Learn how to read music by counting musical notes. Learn how to Do you happen to have all these as a PDF we can print off??? Reply. Learning to read music (knowing the score) since you can already play. Although one can . I've also provided a pdf card set under web resources. Then. In the days of the New England singing-schools, people believed in teaching and learning music because it was good for the soul. We've learned a lot since.
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One of the first steps in learning to read music in a particular clef is memorizing may print these exercises as a PDF worksheet5 if you like. HOW TO READ MUSIC NOTES (QUICK-LEARN CHEAT SHEETS), Page 1. Clefs are symbols that determine which note letter names belong to the lines and. Professional Writing Learning to Read. Piano Music basic tutorial. Lori Taylor. Instructions Project.
Index accents, , 31, 36, 38, 95 accidentals, , 78, 84, adagio, 20, 96, allegro, , 26, 96 alto clef, , andante, 20, 39, 96 arpeggios, , articulation marks, augmented intervals, bar, , , 38, 41, 74, 78, 82, 84,93, , , barlines, 29, 31, 36, , 44, 74, 77, 78, , bar numbers, bass clef, 3, 5, 8, 16, 38, 42, 44, 50, 64, 67, , , beams, 21,23, 83, beat, , 38, 39, , 44, 77, 82, black notes on a piano , 5, 8, 9, 16, ,54,55,58,61 bracket, 42, 44, cautionary accidental, 75, 76, , chords, , 91, chord symbols, , chromatic scale, 48, 54, 55, clefs see also bass clef, treble clef 3, , 16, 44, 63 coda, common time, 99, , , courtesy accidental: Key, metre, tempo The key signature has four sharps. Logical , clear to understand, easy to understand Can be used right away. Many other terms are used for tempo or expression. Rhythms in different time signatures Now try reading some rhythms in other time signatures.
But for the moment we are concerned only with duration, not pitch, so we don't need the stave. Now let's replace those 't's with proper notes. Using notes as beats Look at the next four examples. U of them have three beats in each bar. Looking at these four examples yields two important points: A beat might be a minim, or a crotchet, or a quaver. It might be any of them, or it might even be a semiquaver, or another note-value such as a dotted crotchet.
Any note-value might be used to represent the beat. Don't assume that minims are always slower than crotchets, or crotchets slower than quavers. It's that business of relative timevalues again: The 't's - used to represent the regular ticking beat on the previous pages of this chapter - have now been replaced by notes.
But those notes tick by in the same regular way, at a speed roughly indicated by the tempo mark at the beginning of each example. Putting in barlines shows where the accents fall, by showing which is the first beat of each bar. A crotchet beat is the most common of all. But of course, it is very important that we know which note-value has been chosen. That's where time signatures come in.
A time signature consists of two numbers, one above the other. Understanding what time signatures mean, and how they work, is critical to reading music notation. We'll look at some examples of time signatures on the next page.
Some musicians prefer the word pulse to beat. In the examples above, all the notes you can see are also beats. The first example has three crotchet beats in each bar, the second example has three minim beats in each bar, the third example has two minim beats in each bar, and so on. In other words, rhythms have a mixture of different note values. Don't expect everyone to use those two words in quite that strict way. It's not a distinction that matters much in everyday language, so ordinary usage is a bit vaguer.
Also, a pop musician might talk about different 'beats' where a classical musician would say 'rhythms'. But generally, dealing with music on a practical level, if someone refers to 'this rhythm' or 'that rhythm', then they mean this particular rhythmic pattern or that one. Or they might refer to the pulse, and then they mean the regular beat.
How different note-values fit against a beat The next step is to start reading a variety of note-values against the background of a regular beat.
Shorter notes may subdivide the beat, or longer ones may go across several beats. The first few examples on the next page are all in 4. That means there are four beats in each bar, and each beat is a crotchet.
Incidentally, to say a time signature, simply say the top number first: Also, when time signatures are printed in the middle of a passage of ordinary text, not on the stave, it's troublesome typographically to print the two numbers one above the other, as we have done a little further up this page. So normally, in ordinary text, they are printed with an oblique stroke like a fraction: Always remember, though, that a time signature is not really a fraction at all, even if it looks a bit like one.
Back to the business in hand, which is reading different note-values against a regular beat. Start by establishing the steady beat in your head, or by tapping your foot. Choose a moderate tempo, and feel the regularity of the beat, as in a march. Give a slight emphasis to the first beat of each bar. Count the beats, like this: Now read the four rhythms below, either in your head or by tapping or saying them in some way. The numbers above the notes show how the notes stand in relation to the beat.
Rhythms in different time signatures Now try reading some rhythms in other time signatures. Follow this procedure: Can read those rhythms? Can you tap them on a table, or hear them in your head?
Go over them again if necessary, and don't be surprised if you find them difficult. It's not easy, trying to read or play a rhythm while keeping the regular beat mentally in the background. The top number tells us how many beats are in each bar. The bottom number telts us what note-value has been chosen to represent the beat: There is an exception to this rule, which we will learn about later. The rhythms take place against the background of the regular beat.
Here is a rhythm to be played or sung on the D just above middle C:. It makes no difference whether the stems go up or down. Normally they go down if the note lies in the top half of the stave. By using several notes it becomes more melodic, more of a tune. If you can, play it on a piano or other instrument. Here's another tune, this time in the bass clef:. Upbeats One thing you may notice about this tune is that it begins on the fourth beat of the bar.
It has been written like that because the accent falls on the second note. The first note is called the upbeat, because that's literally how a conductor would conduct it, leading into the first beat of the bar, which is always a downbeat. If you think of a few well-known tunes, you may be able to sense whether they start on the first beat of the bar, with an accented note, or on an upbeat, leading into an accented note. For instance, think of the National Anthem: God save our gra-cious queen.
It starts on the first beat of the bar. Now think of Auld Lang Syne: Should auld acquaintance be forgot. It involves reading the rhythm and reading how the pitch changes. Try approaching it like this: How many beats are there in each bar? Count steadily, paying some attention to the tempo mark. Try to work out the rhythm, and how it fits against the steady beat. Go through the rhythm again, but imagining the notes going up or down or staying the same , according to how they appear on the stave.
Now, using that method, look carefully at this example. Can you work out what it is? Andante walking pace. Have you got the answer? If you can't get it, look at the answer on page Then look at the notation again. Can you make sense of the rhythm as written. Following the rise and fall of the tune, can you hear that mostly it moves up or down to a next-door note, but twice it moves up or down by a larger gap?
Listening to the tune in your head, can you hear how it comes back to the first note? As you listen or sing to yourself , follow it on the stave. Did you manage to identify either of those tunes?
Don't worry if you found it too difficult: That's not really what this book is about. Everything else is an elaboration - even though there are some quite important elaborations still to cover. If you look now at some printed music you will probably find plenty of symbols that you don't understand. We'll try to deal with them or as many of them as possible in the rest of this book.
Yet much music involves several sounds at the same time, and this is visible in the notation. Here, for instance, is some music for two flutes:. At the left-hand end of each line of music you can see a vertical line, joining two staves together. This shows that the two instruments play together. The barlines are aligned vertically, and so are the notes.
The beat that runs through the music at three crotchet beats per bar applies to both staves simultaneously, and is what keeps the two instruments synchronised. Two instruments, different rhythms The same is still true even if the two flutes play different rhythms.
The beat and the barlines still coincide:. Piano music Piano music uses two staves for one instrument - generally the treble clef for the right hand and the bass clef for the left, though that's not a strict rule. Of course, each hand can play several notes simultaneously, so piano music can look very busy. Here is a single chord for piano. The left hand plays the C and G below middle C. The right hand plays the E, G and C above middle C.
The notes are aligned vertically, so all five notes should be played exactly together. The curved bracket at the beginning conventionally joins the leftand right-hand staves in piano music.
Well actually it's one, because they're both middle C; both hands are asked to play the same note. That looks silly, because you don't need both hands to play it. But in practice there are times when it makes sense to use this sort of notation. For instance, look at this:. There's a short tune in the right hand the top stave , accompanied by a bass-line in the left hand bottom stave.
Both 'parts' end on the same note again, it happens to be middle C, though it could equally be another note. In this case it makes sense to write the final note in both staves, because really it belongs to both the melody and the bass-line. Music in two or more 'parts' We can talk about music being in several parts or voices, meaning different lines or tunes happening at the same time. They may be played by different instruments, or sung by different singers, but on piano or keyboard - and also on other instruments such as harp or guitar it is possible for the one instrument to play several parts.
The position of notes on the stave, together with the ciel, tell you about pitch, Note-stems can go up or down. It makes no difference to the note-value or the pitch. Equally, though, it may begin on a different beat. If you're trying to recognise a tune from notation, the first things to look at are the time signature and rhythm. Notes played at the same time are atso aligned vertically. Piano music is written on two staves, normally with a treble clef for the right hand and a bass clef for the left hand, and with a curved bracket joining the two staves.
Sharps and Flats In the course of this chapter we'll work our way through two important areas: They are closely related. To start with, let's remind ourselves how the notes on the treble stave relate to the white notes on a piano keyboard. Listening to the black and white notes If possible, get access to a piano or keyboard. Starting on C any C , play every note upwards rightwards for one octave, i.
Play the black and white notes, like this:. Twelve notes in the octave After twelve notes you reach the next C. Thus there are twelve steps from one C to the next, provided you play the black notes as well as the white notes.
These twelve steps are equal i. These steps or portions are called semitones. Two semitones equals one tone. Understanding tones and semitones Look at the following statements, and make sure you understand them: There are twelve semitones in each octave. There are six tones in each octave. This is true of any octave, whichever note you start on. An octave is like a ladder with 13 equally spaced rungs making 12 equal gaps.
Tones and semitones on the piano The idea that an octave has twelve equal semitone gaps contrasts rather oddly with the irregular pattern of the black notes on a piano keyboard. Any two adjacent notes on the piano irrespective of whether black or white - are a semitone apart.
But 'adjacent' is meant strictly; two white notes are not adjacent if they have a black note in between, but are adjacent if there is no black note in between. Therefore some of the white notes are a semitone apart, but others are a tone apart. That may seem surprising, but once again it helps if you can hear the difference.
So if you have access to a keyboard, play from C up to the next C playing all the notes, white and black. Then play from C to C again, this time playing only the white notes. A sequence of notes like that, rising or falling, is called a scale. Can you hear the difference between the tones and semitones? It doesn't necessarily sound that big a difference but the tones are bigger gaps than the semitones. Twice as big, in fact. This scale is called the chromatic scale. It consists entirely of semitones.
This scale has a mixture of tones and semitones. Listen again, if possible - and perhaps sing along. When you play up or down the white notes, all the other steps are tones. Play again from C to C, white notes only. This scale has a very familiar ring; it is the major scale. We can write it down, without any rhythm, like this:. The steps from one note to another look equal from the way they are written on the stave. But now you know the steps are not equal; from E to F and from B to C are semitones, but the other steps are tones.
Tones and semitones in the major scale What makes the major scale distinctive and familiar is its pattern of tones and semitones:. Check this pattern against the notation and against the keyboard diagram. The white notes are called by letter-names from A to G. What then are the black notes called? And each black note can be named as a sharp or a flat, relative to the white note on either side. Sharp and flat signs The sharp or flat sign can be placed immediately in front of a note on the stave.
Here, for instance is middle C:. Similarly, Fjt is the black note just above to the right of F, and B[? Here are four Fjts and four Bl? The semitone that lies between F and G is Ft or Gt. However, the words 'sharp' and 'flat' are sometimes used in a more general way, to mean 'above pitch' sharp or 'below pitch' flat.
Typically, that would mean relative to the correct pitch - for instance, if you are in a choir, and the conductor complains that you are singing too sharp or too flat. But we're concentrating on notation here, so the more precise meaning is the one that matters to us; there isn't normally any real danger of confusing the two. Away from the piano What about other instruments?
We refer to the piano because it is a useful visual way of understanding the layout of the tones and semitones within the octave. Musically that layout is always the same, irrespective of instrument. Are these two notes a tone or semitone apart? Here are some more pairs. For each pair, decide whether the notes are a tone or semitone apart.
Don't forget to look at the clef. Finally, here are some more difficult pairs. Are they a tone or semitone apart? Answers are on pages But E to F is a semitone, because there is no black note in between.
Similarly, B to C is a semitone. But it is called D flat if it is written as a D with a flat sign in front of it.
Consider again the chromatic scale, the one which includes all the semitones. Now we can write it down in notation:. We could have used flats instead, or a mixture of sharps and flats. But there's a general tendency to use sharps when the melody is rising and flats when it's falling. We can start a chromatic scale on any note, even a black note. It'll sound much the same apart from being higher or lower , because it consists entirely of semitones from top to bottom.
The major scale, however, has to be approached more carefully. When we encountered it in the last chapter, it took the form of all the white notes from C to C. But if we try to start it on a different note - say D - and play all the white notes again, we get a different effect, because the pattern of tones and semitones has been changed.
All major scales follow this pattern: Let's start on D, and mark out the steps of the major scale:. The first step in the scale, which must be a tone, takes us from D to E. But the second step also a tone see the list of tones and semitones at the top of the page doesn't take us from E to F, which would be a semitone, but from E to Fjl. Let's check all the steps shown on the keyboard diagram: From D to E: If you have some way of playing that sequence of notes, with the Ff and C in place of F and C, it should sound correct as a major scale.
Now that we've definitely got the fight sequence of tones and semitones, we can look at that scale - the D major scale - in notation:. Can you see how it matches the keyboard diagram on the previous page? And can you see why we need to play Fjf and Cj! Scales are generally important to musicians, and major scales particularly so.
I hope they don't seem too complex - or for that matter too boring because we need to spend some more time on them yet. In the D major scale we used Fjt and Cjt in place of F and C in order to get the correct sequence of tones and semitones. Let's look now at another major scale, this time starting on F: When to use sharps and when to use flats We could call that note Ajf, but because we're using it instead of B, Bl?
A black note is thought of as a sharp if it is used in place of the white note below, or as a flat if it replaces the white note above. Now we can continue with the F major scale, completing our list of steps: So does that mean that all sharps or flats, if played on a piano, are black notes?
Strangely enough, no. Consider this. The black note below E is Ek But since there is no black note above E, does that mean there is no Ejj? No it doesn't; there is an EH, and, yes, it's the same as F. So why would we need Et, why not just use F? Here's why. We can play a major scale starting on any note, including black notes. Let's start on Ft. First we must go through the process of adding steps in the correct order of tones or semitones.
Remember the order? Can you see that provided we start on Ft, those are the notes we play in order to get a scale of Ft major? Now let's think about how those notes are named. That much is straightforward. But note 7 is more accurately described as Et than F, since it is a sharpened note in lieu of E just as we used Ct in place of C in order to get a correct scale of D major, on page Look at it in notation:.
Look at those two scales, and check that you're happy to agree that they describe exactly the same notes. Look at one of the keyboard diagrams if you're not sure. These justifications for describing even white notes as sharps or flats may seem abstruse.
Most good musicians have spent a great deal of time practising scales, especially major scales. Partly this is because it's a good way of becoming acquainted with one's instrument.
On the piano, every major scale has a different layout of black and white notes. On a wind instrument it will be different holes to cover or valves to open, together with control of the 'embouchure' mouth shape. On a string instrument it's the fingering involved in pressing down the right string at the right point.
Playing scales, on any instrument, is a route to fluency, enabling the fingers to learn habits of melodic playing.
Scales and keys. But there's another reason why major scales are specially important. The major scale is the musical basis on which a huge amount of music is built. You will have heard the phrase 'in the key of This whole subject of keys links closely to scales.
Consider the tune 'Twinkle twinkle little star' - just the first two lines of the rhyme:. It uses most of the notes of a C major scale - all but the B.
C is the first note and the last note, and if you play it you may agree that there is some sense of C being the 'home' note, the note at which the tune is 'at rest'. This is called the keynote. Changing the starting note Just as we can start a major scale on any note, similarly we can start a simple tune like 'Twinkle twinkle' on any note. We have seen it in the key of C major or simply 'in C major' ; now here is the tune in the key of F major:.
Note the Bk As with scales, the character of the tune depends on preserving the same melodic shape, whatever the starting note, and in this case we need the step down from 'star' to 'How' to be a tone, not a semitone. Incidentally, the second B in bar 3 is also Bk A sharp or flat sign placed in front of a note then continues to apply as far as the next barline. We have seen that exactly the same is true of the scale of F major pages Any tune in the key of F major will consist predominantly of the notes of the scale of F major, including B?
Similarly, any tune in D major will be based on the notes of the D major scale, including Fj and Cf. To avoid plastering scores with large numbers of sharp signs and flat signs, we use key signatures. A key signature consists of one or more sharp or flat signs written at the beginning of every stave, just after the clef.
It means play those sharps or flats throughout. Here is the scale of D major once more, this time written with its key signature:. Twinkle twinkle1 in various keys. Now let's see 'Twinkle twinkle' in the key of D major, and written with a key signature the same key signature as the scale, of course. The Fs in bar 3 are played as Fjt. There's no C in this tune - but if there were the key signature would turn it into C J.
Here is 'Twinkle twinkle' again, this time in F major:. You will hardly need to be told that the first two notes of bar 3 are both Bk Next, here is 'Twinkle twinkle' in F major:. Here is the key signature for D major, set out on treble and bass clefs, as if for piano music:. This is quite an elaborate test. If you have access to a piano or keyboard, use it; otherwise use a keyboard diagram to help you.
What are the notes of the major scale starting on E? Start by reminding yourself of the correct sequence of tones and semitones. Look back at Chapter 6 for this. Work out the notes of the scale one by one, writing out a list as you go. How many sharps or flats did you need? Which ones? Provided you got the right answer, that will be the key signature for E major. If you feel like trying to write out some music, try writing out the scale of E major, in the treble clef.
Use some manuscript paper, or simply rule yourself five lines on a blank sheet of paper. You can put the sharp or flat signs in front of the notes, or at the beginning of the stave as a key signature. Each major key or scale has its own key signature. Here they all are below and continuing onto the next page , shown on the treble clef:.
Why are there fifteen key signatures here, when there are only twelve different notes in the octave? For an answer, look closely at the bottom six: How key signatures are arranged on the stave Remembering that a key signature affects notes at all octaves, does it matter how key signatures are arranged on the stave?
Actually it does - even though the way key signatures are written is purely a matter of convention. Fjt is always written on the top line of the treble clef, not the bottom space, and Gjt always on the space just above the stave, not the second line up as one might expect. The order of sharps or flats in a key signature is also always the same.
The answer is that performers, when they are playing from a printed copy, need to take in a huge amount of information at high speed - including possibly a change of key signature which must be grasped in a single glance, a fraction of a second. Musicians are used to absorbing that information without even thinking about it, and an unconventionally written key signature would confuse the eye, creating alarm.
Trying to play the right notes gives them enough to worry about, without puzzling over strange-looking key signatures. Key signatures in the bass clef also follow a set pattern, much like the treble clef and using the same order: Three of them are correctly set out, three incorrectly. Which are correct, and which major keys do they signify? Which are the three incorrect ones? When you are listening, the keynote 'feels' like the 'home' or most important note; it may well be the final note, though not necessarily.
Each key signature is always written out in the same way, with the sharps or flats always in the same order. However, it's not so easy to say exactly what this sequence is, for two reasons: One of these types varies between its ascending and descending forms. We needn't explore these complications fully here.
But we should at least look at the first five notes which are the same for all types of minor scale.
As you can see, it's the third note that's different. If you have access to an instrument, play the two examples. The difference in sound is the essential difference between major and minor. In a minor scale, the third note is a semitone flatter than in a major scale. In a tune in a minor key, that note on the third degree of the scale has a big influence; that's what gives it the minor key sound.
Relating major and minor There is a relationship between major and minor keys. For every major key there is a minor key with the same key signature.
They are called relative major and minor. The sixth note of a major scale is the keynote of its relative minor. For instance, D minor is the relative minor of F major. Both keys have a key signature of one flat Bl? Minor tunes There are tunes in minor keys just as there are tunes in major keys. Any minor tune probably has mainly the same notes as its corresponding minor scale.
Distinguishing minor tunes from major tunes For a start, you can't distinguish minor from major just from the key signature. For every key signature there is a major key and a relative minor key. How then can we tell which key a tune is in, from looking at the score?
The key signature is still important of course, but one has to look at the notes as well. Look at these two tunes, which both have a key signature of one flat. Can you recognise either of them, by looking at the melodic contour and at the rhythms? How can we tell what key they're in? From the key signature it must be F major or D minor.
There is no absolute, exact way of telling which it is, but in practice the melody usually offers some strong clues. Look at the first tune. It starts on F, ends on F, has lots of Fs, and as it happens no Ds at all.
That isn't exactly proof, but it's a strong indication. Now look at the second tune. This starts on D, ends on D and keeps returning to D. In fact it starts with the first five notes of the D minor scale.
Once again, strongly indicative. If you can, play these two tunes. Or, if you have worked out what they are, can you hear them in your head? Can you hear that one is major and the other minor? Following the printed music, can you hear that F is the keynote of the first tune, its 'home' note, and that D is the keynote of the second tune? Try playing, or singing to yourself, the first five notes of the F major scale, and then of the D minor scale.
However, it's not always so easy to tell the key. Don't assume that a tune starts or finishes on its keynote; it may not. And a long piece of music may not stay in one key; in fact it may change key several times.
More about that soon. Yet, to be able to read music you have to know something about keys, to make sense of the key signatures. Anyone who learns an instrument learns to play scales in different keys, and we have seen here how a simple tune can be printed in different keys.
Knowledge of keys is essential for a performer and useful also to a listener. On a basic level, the important thing is to realise that most music is in a key of some sort, and that there is a keynote or home note, a note which represents a sort of melodic resting-place.
This is true for most kinds of music. Modulation When we're in C major, other closely-related keys are G major with a key signature of one sharp and F major one flat. Another closely-related key is the relative minor, A minor. By contrast, keys such as B major five sharps or Dl? A classical minuet in C major might modulate change key to G major in the middle, and then modulate back to C major before the end.
A sonata, however, may modulate several times, perhaps reaching quite distant keys, before eventually returning to its home key. Listening actively to a piece of music is like undertaking a journey; what happens by way of keychanges can be an important part of the changing landscape.
Changing the key signature It is quite possible to change key signature in the middle of a piece. Here's a skeleton score - some empty bars - to show what it can look like.
The double barline helps draw attention to the change. However, if the music changes key very briefly - just for a few bars - then it may be notated without a change of key signature. Instead, the notes will be marked individually with sharp or flat signs, as necessary.
Here is a passage which starts in G major but moves into D major. The Fjt is in the key signature while the extra Cjt is marked individually. They then apply to all occurrences of those notes, at any octave and throughout the piece or until contradicted by a change of key signature. However, when sharps or flats are marked next to the note they are called accidentals. They then apply only at the octave marked, not to the same note an octave above or below. They apply to the note marked, and to any subsequent occurrence of that note within the same bar.
In other words, the effect of the accidental lasts up to the next barline, but no further.
A natural sign looks like this:. Accidentals don't necessarily indicate a change of key, a modulation. Even though a tune is in a certain key, it may include notes that aren't part of that scale. This theme is from a fugue by Bach in F minor, but it uses plenty of accidentals as you can see:.
What's that natural sign doing in bar 3? Surely the note is G natural anyway, since the sharp sign in the previous bar only operates up to the barline? Absolutely correct. But in practice a performer might easily play another G sharp by mistake at this point, so the natural sign is helpful as a prompt, even though it is not strictly required.
Such prompts are sometimes called courtesy accidentals or cautionary accidentals. In modern or complex music, it is advisable to be generous with cautionary accidentals; performers prefer it, and often end up writing their own into the score, to avoid mistakes.
Relative major and minor keys share the same key signature. To modulate is to change key. Sharps or flats can form a key signature, or they can be placed directly in front of a note, in which case they are called accidentals. An accidental applies as far as the next barline. Cautionary or courtesy accidentals are not strictly necessary, but are widely used as reminders to help performers avoid mistakes. Rhythm Round-up In this chapter we will look at several important notational matters which we have not mentioned up to now, all to do with rhythm or duration.
TIES A tie is a curved line. It joins two note-values to be played as a single note. It may be used: If a tied note is modified by an accidental, the accidental doesn't need to be repeated at the right-hand end of the tie, even if the tie goes across a barline: Ties can be strung together, and long notes lasting many bars are not uncommon.
Here is a long horn note from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony:. It matters not whether the curve goes up or down. As with notestems, it generally depends on whether the note-head is in the top or bottom half of the stave.
The examples printed here show typical practice. These look very similar - also curved lines - but join notes of different pitches. Here is a flute phrase from the same symphony, Beethoven's Fifth. In fact it happens during the long horn note. These are not ties. Ties always join notes of the same pitch, and one tie only ever joins two notes, not more. More about slurs and phrase marks later.
They don't really belong in this chapter, because they're not to do with duration, but are mentioned here because it's important to distinguish them from ties.
Do you remember the note-values and their names? These gaps need to be notated, just like the notes, and this is done with rests the silent equivalent of the notes. The minim rest always sits on one of the stave lines normally the third line. Rests can be dotted, just like notes, to make them one-and-a-half times as long. The semibreve rest, somewhat confusingly, is also used to signify a whole-bar rest whatever the time signature. Or with a different numeral. That means 12 bars rest.
This style of multi-bar rest usually occurs on an instrumental part, when that instrument has to wait for a number of bars while others are playing. Each beat is a dotted crotchet worth three quavers. So there are six quavers in each bar, but grouped in two lots of three.
Next, just count the two beats per bar, but stay aware of the quavers, so that you can hear in your head how each beat subdivides into three. This distinction is often clear from the way the quavers are beamed. There is no absolute rule about how quavers and semiquavers should be beamed it depends on the detailed circumstances but generally it is done in a way that reflects the time signature, making it easy for the eye to grasp the beat structure.
It has a skipping rhythm very characteristic of this time signature. The curve can be up or down; it makes no difference. There is a rest for each note-value. Rests are used where silences are required within the music. Rests can be dotted in just the same way as notes. The semibreve rest is also used as a whole-bar rest.
Therefore there are six quavers per bar, divided into two lots of three. Here are some intervals, and the names used to describe them:.
As you see, the intervals are presented here in gradually widening order. Look closely at the augmented fourth and the diminished fifth. How intervals are described The list on the previous page is not comprehensive; there are other intervals.
For example, from C to Djt is an augmented second. But you can see a pattern: This may seem a bit puzzling: But that's the way intervals are numbered, and we have to accept it. Just remember that intervals count both the top and the bottom note: CDE, therefore C to E is a third. When we get to an eighth, we meet an old friend: Intervals and scales A scale is a succession of notes, but you can also regard it as a succession of intervals.
We have already seen how the major scale has a unique order of tones and semitones that makes it what it is. Intervals and chords In the same way, when notes are played simultaneously they make combinations of intervals.
And particular combinations of intervals make particular chords. This is a C major chord. Other versions of the C major chord If any of the notes is moved up or down by an octave or several octaves , the chord is still a C major chord.
Also, notes may be doubled - included a second time at a different octave. The chords below are all different versions of C major; they all consist of C, E and G.
Transposing If you take a C major chord and transpose it - shift it up or down, but without changing the relationships between the notes you get another major chord. It's just the same as when you start a major scale on a different note, but keep the correct order of tones and semitones.
For instance:. This is a D minor chord. The lowest interval, from D to F, is a minor third, and you may notice that this chord consists of the first, third and fifth notes of the D minor scale, just as a major chord consists of the first, third and fifth notes of its corresponding major scale as you can see from any of the examples above.
Keys, scales and chords, as you can see, are closely bound together. Why are chords important? Along with melody and rhythm, chords make the third ingredient of music: It is perfectly possible to have music without harmony. Most folksong, in its original form, has melody without chords, as does religious plainsong, and the melodic music of many cultures around the world. However, adding harmony is one way of giving music a sense of forward propulsion, and for most types of popular music, as well as Western classical music, harmony is a vital structural element.
And the simplest way of adding harmony is through a series of different chords accompanying a melody. The choice of chords will relate to the key the melody is in. Major and minor chords are the most common, but there are many other types of chords with names to identify them, as well as other possible chords too obscure to have generic names. Chords can be notated in full, note by note. However, you may also see a melody probably a vocal line - with chord symbols written above the notes, for instance like this: These chord symbols are not instrument-specific but are usually thought of as being for guitar or keyboard.
Pop songs are sometimes printed with small guitar-chord diagrams beside the chord symbols. The diagrams show where the left hand presses on the frets to obtain the notes of that chord. The language of chord symbols Chord symbols are a form of shorthand. C Cm C7 Cm? There are many other kinds of chords including other kinds of seventh chords , with their own names and chord symbols. A chord is a combination of two or more notes played simultaneously, and many different combinations of notes are possible.
But the types we have looked at major, minor and seventh chords are the most common ones. Intervals are measured in a way that counts both the bottom and top notes.
For instance, from C to E is a third. A C major chord has the notes C, E and G. From C to E is a major third and from C to G is a perfect fifth. Other major chords, though transposed to different notes, use exactly the same intervals.
Likewise, minor chords contain the first, third and fifth notes of the corresponding minor scale. Odds and Ends Basically you have covered the essence of reading music - well done! In this chapter we will go through a few miscellaneous matters that haven't fitted in elsewhere: Then in the final chapter we can look at a few examples of music notation in action.
Let's just remind ourselves of the areas covered so far: The last of those three areas must, I think, be quite difficult to grasp if you don't play an instrument. In a sense they form the secret language of music. But they are not impossible to understand, and I hope this book will have helped to steer you through their complexities.
If you understand the basics about pitch, rhythm and keys, and grasp how these elements are represented on paper, in notation, then you can look at a page of printed music and comprehend a great deal of what you see.
Now let's just tidy up those 'odds and ends'. A pair of double bars with dots, facing each other, means repeat the enclosed passage, once, and then continue. This means repeat from the beginning. In other words, you don't need the dotted double bar at the very beginning of a piece, although it is sometimes inserted if the repeated section is very short. First and second time bars. The first time, play the bar marked 1 and, as the repeat mark indicates, go back and repeat. The second time through, however, you omit the first time bar and jump to the second time bar, from which point you continue onwards.
No prizes for guessing what this means: Even more complicated instructions are sometimes found, espesign to cially in pop songs. If you think this is beginning to be a bit confusing, most musicians will agree with you wholeheartedly.
In fact, if you see a player peering at a score with a puzzled expression, then leaning over to consult a colleague, they're probably trying to figure out which bits they're supposed to play in what order. However, a dot placed under a notehead or over, depending on which way the tail goes means staccato: It's important to distinguish these two types of dots.
In this example, the first, second and fourth bars contain dotted notes, but the third bar has notes which are to be played staccato:. Legato The opposite of staccato is legato: This group of five notes is marked to be played legato:.
The curved line is called a slur or phrase-mark, and can be distinguished from a tie because it joins two or more notes of different pitches, whereas a tie always joins two notes of the same pitch. Slurs are used in various specific ways, all of which are related to the general sense of legato.
In a vocal part, a slur will show where a single syllable is spread over several notes, but you may also see longer phrase-marks which give the more general sense of the music's phrase-structure; long phrase-marks of that sort are also frequently found in piano music. For string instruments violin, viola, cello, double bass , however, slurs have the specific purpose of joining notes which are to be played in a single bowstroke i.
Likewise, for wind players a slur joins notes which aren't separately tongued. In both cases the effect is a smooth transition from one note to the next. Other symbols or text instructions Two common signs are: There are other signs, but most are more limited in their application.
Some are instrument-specific, such as pedal-markings for pianists showing when to apply the sustain pedal , or bowings for string players showing whether to use an up-bow or a down-bow. There are a also host of word-instructions a composer may use; for example, dolce sweetly. Some imply tempo as well as the expressive character of the music; for example, largamente broadly. A composer doesn't have to use the standard Italian terms; but they have become an internationally recognised language, so have an advantage.
Allegro Andante Adagio fast medium 'walking' pace slow. There are more, some being refinements that describe the feel required more precisely: Andante sostenuto Con spirito The tempo might change during the course of the music: Many other terms are used for tempo or expression.
A cheap, compact dictionary of musical terms is useful for quick reference. Among the most common are: There are others, including some different versions of the indication for sforzando, but those are the ones you'll encounter most often. More extreme dynamics can be marked: Take a leap. Not sure what the vegetarian beef is with Andrew, butt…really dude… Chandler from Friends shoulder dance. Looking forward for more information that could help us. This web sight has been and will continue to be a great help to me.
Christmas songs are difficult for me to play. Now I can play them with your help and support! Try learning things by breaking them into pieces and then putting them together to form the whole puzzle. Invisible Hula Hoops I hear are great for calorie burning and fun for spectators to watch and join out of curiosity.
It really helps me! I am starting to play Piano and I am just playing like a monkey… Basically copying what I am told I need to learn how to read the notes so this really helps! Thank you for posting such a helpful page… I find this blog really useful! Thanks Author. I have never seen other blogs teaching with so much detailing. Now i can definitely learn step by step. I bookmark this page, so that i can visit here when i need some help in staff notation symbols etc.
Thanks again. I had forgotten a lot of things with the scales and keys, that briefing from that page was excellent. It brought a lot of things back to remembrance. I learned to play whenI was quite young but find I need to refresh my knowledge and practice a little each day. I find your musicnotes exdtremely interesting and look forward to more of the same.
Thank you. New notes with every page refresh. You sooo stupid y u talk like Frankenstein dummy?! I bet you can drive a cad real good though! Your reply is riddled with grammatical errors.
I count 10 blunders. Your grammar is just terrible. Maybe YOU should be getting some grammar lessons before learning to play the piano. And considering you name yourself that? Lay off, jerk face. What are you, eight? How can I find the sheet music? Why do you have a need to speak to people this way. You are very rude.
Linkin Park, dr. But this only helps a little bit. If they had the actual keys on the piano your supposed to press, it would help a lot more. If you can, please help me. I find this really helpful I am currently playing trying to play the piano. I work for a company that is a huge resource for musicians. We love musicnotes for music on the spot. Thank you so much for the lesson above — I am in a choir and can now easily read the music and now know exactly which note to sing and for how long — whereas before I sang by ear.
A wonderfully clear and precise tutorial!! I did not finish my information and accidently hit the wrong button on the previous reply. Sylvia Lail. Thank you for this site trying to help my granddaughter a little bit on the pianio, and as she is only two and half noone is interested in giving her lesson just yet. So thanks heaps. This site does as is advertised: While there are certain pieces of sheet music this site does not expand on, it does give a beginner a firm basis for playing an instrument.
Yes, this site may not go into any specifics on playing specific instruments, however it does explain notes and their functionalities, so that a musician or learning musician can learn how to play, themselves. Hope you can help Susi Nielsen.
Hi Susan, Thank you for your request. I did not fully appreciate how important it was to fully understand -meter- time — melody etc when playing music. I can read and play the notes, but the music does not really come out as it was written until you put everything together. All those seemingly small marks on the page mean something and cannot be ignored — duh!. Going back through this has really given me a better understand of how to read the music. It also made me concentrate on details in the sheet music.
This is great!!! I played in a school band when I was 12 and 13 I am now 67 and I want to learn to play one of those keyboards. And now because of you I think I will be able to start again.
Thank you so very much, from my heart. Thank you so much, I am new to the Alto Saxophone and want to master it. I am also new to music. Thank you for giving me an awesome foundation. Hi there! So amazing you made this just for us. Who is your favorit violist?? Com Very nicely described… I really appreciate the team behind it. Pls write a book on this…it will be a great at help.
Thank you and God bless! I am so impressed by the way in which the explanation is logically unpacked. My late parents deprived me of the opportunity to explore my love for music especially the piano because they thought I would not focus on my studies. I painfully respected their way of seeing things. My father left the church organ donated to me in the rain leading it to its destruction including a guitar that was given to me by my uncle.
This desire to learn music is still with me despite my current age. I think I will enjoy my pension days resuscitating the latent gift.
To cut the long story short, I will now budget to procure instruments related to piano.
Thanks, I found your website. Am I crazy? I love music. I need a 3 part harmony for 3 women about a state.
Can you recommend something. I saw This Land if My Land, etc. I like it! How to know what note is example like A, B, C , Gb and so on when the stem is down? The direction of the stem up or down does not change the note name or value duration. The direction of the stem is only to make the note easier to read on the staff. Notes lower on the staff have the stems going up, while notes higher on the staff have the stems going down.
How did you MAKE this. Thanks, this was really helpful. Hello there! Can I use some pictures posted on this blog? Plz let me know if it would be ok.
Clearly explaining on music notes which easily understood…easy to follow with practical examples…. I like it. I found this website most helpful, out of my search through an abundancy of irksome answers and not aid full in the least. It had me reading again within 30 minutes and also piqued my interest to learn more. Well done guys.
Great basic info! Of everything needed to read on sight, this is bare-bones simple for the beginner. This has helped me very much! This site is great for beginners! It was put into words that I understand, even as just a simpleton. Thank you so much! A huge thank you for the wonderful insight I got, reading the step by step explanation music notes.
Do let me have your email. Best wishes. Clare Castelin. What are the odds that this simply made lesson is the first thing that came up this time around, when I gave this attempt one last shot?!?! Totally worth it! Simple, clear and makes learning very easy.
Thank you! I played the violin for years and stopped causing me to forget how to read music. This really helped spark my memorie! It was super helpful!!! This is very help full exspesuly when you say you canread music to evry one ut you cant i cnat and i said that. Great post for reading sheet music! I teach children to play brass instruments about 14 years and I am looking for methods to help them to learnas as quick as possible.
Everything starts from learning music symbols… So I have created simple online web game , and seems that it helps a little bit. You are welcome to try, here are two links. I am entering a brand new world with an alto saxophone. Is music or notes the same for every instrument? I have a similar blog post that discusses the details of learning how to read music. As a high school music teacher, I decided to take it a step further and teach the concept in my free 3 part theory course found at http: Reading piano music notes is hard since once adding sharps and flats it gets complicated.
After years of playing and reading I got to a conclusion that the problem is in the music notes and not the player. To make things short — try iCanPiano. Musicnotes has the treble notes cheat sheet for piano within the print guide. It would help those of us who grew up playing flute and clarinet to include a bass notes cheat sheet for piano as well. This is really helpful. My original question coming here was what does it mean when there are two sharp symbols to the left of a staff?
Now I know. This is like knowing the names of the alphabet letters, maybe sounding out a word but not having any idea of the meaning of the text. Music reading involves the ability to see the notes on a page and sing or image in your head how they sound without ever having to hear someone else play them. Thank for making me feel stupid! Thanks, thanks for making me feel dumb!!!!!!! This site has been really helpful. Before learning how to play sogs on my piano at home, i would always search song tutorials on youtube and memorize them just like that.
Now with your help i can pay harder songs which ofc are lengthy. This was the clearest, most complete introductory to reading music that I have found.
Thanks for helping this musically ignorant senior. I have worked in Europe, U. As an Anthropologist, listening to African music of all kinds has always fascinated me, knowledge of the languages aside. However, at my age, the one thing I would not want to portray in terms of music is that which I lack — I cannot read musical sounds as indicated by symbols called NOTES. I can sing. I love to sing. In my retirement I have planned to do two things: Thank you, thank you.
This is very helpful to me learning to read music! I can understand reading music more and plus, I have a lot of time to read it! Simply superb guide for a new comer… i was reading this website to understand music and let me tell you… it really helped me a lot in understanding the music sheets….. I passes thxs all to this app. I am just learning to read music and your site is getting me on my way. I was wondering, on the picture above marked Naturals, you show what C to E would look like with Naturals.
I ask because above that you said you sharp or flat tell you which way you are moving on the scale and C to D we are moving up the scale so should be sharp. Do I have this correct? I was finding it little hard to help my little one with her piano practice since I had missed a few of her classes in the beginning.
Your site have helped me so much…now I can explain my kids better. I really appreciate you sharing this music reading knowledge…. My problem is I know how to read music. I know what the notes are but it takes me an extra step to process them like as a kid I had music books that showed the notes but it also would have the letters above the staff like say G A B E etc….
Music Is Life.. Because Music Is Pure.. This is great, I had forgotten a lot of this since High School And have used tablature for guitar only. This was really helpful. I used to play the violin when I was younger but I had completely forgotten how to read music. It is easy to take notes off of and understand. Now in no time I should be able to read music and pick up the violin again.
Ben , Turk Hava Kurumu, inonu egitim merkezi calisma bayan hoca dan sikayetciyim. Sikayet thk Eskisehir inonu, tugba defolgit,. This great info! Very helpful. Reading music is intimidating to most people and there seems an infinite way to describe the basics and nuances. I think this guide is pretty good, for the most part, but it could be improved. A big mistake, in my opinion, is throwing out terms that have not been introduced.
Confusing A. Why just not use bars like piano roll in DAWs? I instantly understand how melody would sound if I look at bars. This is a pretty cool site, I already know how to sight read sort of and this helped a lot, thanks. I found this so helpful. Hearing the notes and rests played really helped in hearing their length. Thank you so much. This has been of great help. But please excuse my ignorance as I am just the biginner when I ask you which are black and which are white keys on the staffs?
How should I differentiate between the black and the white keys of my piano? I know you all ready made this site but I believe you should have included the alto and tenor just if people are play an instrument other than a bass or a treble clef, and this is just my opinion. Woaw I really love this and i need more elucidation of music note pls. Thank you very much makers. You have made it easy to understand. I longed to play hymns on the piano like my teacher.
I hope your lesson has sparked the good fire. I wonder why u people do good things like this. May God bless you any way. This is awesome work. Really worth reading time. Graphics and plain english including the most important without annoyance.
Just Bravo and tyvm It clarified me some points. I really liked this site. I tried to find many sites and app to understand language music but none helped me. This site helped me a lot thank you so very much. This was a great refresher tool to get us started. But this has been very helpful. Thank you SO much for this! In learning to play musical instruments, we must be able to learn with patience.
Spirit is also very needed in learning music, because without the spirit we can not learn well. I could have kicked myself for not paying attention in grade school and learning how to read music. I played guitar by ear and have always enjoyed listening to music: So much good music from that era.
I grew up thinking that the only instruments were guitar and drums. Not true. Would like to take piano lessons some day. THANK you so much. It suddenly all makes mores sense, Biggest issue is playing with my left hand. Fifty years I have been teaching music full time this year. Author of three books, audio, video, guitar and theory. I liked your lesson presentation.
Very simple to understand. Idiot proof, although after reading some comments, I might have to amend this phrase. Practice by itself, without this burning desire, is a waste of time. Better to play a CD. Am epileptic. That is a terribly rude comment. Maybe English is not their first language. And by the way- YOU are telling people they need English lessons? Look at YOUR comment dude, and have some lessons in manners and common courtesy while you are at it.
Not to mention kindness. Very well organized.