Reading Standard Notation 1 - Pitch

How many of you tried to learn how to read sheet music? Raise your hands, folks. Nice, 70% of you. Ok, but how many of you actually learned them? What does it mean... none?

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E|-----Daniel-----------------------------------
B|-------------Kaczmarczyk----------------------
G|--------------------------Guitar--------------
D|-LESSON--#3-----------------------Lessons-----
A|----------------------------------------------
E|----------------------------------------------
Reading the notes #1 Pitch. How to silence a guitarist? Tell him to play from sheet music. Hello to All and Welcome to my next music theory lesson. This time we will talk about reading standard notation or just reading the notes. There's not much to say about guitarists and standard music notation, which an old joke from the beginning shows us. Hendrix haven't knew them and kicked asses with his guitar skills, that's right. But we're not as gifted as him (as far I know :P ) so a little lesson about them won't be a big deal, yup? Ability of using them helps you understand music a lot more, so don't be afraid of them. Let's break the stereotype. Knowing how to read the notes is , obviously not a must for a guitarist-at-home , but if you want to keep it professional, you should gain this skill for sure. Just imagine playing with a pianist and trying to communicate with him talking about notes as frets. It's a language of music and a very important studio tool. Before you proceed reading that one, I suggest you to read my previous lesson here. To be honest, it's essential to know the previous one. At the bottom of the lesson is the graphic with all the pictures. To see them, Just go down. Enough of this chit-chat. Guitars tuned properly? Let's get to work. Notes are placed on staff. Pitch is mapped vertical(the higher the note is, the higher the sound is), rhythm is mapped horizontal. This lesson is about reading the pitch, so don't mind the rhythm. Staff is made from five horizontal parallel lines. Look at the picture #1 now. We put notes on lines(1), and spaces(2) between them. Lines and notes are being numbered as you see on the picture. Do not confuse the staff with the guitar strings! Guitar music is being written with a G clef(3) also called a treble clef. G clef, obviously is a clef(music theory language ?) and that little flourish (that's my own name for it, it's not an official name) in the middle of it(4) shows us where the G note (5) is. Rest of the notes are located as you can see on the picture #2. In that example I used C major scale, which is the most natural scale to place on the staff, because there is no accidentals. Notes, as I said before, are located on the lines and between them. For example, C note is on the line, so D note will be on the space higher than C. So if D note is on the space, E note will be on the line, etc, etc. Compare tab with the notes to know where the notes are on your guitar, but You know it from my previous lesson, right? To show you the C major scale I used three versions of the tab. As you can see ( and hear play it on your guitar now ) they sound the same, look the same in the standard notation, but vary in tabulature. Check it out now (the funk soul brother). Right about now. I've also marked other landmarks The C notes. When you will be playing in the key of C major ( more about keys, and the circle of fifths in one of my future lessons) it's an important place to know. Notice that the lower C note is on the line that we call a ledger line. We use them if there is no more staff lines or spaces between them, we write down some more short-versions of them, and count out the notes normally, as we do on our 5-line staff. Examples of those notes can be seen on pic #3. The ability of playing this melody using few fingerings forces us to define the position in which we will be playing. It makes reading the notes a lot easier. For the beginning we will use first position, as in the #2 A example. That means that every note we play can be played only between 0 and 4th fret. It's called an open position. (look at pic #4, also). Now it's time to remember where the notes on the staff are. Use mnemonics for that! The first set of notes the one on the spaces is an easy one to remember just know it's F A C E (from lowest to highest). The other one E G B D F is a little harder. I've found a great mnemonic on it in the internet: (E)lephants (G)o (B)ackwards (D)own (F)reeways. And a one for FACE is Farting Always Causes Enemies. They're funny and weird, so you'll won't forget them for sure. So, a little recipe how to play notes goes like this: 1. Looking at the note, consider its name. Use a G clef as a prompt. If it's distance is too big to count out from G, use mnemonics to find the one you are looking for. 2. Knowing the name, connect the name with a place on fretboard, and then with a fret. 3. Just play the note. Few first tries are going to be a hard way up the hill, but when you get to the top, you'll never fall down. It's like a learning how to ride a bicycle. Remember how many bruises it took to learn? But now you can ride it and write an SMS. (If sober). That's all about reading the notes. We have left rhythm behind, but it's a subject for a whole another article. Deal with this one and within a week or two you'll get another one, including rhythmic issues. Haven't you been thinking that I will let you go without a homework ? Find on the net, or buy a staff paper and write some of the notes from today's lesson, then name them. Remember to stick only to notes in the open position (from the low E (6th string) to the G (3rd fret, 1st string). And do it in reverse think about some notes as letters, and place them on the staff. Mind the range! Only open position allowed. So this is how the basics of reading notes go. I would be pleased if even 10% of people who will read the article will learn the basics of standard notation. Anyway... Learn. Play. Rock. Grateful for your attention Daniel Kaczmarczyk lodzgitara@gmail.com PS. How's my english today?

14 comments sorted by best / new / date

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    guitarmaniac88
    HaistaPaska92 wrote: I learned the clefs by just remembering that they go in order. Treble clef starts with E and goes F,G,A,B,C,D,E,F. And the bass clef starts with G and ends in A. I've never understood why someone who knows the first 7 letters of the alphabet needs mnemonics to learn them. Your English is not as bad as people say since I can understand it perfectly and I'm not even a native English speaker. And as a person who is just now getting into theory and reading sheet music these lessons have been quite helpful. 8/10
    Mnemonics are faster. Why count 5 notes out to find E, when you could immediately think "FACE" and know it's at the top? And his English is not good. Now, that was not meant to be offensive at all, but as a native English speaker, I know it isn't very good. It isn't to the point of incomprehension, just grammar mistakes that seem obvious to someone like me who has spoken English all their life. Good lesson, I don't care about the grammar, it's still a good lesson series, can't wait for more.
    shal_nak
    this article may not be the best, but it has important details. menotbug and i may not be beginners, so i guess this article is not meant for us..but i know there are thousands of beginners browsing this site that may need the info about sheet music. true, you don't really need to know the science of music to produce it's art...but knowing and sharing a fact or two may not be bad after all. nice job.
    menotbug
    Brush up on your English. Don't talk down to your readers, you imply that it is very unprofessional if you don't know sheet music, and it felt like you were trying to explain things to a 3 year old. Also, most of us know our notes inside and out, thus can communicate with anyone else that knows their notes (and that is something every musician should know.) And not that it matters I can read sheet music quite well. Not trying to offend just my two cents.
    daniel.kPL
    Explaining it like its for a 3 year old kid is not what I ment, but keeping it simple is the best way for everyone to understand. This lesson is for true begginers
    AeolianWolf
    [q]you imply that it is very unprofessional if you don't know sheet music[/quote] ...it IS. unless you're going to make it big with a band or know the next david letterman, you will not be taken seriously if you don't know how to read music. not very satisfying if you want to be a career musician. think of it like wanting to be a russian translator for the UN with an intricate knowledge of the language while lacking the ability to read the cyrillic alphabet.
    Stephrocknroll
    Hi, I noticed that G on the staff is on the 2nd line from the bottom but in the first section of the staff it is played as a third open string but in the second section the G is played on the 5th fret of the 5th string. So when reading music, how can one know where to play that G? Is there anything that indicates it or give a hint? Thank!
    LLRockerChic
    I've had 8 years of RC piano lessons including Theory and never understood how to translate it into guitar. I've just read through your first two classes ... THANK YOU! I totally understand now. Keep teaching the simplistic science behind the music please. When we understand WHY, we can understand HOW... maybe that's just me tho ...
    Tuna Helper
    I never heard elephants go backward down freeways, but I heard Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge (Or Does Fine) and Every Girl Band Deserves Funding.
    daniel.kPL
    Hmmm... I have to make smaller picture next time. This one does not fit so good to the screen. Thanks for all the comments, also rate the lesson!
    metallicamadmik
    I've been fortunate enough to know all this music theory (high school band, aww yeahhh)...its just the matter of reading the notation and playing it on my bass where I get f***ed up.
    Nitnatsnok
    metallicamadmik wrote: I've been fortunate enough to know all this music theory (high school band, aww yeahhh)...its just the matter of reading the notation and playing it on my bass where I get f***ed up.
    Yeah on piano middle C is obvious, not so on guitar
    HaistaPaska92
    I learned the clefs by just remembering that they go in order. Treble clef starts with E and goes F,G,A,B,C,D,E,F. And the bass clef starts with G and ends in A. I've never understood why someone who knows the first 7 letters of the alphabet needs mnemonics to learn them. Your English is not as bad as people say since I can understand it perfectly and I'm not even a native English speaker. And as a person who is just now getting into theory and reading sheet music these lessons have been quite helpful. 8/10
    JimDawson
    Informative lesson! The only bit of criticism you have from me is that you could have gone into detail about different clefs and how they point to different notes. Of course, most people would just use the treble clef anyway but it's still relevant to sheet music.