How to Read Music Part II!

In the last lesson we learned about the definition of a few terms, what the notes looked like and what written music looked like using a treble clef measure. In this lesson we will learn a few more terms, more types of notes, what music is like using the bass clef and counting.

A quick refresher first!  Music written in 4/4 time has 4 beats in a measure. The top number tells how many beats are in a bar (or measure) and the bottom number states what type of note gets one beat. Using a metronome helps if you have difficulty with that concept.

Music alternates with "strong" and "weak" beats. That means that in 2/4 time, the first beat has the emphasis. In 4/4 time, the first and third beat have the emphasis. Notes not played on a strong or weak beat are played "off" beat. That should not imply that the note is played incorrectly.  To confuse you further, consider the following measure as played in 4/4 time:

The first note is a strong beat, the second is a weak beat, the third is an off beat, the fourth is a strong beat and the fifth is the remaining weak beat. The second and third notes are eighth notes and are played at half a beat. To "count" this measure you would say "One, two and three, four." The word "and" is used for the off beat. It's important to know the beat and how to count music to ensure that it is being played properly.

Now you're afraid you will never understand music, but you will! Music is a language of its own. Don't ever get discouraged. Just read and study; study and read.  Once you decide on an instrument to play; practice, practice, practice. Now back to the lesson!

In the last lesson we discussed the treble clef. The music we have discussed and most music I play, uses the treble clef. As you may remember though, the treble clef is for high notes.

What about those instruments that play low notes, like our friend the tuba or even the piano?   They use the bass or "F" clef. The dots on either side of the line show were "F" is.

The same note written with the treble clef would look like this 

There are "tricks" for remembering the names of the notes on the bass clef also. For example, the notes on the lines are G, B, D, F and A (Good Boys Do Fine Always). The notes in the spaces are A, C, E and G (All Cows Eat Grass).

To further demonstrate the purpose of the two different clefs, see the following:

These are the notes on the treble clef.

These are the same notes on the bass clef. 
The low notes are simply easier to read on the bass clef. My lessons will typically deal with the treble clef, but should you encounter the bass clef at some point in life, it's good to have an understanding of it!

Now for a less confusing counting lesson and then we will conclude again! If you do not have a metronome, use a clock with a second hand.  Each measure will have four beats.

One, two and, three, four and. The rest is one two and, three, four and.

One two, and three four, and. The rests are one two, and three four, and.

One and, two, three and four. Next measure one and, two, three and four.

We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams.

A. O'Shaughnessy, The Music-Makers

Questions on a term used here?  Go to the Dictionary of Music