Steps on the Piano
Let’s look at half-steps and whole steps on the piano. This concept might seem basic at first, but it’s fundamental to understanding every future concept we’ll cover about the piano.
Understanding the Piano
Understanding how the notes are related will help you understand the piano as an instrument all by itself (not just an instrument used to read and play sheet music). When you understand how the notes are related on the piano, it will help you play creatively since you won’t be dependent on sheet music!
It’s kind of like understanding why ingredients work they way they do when you follow a recipe. You could just keep following the recipe over and over, never understanding the purpose for the baking powder or eggs. But if you understand why those ingredients are there, and how they interact, you can begin creating your own recipes.
Creating piano music is similar. You could learn to read and play sheet music and enjoy it very much, but creating your own music will require understanding the piano as an instrument all by itself, separate from sheet music.
Half Steps & Whole Steps
A half step on the piano is the distance from one key to the very next (whether black or white, up or down).
When steps move up, they are moving to the right on the piano. When steps move down, they are moving to the left.
If you were to start on a B and play the note 1/2 step up, you would play a C (and 1/2 step down from a C is a B). This applies whether the notes are black or white, so 1/2 step up from a C is the black key just to the right of C. 1/2 step down from a B is the black key just to the left of B.
A whole step is two half-steps (that makes sense). So a C to a D is one whole step up (and D to a C is one whole step down).
Take a look at the piano graphic and notice B and C are 1/2 step apart, and C and D are one whole step apart (remember we are counting both black and white keys when we count steps):
Make it Happen
The best way to understand half steps and whole steps at the piano is to start practicing. (If you don’t have a piano or keyboard, check out this post on my top reasons to get a piano, or this post on my top reasons to get a keyboard.)
You can practice by finding notes 1/2 step up, and 1/2 step down from different starting points. Then practice finding notes one whole step up, and one whole step down from the same starting points (just count two half-steps).
Learning half-steps and whole steps on the piano will help you build piano chords. Piano chords are an amazing way to learn the piano! Chords give you so much freedom and flexibility, and allow you to play creatively. You’re on your way!