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How to Read Notes

How to Read Notes

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Published by Gospodin Rajković

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Published by: Gospodin Rajković on Nov 22, 2012
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04/14/2013

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 Written music is a language that has been developing for thousands of years, and even the musicwe read today has been around for over 300 years. Music notation is the representation of soundwith symbols, from basic notations for pitch, duration, and timing, to more advanced descriptions of expression, timbre, and even special effects. This article will introduce you to the basics of readingmusic, show you some more advanced methods, and suggest some ways to gain more knowledgeabout the subject.
Steps
The Basics
1. 1
Get a handle on the staff
. Before you can get down to learning music, you have to get a grip on thecanvas that virtually all music is placed on:
the staff 
. It is the most basic of all musical symbols, andthe foundation for everything that is to follow. Ads by Google 
 
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The staff is an arrangement of five parallel lines, and the spaces between them. Both lines andspaces are numbered for reference purposes, and are always counted from lowest to highest:
2. 2
Start with the Treble Clef
. One of the first things you'll encounter when reading music is the
clef 
.This sign is the legend that tells you approximately what range your instrument will play in. Allinstruments and voices in the higher ranges use the treble clef as their basis, and for this intro toreading music, we'll focus primarily on this clef for our examples.
o
 
The Treble, or G clef, is derived from an ornamental Latin letter G. When notes are added to thestaff in the treble clef, they will have the following values:
 
o
 
The five lines, from the bottom up, represent the following notes: E G B D F.
o
 
The four spaces, from the bottom up, represent these notes: F A C E.
o
 
It may seem like a lot to remember, but if you use mnemonics
or word cues
that may help youremember them. For the lines, Every Good Boy Does Fine is the standard, and for the spaces, well,they spell out "FACE." That should be easy enough!
3. 3
Understand the Bass Clef
. The bass clef, also know as the F clef, is used for instruments in thelower registers, including the left hand of the piano, bass guitar, trombones, etc.
o
 
The name "F clef" derives from its origins as the Gothic letter F, and the two dots above and belowthe "F" line on the staff. The staff of the bass clef represents different notes than that of the trebleclef.
o
 
The five lines, bottom to top, represent these notes: G B D F A (Good Boys Don't Fool Around).
o
 
The four spaces, bottom to top, represent these notes: A C E G (All Cows Eat Grass)
4. 4
Learn the parts of a note
. Individual note symbols are a combination of up to three basic elements:the note head, the stem, and flags.
o
 
The note head
. This is an oval shape that is either open (white) or closed (black). At it's most basic,it tells the performer what note to play on their instrument.
o
 
The stem
. This is the thin vertical line that is attached to the note head. When the stem is pointingup, it joins on the left side of the note head. When the stem is pointing down, it joins the note headon the right. The direction of the stem has no effect on the note, but it makes notation easier to readand less cluttered.
o
 
The general rule on stem direction is that at or above the center line of the staff, the stem pointsdown, and when the note is below the middle of the staff, the stem points up.
 
o
 
The flag
. This is the curved stroke that is attached to the end of the stem. No matter if the stem is joined to the right or left of the note head, the flag is
always 
drawn to the right of the stem, and never to the left.
o
 
Taken together, the note, stem, and flag or flags show the musician the time value for any givennote, as measured in beats or fractions of beats. When you listen to music, and you're tapping your foot in time to the music, you're recognizing that beat.
Meter and Time
1. 1
Learn about timing, or meter
. Meter can be generally thought of as the pulse, the heartbeat of music. You feel it instinctively when you listen to dance or pop music.
o
 
In music notation, beat is expressed by something akin to a fraction. Like any fraction, there is anumerator, and a denominator. The numerator, written in the top two spaces of the staff, tells youhow many beats there are in one measure. The denominator tells you the note value that receivesone beat (that pulse that you tap your toe to). It looks like this:
o
 
By changing the numerator, we change the number of beats in a measure. Another very commontime signature is 3/4. If you think of a waltz and its steady 1-2-3 1-2-3 beat, that's 3/4 time. It'snotated like this:
Rhythm
1. 1
Get in the groove
. Similar to meter and time, rhythm is about accents and how the music feels.However, where meter simply tells you how many beats, rhythm is how those beats are used. Trythis: tap your finger on your desk, and count 1-2-3-4 1-2-3-4, steadily. Not very interesting, is it? Nowtry this: on beats 1 and 3, tap louder, and on beats 2 and 4, tap softer. That's got a different feel to it!Now try the reverse: tapping loud on 2 and 4, and soft on beats 1 and 3. Check out Regina

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