year old in Dallas

Hi! First off, it would help to know your first name, I hate addressing you by just a HI!!!!

To answer your question best, I would like to know what method is being used for your lessons, and then also ask if you know the names of the notes as fast as a comet. Also, it would help me to know if you have been taught to play by position, or by reading intervals, or by reading individual note names. I have found that students who have been taught only with the position playing method are having a rough time reading music when they transfer to me. It is so important to remember that we have 10 fingers which at some point will be asked to jump around all 88 keys, so getting locked into position playing won't work. My students learn to read and play notes all over the piano. We use flash cards that we call SAY AND PLAY. I put a card in front of them; they tell me the name of the note and then find it as fast as they can on the piano. As we get better at these cards, I mix up treble clef and bass clef, lines and spaces, and even add ledger lines. You really need to be able to name the notes in the Treble clef staff and Bass Clef Staff super fast, as fast as you know that 2 plus 2 equals 4.

A final idea that is really important, is that of being able to see INTERVALS on the music and then know what your hands need to do on the piano to play the intervals. For example, if you can see that your bottom note is middle e and that the next note is the interval of a fourth above it, even if you don't know the exact name of the second note, if you automatically know that your hand has to skip two keys up from middle e to play the interval of a fourth, you'll find the second note as fast as you can. BUT, all this stuff takes lots and lots of practice and time; unfortunately, no teacher or parent has a magic wand we can wave over your head to make learning how to read super easy.

Why is C-flat B-sharp???? Lisa, North Canton, OH

Hi, Lisa. I think they put those c flat, b sharp, f flat and e sharp things in music to frustrate teachers, students, parents, and all those involved in music. Those notes can sure drive us all crazy. Actually, a long time ago, there was an actual difference in sound between c flat and b, as well as between e sharp and f etc., but as time went on and music theory and notation evolved, we got into the even tempered system of notation and tuning, so that these little differences disappeared. So now, we really do not hear a difference between e sharp and f, but theoretically there is supposed to be a difference. The reason these composer guys write those notes in is, very often, because of the specific key signature they are working in, and the rules of theory and harmony that they are following. It is complicated for them, too.

Good luck and hang in there with those c flats, f flats, b sharps, and e sharps.

I have been playing the piano for about four years and I am at an intermediate (maybe late intermediate) level. I would like to learn some pieces outside of my lessons, but I don't know which ones to play. Do you have any suggestions that you think I would enjoy? Sarah, 12, Eau Claire, WI

Hi Sarah. Since I don't know you too well, or what your musical preferences are, I would suggest that you go to a music store and look for collections of pieces arranged according to ability levels. For example, there are collections of music available at the easy level, intermediate level, etc. You can find collections of pop tunes, Broadway tunes, basically anything you want to experiment with. Most music stores will have an electronic keyboard or a regular acoustical piano so that you can test drive the music before you purchase it. The Hal Leonard Publishing Company (as well as many other music publishers) does publish collections of popular music, Broadway tunes, etc., arranged according to ability levels. I think it is great that you want to do some independent study of music and hope you have a great time doing it. Thanks for your question, Sarah.



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