0:49 - super quick history of written music
1:14 - the music stave
1:41 - clefs
2:00 - note names
2:06 - flats and sharps
2:18 - rhymes for note names
3:08 - rhythms
3:16 - bars (measures)
3:23 - time signatures
3:34 - recap
3:45 - note lengths
4:49 - note lengths summary recap
5:00 - putting it all together
5:18 - real example (Mary Had A Little Lamb)
5:49 - rests and everything else
6:12 - sign off
Now if you've ever wondered what those weird musical symbols are, you know like the ones you see on dodgy ties from the 1980s?...then stay tuned because in this free lesson for complete beginners of ANY instrument I'm going to teach you how to read music.
This free sax lesson is part 5 of my series for complete beginners - you can find the other parts on the card up there - and as usual if you're enjoying the content please do subscribe down below and "ring the bell”!
Alright, let's learn how to read music!
So I could go on and on about the history of music, you know, cuneiform tablets from Mesopotamia, Byzantium hook and banner notation, 9th century monastic plainchant notated with neumes, Guido d’Arezzo and his 11th century four line stave... but I won't bother, because frankly you know all that stuff anyway right??
Right, got a lot to learn so without further ado I’m gonna jump behind the screen. Let's go!!
So you're looking at a "stave". This is the five parallel lines that virtually all music is written on. The notes, represented by circles, are going to be placed on the lines, and in the spaces, of the stave with higher notes near the top and lower notes near the bottom. You read music just like you would a book - one line at a time going left to right.
So before we can put any notes on the stave we need a thing called a "clef" which is a symbol repeated at the start of every line of music. There are several different types of clef. You can think of a clef as a kind of code that calibrates what range of notes the stave is but if you play sax the good news is you only ever need to deal with a treble clef which looks like this.
We use the first seven letters of the alphabet A to G to give us the main note names. Those seven notes can be modified with flats or sharps in various ways to give us 12 notes in total but that is for a later lesson. For the meantime, we're just dealing with the 7 main notes.
The note names can be easily remembered with two simple rhymes - one for the lines and one for the spaces. The rhyme for the lines, going from the bottom line to the top line, is Every Good Boy Deserves Football E-G-B-D-F.
That's one of the most popular rhymes but honestly you could have any rhyme you want. How about - Eleven Greedy Beavers Drink Fanta? [slurp]
The spaces are even easier. From bottom to top they spell the word FACE - F-A-C-E. That means that the notes across the whole stave from bottom to top are E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E and F.
Awesome, so now we know what notes to play let's explore how rhythms are notated.
Each line of music is divided into bars. Each bar is fenced off with vertical bar lines. The top number of the time signature tells us how many beats are in each bar. The top number of this time signature is 4 so there are always four beats in every bar.
Ok, quick recap - music is chopped up into equal segments, called bars, and the time signature, which only appears once, at the start of the first line, tells you how many beats there are in each bar.
Ok, on to the different note lengths now. I'll give you the American names for note lengths, which make perfect sense, and the British names, which make no sense!
A note that's hollow is called a "whole note" and lasts for 4 beats. In a 4/4 time signature that note lasts the whole bar. The UK name for that is a “semi-breve".
A note that’s hollow but has a "stem" is called a "half note" and is worth two beats. In a 4/4 time signature that note takes up half the bar. We call that a “minim".
A note with a stem that's filled in is called a "quarter note" and lasts for one beat. In a bar of 4/4 there are four quarter notes. We call that a "crotchet" and, finally for now, a filled-in note head with the stem with a twiddly bit on the tail [lol] is called an "eighth note" and lasts for half a beat. In a bar of 4/4 there are eight eighth notes. We call that a “quaver”. Multiple eighth notes in a row have stems connected with a “beam".
So in summary, a whole note - four beats long, half note - two beats long, quarter note - one beat, eighth note - half a beat.
Now you know the basics of how to read music - which note to play and how long it lasts for. Let's see how it unfolds in a real example then. I’m not sure if my final cut pro skills are gonna stretch to a animated bouncing Disney Mickey or anything like that but I'll have a go!
Right, this is what “mary had a little lamb" looks like written out in treble clef... [music plays]
So now you know the absolute basics of how to read music, however, there's a lot more to the equation that we haven't even touched on yet, like rests, key signatures, dynamics, sixteenth notes, chords, phrasing and articulation, tempo information and so much more, but that's all for another day.
So I hope you enjoyed this video learning how to read music. As usual, if you enjoyed the content please subscribe down below. Check out some of my other videos and I'll see you next time on Get Your Sax Together!
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