Did you know that music was invented as long as 35,000 years ago? Ever since then, music has remained a very important part of our everyday lives. Today, it can be hard to imagine a world without music.
After all, you can find music just by turning on the radio or your phone, and you can also hear music by playing it yourself with the help of sheet music. But if you’re a new musician, reading sheet music might be a struggle for you. After all, where should you start when it comes to translating all those strange squiggles and symbols?
Keep reading and learn more about the top features of sheet music you need to learn any musical piece.
1. The Staff
When you first start learning how to read sheet music, the first thing you should know is what the staff is. The staff is the most basic part of music notation. It is nothing more than five lines all lined up in a horizontal row.
The staff is essentially the foundation on which all music notes and notation will rest. Without the staff, it would be virtually impossible to write music in an easy and organized fashion. Instead, without the staff, music notes would be scattered all over the place and very hard to read.
Music notes are only ever distributed to the staff in a very particular way. Either, the notes will rest on the lines of the staff or between the lines in empty spaces. Aligning the notes in this way will make it easier to see where the notes are and which notes they are.
This is because, depending on where the note is on the staff, that note will play a specific sound.
2. Treble Clef and Bass Clef
All musical pieces have a treble clef but not all pieces have a bass clef. A treble clef is a fancy letter G that you will find on the far left of digital or printed music. Because it is in the form of a very fancy letter G, it is sometimes known as the G clef.
Whatever the case, the treble clef acts as a specifying factor for those who play the piano. For piano players, the treble clef represents the music that will be played with the right hand. In contrast, music denoted with the bass clef, which looks like an abstract letter F, is meant to be played with the left hand.
Keep in mind that most music that is not meant to be played on the piano will not have the bass clef but instead only the treble clef.
3. Quarter Notes and Half Notes
Traditionally, there are four beats in a measure. A measure is a small chunk of the staff. A quarter note only takes up 1/4 of the measure which is why it is called a quarter note. This is the most basic note and it has a solid black base.
It also has a stem but nothing more beyond that. This is the note that most beginners play when they’re just learning how to play music. This is because quarter notes are relatively short and easy to keep the beat of the music.
Another important note is the half note. The half note looks exactly like the quarter note except that the base of the note is hollow. A half note, as the name suggests, will last for half of the entire measure.
You can also think of it as adding two quarter notes together.
4. Whole Notes and Eighth Notes
A whole note is a note that lasts for all four beats of one measure. For that reason, this is a particularly long note. It is denoted as a small letter O.
It is hollow and does not have a stem, so it is readily recognizable. But what about eighth notes? As the name suggests, these notes only take up an eighth of the entire measure.
For that reason, these notes are quite short and are made to be played very quickly. It looks like a quarter note except that the stem has an additional tail.
5. Sharp and Flat
When you play a note as a sharp, it is denoted with the # symbol. This makes the note play at a range that is half a note higher than usual. While this may not sound very significant, it can greatly change the sound of the music.
Music played as flat, on the other hand, is denoted with a b symbol. This will cause the music to be played half a note lower than usual.
6. Time Signatures
When you first learn how to play music, time signatures won’t play a big part in your learning. Instead, the basic four beats per measure will be what you learn. However, as you advance, the measures will assume different beats.
For example, next to the treble clef, you may see a 3 on top of a 4 or a 4 over an 8. Whatever the case, this determines the tempo of the music.
7. The Notes
It is essential to learn all the basic musical notes. These range from A to G.
Once you master those and how to play them on your musical instrument, you’ll be ready to start playing real music.
What You Need to Read Sheet Music
Reading sheet music can be daunting if you don’t know the first thing about it, but as you learn, you’ll find that it isn’t that hard. Once you learn, you’ll be able to play whatever music you want.
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