Neglecting the study of traditional music reading is one of the biggest mistakes that a guitar player can make. Learning to read music trains a guitarist on rhythm skills, timing, key signatures, harmony, notes on the fingerboard, plus so much more. This lesson is an excellent general introduction to the world of traditional music reading…
Q: I was hoping that you could help me with the topic of Music Reading. I have absolutely no understanding of reading music. So, I will just go over what I have been researching so far…
– I’ve learned that music is read off of the Music Staff.
– The staff is composed of 5 lines and 4 spaces.
– The lines are named from the bottom going upwards; E, G, B, D, F. (mnemonic = Every Good Boy Does Fine)
– The spaces are named again from bottom going up F, A, C, E (spelling the word FACE).
– There are 5 note duration’s:
Whole = 4 beats, Half = 2 beats, Quarter = 1 beat, Eighth = 1/2 a beat Sixteenth note… (but, I have no idea what it looks like or what it does).
This is all I know. I’ve heard that the lines on the staff represent strings on the guitar. If so, how come there are six strings on a guitar and five lines on the staff? And, if the lines are the guitar strings, what do the spaces on the staff represent? I am having a very difficult time understanding this. I have been watching your videos and I am hoping that you could help me to understand all of this. ?
A: Music notated upon the music staff can be quite difficult for somebody with no training to understand. This is due to how the guitar has a number of repeating notes (unison tones) located across it. The music staff only represents one note and it’s pitch. However, on the guitar we can have multiple locations to perform that exact same note.
In order to develop a solid ability for music reading, it is important to learn about the staff, as well as, how and where the notes can be located on the neck.
The music staff range is indicated by a clef sign. Music for guitar is written in the treble clef (also known as the “G” clef).
The staff also contains a key signature directly after the clef sign. It is indicated by a quantity of sharps or flats.
In the key signature example image there is one sharp. The single sharp indicates the key signature of “G Major” or “E Minor.” It is important to understand that key signatures only represent the notes that are found within the song. They do not designate tonality, (whether a piece is “Major” or “Minor”).
RESOLUTION and KEY SIGNATURES:
In order to understand the tonality of a song from a Key Signature, there are a number of techniques to learn which revolve around the principles of, “Resolution.”
Once a student of music understands how, “Resolution” operates, they can use that information (from the song) in order to determine the song’s musical tonality based off of an indicated key signature.
Watch the guitar lesson “Relative Tonality” for more information about this topic.
Time signatures are shown at the beginning of a piece. The time signature’s upper number indicates how many notes are in each measure. The lower number indicates which note-type (duration), specifically receives the count.
In the “4/4” Time Signature, there are four notes per measure (upper number), and the “1/4” note receives the count (lower number).
Popular time signatures used in music of the last 500 years include:
4/4, 3/4, 2/4, 2/2, 3/8, 6/8, 9/8, 12/8
Since the time signature of 4/4 is so popular, it is quite often written as a letter “C.” The letter “C” displayed at the start of a musical piece represents something called, “Common Time.” This is the equivalent of 4/4 time.
DEVELOPING MUSIC READING ABILITY:
Aside from learning the notes used on the music staff and their fingerboard locations, the next most important aspect of learning to read music notation is rhythm.
The note duration’s of music that you will need to fully understand are…
- Whole Notes: 4 Beats
- Dotted Half: 3 Beats
- Half Notes: 2 Beats
- Quarter Notes: 1 Beat
- Eighth Notes: Half a Beat
Get to know their; names, look and feel (groove) within time.
LEARNING TO READ MUSIC:
One of the best ways to start learning to read music is through books which contain both shorter and longer classical pieces. Reading ‘Classical Music’ tends to work extremely well when learning about notes, beats and their relationship to the instrument.
The melodic flowing lines found in classical music will also work quite well to pull the music reader along in an easy to relate to manner.
Classical melody lines can also be excellent with regard to training the important area of musical memory. Reading classical melody lines can help a player to anticipate upcoming melody lines. This helps immensely with the reader being able to anticipate and even expect a melody to do certain moves.
Eventually, the musician will more easily relate to their future pieces. With further study, players will start being able to lift out the harmony line as they grow greater skill for musicianship.