What Are Sharps and Flats on the Piano?

Sharps and Flats

Let’s take a look at sharps and flats on the piano.

What Is a Sharp on the Piano?

This is what a sharp sign looks like:

Sharps on the Piano

When the sharp sign appears after a note (as in “C♯”) it means to play the note 1/2 step up. That means to play the note just to the right (in this case, a black key).

label the piano

Sharps won’t always indicate black keys. If you were to play B♯ it would actually be a C (a white key), since C is 1/2 step up from B, or just to the right of B.

You may wonder why a note would be called “B♯” if it’s actually a C? That’s a good question! It will make sense when we move on to learning how to build major scales.

For now, the important thing is understanding that the sharp sign means to play the note 1/2 step up (or just to the right), whether white or black.

Learn Piano Chords printable pdf chart

Learn Piano Chords Printable

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What Is a Flat on the Piano?

This is what a flat sign looks like:

Flats on the Piano

When a flat sign appears after a note (as in “E♭”), it means to play the note 1/2 step down. That means to play the note just to the left (in this case, a black key).

Flats, like sharps, don’t always indicate black keys. They just tell us to play the key 1/2 step down, or just to the left, whether black or white.

Now It’s Your Turn

To reinforce this, you can practice finding different sharps and flats on the piano. First practice finding all the C♯ notes, then move on to all the D♯, E♯, F♯, G♯, A♯ and B♯ notes. You can do the same with flats.

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Conclusion

Now you know what sharps and flats are on the piano, and this knowledge will be useful when building scales and chords!

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6 Comments

  1. Peter

    Great on explaining for newbies thank you Julie.

    Reply
    • Julie Swihart

      You’re welcome, I’m glad it’s helpful!

  2. Diana Walker

    Wow I stumbled across this site and my only regret is that I didn’t find you sooner… I love your teaching thank you for giving back I appreciate you..

    Reply
    • Julie Swihart

      What an encouraging comment, thank you so much!

  3. Stephen

    Very clear explanation! You are a good communicator, Julie.

    Reply
    • Julie

      I really appreciate that Steve!

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