How to Read Sheet Music
Learning to read sheet music may look like a tough job for some people, especially those who do not belong to music learning background. If you are able to read sheet music, you will be able to attain mastery over music. You have to read through the little piece of seemingly undecipherable but beautiful language that is found on the paper, interpret and crack the code, and sing or play along according the pitch or tenor of each note. Here is descriptive information on how you can do so:
Find out the clef: Before we know what is ‘clef’ let us find out the meaning of ‘staff’. It is a set of five lines on which musical notes are written. On the staff, you will find things like a clef, time signature, notes and different markings that influence the tempo and pitch of each note. Now the first symbol on the staff, which tells you which lines and spaces relate to notes, is known as the clef. There are two types of clefs:
Treble clef: The treble clef, also called G-clef is used in writing music meant for voices like tenor, soprano, alt, mezzo-soprano etc. bass instruments like the trumpet, string instruments like the guitar and violin and woodwind instruments like the flute. The note that you play with your right hand on the piano is the ‘treble chef’. So, the notes that are played on the treble clef staff, from down to the top, are E,G,B,D.F. If you want to remember the lines in the Treble Clef, you can do so through a mnemonic way: Elvis Goes Belly Dancing Friday. The space are interpreted mnemonically as F A C E.
Bass Clef: The bass clef, also called F-clef, specifies the line for the F-note between two dots, and is used for low pitch sounding instruments like the tuba and the trombone. In the piano, the bass clef is played by the left hand. The notes that are played on the bass clef staff, from the bottom to the top, are G, B,D,F,A. To remember this order, go by the mnemonic, Good Boys Do Fine Always. The spaces can be memorized as All Cows Eat Grass
Check the key signature: At the right of the clef, there may be one or more flat or distinctly sharp signals before the notes commence. This set of symbols is known as the ‘key signature’. If you do not find such symbols, the key signature is known as ‘natural’.
Flat symbol: A flat symbol on a line or space denotes that all notes on that line or space, should be played flat, meaning, one half-tone lower than it would be normally played. The flat symbol on the line corresponds to ‘B’, which means all ‘B’ notes would be played as ‘B-flats’, which are somewhere in the middle of ‘A’ and ‘B’. The symbols that appear like lowercase ‘b’s are flats.
Sharp Symbol: A sharp symbol denotes that all notes on that line or space should be played in a semitone or half-tone, higher than it would normally be played. The symbols that resemble pound or number symbols are known as ‘sharps’
The time signature: If you find a key signature to the right, at the right, there will be ‘time signature’. The time signature looks like a fraction and usually consists of two numbers. It may remain the same through a particular flow of music or it can change at intervals throughout a piece. Now let us look at the elements of the time signature:
The top number indicates how many beats are present in a bar or measure. The ‘measure’ means the set of vertical lines that run perpendicular to the staff. For example, if the time signature is 2/4, there are two beats in a measure.
The bottom number in the time signature normally indicates what kind of note is present in one beat. The number is commonly ‘4’ which implies that a ¼ th note gets one beat. It may also be 8 which means there are eight notes needed to make up the length of one measure or even 2 which means that a half note is able to get one beat.
All about the notes: The basic thing found in each pitch is indicated by a music note. There are quite a few things that you need to understand about a note before you can sing or play music. The most common things that you need to know is how long you can hold every note, whether the note is flat, sharp or natural.
Make sure that you name the note; they actually have letter names from A to G. Once a note reaches ‘G’ it begins all over again at A. One full octave is denoted this way: A to A, B to B, C to C, and so on. A singer usually sings between two and four octaves.
It can be strenuous for an orchestra to keep the tempo of music on, if they do not know how to hold on to each note. Otherwise, every instrument may work on its own beat and there will not be any standardization or direction to the music. So it is important that you are familiar with each note and you are in the know about how to hold to the note based on how it looks.
The most common notes in sheet music are whole notes, half notes and quarter notes. There are other types of notes as well, which are not so common. The notes should work in synchronization with the time signature to find out how many beats per measure should be held. The standard hold for every note is written by keeping the time signature of 4/4 in mind. However with the change in the time signature, the time you hold the note can change as well.
When reading sheet music, you will find many types of symbols. Every symbol is essential part of music learning and mastery. Let us find out how symbols in the music sheet influence the music
Tempo change: The change in tempo is indicated by an Italian word symbol.
Volume change: The change in volume can improve the sound and the ‘feel’ of the piece. Care should be taken to see that the loudness of the instrument does not overwhelm the singer’s voice.
Other symbols: Besides the above two, there are other symbols that you may have to learn like crescendo, repeats, marks, ties, holds, rests etc. To know more about this, you may have to refer to a music dictionary to know the exact meaning of these symbols.
Music learning when it comes to a piano, is somewhat different to piano compared to other music instrument. The uniqueness stems from the fact that they are some of the few instruments that hold the bass and treble clef at the same time. While a bass player has to know only the bass clef and the clarinet player, the treble clef; the pianist has to know both of them, if they want to be the best at their craft.
The left hand of the pianist can be used to play the notes on the bass clef while the right hand is used to play the notes on the treble clef. One of the most challenging parts of playing the piano music is reading both clefs and playing them at the same, precise time. This is because piano music is written in a way that a person has to use both hands at the same time. It may take few days of practice but with time, a person can get it.
Learning sheet music professionally: You can choose to become a professional musician or singer by understanding sheet music; this can pave way for solid learning and understanding of the craft. You can learn music from a trained professional or institute. One of the places to learn is from your local college, university with music department or a music class. A better alternative to learn sheet music is through the Internet, you can learn music by going through various dedicated online music sites and software programs that teach you how to read music sheets and play music.
Whenever you learn to a piece of good music, bear in mind that composing it is not a piece of cake. For a veteran, it may come across as second nature, but while learning it initially, it may have been difficult for him or her as well. With patience and practice and dedicated learning of the music sheet, you can be a maestro in music, too.
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