MUSIC THEORY - Lesson 3 - Music sheets

Andrei Moraru

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So like, we need to change sheets now or what?

  1. Topics of discussion
  2. Musical sheets explained
1. Topics of discussion

In this tutorial, we are going to take a look at a music sheet in order to understand how to read music and what each element on a music sheet means. So, let's have some fun.

2. Musical sheets explained

When it comes to music, there really isn't anything that cannot be written on a music sheet. Drums may be a bit trickier, but I do believe there is a way to accomplish this. But I digress. An example of a music sheet is the following:
sheet.png


There's a lot of stuff there. So, let's figure out what exactly we're looking at here:

sheet_explained.png

As you can see, there is a lot of stuff there. Let's start with learning that notes are represented on those groups of lines you see there. Those groups go by the name of staffs. You can have a single staff or a grand staff, as we have there. Such an example is usually used for piano songs. You can have musical sheets with multiple single staffs, but those are usually reserved for orchestras where each player knows exactly what staff he should follow.

Anyhow, at the beginning of each staff you can see a weird symbol. The said symbol goes by the name of the clef. I believe there are about 4 different clefs, but the two most common ones are the ones in the picture:

  • the G clef (or treble clef, as Ed correctly pointed out) which is the one present on the top staff on each row, denotes the fact that notes from such staffs belong to the fourth octave or higher; basically, notes on such staffs usually represent the melody of the song
  • the F clef (or bass clef, as Ed has mentioned), which is the one present on the bottom staff on each row, denotes the fact that notes from such staffs belong to the third octave or lower; in other words, notes on staffs where the F clef is present are bass-like notes which serve as harmony notes; hence why these notes are usually played at a lower volume
Next up, we have the key signature which determines what key the song is written in. Afterward, we have the time signature, which tells us the number of beats in a bar/measure (determined by the number on top) and the main beat of a measure (the number on the bottom). In our case, the song is written in a 4/4 time signature, which means there is a maximum of 4 quarter notes in a bar.

Speaking of bars, a bar or measure is basically a section of a song. As mentioned, it is closely related to the time signature. In our case, you can have a maximum of 4 quarter notes (or the equivalent of 4 quarter notes, as we'll learn down the road). Finally, at the end of a song, you can see we have something called the end of song markers.

We also have a tempo indicator. Tempo refers to the speed of the song. It can be written either with a number like above or with some Italian words like Allegro, Andante etc. The tempo we have there is read as quarter note equals 120 beats per minute. In non-Greek, that means that we need to play this song fast enough to make sure that during a minute of us playing at that speed, we can play exactly 120 quarter notes. In non-Greek part 2, that basically means that a quarter note should last half a second. We will discuss tempo in more detail in a future tutorial.

Now, let's take a look at the C major scale (C D E F G A B C), written on both the G and F clefs:

c_major.png

C_F4_clef.png

As you can see, whenever we're supposed to write notes outside the 5 lines of a staff, we use helper lines. If my memory serves me correctly, they are called leger lines. Worth noting is that two consecutive notes can never be placed on the same line or space. What I mean by this is that you cannot have two notes with two different names on the same line or space.

And speaking of lines and spaces, let's figure out what notes go on lines and what notes go on spaces:
  • for the G clef, the notes on the lines are E, G, B, D, and F ( think Exist Gunslinger Betrayed Danger Line Fermi Paradox); while the notes on the spaces in between are F, A, C and E (think Fermi Paradox Afterlife Crossroads Exist)
  • for the F clef, the notes on the lines are G, B, D, F, and A ( think Gunslinger Betrayed Danger Line Fermi Paradox Afterlife); while the notes on the spaces in between are A, C, E, and G (think Afterlife Crossroads Exist Gunslinger)
You will have also noticed that some notes have different types of lines and shapes. This is closely tied to their length, meaning how long a note is supposed to last. And we will discuss this in a separate thread.

Along these lines, you will have also noticed that the F clef staff has some weird symbols inside the first two measures. Those are called rests and we will discuss them in a separate tutorial. For now, just think of rests as the actual sound of silence.

A final note (I crack myself up) is with regards to notes that are placed one on top of the other. That simply means that you need to play all the notes at the same time.

Right, that about covers it for this one. Next time around, we will review guitar tabs, since this is a guitar-based website after all. See you then.
 
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Ezequiel Romanko

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Amazing work, great explanation of how to read sheet music :) , not even in uni is better explained than here! love it.
Good Work my friend. Can't wait for more lessons.
 
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Adam Valls

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This may seem like a silly thing, but I keep seeing augmented notes on the staff when I see sheet music. Why would a note be augmented instead of being labeled as the next note above it sharped? For example, why would something be labeled as "E augmented" instead of "F sharp"? If they are the same note, why would one be considered more correct than the other?
 

Andrei Moraru

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Hm, I think you are referring to chords displayed above the staffs. Eaug is actually a chord, E augmented to be exact. They're usually placed there as an aid, for you to know what chord is to be played there.

We'll talk about chords in a future tutorial.
 
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Adam Valls

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Hm, I think you are referring to chords displayed above the staffs. Eaug is actually a chord, E augmented to be exact. They're usually placed there as an aid, for you to know what chord is to be played there.

We'll talk about chords in a future tutorial.
Thanks so much for the reply, can't wait for that tutorial! So, just a clarifying question: even if it's just a single note (not notes stacked on top of each other) it may imply you're supposed to play a chord there?
 

Andrei Moraru

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Yeah. See, it's like this. When playing the piano, you are using two hands. So while your right hand might be playing a melody (i.e. single notes), the left hand will complement it with some extra notes that imply a chord.

This can be done on guitars as well, with the rhythm guitar playing some notes that, when combined with the solo guitar, imply a chord. Think of the F clef notes (usually played with the left hand) as rhythm guitar parts (or harmony) while the G clef notes (played with the right hand on the piano) are for melody (or solos).
 
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Ed Seith

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The G and F clefs are also commonly called the "treble" and "bass" clefs.

"Worth noting is that two consecutive notes can never be placed on the same line or space. " - I do not believe this is true? If it is, a lot of songbooks didn't get the memo.
 
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Andrei Moraru

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The G and F clefs are also commonly called the "treble" and "bass" clefs.

"Worth noting is that two consecutive notes can never be placed on the same line or space. " - I do not believe this is true? If it is, a lot of songbooks didn't get the memo.
Ugh, I may have phrased it wrong there.

What I mean by this is that, should you place two notes on the same line or space, they are in fact one and the same.

Meaning that you can't have two notes with different names on the same line or space.

Basically, each note has a reserved area on the staff. And while you can alter the pitch of the note via accidentals, you cannot place a note in an area already reserved to another one.

I actually added those pointers in the first post.
 
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