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How to Read Music - Easier Than You Ever Thought!

Aug 18, 2008
One of the simple joys in life is the ability to read music. Learning this skill will enable you to express yourself creatively at the piano, playing your favorite songs. It's not difficult to learn to read music if you understand its components.

Written music has an architecture all its own. Musical notes sit on a staff. This staff consists of five lines and four spaces. Piano music utilizes two staves: the Treble Clef and the Bass Clef.

The Treble Clef consists of notes in the upper part of the piano keyboard, and the Bass Clef consists of notes in the lower part of the piano keyboard. Music for instruments such as the trumpet uses only the Treble Clef, with additional notes written just above or just below the staff. There are also Tenor and Alto Clefs, which accommodate written notes for a host of other instruments.

There are only seven notes in all of music. Of course, myriad combinations of these notes give us the vast array of music we have available to us today. These combinations of notes will continue to provide us with new music in the future as well. These notes are seven letters from the alphabet: A, B, C, D, E, F and G; what musicians and composers do with seven notes is what makes music so beautiful.

On a sheet of music, the Treble Clef has a figure at the beginning of the staff. This figure indicates where line "G" is, on the second line from the bottom of the staff.

Once you know where line "G" is, you can figure out the names of the other spaces and lines. The Bass Clef has a figure at the beginning of its staff. This figure indicates where line "F" is, on the second line from the top of this staff. Again, you can figure out the other notes, where they sit on the Bass Clef, because you have a starting
point with line "F".

You can play musical notes individually as single successive notes, or you can play them in unison as a chord. Notes do not all look alike on a musical staff. Some have stems attached to them. Some have what look like little flags on them. Some notes are solid black, while others are clear ovals.

These different characteristic of a musical note represent its value. The value helps a music reader determine the duration of a note, how much time it should take up in a piece of music.

Written music also includes the use of "rests." These rests are of a different shape than music notes, and they indicate intervals of silence in music. A musician needs to know where pauses in their playing need to occur and for how long these pauses must be.

These are the fundamentals to know when you want to begin a study of music reading. From there you will come to understand time signatures, rhythm, tempo, and phrasing and articulation markings. However, learning those seven notes and the music staff is the first step. After that, it's full speed ahead to greater musical enjoyment.
About the Author
Duane Shinn is the author of the popular online newsletter on piano chords, available free at "Exciting Piano Chords & Chord Progressions!"
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