Really Useful Piano Reference Cards

The Really Useful Piano Reference Cards are intended to help you develop muscle memory of chord progressions and scales without sight-reading being required. Each card features illustrations for easy learning.

Understanding these musical terms will broaden your horizons and help make you a more intuitive pianist, speed up songwriting processes, and enhance music production skills.


A scale is a collection of notes arranged to make music. A strong understanding of scales provides you with a solid musical foundation for both improvising (notes that belong to one scale sound great when played together) and writing music. Scales may contain up to twelve pitches; or just five, such as with pentatonic scale. Furthermore, scales may be arranged differently; such as octave-repeating or gapped arrangements are common practices. In addition, some scales are even augmented and diminished in order to make up their music; these auxiliary scales.

A major scale is comprised of seven notes C-D-E-F-G-A-B. Major and minor scales are collectively known as diatonic scales; major and minor can also be organized into categories such as major, harmonic minor or melodic minor that share similar interval patterns (the distance between one note and the next).

Intervals describe the space between adjacent notes on a piano keyboard. Half steps are the smallest interval; whole steps are twice as wide. Keys create specific relationships among tones that produce certain emotions – for instance major producing upbeat feelings while minor producing melancholic ones.

Chord progressions are key in understanding any song as they provide structure and emotion to songs. Like drumbeats in songs, chords are constructed using combinations of intervals which define distances between different notes – these intervals allow chords to create emotions such as suspense, sorrow or joy in various combinations.

Dynamic markings on the piano are essential to learning its secrets; these indicate the speed and intensity at which you should play a piece. Piano (abbreviated p) indicates soft volume playing while mezzo forte stands for medium loudness playing.

Once you’ve mastered basic scales, you can begin exploring other forms of musical scales used in jazz and world music. Some chromatic scales lack tonal centers, making it harder to fit them into particular keys. Modulation, the process of shifting from one scale to another without changing keys entirely, is common practice in some classical forms and can help add tension or drama.


No matter the genre of music you’re performing, chords can help create tension and build momentum within songs. Comprised of multiple tones stacked one upon the other to produce complex sounds, chords can be found across all styles and there are multiple kinds available on piano keyboard.

As part of learning chord progressions, it’s crucial to familiarize oneself with the various musical symbols found in piano music notation – including flats, sharps and octaves. When learning piano music notation it is necessary to understand flats (represented by an “”) next to notes that should be played half a step lower. A flat indicates this fact because piano keys are tuned half steps apart so a flat would cause this note to sound lower than intended.

Sharp () indicates that a note should be played a full step higher than its printed tone, due to piano keys tuned in full-step increments. A sharp makes the note sound higher than intended; an octave represents eight notes that extend further beyond where you started and it’s important that piano players know how to navigate this musical space effectively.

Piano chord progressions also use abbreviations like o, dim, and aug to indicate different chord qualities; usually this number shows how far above the root note it sits (e.g. C7). Sometimes parenthesis appear after chord names to denote changes or extensions such as C(add2) or C(dim/aug).

One common symbol is an arrow, which indicates you should play the chord with both hands. Additionally, you may come across circles with lines above them to represent when to play higher octaves of the chord; or see an inverted chord played inverted with bass note on bottom; and/or see signs with “Omit5”, meaning to omit fifth from your chords.

Music Theory

An effective knowledge of music theory will allow you to recognize patterns in both keys and performance practice, as well as provide a common language among musicians that makes communication and interpretation of written scores much simpler. Aside from beat count per measure and key signatures, dynamic markings, dynamic marks, dynamic markers and other musical notations all factor into how we interpret pieces of music.

As part of learning piano, it’s crucial that you gain an understanding of how scales function. A scale consists of an ordered pattern of intervals (the spaces between notes). Each scale has its own character – major scales tend to have more optimistic tones while minor ones convey sadness more effectively. Learning this knowledge allows you to convey emotions more easily when performing piano pieces!

Understanding chord progressions on piano is vitally important, too. Chords are groups of notes with shared pitches used to form melodies as well as add texture and meaning to musical compositions. A basic understanding of how chords form will allow you to play your favorite songs as well as develop your compositional skills further.

Beginners to music theory may find the subject daunting and complex; however, learning the fundamentals can be easy. Recognizing the treble clef, learning names of individual notes and how they fit on a keyboard (eight white keys make up an octave and black keys are flats or sharps), time signatures and tempo should make learning much simpler than expected.

To expand your musical knowledge and abilities, investing in some music theory books or resources could be of great assistance. Consult with professional musicians for advice, as well as seeking tutorials online that explain music theory principles.

Many musicians decide not to study music theory as part of their musical journey, which is perfectly acceptable. Music theory should not be seen as a set of prescriptive rules for composers but as an expressive language used by creative individuals from all different walks of life.


Although musicians of any instrument can compose songs, piano is the preferred instrument for songwriting due to its immediate response time when hearing melodies, as well as helping new songwriters get a feel for timing and rhythm which may otherwise be difficult.

Songwriters can turn to many resources for assistance when creating music, including reference tracks. Reference tracks are recordings that include all of the components of a song – chord progressions and vocal melody included – in an accessible style that can serve as templates, teachers or sources of inspiration. When using these recordings as guides it’s important to remember they should only serve as guidelines; you don’t necessarily end up sounding identically to them!

Music follows patterns, and listeners find it easier to identify with and remember music with an identifiable structure. That is one reason so many popular songs use the same basic song structure: verses, choruses and bridges.

When writing a song, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with its structure in order to become comfortable writing it. One effective method of doing this is finding a reference song of similar style as what you intend on creating and dissecting its parts – for instance if there’s a verse in that particular reference song make note of how long its first section lasts so when writing your verse try making it the same length as its counterpart from your reference track.

Metronomes can also be an invaluable aid for songwriting. Not only will they assist when creating melodies, but they can help ensure the beat stays in sync with all parts of your song. Finally, starting off by creating basic chords and melody will allow for quick add-ons such as bass lines or backing vocals later.

Songwriting can be challenging, yet immensely satisfying if you dedicate the necessary time and energy into honing your craft. To become successful at songwriting, one must learn the fundamentals and then work at expanding their musical vocabulary and understanding. Furthermore, building relationships within the industry as well as registering compositions helps protect songwriters’ rights.