How to Read Sheet Music

NOTE: Some of the terminology may be different to what you have heard in the past e.g. they use ‘Staff’ instead of ‘Stave’ and ‘Measure’ instead of  ‘Bar’, but the same principles apply!

The Absolute Basics….

Lesson 1: The Staff (or Stave)

This lesson may be too basic for most as it takes you from pretty much no knowledge and explains how the 5 line stave is used and affects the pitch between the notes.

Lesson 2: The Clefs

This lesson teaches you about the clefs at the beginning of each stave.  Again very basic.

NOTE: We rarely encounter anything other than the G-Clef (i.e. TREBLE clef) and F-Clef (i.e. BASS Clef) in our music scores so don’t pay to much attention to the other clefs for now.

Lesson 3: The Notes

This lesson teaches how the notes are named in relation to their pitch and where they appear on the Staff, covering natural notes (the white notes on the piano keyboard) and Octaves.

Understanding timings…

Lesson 4: Note Values

This lesson is probably one of the most useful as it teaches how to determine how long to sing each note for, looking at the appearance of the note.

Lesson 5: Time Signature

This lesson is also a very useful one as it explains bar lines and how to determine the number of beats to count in each bar and the length of the notes within them.

Lesson 6: Rests

This lesson explains how to interpret the ‘rest’ indicators showing periods of silence in the music.

Lesson 7: Dots and Ties

This lesson explains how dots and ties are used alongside notes to modify their duration.

Getting Harder – Flats, Sharps and Key Signatures…

Lesson 8: Accidentals part I

This lesson explains the concept of whole and half steps between natural notes and therefore introduces the idea of semitones and what is meant by sharp and flat notes.

NOTE: With this lesson you need to bear in mind the look of the piano keyboard.  Because notes E and F do not have a black note in-between them they are separated only by half a step.  The same goes for notes B and C.

Lesson 9: Accidentals part 2

This lesson continues from the previous, extending on to double sharps and flats, and how accidentals are continued or cancelled between bars (or measures).

Lesson 10: Key Signature

This lesson explains what is meant by the ‘key’ of a piece of music, how it is denoted and how it affects the notes when reading the music.