How to Read Music Notes

However daunting a task, reading musical notes may seem, one can read notes easily after knowing a few basic terms. All the musical notes are written on lines, which is called Staff. Five horizontal lines and four spaces on which notes are written is called a Staff. Every line and space denotes a key on the piano. There is separate staff for higher sound instruments and voices, which has treble Clef and another for lower sound pitch, which has Bass clef.

Another most important symbol is Clef. It is a musical symbol which indicates the pitch of notes. Clef is placed at the beginning of the staff and it tells the player about he name and pitch of the notes. The word Clef comes from the French word meaning key. Out of the four clefs, most common clefs are Treble clef and Bass clef; other two are Alto clef and Tenor clef.  

Treble clef is also called G-clef and is used for high pitch instruments; woodwind instruments, stringed instruments like violin, guitar and instruments like trumpet, saxophones, and horns. The Bass clef is known as F-clef and is used for bass guitar, bassoon, double bass, and trombone. Bass Clef is the second most important clef and is used for low pitch.

Music notes on the staff are divided by vertical lines which are called Bar-lines. The space between two bar-lines is called One-bar or Measure. A measure can have a number of beats and notes. A Double Bar-line denotes the end of a piece. Sometimes, music notes are written above and below the Staff, on short lines, which are called Ledger-Lines.

Written music also shows the number of beats of each note, which means how long the note is to be played. Semibreve or the Whole note lasts for four beats and is depicted by hollow oval note without any note stem. Minim (Half note) has an oval note head and a stem but no flag and it means two beats. Crochet, or Quarter note, means one beat and is played quicker than a minim. It is represented by a filled-in oval head, a note stem but no flag. Quaver or Eight note depicts half beat and is written as a filled in note head, note stem and a flag. Note stems can face any direction and flags are always on the right side of the stem.

A musician comes to know about the number of beats and the value of beats in a measure through Time Signature. It can be called a Meter and usually consists of two numbers; the upper one telling about the number of beats and the lower one telling about the kind of note.

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