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Reading Notes On Sheet Music

Aug 29, 2008
If you have ever stopped to look at a piece of sheet music you will have noticed many different shapes ranged across the page. Many look like circles that might or might not be totally filled in. Some may look connected by a couple lines or more. There are other strange symbols as well. What does this all mean?

Is sheet music written in some strange language that only a musician can understand? The answer to that is a resounding no! While it can seem daunting at first sheet music is not extremely difficult to read once you know and understand the different types of notes and symbols you are looking at.

The note structure for most sheet music follows the same basic rules. A whole note is the first note that you should be able to recognize easily. It looks like an open circle and will occupy one full measure (the space between two of the vertical bars which are placed at even integrals across the staff. A whole note is one that is held for the full measure of a beat.

A whole note that falls under different time signatures will not be held for the same length of time however. A whole note in 4/4 time will be held for a full four beats whereas one in 3/4 time will only be held for three beats. This difference aside the whole note will always be considered a whole note unless there is another bit of musical notation added which will be discussed later on.

The next type of note is a half note. This note will look like a small open circle with a line rising up from the right side. As the name implies this type of note will only be held for half the time that a whole note would be held. You will never see a whole note on the same measure as another note except in very specific time signatures which are the rare exception indeed.

Your next note will be a quarter note. Each of these notes in a measure are held for one-quarter of a beat. A quarter note will look just like a half note except the circle section will be completely filled. The other types of notes you will find will be drawn similar to the quarter notes except for one difference.

It is this difference that will determine the length of the beat for which the note will be held. Eighth notes for example are joined at the top of their vertical lines by a bar that crosses from one note to the next. It is this single bar at the top that will let you know that the notes are held for one eighth of a beat apiece. The same will go for sixteenth notes which are joined by two bars at the top and thirty second notes which are joined by three bars at the top of the note. Once you can recognize these different types of notes you will learning sheet music before you know it.
About the Author
Victor Epand is an expert consultant for guitars, drums, keyboards, sheet music, guitar tab, and home theater audio. You can find the best marketplace at these sites for guitars, drums, keyboards, reading sheet music, guitar tab, and specialty home theater audio.
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