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Theory Lesson: Musical Symbols

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Ted Gibson

on 14 December 2015

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Transcript of Theory Lesson: Musical Symbols

Types of Symbols

These symbols are the foundation of writing music. Without them, there would be no way to write music. They're
common, and are in almost every song.
These symbols are used to find your way in the music. They function like road signs along a trail. If you don't know how to read them you might get lost!
These symbols tell you to use specific techniques, or to pay close attention to the conductor
Theory Lesson: Musical Symbols
The Staff
- Made up of 5 lines
and 4 spaces. This allows you to
draw higher and lower notes.
Bar Line
- These lines divide the staff into measures.
- This is the space between the bar lines. Each measure has a specific number of beats.
These symbols are drawn on the staff to tell the singer how high or low the notes are.
Treble Clef
- This clef is usually used for sopranos and altos. The notes of the treble clef are above "middle C."
Bass Clef
- This clef is usually used for basses. The notes of the bass clef are below "middle C."
* Tenors sometimes use a bass clef and sometimes use a special treble clef with an 8 drawn below it. The special treble clef is usually called "tenor clef" and it's an octave lower than the treble clef.
These symbols give very specific information to the singer and should always be deciphered
beginning the song.
Time Signature
- This symbol usually has two numbers and tells the singer how many beats and what type of notes are in each measure.
Key Signature
- This symbol tells the singer what key the song is in, or which note is "do."
Repeat Sign
- This symbol acts like a time warp. It sends you back in the music, either to the beginning, or to a previous backwards repeat sign.
Double Bar Line
- This symbol comes at the end of the song. It tells you that the song is over.
First Ending
- This bracket stretches over one or more measures and ends with a repeat sign. You
sing this section of the song the
Second Ending
- This bracket comes after the first ending. Once you've sung the first ending and repeated back in the song, you
skip over
the first ending and go to the second ending.
Dal Segno al Coda
- This is an Italian instruction that means "from the sign to the coda." It sends you back in the music (like a repeat sign.)
The Sign
- When you see "D.S. al Coda" go back in the music and look for this sign.
- After you have gone back to the sign, look for the instruction
"To Coda" then skip forward to
this symbol.
- If you see this tiny dot above or below a note it means to sing the note very short and detached.
- If you see this small sideways V above or below a note it means to sing with emphasis.
Breath Mark
- This symbol looks like a comma floating above the staff. It means to take a breath at that point.
No Breath
- If you see a dotted line between two notes
don't breathe there!
Sometimes the composer also writes "N.B."
above the dotted line.
- If you see this symbol above a note pay close attention to the conductor. This symbol tells you to hold the note for as long as the conductor wants!
- This symbol will appear between two notes. It tells the singer to stop, and pause with silence between the notes. Pay close attention to the conductor to know when to stop and start again.
Make sure you know all the symbol names and functions for the Musical Symbols Quiz.
Accidentals are different than normal articulation symbols. Instead of telling you to sing a note
, they tell you to sing a
different note
- when you see a flat next to a note you sing a half-step lower
- when you see a sharp next to a note you sing a half-step higher

- flats and sharps have a lasting affect. They last for a whole measure or a whole song (if in a key signature). Naturals cancel the
affect of sharps or flats for one measure.
Full transcript