Introduction: How to Play Note Durations on the Piano + Finding 'C Position'

The Duration of a note is simply how many beats you play it for on the piano.

There are different types of note durations and you've probably already seen them in your music.

Some of the most common ones are:

  • Whole Note = 4 counts
  • Dotted Half Note = 3 counts
  • Half Note = 2 counts
  • Quarter Note = 1 count

What this means is that whenever you see one of these notes in your music, you play that note for the number of counts/beats that it is supposed to get. If you are playing quarter notes, you will play each one for one count. If you are playing whole notes, then you would play each note for 4 counts. See the difference?

There are many different types of note durations, but these are the main ones that we all learn when we first start to play the piano. Once you get these down, it will be easy to learn new ones.

*Make sure to watch the video at the end of this lesson to see how I play each of these on the keyboard.

Next, we're going to take a look at how you need to position your hands over the keyboard so you can play your notes easily and not get tired from having tension in your hands and fingers.

Step 1: Getting Your Hands in C Position

C Position is a foundational tool that we all learn in the beginning of our piano studies.

It's easy to learn. Remember where Middle C is? In the first image, you will see my 1st finger/thumb on the white key closest to the middle of my keyboard; just to the left of the red knobs above the keyboard. See that? That's Middle C.

For your right hand - place your 1st finger/thumb on Middle C and then place your next 4 fingers down on the next consecutive white keys.

  • 1st finger/thumb = C
  • 2nd finger = D
  • 3rd finger = E
  • 4th finger = F
  • 5th finger = G

For your left hand - place your 5th finger/pinky finger on the C below Middle C and then place your next 4 fingers down on the following white keys, just as you did with your right hand.

  • 5th finger/pinky = C
  • 4th finger = D
  • 3rd finger = E
  • 4th finger = F
  • 5th finger = G

The most important thing to remember with finding C Position is that you put the 'most left' finger down on C. On our right hand this is our 1st finger or thumb, and on our left hand, it is our 5th finger or pinky.

Do you know why learning C Position is important?

Step 2: Learning C Position Helps With...


While there are many other positions we'll learn as we progress on the piano, this one supports all of the rest in showing you how to place your fingers in a relaxed way over the keyboard.

It teaches us how to place our fingers so we can play the notes/keys easily and sets us up to be able to learn exercises and pieces with a lot more success.

Make sure to practice note durations with your fingers in the C Position to reinforce these 2 different techniques even better.

Now it's time to head to our keyboards and practice what we've talked about in this lesson.

Step 3: Come Practice With Me

Together we will go over each of the different note durations in this lesson on the piano and you'll get a chance to see me play them for you and let you play them along with me. It's a great way to make sure you are counting each one correctly.

I'll also show you how each hand is placed on the keyboard in C Position so you'll be able to confirm that you are doing it the right way.Each of these techniques is important to learn in the beginning because harder note durations and hand positions will be much easier to learn if we have these established in our fingers and memory. Go slowly and be patient as you learn these.

Are you ready to Come Practice With Me?