Learning to read music 1: the quarter note
Reading the notes on the staff is easier than you might think. With this series of articles entitled "Learning to read music", I would like to translate my experience as a musician and teacher in suggestions to read music with naturalness.
If you reduce a musical staff at the essential - the five lines, the Clef at the beginning and the notes written - it tells to the reader two essential components of any sound: duration and pitch. The pitch indicates whether a sound is a C or a G or other note, i.e., the name of the notes. To begin, however, it is useful to focus on the first of the two elements: the duration.
The staff does not mark the durations of notes in seconds or any other absolute unit: it uses a system of proportional representation.
A "quarter note" or "crotchet", two names that identifys the same term, do not indicate the precise duration of "x" seconds, but simply a quantity that takes on a precise meaning only when placed in relation to overall speed of the song.
Suppose we were to sing a little song written entirely in quarters: if we decide to sing it slowly every quarter have a specific duration, but if we decide to sing it faster each quarter would have a shorter duration.
The fourth note, or crotchet, is the principal measure, the unit, and is represented by the typical black note head with the stem
At this point would we say: good! Every time I see a quarter note, on the position of the Sol, Sol I read it, and you're done.
Unfortunately, it is necessary to understand a particularity that is the foundation of music.
Every single musical moment, big or small, is characterized by its balance, its magnetic system to what precedes or follows it, its metric. Without considering this inner balance, even about an individual sound unit, a fourth note cannot become music.
I realize that for a newcomer this reasoning may seem complex, so it's best to first say "how," and then explain why it is so.
Each quarter note should be divided into two parts, which in music are defined as "beat" and "upbeat." A scale written in quarters reads:
Do-o / Re-e / Mi-i / Fa-a / So-ol / La-a /Si-i.
where the first part of each note is the beat, while the second the upbeat.
To facilitate this type of reading we use some hand movements, which aim precisely to make more evident the moment of "beat" and the moment of "upbeat".
The first exercise would be to learn reading a row of quarters while with the hand movements are performed "beat" and "upbeat."
(printed immediately the pdf indicated at the bottom of the article)
With this way of reading the fourth note is also possible to start to memorize the position of some note on the staff, and so we begin to deal with the second element of the notation on the staff: the writing of the pitch of the notes.
It is not difficult to memorize the locations of notes and the simplest method is to focus on two or at most three notes a day.
In these articles we will talk about an introductory of the notation in treble clef, but for a pianist is important also the Bass clef. In an article, however, there are tips for reading in bass clef.
Each has its own method of memorize things, certainly the worst is the old way of teaching the position of the notes through rigmarole.
Better to create a progressive method.
I suggest, for example, to begin to memorize the position of Sol (G) on the second line. That Sol lies on that line because it linked to the treble clef, which is at the beginning of each staff in treble clef.
The treble clef, or Sol clef, indicates that the Sol should be mandatory on the second line. If before a row is a Bass clef the Sol will no longer be on the second line.
So the position of that Sol is easy to remember.
If a Sol is on the second line, another Sol is immediately above the entire staff.
Even the Do (C) are easy to memorize. The low Do is under staff and is crossed by a ledger that in practice is an extension of the staff.
The middle DO is in the third space (starting from low side) and is easy to remember because the majority of songs for beginners has the middle Do as the most frequent.
Finally, the most acute DO is in the upper side of the staff with an additional ledger below and one running through it.
The SI (B) is easy to remember because is in the middle of the staff on the third line.
With little mnemonic tricks of this type in a few days is simply memorize the position of all the notes.
In the document as attachment below are some progressive exercises to practice both in the reading of the fourth note, both in memorizing of some of the notes in the treble clef, from the low DO to the upper Do.
The next article deals with new symbols of duration of notes and positions of other notes on the staff.
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