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Time signature

The time signature, or meter, tells us how to count the music. The top number shows how many beats to count in each measure. The bottom number tells us the kind of note that gets one count.

If the top number is 4:

4/4 Meter

If the top number is 3:

3/4 Meter

If the top number is 6:

6/8 Meter

There are other meters, but these are the three most common and we will be studying those signatures.

In the following examples observe that a:

Whole note
a white note with no stem

Half note
a white note with a stem

Quarter note
a black note with a stem

Eighth note
a black note with a stem and one flag

Bass lines

The bass lines can be remembered with "Great Big Dogs Fight Animals" G,B,D,F,A. The first line in the bass is the second G below middle C (circled in red). We "skip" from line to line, skipping a letter in between to find these new notes.

To remember the signal for the lines say "Grrr" like an angry dog. This will help you to recall that "Great Big Dogs Fight Animals", G,B,D,F,A; the bass lines

Bass Lines

Great Big Dogs Fight Animals


Bass spaces

We remember the bass spaces by saying, "All Cars Eat Gas", A,C,E,G. These are the bass spaces. The A is the second A below middle C (circled in red). We "skip" from space to space, skipping a letter name in between.

Let's learn a signal. Pretend you have a steering wheel in your hands. Turn the wheel as you "drive". This will remind you that "All Cars Eat Gas", A,C,E,G, the bass spaces.

Bass Spaces

All Cars Eat Gas


Treble Lines

To help us remember the treble lines we say, "Every Good Boy Does Fine". The names of the line notes in the treble are E,G,B,D,F. From one line to the next is a "skip". We start on the E above middle C (with a red circle) and we skip a letter name as the notes ascend, or go up.

Our signal for this reminder is the American Sign Language sign for "boy". Pretend you are wearing a cap with a bill on it. Touch the "bill" and move the hand down and away from the face. This sign for "boy" reminds us that "Every Good Boy Does Fine", E,G,B,D,F, the treble lines.

Treble Lines

Every Good Boy Does Fine

Treble spaces

The treble spaces spell the word "face" F,A,C,E. The first space F is the first F above middle C. The distance from a space to a space is a "skip". You skip a letter when naming the notes.

Your teacher may use a signal to remind you of these notes. Here's one I use. Put your open palm in front of your face. Rotate it as if washing a window. This will remind you that the treble spaces spell "face", F,A,C,E.

Treble Spaces



Stepping down to F

Begin with the thumb of the left hand on middle C. In the first measure we step down from middle C (line) to B (space) to A (line), to G (space) to F (line). Your 5th finger (little finger) is on F in the bass clef.

In the second measure, the 5th finger is on F (line). Step up to G (space), then up to A (line), up to B (space) and back up to middle C (line).

Count 1,2,3,4 as you did in the previous songs.

Stepping up to G

Begin with the thumb of the right hand on middle C with a red dot (line). Step up to D (space), then up to E (line), up to the next key F (space) and on up to the next one, G (line). Your 5th finger (little finger) will be on G.

G is a white note with no stem. We call this a whole note and it gets all 4 counts in 4/4 time. In the 6th measure we have two G's that are white notes with stems (half notes). Each of these notes gets two counts.

Sepping down

This song begins with the thumb of the left hand on middle C. In the first measure we step down from middle C (line) to B (space) to A (line). In the second measure, the third finger is on A (line). Step up to B (space), then back up to C (line).

Count 1,2,3,4 as you did in the previous song.

Stepping up

If you do not have a musical keyboard near your computer, make a copy of the mock keyboard as directed on the first page of these lessons. It will be helpful to you in learning the keyboard.

When the notes on the staff go from a line to a space or from a space to a line, we step up or down to the next note letter.

In the first measure we begin with the thumb of the right hand on the red-dotted middle C (line). Step up to D (space), then to E (line).

In the second measure, the third finger is on E (line). Step down to D (space), then back down to C (line).

This song is written in 4/4 time which means that we count 1,2,3,4 and the black note with a stem (quarter note) gets one count. The white note with a stem (half note) gets 2 counts.


Introduction to the keyboard

The keyboard is made up of white keys with repeating patterns of black keys in groups of two and three.

We use seven letters of the alphabet to make music; A,B,C,D,E,F, and G. After G, we start over again with A.

Look at the group of two black keys. C will always be to the left of the two black keys. E will always be to the right of the two black keys. And D is right in the middle of the two black keys.

Now look at the group of three black keys. F will always be to the left of the three black keys. B will always be to the right of the three black keys.

Each key on the keyboard has a particular tone or pitch, and a certain place on the music staff. You will learn how each tone relates to a line or space, and you will be able to find it on the keyboard and combine the notes to make beautiful music.

Where to Find Piano Books for Beginner

Looking for beginner piano music can be difficult or easy - depending on where you look. If you look online, there can be a lot of music to sift through. If you go to a music book store, it can be easier.

Music Stores

Let me start with the book store idea - that's where I would start if looking. It saves on the frustration of searching for the perfect music online. Singapore Piano Shop sell used YAMAHA / KAWAI pianos.

Going to your local music store will give you a good idea of what kinds of beginner books are out there. If you want to know what books I think are the best for beginners, please email to You should find quite a range at any store.

There are 2 different areas of books.
        1) Books that teach you to play piano and use different beginning pieces for each technique, and
        2) Books of only beginner music. If you are a real beginner, these books of beginner piano music may be a little challenging. Do them second.

Piano books for adults are different than they are for kids. Generally they go a little faster. I recommend some of my favorites adult books on my adult books page.

Also, if you are hoping to improve your piano playing and understanding, I would also recommend a technique or theory book.

Tips and Techniques to Teach Children Piano

On this page, I’ll share with you some of the things I’ve learned that have helped me to teach children piano. Teaching piano can be really fun and rewarding. To help piano teaching to be as great for you, I’ll give both some practical advice and some general guidelines.

Individual Differences

First, to effectively teach children piano, remember that every child is different. I know that you know this but it’s easy to develop a method of teaching and focus on that instead of the individual student.

I have found that students have different strengths and focusing on those creates a good lesson. When you build on a child’s strengths, they come to believe that they can do it – piano is not so difficult. Then, when introducing those things that they struggle with, they already have a feeling of accomplishment and success.

Here’s a practical way to do this. Start and end the lesson with something they like or something not too difficult. If you know that they like scales and like to play them, end with playing some scales. They’ll leave feeling like they learned and can play something.


To teach children piano, there is another thing I have found essential. This is not about the actual teaching or the piano student, but about me – the teacher. It’s important to have a sense of fun.

If you enjoy teaching, that comes across to the student. If you’re having fun, they’re much more likely to have fun. We need to get away from that image of the piano teacher with the ruler in her hands rapping the knuckles! Piano is fun!


There are times for fun but unfortunately, there are some times when you need to be strict. Try to do this with a smile and the attitude of helping (rather than punishing). Some parents will tell you to be stern or strict with their child. They know their child and it is good to follow their advice.

Behaviour problems do happen in piano lessons although I have found not frequently. Children are usually respectful and nice. I usually find that if a student is not behaving well, they are bored. If this happens, I try to mix things up. For example, if we are sitting at the piano, I try to come up with an activity that is more active. Then after that is finished, we try to go back to what we were doing.

If you have an issue you cannot handle in the lesson, talk to the parent. Find a way for the two of you to resolve it. If things are really a problem to the extent where you can’t get anything done in the lesson, I have one extreme solution. Ask the parent to come to the lesson. If the parent really wants the child to learn to play the piano, they will need to be there to help control the child. I’ve never had to do this. It’s just one option in extreme cases.

Helpful Tools of the Trade

To teach children piano, what I have found most helpful is a whiteboard. With a whiteboard, you can create lots of different activities. You can practise naming notes, rhythm, and other things.

Along with a white board, I also used rhythm sticks and other rhythm instruments to practise rhythm. It’s good for kids to move around and I’ve found it especially helpful for the students playing.


To teach children piano, it’s good to have an idea of what piano books are good. My favourites have been the Alfred series and more recently the Piano Adventures Series. I always try to use a lesson book and a theory book. The theory books make a huge difference!

Children will show up to their lessons with all sorts of books. You can choose if you want to use these or have them start in the books you prefer. I usually continue in the books they have and then switch them over to something different when they finish those books.

I have a number of different pages on my tips for teaching piano. If you’d like some more information on teaching group lessons, go to teaching group lessons. You can see what my typical lesson outline at how to give piano lessons. And if you want to know more about teaching beginners specifically, check out teaching beginner piano lessons. I hope this was helpful for you! Happy teaching!