In the past (centuries ago) young people learned music in a very traditional way. They were taught to play classical music or other structured music by reading notes and chords from a sheet or song book.
This has changed a bit in recent years. More and more young musicians have learned to play “by ear,” which means they reproduce songs they have heard by recreating the sounds on an instrument. Guitar players have started to learn by using tablature or “tab,” which teaches the player where to place a finger on the guitar fingerboard.
What is Music?
So, which of these is “right?” The answer has to be: all of them. If you are playing a piano, guitar or other instrument without looking at sheet music you are playing music. It’s that simple. Music is defined in dictionaries and encyclopedias as the act of producing sounds with pitch, tone and rhythm, in a particular arrangement.
This definition doesn’t say anything about reading music notes. But if you want to learn this valuable skill you can break the lessons down into some very simple pieces. Start with the two main “clefs” or areas in which notes are written. Sheet music usually has a treble clef and a bass clef.
The first generally has the melody notes – the sounds a lead singer produces or a lead instrument produces. The second one, the bass clef, usually has supporting notes and chords that accompanying the melody.
Music Staff: Lines and Spaces
The musical “alphabet” has a limited amount of letters – A, B, C, D, E, F, G. The treble clef has five lines and four spaces. In standard sheet music a music symbol placed on the lines indicates a particular tone or note. These lines are: E, G, B, D and F. Remember this by stating, “Every Good Boy Does Fine.” A music symbol in one of these spaces indicates F, A, C and E. Remember this by stating the word they spell: FACE.
If you are fortunate enough to have a piano or keyboard available, find middle “C” and start the notes on the treble clef from there. Middle C is the white key in the middle of the piano that has another white key to its left and a group of two black keys immediately the right.
To determine how many of these notes you play and how often you play them, songwriters use a “measure” that will contain only a certain number of notes. To keep things simple at the start, let’s assume the beginning of the sheet music has the symbol 4/4 at the beginning. This means you play in four-four time – four quarter notes to each measure or “bar.” A “whole” note is equal to four quarter notes. In other words, you play one note and hold it while you count 1, 2, 3, 4.
We are all aware of how many different languages are in use around the world. Unless we grow up in a certain location or study a “foreign” language we can’t understand someone who speaks another language. But music written in the traditional way described above can be understood by anyone, anywhere.
If you see a musical symbol in the first space of the treble clef and the round part of the note is black or colored then it has a line going up from there you are seeing an F quarter note. Try it then try some other notes in the treble clef. It’s fun!