How to read Music Notation (Part 2)
(please note: if you are reading this on a mobile device, the images intended to be displayed to your left will appear on top and images intended to be displayed to your right will appear underneath)
Continuing from where we left off…
To the left is an image of a pair of quavers joined by a single beam and to the right, an image of joined semiquavers. Often in music notation the notes are joined (note that joined notes can be placed on different lines).
In the image to your left, you see a dotted crotchet. adding a dot after a adds half the original notes value. Half a crotchets value is a quaver, hence the simple equation to your left. (you could also write the equation as dotted crotchet = 3 quavers)
The stave to our right contains a Tie and a Slur. A Tie is the term given to the line joining two notes of equal pitches and is drawn on to indicate that the first note is to be held for the duration of both notes added together. A Slur is the term for a line joining two notes of different pitches and tells us that the transition between notes should be played smoothly and without a gap between them.
This diagram shows us Bar lines. A Bar line shows us the end of a beat (a more in depth lesson on this and time signatures to come after this lesson). A Double Bar line is used to show the end of a section.
If you wanted to indicate to a reader that they need to repeat a section of music, you would start and finish the section with repeat bars (indicated to the right); rather then re-writing the section.
Sharps/flats are shown at the beginning of sheet music to show us which key the music is played in. As you can see, the order of sharps from left to right is: F-C-G-D-A-E-B. If you are unfamiliar with this pattern, click here to get our quick lesson on the circle of fifths! (don’t worry, it’s a quick and enlightening read that will only take a couple of minutes).
assuming you started our lessons at the beginning, you should recall what a sharp and a flat is; as well as knowing that a sharp raises the pitch by a semi-tone (C-C# for example) and a flat lowers the pitch by a semi tone (A-A♭ for example)
however the images you see are different. the image to your left is a double flat (shown as ♭♭) and to your right is a double sharp(indicated with an x shaped symbol). It’s all simple: a double flat indicates that the note should be lowered by a full tone (two semi-tones) and a double sharp indicates that the note should be raised by a full tone (two semi-tones).
now you have a general knowledge of the symbols used in music theory as well as note placement. our next lesson will be on time signatures! but make sure you feel comfortable with this 2 part lesson before moving on.
The best way to learn how to read music is to read music! It’s that simple. Keep this 2 part guide with you to help you along the way. If you need some sheet music, you can use the sheetmusicplus search at the bottom to browse their entire catalogue!!! You may choose to go elsewhere, but these guys are reliable, well priced and have a huge variety; there’s no harm in looking 😁
We have also put up a few different sheet music to start you off!