Monday, November 7, 2011

Music Lesson 3A: Basics of Standard Notaion

Now that we have delved into a bit of the layout of the chromatic and the major scale, it is time for us to look at how musicians look at music:  Standard Notation.

There is a lot of argument amongst musicians on whether reading Standard Notation is a necessary skill for guitarists (or ukulele players).  There are a lot of valid points on both sides of the line, but there is one major reason why I encourage it:  Because it is the standard way that music is presented.  Countless volumes of sheet music are accessible to you as a guitar or ukulele player if you can only learn enough to see it.

The Staff

The Staff is where it all happens.  On the page of music, it is basically the lines where the music is written.  By itself, we should think of it as simply a time line where everything will be written out from left to right in chronological order.

The Staff consists of five horizontal lines running parallel to each other.  Notes are represented as either on a line or in a space.  The lower the tone of the note, the lower its position on the staff; the higher the note, the higher it's position.  If a note is higher (or lower) than the highest of the five lines of the staff, we add a small line above (or below for low notes) to make room for the note.

The Clefs

There are two basic clefs in music*: The Treble Clef and the Bass Clef.  For guitars and ukuleles, we usually will be using the Treble Clef, but knowing the Bass clef can be useful.
right: Treble Clef, left: Bass Clef

Clefs are used to indicate where the notes are to be located on the staff.  Notice how one end of the Treble Clef seems to wrap around the second line from the bottom of the Staff.  This is the clef's way of telling us where the note "G" is.  Treble Clef is sometimes referred to as "G Clef".  The Bass Cleff tells us where the "F" note is in a similar way.  Look at the line (second from the top of the staff) with the two dots above and below it.  That is the position of the "F" note.

Here's where the notes go on the staff with the Bass and the Treble Clefs:


After writing out this post, I decided to break up Standard Notation into a few lessons.  There is just a lot to cover.  Still to come are descriptions of Key Signatures, Time Signatures, Repeats, and Time Values of notes.  See the next post for more on this subject.


* There are numerous others, but the treble and the bass clef are generally considered to be the most used and well know.