Middle C is Just the Beginning

Understanding middle C is one of the first steps to learning how to play piano. Here's everything you need to know to get started.

Last updated on 10 July 2024

If you want to learn how to play piano and don't know where to start, you're in the right place. Middle C is the first note that most people learn on the piano because it's in the center of the keyboard, and it's the first note of many beginner songs and exercises.

In this article, we'll show you how to find middle C, why it's important, and the possibilities that it unlocks.

How to find middle C

To find middle C, you first have to be able to identify Cs on a piano. C is the white key to the left of each group of 2 black keys.

Middle C is the 4th C from the left side of a standard (88-key) piano, or the 5th C from the right side. As the name suggests, it is located in the middle of the keyboard.

We often start with our thumb on middle C, and the note is shared between your right and left hands.

For a video guide on locating middle C, check out the "Introduction to Piano" course in the flowkey app. The course guides you through the first steps of piano playing, and you can try the first lesson for free.

Where to Sit at the Piano 
Once you find middle C, you can use it to help you position yourself at the piano — just center your hands and body around middle C.

How middle C is notated

When it comes to reading music, you'll find that middle C is also located in the middle of the grand staff. In treble clef (the top staff, played by the right hand), you can find middle C one ledger line below the staff. In bass clef (the bottom staff, played by the left hand), you can find middle C one ledger line above the staff.

Let's learn more notes!

Middle C can also help you identify other notes and understand the relationship between higher and lower notes. On the keyboard, notes to the right of middle C get higher in pitch, while notes to the left get lower in pitch.

Going from left to right on the keyboard, note names go in alphabetical order from A to G. After G, the pattern starts over at A again.

So, the white key to the right of C is D. The one after that is E, then F, then G. Each of these notes is higher in pitch than the previous.

Going left from C (think backwards), you have B, A, G, and then F. Each of these notes is lower in pitch than the previous.

Ready to play the new notes?
Put your thumb on middle C with your right hand and play C with your thumb, D with your pointer finger, E with your middle finger, F with your ring finger, and then G with your pinky.

Then, place your left thumb on middle C and play C with your thumb, B with your pointer finger, A with your middle finger, G with your ring finger, and F with your pinky.

On the staff, notes written above middle C are higher in pitch, while notes below it are lower.

The note heads alternate between sitting on a line and a space of the staff.

Going up from C, you have D, E, F, G. Following the same pattern going down from C, you have B, A, G, F.

Now that you've learned the notes around middle C on both the keyboard and the staff, try to match them up. Which key on the keyboard corresponds to which note on the staff?

For more on note-reading, check out our guide to Reading Piano Sheet Music. We also have a “Music Reading Training” course in the flowkey app that will help you practice your note-reading skills.

What songs start at middle C?

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

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Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

English Lullaby, German Carol


“Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” is a simple tune that everybody knows, making it one of the first songs many people learn to play on the piano. You can start by learning the beginner version of this song on the flowkey app—which starts on middle C—and then try the intermediate, and advanced versions in the future!

J.S. Bach - Prelude in C, BWV 939

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Prelude in C, BWV 939

Johann Sebastian Bach


Bach’s “Prelude in C” is a classical music staple for the piano. While it is an intermediate-level piece on the flowkey app, beginners can try playing the first few bars of the beautiful melody with just the right hand.

Elvis Presley - Can’t Help Falling in Love With You

If your goal is to play piano for family and friends, Elvis’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” is always a crowd favorite at weddings and engagements. The beginner version of this song starts on middle C, but it is also available in intermediate, advanced, and pro on the flowkey app, so you can always come back to it as you grow in your piano journey.

What's Next?

Once you're comfortable with middle C and the notes around it, here are some ideas for what you can tackle next.

Learn the C Major Scale

A scale is a collection of notes that a piece of music is based off of. Playing scales is essential for building your piano technique, and the C Major scale is a great place to start. C Major is the first lesson in our “Learning Scales” course on the flowkey app.

Learn the C Major Chord

A chord is made of three or more notes played simultaneously, and chords are found in almost every piece of music. Practicing chords will help you learn new songs faster, and learning the C Major Chord is a great way to get started. You can also read our guide to Understanding Piano Chords to get a better sense of what chords are and why they're important.

Continue learning with the flowkey app

Improve your music reading skills with flowkey's interactive courses. By completing lessons on reading sheet music, you'll learn more about middle c, how to recognize the treble clef, and which notes are for the left and right hands – plus much more. Advanced players can also practice sight reading with a collection of fun drills, created by professional musicians. Get started with flowkey today to continue learning.

Learn piano at your own pace

With flowkey, you can learn piano with the songs you love. Download the app to explore thousands of songs and step-by-step courses to help you achieve your piano goals.

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