© 2019 Diana Miller

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How to Read Music: Intro

Oh boy, here we go.


This post starts another series, on a topic that is searched for constantly on the internet: How to read music.


Let's be real: it's similar to learning a new language. It takes time, effort, practice, and if you go years and years without using it, you can lose it. Whether you've read music before or are a fresh newbie, we're going to start at the most basic concepts and build your knowledge from the ground up.


Let's get started.




All music exists on what we call a "staff". It consists of five lines, and four spaces.


We always count the lines and spaces from the bottom going up.



An oval on the staff is called a note. Notes can be either on the spaces, or on the lines.

Now, we will place one note on the second line, and one note on the third space.



Try answering the following question: Which note is on the fourth line?



The answer is B. If you count up from the bottom line, the second note (letter B) is on the 4th line. Practice doing two more:


Which note is on the 3rd space?

Which note is on the 2nd line?

The answers are C and A. Get the idea? Each music note is either on a line or a space.


The higher the oval is located on our staff, the higher the sound. The lower the note is on the staff, the lower it sounds. Can you tell which notes are higher?




In the top example, the second note is higher. In the bottom example, the first note is higher.


Other parts of the staff look like this:

Double Bar Line : It means the song is over.

Bar line: Line that separates beats of music in order to read them more clearly.

Measure: The unit that contains a small grouping of beats. Beats are usually grouped in units of 2, 3, and 4 most commonly.


The Clef: The clef tells the musicians how to read the notes on the lines and spaces. Different instruments can use different clefs, depending if their instrument is high sounding, or low sounding. The piano uses two clefs at once.



Out of the clefs above, we're going to start with the first one on the left: The Treble Clef.



Here are some of the instruments that use the treble clef:

-Female voice

-Child's voice

-Violin

-Clarinet

-Flute

-Trumpet

-French Horn

-Saxophone

-Bells/Xylophone

-Right hand of the piano

-Guitar


The Treble Clef circles around the second line on the staff. We call this line the "G" line. This is also why the treble clef is sometimes called the "G" clef.


All notes that we place on this second line are the note G.




To read music, all you really need to know are the letters of the alphabet. If you know that, you're set! The musical alphabet uses only 7 letters out of the 26 letters in the alphabet.


A, B, C, D, E, F, G.


What happens once we get to G? There is no "H". We simply start over again on "A".



Moving up the staff (higher), we go forward in the alphabet.


Notice again that we can start with our second line "G", and then we start over on A. Then we progress up and forward through the alphabet. Notice that each line and space steps up to the next letter.


Likewise, when we go lower on the staff, we go backwards in the alphabet.


When we get all the way back to A, we jump backwards to G, and continue to go backwards in the alphabet again. As long as you remember the 2nd line (the one the treble clef curls around) is G, you can just count up or down to identify notes. Next, I'll show you a few tricks and cheats to help remember which lines and spaces are which letters. The tricks are helpful, but first make sure you understand the relationship between the lines and the spaces. Each time you go up one line to the next space, or one space to the next line, you are going forward to the next letter (or backwards, if you're going down).


Here are some cheats to make it easier to remember note names.


All line notes (starting from the bottom, of course) use the phrase "Every Good Boy Does Fine". Each beginning letter of each word represents the musical note name. For space notes, you can spell the word "FACE" starting from the bottom and going up, using the note names of each space note.




That's it! (Really?!) Well, for today anyway. We learned how to identify pitches, or how high or low of a note you should play. What we will touch on next time is how to read rhythm; how long to short to play a note. You need to know how to read both pitch and rhythm in order to successfully read music!


Now comes the hard part: Practicing. I'm going to link you to an amazing website where you can play a game to practice learning your note names:


https://www.musictheory.net/exercises/note


After you think you're pretty good at identifying the notes, you're ready for the next lesson in the series. If you see a symbol show up on the practice exercise that looks like a hashtag or a lowercase b, don't worry about it for now. Just match the symbol with the correct pitch. Sometimes the note may go above or below the five lines and spaces. Those are called "ledger lines". Just keep counting up or down your lines and spaces, and you'll get the correct note. :)


See you next time!