How Many Black and White Keys on a Typical Piano?

Have you ever tried your hand at a real piano? If you have, you know how much fun it is to start at one end of the piano and trace your finger all the way to the other, playing every note along the way.

A piano is a stringed acoustic instrument in which melodies are produced by wooden hammers striking the strings. The keyboard of a standard full-sized piano is 88 keys long. The world’s biggest piano has 108 keys, but they’re extremely rare.

So How Many Black and White Keys are there on a Piano?

There are 52 white keys and 36 black keys among the 88 keys found on a full-size piano.

Natural music notes are represented by the white keys, and sharps and flats are represented by the black keys. On extended pianos, some of the black keys are additionally labeled to indicate that it is an expanded piano.

What is the Purpose of Black and White Keys?

Simply explained, white keys represent musical notes. And the black keys are the half-tones in between each of the full tones.

The color is also used to distinguish between them. It’s simpler to perceive the difference when there’s one set of black keys and one set of white keys and to remember that the black keys are the intervals between the white notes.

Their placement also makes playing the piano easier. It puts the blacks right in the middle of the white notes. People are curious about the color of the keys, as well as how many black and white keys there are on a piano.

In fact, certain keyboards and synthesizers have a unique design, with black and white keys being reversed, for example. This is, however, an uncommon occurrence.

The Piano Keys – Sharps, Flats and Naturals

The white keys are known as the naturals because of their natural-sounding nature. It’s there that the note’s original sound may be heard, devoid of modifications and revisions. Instead of merely calling those notes C or D, you add the term natural to the end. It makes sense from a theoretical standpoint, and it aids in the description of music to others.

Sharps and flats are the terms we use to characterize the black keys. This is how the white keys get their new appearance. At least to me, what occurs here is really fantastic. You examine the natural note and the black key’s position in respect to it.

Find D natural, for instance, and then look at the first black note adjacent to it. Because that note is a half step higher, we may name it D sharp! However, what about the black note beneath it? When you play the tone, you’ll notice that it’s a half step below a D natural. This is known as a D flat note.

Unless you have perfect pitch, figuring out which note is which would be considerably more difficult if we had all white keys.

Materials of Piano Keys

So we played around with the idea of why the piano keys are the colors they are. Why aren’t they allowed to be red, blue, or even orange? Well, we suppose they might in principle, and you could absolutely paint them any color you choose.

However, historically, pianos were made mostly of ivory and ebony. Ivory is the hue of the white keys, therefore that’s what they’re made of. The black keys are made of ebony. However, if you look hard enough, you may discover some fantastic pianos with key colors that are really reversed. So, white keys would be black keys, and black keys would be white keys.

There are 88 Keys on a Typical Piano. But Why is That?

piano keys

Composers composed a lot of music for the harpsichord, which has just 60 keys before the piano was introduced. This meant that whatever they composed was restricted to the five-octave range of the harpsichord.

Then there was the invention of the piano. From the year 1700, Bartolomeo Cristofori, a Padua-based musical instrument craftsman, thought it was time to modernize the harpsichord and created a new keyboard instrument with a hammering mechanism.

In 1688, Cristofori was recruited by Grand Prince Ferdinando de Medici’s Florentine court to take care of their harpsichords and, later, other instruments. An ‘arpicimbalo’ (lit. a harpsichord-like instrument) developed by Cristofori is mentioned in a 1700 inventory of Medici instruments.

The instrument included a redesigned hammer and damper mechanism, as well as two keyboards and a four-octave range (49 keys). It was characterized as a ‘gravicembalo col piano, e forte’ by poet and journalist Scipione Maffei in 1711, which means harpsichord with quiet and loud. It was here that the term “pianoforte” was coined.

Who Invented the 88-Key Piano?

The 88-key piano was designed by Steinway to meet the needs of composers and to further the evolution of the piano. There were pianos with 85 keys and some with less at the time, but adding extra keys was not a popular option. However, Steinway decided to increase the number of keys on the 85-key variant to 88.

The modern piano has a range of seven octaves. There are 52 white keys and 36 black keys in total. Because Steinway was one of the most well-known piano manufacturers in the 1880s, others noticed and imitated his move. To go with the treble, the enlarged piano allowed for a greater balance between the tenor and bass ranges.

Many of the compositions at this period were Romantic in nature and were beginning to transition into 20th Century masterpieces. The use of the piano’s extreme ranges had grown fashionable, notably in the works of Rachmaninoff and Cage.

Is it Possible to Make Pianos with More Keys?

Yes, however, there are a number of factors that militate against adding extra keys to a piano. Aside from the fact that many of these additional notes are inaudible to the human ear, pianos with extra keys are often longer and heavier than standard pianos – and hence more expensive.


Finally, the piano is one of the most valuable instruments you can own. The piano is used as a fixed reference for producing melodies in a lot of current music. This transitions from using it as a midi to utilizing it to produce tunes on its own.

The piano has been utilized as the foundation for producing and learning chords in a variety of musical software. This demonstrates how profoundly the piano has changed the music business as a whole. The piano is the most recommended instrument for beginners in music who want to learn an instrument.

About the Author Linda Ritter

Linda Ritter is a passionate pianist and a songwriter for more than 7 years. With a Masters in Music, she has explored the world of music and has collaborated with several musicians and brands like Roland, Tune Core, and plenty of blogs.