Where is Middle C?

by Rowan

I have a little bit of background playing piano, but I was wondering where Middle C is on the piano. I have a couple of pieces that I am trying to learn, but I'm not sure where on the piano I'm supposed to be. I feel like knowing where Middle C is would really help me, but like I said I'm not sure where it is.


Hello, Rowan. This is a good question.

The easiest & fastest way to find Middle C on a REAL piano is to look for the piano name on the fallboard (the area behind the keys, which sometimes falls down over the keys to form a lid). A piano may say "Steinway," "Howard," "Baldwin," etc. That name is always situated in the middle of the keyboard (I have never seen an exception), and that is where you will find the "middle" notes. Middle B, Middle C, Middle D... but only the "C" commonly has the appellation "middle" attached to it.

There may be several reasons for this. Two that occur to me are:

1. The "key (or tonality) of C" is the most-used tonality for beginning piano students in most method books and beginning music, because the songs will rely on white piano keys only (except for rare exceptions). (I am here using the word "key" to mean both the grouping of scale notes or the tonality employed, and also the physical wood-and-plastic or ivory key on the piano keyboard.) Therefore this note is very prominent in beginner piano music. In other words, Middle C is used a lot!

2. Also in the Grand Staff, which shows where right hand notes and left hand notes are, Middle C is placed exactly between the top and bottom staffs. It makes an easy-to-spot landmark note on sheet music.

Another reason for the importance of Middle C which I just thought of is that young singers' voices frequently don't go (easily) below Middle C - and they shouldn't push their voices below that note.

Spotting Middle C is NOT very easy when you have a small-sized keyboard. Usually, it will be the 3rd C up from the bottom of the keyboard (the left side, that is).

Lots of beginners make the mistake of thinking that Middle C played with the left hand is not the same note as Middle C with the right hand. It is! They are the same note - it is just your hands that move, not the notes.

Your teacher may also have you play a song an octave higher or lower than it is actually written, in order to accommodate a duet part. This is going to happen A LOT with piano music. If you can't decide if the C you are playing is a Middle C or not, try singing the pitch. If you are a fellow whose voice has already changed, Middle C will feel very high to you, and you may have to strain to reach it. But if you are still a kid who hasn't entered that stage where your voice is breaking, Middle C will feel very easy to you.

I hope this helps!

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