Pop Music Theory


2: Pitch & Keyboard

Lesson 2: Pitch & Keyboard

A note's pitch is how "high" or "low" it sounds. Pitches are the main thing that make one melody different from another melody (the other "thing" is rhythm), and pitches are the only thing that make one chord different from another chord.

Between the lowest bass note and the highest treble tinkle, there are about 90-95 different named pitches (the 88 keys on a piano span almost this entire range). The gray "pitch stack" on the left (<—) shows just a section of this pitch range.

Click the gray pitch boxes, starting at the bottom and going up, to play a chromatic scale. The chromatic scale is a scale which includes every pitch, not skipping any. It doesn't sound very "musical"; actual musical scales usually skip some pitches.

Next, we'll see how this chromatic sequence of pitches is arranged on the piano keyboard. On the right (—>) is the same chromatic pitch stack, but now we've colored the pitches white or black, like the keys on a piano. This white-and-black pattern will be key to learning the pitches' names. For now, notice these things:
  • Black pitches always have one or two white pitches between them; there are never two black pitches in a row.
  • White pitches often have a black pitch between them, but sometimes there are two white pitches in a row.

Next, on the left (<—), is the black-and-white pitch stack again; we've just shifted the boxes left and right to make separate black and white columns. This is starting to look more like a piano keyboard.

If you click just the white boxes (bottom to top), you'll hear a major scale, a very common musical scale.

If you click just the black boxes, you'll hear a pentatonic scale, another musical scale.

Finally, on the right (—>) again, we've taken the above-left pitch stack and squeezed the rows together. This finally looks like a piano. Squeezing the pitches together also makes room to show a larger section (37 pitches) of that ~90-pitch pitch range.

Now you can see the repeating groups of black pitches: 2, then 3, then 2, then 3, etc. This pattern is key to learning the pitches' names, which is what you'll learn in the next lesson, Lesson 3: Pitch Names.

For the curious: If you'd like to learn more about what pitch actually is, physically, see Pitch Physics.


1: Introduction
2: Pitch & Keyboard
3: Pitch Names
4: Letters Game
5: Sharps & Flats
6: Half-Steps
7: Whole-Steps
8: Steps Game
9: Scales
10: Major Scale 1-2-3
11: Major 1-2-3 Games
12: Major Scale 1-5
13: Major 1-5 Games
14: Chords: Major Triads

© 2017 Conrad Albrecht. All rights reserved.