The symbols found on the music books and on the pages of the scores have been used for hundreds of years and represent the tone, the speed and the rhythm of the song conveys, as well as the expression and the techniques used by a musician to play the piece. Think of notes as letters and to the measures as the words. Learn how to read music really opens a whole new world to explore. To follow you will be shown how to recognize the musical notes.
- Violin key
- Low key
Learn the basic symbols of notation. The music is composed of a variety of symbols, the most basic of which are: the staff, the violin and bass key and notes. All music contains these basic components and to learn how to read music, you must first familiarize yourself with these basics. The stave is composed of five lines and four spaces. Each of these lines and each of these spaces represents a different letter, which in turn represents a note. Those lines and spaces represent notes called AG and the sequence of notes moves in alphabetical order on the stave.
There are two main keys to familiarize yourself with: the first is the violin key, which has the ornamental letter G on the left side. The internal arch of the G surrounds the line “G” on the stick. The violin key indicates the highest registers of the music, so if your instrument has a higher tone, such as a flute, violin or a saxophone, your score is written in the violin key. Even the highest notes on a keyboard are noted on the violin key. Use common mnemonics to remember the names of the notes for the lines and spaces of the violin key.
The line between the two key points of the bass is the “F” line on the bass staff, and is also called the F clef. The bass key indicates the lower registers of the music, so if your instrument has a lower tone, such as a bassoon, tuba or cello, your score is written in the bass key. Lower notes on the keyboard are also marked in the bass key. The notes on the staff tell you which letter of the note you should play on your instrument and for how long you should play it. There are three parts of each note: the head, the stem and the flag. Each note has a note, filled in (black) or open (white). Where the note sits on the stave (on a line or space) determines which note you will play. Sometimes, noteheads sit above or below the five lines and four spaces of a stick. In this case, a line is drawn across the note, above the note or below the note head, to indicate the letter of the note to be played. The stem of the note is a thin line that extends upwards or downwards from the head of the note.
The line extends from the right when facing upwards or from the left when facing downwards. The direction of the line does not affect the way you play the note, but serves as a way to make the notes easier to read, while allowing you to adapt perfectly to the line. As a rule, any note above or on line B on the stick has stems facing downwards, those notes below line B have stems facing upwards.The flag of the note is a sinuous sign to the right of the stem of the note. Its purpose is to tell you how long to hold a note. If a note is filled or empty, it shows the value or how long it should be kept. An open note head with a stem is a half note and gets two beats. An open note that looks like an “or” without a stem is a whole note and is held for four beats.
There are other ways to extend the length of a note. For example, a point after the head of the note adds another half of the note’s length to it. So, a half note with a point would be equivalent to a half note and a quarter; a quarter note with a point would be equivalent to a quarter plus an eighth. A tie can also be used to extend a note. Two notes tied together must be held together with the value of both notes together, and ties are commonly used to indicate held notes that cross measures or beats. Each flag halves the value of a note, so a single flag indicates 1/2 of a quarter note, a double flag that halves to 1/4 of a quarter note, and so on. The beams do the same, while allowing us to read the music more clearly and keep the notation less cumbersome.