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music theory

Learn To Read Music – A Gentle Introduction…

by Tania Gleaves on July 10, 2015

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 a quick primer for what you’re about to encounter in music notation. And once you’ve finished reading, you’ll discover that it isn’t so intimidating after all!

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The Setting

Every piece of sheet music contains a set of staff lines. StaffTreble clef lines are groups of five lines and four spaces that hold the notes you’ll see and play. Also known as ledgers, they also hold the Clef symbol which indicates which hand you’ll play with. The Treble Clef (S-Shaped) indicates right hand work while the Bass Clef (C-Shaped) indicates left hand work. To make music legible, notes are separated by bar lines. Bar lines divide notes into measures which also make music legible. It’s much easier to read music that’s separated into parts than it is to read music that isn’t — much like the way it’s easier to read an article that’s separated into paragraphs.

The Music

Earlier we mentioned that staffs hold the notes that you’ll encounter. Notes, which can look like solid and hollow circles, sit right on top of a line or right in the middle of two lines. The placement of these notes corresponds to a particular pitch and each pitch corresponds to a piano key – and more…

Notes not only represent pitch, they also represent rhythm. A solid circled note for example, can represent a quarter or a whole beat while a hollow note can represent two beats or four whole beats at once. If you see a small dot next to a note, it means that note should be played a little longer.

Learn To Read Music Timing

While figuring out how to learn to read music, you’ll see other symbols that teach you when to play the notes we’ve been talking about. If a dot sits next to a quarter note for example, the quarter note (which is normally played for one beat) is then played for two beats. If you see an arc type shape that appears to connect two notes beneath or above it, it indicates that those two notes should be played as one.

Other symbols include rests and time signatures. Some rests look like little black hats whereas time signatures look like fractions. You’ll find a song’s time signature on the first staff. It tells musicians the number of beats that are in each measure and it describes kind of note counts as one beat. You’ll find rests all over the place however and since they’re the only shapes that look like squares, they’re fairly easy to locate. Try to remember that a solid “hat” on the second line of a staff indicates that you should stop playing for four whole beats. Half of a hat on the third line indicates that you should rest for two beats.

Two kinds of rests don’t look like hats at all. They look like lazy W’s (Ws pointing to the left) instead and if you see one, it means you should rest for only one beat.

Get a more thorough lesson on How To read music here

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Understanding The Circle of Fifths

by Tania Gleaves on June 23, 2015

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 relationships.

Click Here And Finally Learn What Circle Fifths Are All About!

Sharps and Flats

If you can imagine a clock for a moment, where each hour represents a particular key, you can identify that key’s sharps and flats. Let’s say that:

  • 12:00 or “0:00” represents the C Major key (or the A Minor key)…
  • 1:00 represents the G Major key (or the E Minor key)…
  • 2:00 represents the D Major key (or the B Minor key)…
  • 3:00 represents the A Major key (or the F# Minor key)…
  • 4:00 represents the E Major key (or the C# Minor key)…
  • 5:00 represents the B Major key (or the G# Minor key)…
  • 6:00 represents the F# Major key (or the Eb Minor key)…
  • 7:00 represents the Db Major key (or the Db Minor key)…
  • 8:00 represents the Ab Major key (or the F Minor key)…
  • 9:00 represents the Eb Major key (or the C Minor key)…
  • 10:00 represents the Bb Major key (or the G Minor key), and
  • 11:00 represents the F Major key (or the D Minor key).

Perfect Fifths

If you’ll notice, each hour (or key) is separated by a perfect fifth (moving clockwise). A perfect fifth is an interval made up of three whole steps and one half step. For example, A perfect fifth above C is G, and a perfect fifth above E is B. This is where the pattern gets its name . It follows a unique pattern on our imaginary clock where:

  • … the perfect fifth of the C Major key is G.
  • … the perfect fifth of the G Major key is D.
  • … the perfect fifth of the D Major key is A.
  • … the perfect fifth of the A Major key is E.
  • … the perfect fifth of the E Major key is B.
  • … the perfect fifth of the B Major key is F#.
  • … the perfect fifth of the F# Major key is C#.
  • … the perfect fifth of the C# Major key is G#.
  • … the perfect fifth of the G# Major key is D#.
  • … the perfect fifth of the D# Major key is A#.
  • … the perfect fifth of the A# Major key is F.
  • … the perfect fifth of the F Major key is C.

This pattern helps us determine the sharps and flats of a signature because they’re always a perfect fifth away (moving clockwise). Just remember that sharps increase in the clockwise direction while flats increase in the counter-clockwise direction (note: when you move counter-clockwise, each hour- or key- is separated by a perfect fourth).

Related Keys

As an example, the C Major and A Minor keys are related because they both lack sharps and flats. Based on the circle of fifths, we discover that a single flat relates the F major key to the D minor key while a single sharp relates the G major key to the E minor key as well. Two flats relate the Bb major key to the G minor key while two sharps relate the D major key to the B minor key too. Three flats relate the Eb major key to the C minor key while three sharps relate the A major key to F# minor key. Starting to see a pattern? The concept is of course easier to understand with a visual.

circle-of-fifthscircle of fifths chart

The Enharmonic Notes

The 5:00, 6:00, and 7:00 hours are unique in that they help you identify different notes with the same pitch. These notes are said to be enharmonic to each other:

  • “5:00″ can either be B Major (G# Minor) with five sharps (from the clockwise perspective) or Cb Major (Ab Minor) with seven flats (from the counter-clockwise perspective).
  • “6:00″ can either be F# Major (D# Minor) with six sharps (from the clockwise perspective) or Gb Major (Eb Minor) with six flats (from the counter-clockwise perspective).
  • Lastly, “7:00″ can either be C# Major (A# Minor) with seven sharps (from the clockwise perspective) or Db Major (Bb Minor) with five flats (from the counter-clockwise perspective).

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Beginner Lessons For Piano – Helpful Tips

June 20, 2015

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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Key Signatures – A Beginner’s Lesson…

June 13, 2015

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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Musically Notes With Dots – Understanding Staccato and Dotted Notes

May 27, 2015

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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How to Read Music – Definitions to Help You Learn

April 18, 2015

L earning how to read music is like learning another language. It has its own letters, syntax and grammar. Whether you are learning to play the piano through the classic method or the chord method, you’ll have to be familiar with how to read music. A page of music has a lot of symbols and […]

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Top 5 Myths About Learning To Play Piano

April 15, 2015

You have to be born with natural ability. As one of the top 5 myths about learning to play piano, this myth may have you condemned before you even start! Everyone and anyone can learn to play piano as long as they exercise the required amount of patience and practice. The piano in fact, is […]

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Music Bar Lines

April 13, 2015

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 […]

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Music Theory Key Signature – The Basics

February 20, 2015

You have been hearing about the music theory key signature during your first piano lesson but do you know what they are made of? Key signatures are actually one of the basic foundations of playing the piano. These music fundamentals guide you in “tuning” the music pieces you are playing. Music theory key signature can […]

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Various Notes

January 27, 2015

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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