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Music Notation

Playing Beginner Piano – An Introduction

by Tania Gleaves on January 19, 2015

little girl playing piano Playing Beginner Piano   An Introduction

It isn’t hard at all to learn beginner piano and once you learn the basics, you’ll discover that the rest of your journey is a straightforward process.

Learning can be intimidating to people who have no experience with piano music at all, but it can even intimidate musicians who are used to playing a different instrument as well.

The good news is that everything starts to get a little easier with practice and understanding that it’s relatively easy after you learn how to read music notation.

Interpreting music notation, whether for piano, the bass guitar, or the saxophone, is “required reading” because it not only communicates emotion from a composer, it familiarizes the player with the basic structure of all music.

Once you can read and play piano notation, you can usually go on to play more advanced notation for the violin, the flute, and a host of other instruments.

The basics start with understanding its 88 pitches — the tones produced by striking each key.

The white keys are named by the A, B, C, D, E, F, and G letters while the black keys — the sharps and flats — change the pitch of the white keys with a slightly higher or lower tone.

Each set of white keys starting from the very left (A, B, C, D, E, F, and G) is called an octave, and at first, you may learn to play a song within a single octave. In more advanced notion however, you may play songs with both hands in different octaves at once.

Of course to make a series of notes sound like a song, you will need to learn about note duration. Note duration is also one of the first beginner piano lessons you’ll learn, and it will introduce you to whole notes, half notes, and quarter notes.

Holding down a piano key for the duration of an entire beat plays a whole note, while holding down a piano key for the duration of half a beat plays a half note. The variation of these beats and tones is what creates a tune or a song.

At this stage, you’ll mostly learn simple songs like “Row Row Row Your Boat,” or “Hot Cross Buns” because they provide a gentle introduction to the piano keys, key pitches, and note duration.

In advanced music notation, you’ll find more complicated note durations indicated by dots or ties.

Understanding what the time signature means is another important beginner piano lesson, as it determines the constant rhythm that an entire song should follow. Two numbers that look like a fraction represent a time signature in music notation.

The number on top tells musicians how many beats are in a measure (a group of notes in sheet music) and the number on bottom tells musicians what kind of note qualifies as one beat.

The most common time signature for beginners is the 4/4 signature, and it tells musicians that there will be four distinct beats in each measure and that the quarter note counts as one beat.

As you practice the beginner piano more and more and start to listen for these characteristics in classical music, you’ll start to pick up on some pretty common patterns.

Most simple songs are played within conventional time signatures and octaves, so by training your ear to listen for them, you’ll improve each time that you sit down to play the piano yourself!


Music Bar Lines

by Tania Gleaves on December 25, 2014

Introducing the Bar

In order to represent pitch and tone, music notes need a staff. If you’ll remember from our other lessons, the music staff is a system of five horizontal lines and it provides a foundation for all the beautiful music that we hear. Notes sit on, above, between, and below these lines. But there’s another kind of line that you’ll find in sheet music, and it’s the bar line. This *vertical* line also sits on the staff but it doesn’t indicate pitch or tone. It instead, indicates measures or groups of notes. Measures and music bar lines make sheet music easier to write and read.

Click Here To Find Out More About Music Bar Lines!

To understand the role of the bar line, you can compare it to any type of punctuation that ends a sentence. Imagine for a moment, a paragraph of four or five sentences that doesn’t use any periods, question marks, or exclamation points. As you can see, this paragraph would look more like a gigantic run-on sentence than it would look like a group of complete statements. Punctuation lets us know when its specific parts start and finish. This is similar to what music bars do. Music bars let us know when specific parts of a song start and finish.

Like with our paragraph analogy above, music without bar lines would look as though it played continuously without any indications of rhythm or rest. It would also be difficult to reference because quite often, a conductor, tutor, or music book will ask us to play from “measure five” or “measure eight.” That doesn’t mean that “bar-less” music doesn’t exist or isn’t purposeful. Creative types like to reference such music as unmeasured, where music moves freely without a steady beat.

What’s in a Measure?

The measure usually divides notes into three to four beats each, depending on a song’s signature. If the signature of a song indicates 3/4 time for example, each of its measures will contain three beats. Measures of a song played in 4/4 time then contain four beats each. All of this is of course, applicable to the single bar line. The double bar line and thin double bar line indicate other things.

There’s More Than One Bar

Take the double bar line for instance. Two lines make up the double bar line. One line is thin and it sits in front of a second, thick line. This double bar line sits at the very end of a song’s movement and/or completion. The thin double bar line one the other hand, is made of two thin lines only, and it’s used to indicate sections. Like measures, sections are frequently referenced in practice mode. But when a number sits atop a double bar line, it means its section has changed key or meter.

Another kind of bar line is the repeat bar. Music between a double bar that sits in _front_ of two dots — and a double bar that sits _behind_ two dots (the repeat bar) — is played twice. In complicated pieces, you may find repeat bars *and* repeat endings with accompanying numbers. These numbers tell musicians that there’s more than one ending in a song, and that each successive play ends with a corresponding ending.

Click Here To Find Out More About Music Bar Lines!


Musically Notes With Dots – Understanding Staccato and Dotted Notes

December 14, 2014

Dotted Notes Dotted notes are the exact opposite of flagged notes. The small flag that follows a note decreases that note’s duration by half, whereas a small dot that follows a note increases that note’s duration by half. A dotted half note would therefore become three quarter notes (one half note equals two quarter notes). […]

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Understanding The Circle of Fifths

December 8, 2014

The circle of fifths, introduced by Johann David Heinichen in 1728, is a visual arrangement of related keys. Although its name gives the impression that it’s a difficult concept to grasp, it’s really just an easy way to remember the number of sharps and flats in a key signature and the major and minor key […]

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Beginner Lessons For Piano – Helpful Tips

November 29, 2014

Beginner lessons for piano will take you far in your quest. But supplementing your lessons with some ‘outside’ or unconventional training will shorten the time it takes to become an expert pianist. It goes without saying that practice makes perfect. However, there are a few additional things that you can do to improve the quality […]

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Various Notes

November 24, 2014

Beaming Notes Music beams are lines that seemingly connect a series of various notes. Since they’re thick and horizontal (as opposed to thin and vertical), they’re more noticeable and intimidating to beginners. Rest assured that beams are nothing to fear – even when sheet music is plastered with them. Music beams actually make notation easier […]

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Piano Lessons Made Easier – How To Read Music Notes

November 18, 2014

One of the basic lessons of learning to play the piano involves how to read music notes. Reading music notes is like learning your ABC’s. Effectively reading music notes requires you to learn the basic parts of a music sheet; sometimes they call this song sheet. If you look at the music sheet, you will […]

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Use Sight Reading Music To Your Advantage

October 24, 2014

There are some basic steps on how to develop sight reading music. Sight read music simply means easily reading a music piece and putting it into action right away without exerting much thinking effort because the music flows naturally from your sight to your fingers. This skill can be acquired and enhanced by every pianist […]

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Key Signatures – A Beginner’s Lesson…

October 19, 2014

What Determines The Quality And Quantity Of A Song’s Notes When watching musicians play piano, you may see them refer to a piece of music in the key of “A” or “C.” These letters refer to the key that the music is played in or its key signature. Key signatures are what determines the quality […]

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Learn To Read Music – A Gentle Introduction…

October 18, 2014

Figuring out how to learn to read music may seem intimidating — especially if you’ve never paid any attention to sheet music before. But once you learn the basics, you’ll discover a whole new world that paves a road of confusing symbols with a coat of comfortable, natural, and perfect logic. This article serves as […]

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