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We all know that nowadays, the key range of a standard upright or grand piano is 88 keys or 7 octaves. However, have you ever wondered which octaves of the 88 keys are present on electric keyboards with fewer keys like 49, 61, or 76 keys?
In this article, I’ll answer that question, as well as talk about and illustrate the highest and lowest notes of each type of keyboard on the grand staff so you know which pieces will be able to fit on your keyboard if your keyboard has fewer than 88 keys.
What is an octave on the piano?
Informally, an octave is the distance between one key of a particular note to the next key of the same note. So for example, the distance from middle C to the C to the right or left of it is one octave. This distance applies to any note on the keyboard.
What octaves are on a 49-keys keyboard?
A 49-keys keyboard has 4 octaves. A 49-keys keyboard starts on the 2nd octave and ends on the 5th octave of an 88-keys keyboard. This is if we consider an octave that starts from C to C.
Here’s a picture of where the keys of a 49-keys keyboard are on an 88-keys keyboard:
If you want to learn piano, don’t go with a 49-keys keyboard since you’ll be severely limited in which pieces you can play with only 4 octaves. Go with at least a 61-keys keyboard.
Also, most 49-keys keyboards on the market are either MIDI controller keyboards used exclusively for music production and have no speakers, or children’s toys that have low build qualities and cheap speakers with terrible sound qualities.
Highest and lowest notes on a 49-keys keyboard
A 49-keys keyboard’s highest note is C6 while the lowest note is C2. The numbers 2 and 6 stand for the 2nd and 6th C’s on an 88-keys keyboard.
Here’s what a 49-keys keyboard looks like on the grand staff:
What octaves are on a 61-keys keyboard?
A 61-keys keyboard has 5 octaves. A 61-keys keyboard starts on the 2nd octave and ends on the 6th octave of an 88-keys keyboard. This is if we consider an octave that starts from C to C.
Here’s a picture of where the keys of a 61-keys keyboard will be on an 88-keys keyboard:
These 5 octaves will be enough for you to start learning piano if you are a beginner. This is because as a beginner, you will first learn about the basics like reading sheet music and identifying the notes on the keyboard, not immediately learning piano pieces.
If you have a teacher, your teacher may decide to have you go through a couple of children’s workbooks that teach these basics by having you play simple tunes that easily fit in these 5 octaves.
Even once you start learning pieces, many pop pieces and even some classical pieces from composers like Bach or Mozart will fit in the 5 octaves on a 61-keys keyboard. I wrote an article that lists out some classical pieces you can play on 61 keys: 10 Classical Piano Pieces to Play on a 61-Keys Keyboard
However, once your interest in the piano grows and you want to learn pieces from other composers like Chopin or Liszt, you’ll 61 keys will not be enough as these composers utilize the whole 88-keys range when composing their pieces.
Highest and lowest notes of a 61-keys keyboard on the grand staff
A 61-keys keyboard’s highest note is C7 while the lowest note is C2. The numbers 2 and 7 stand for the 2nd and 7th C’s on an 88-keys keyboard.
Here’s what that 61-keys range looks like on the grand staff:
This means for any piece you want to play on a 61-keys keyboard, all the notes in that piece need to be within the highest and lowest C seen in the image.
However, there are ways to play a piece that normally doesn’t fit on a 61-keys keyboard. Many piano pieces have versions that are re-written to fit on 61 keys. For some pieces, you can simply omit the notes of the piece that don’t fit on 61 keys, without making the piece sounds incomplete.
For example, in the popular Fur Elise by Beethoven, most of the piece fits in 61 keys except for a few notes in the final passage of the piece. Instead of giving up and not being able to play the piece due to key range limitation, you can omit certain notes while still making the piece sounds almost identical to the original.
If you want to learn Fur Elise and only have a 61-keys keyboard, I wrote an article that details which notes to omit in Can Fur Elise be Played on a 61-Keys Keyboard(and how to do so)
Another option to fit a piece into 61 keys is to use the transpose function of the keyboard. Transposing will shift the entire keyboard either one octave up or one octave down, in half-step increments, giving you access to pitches not present on a standard 61-keys keyboard.
However, I don’t recommend going this route since it’s impractical to transpose your keyboard mid-performance. This could be because of the difficult piece not giving your hand any moment to transpose the keyboard or maybe the transpose function is hard to set up and complicated to use.
What octaves are on a 76-keys keyboard?
A 76-keys keyboard has 6 octaves and starts on the first octave of an 88-keys range with all notes below E excluded. A 76-keys keyboard ends on the 7th octave of an 88-keys range with all notes above G excluded. This is if we consider an octave that starts from C to C.
Here’s a picture of where the keys of a 76-keys keyboard are in an 88-keys range:
With 61 keys and 88 keys being the most popular options for a piano keyboard, why would anyone consider getting a 76-keys keyboard, especially since a full 88-keys keyboard only costs a bit more?
This is because a 76-keys keyboard takes up less space and is lighter, making it more portable compared to an 88-keys keyboard.
Also as seen in the illustration, a 76-keys keyboard covers most of the keys seen on an 88-keys keyboard and will be sufficient to play most piano pieces out there, regardless of genres.
So a 76-keys keyboard has the best of both worlds: the portability of a 61-keys keyboard and the key range of an 88-keys keyboard.
Highest and lowest notes on a 76-keys keyboard
A 76-keys keyboard’s highest note is G7 while the lowest note is E1. The numbers 1 and 7 stand for the 1st E and 7th G on an 88-keys keyboard.
Here’s what a 76-keys keyboard looks like on the grand staff:
What octaves are on an 88-keys keyboard?
An 88-keys keyboard has 7 octaves that start from C to C, along with extra notes A, A# and B below the lowest C.
The first 88-keys piano was built by the world-renown Steinways in the late 19th century and has been the standard ever since.
All composers since then composed pieces for 88 keys and so if you have an 88-keys keyboard, you can play any piano piece out there, at least until a new key standard is set.
Highest and lowest notes on an 88-keys keyboard
The lowest note on an 88-keys keyboard is A0 while the highest note is C8.
Here’s what 88 keys would look like on the grand staff, although normally the symbol 8va would be used to indicate an octave lower or higher. This is to make the grand staff looks cleaner: