Finding Middle C on the Piano

A Piano's c4 Key Orients the Player

Close-Up Of Piano


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New piano students hear a lot about middle C (also called C4) because it helps players position their hands correctly on the piano's keyboard. The notes around middle C provide a starting point for many piano songs, and middle C on the piano also creates a basic border between keys played with the left hand and keys played with the right hand.

Locate Middle C

To find middle C on a standard 88-key piano, position yourself at the center of the piano. The black keys alternate in groups of twos and threes: The C key sits directly left of the first black key in each group of two black keys. Then identify the C closest to the middle of the keyboard. There you have it: middle C. Take note of how many black key groups precede it to help you remember the location. 

Find Middle C on an Electric Keyboard

You can still locate middle C on keyboards with fewer than 88 keys by counting the C keys on your keyboard. Start from the left side, and use the following guidelines based on your keyboard size:

  • 88-key – Middle C is the fourth C.
  • 76-key – Middle C is the third C.
  • 61-key – Middle C is the third C.
  • 49-key – Middle C is the third C.

If you’re unsure about the size of your keyboard, simply count both its naturals (white keys) and accidentals (black keys). You can also find your keyboard’s size by counting the total number of C keys:

  • 88-key – You will count eight C’s (including the very last key on the board).
  • 76-key – has six C’s.
  • 61-key – has six C’s (including the very last key).
  • 49-key – has five C’s (including the very last key).

Consult the Illustrated Middle C Guides for a visual example of middle C on each of these keyboard sizes.

Tricks to Help Remember Where Middle C Is

Because the F key is located to the left of a grouping of black keys too, beginning piano players sometimes get confused. Whereas the C key is left of a group of two black keys, the F key is left of a group of three black keys.

Here are some tricks to help you keep it straight and make finding middle C on the piano easier:

  • The letter C has two endpoints, while uppercase F has three points, including the bottom of the vertical line. That corresponds to two black keys following the C key, and three black keys to the right of the F key.
  • The alphabetical and numerical orders match. The letter C and number 2 come before F and 3; therefore, we can associated two black keys with C and three black keys with F.
  • Remember the phrase "Cab Fare" to help you keep track of the C key by focusing on the white keys, rather than the black keys. "Cab" has three letters, and C begins a grouping of three white keys. "Fare" has four letters and begins a group of four white keys.