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Cindy Perkins

on 6 November 2014

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Transcript of Notes

The Staff
Learning to read music is like learning a new language. You can think of notes as the equivalent of letters in a language. In fact, notes have letter names!
But before we can learn much about notes, we need to put those notes into a more meaningful context.
This training topic is all about notes - what they look like, their names, and what they sound like.

The other topics on this site,
like rhythm and shaping,
determine how the notes
will form a song or melody.

Notes, Clefs, & the Staff
by Cindy Perkins
Music is also written from left to right, but not on a single line.

Instead, written music uses a system of five lines with equal space in between, called a

Words and sentences in the English
language are written from left to right in a straight line.

Like this, right?

Notes can be placed on any line or in any space on the staff, or above/below the staff. The position of the note on the staff determines the pitch (and the name) of the note. More on that later.
Used for higher notes. Usually women's voice and high instruments parts (flute, violin, trumpet) are written in the treble clef.
In addition to the position on the staff, the "clef" also determines the pitch of the note.

There are two commonly used clefs:
treble clef
bass clef

(There are actually more than this, but you don't need to worry about them unless you play the viola, or a couple less common instruments.)
Used for lower notes. Usually men's voice and low instrument parts (cello, tuba, bassoon) are written in the bass clef.
The Grand Staff
When the treble and bass clefs are put together like this, it is called the
Grand Staff
. Normally piano music and full choir parts are written on a grand staff. This is necessary to include the full range of notes (high and low) being played or sung.
So what is a musical "note"?
Scientifically, a musical note, or tone, is just the frequency at which air vibrates. Lower tones vibrate at a slower speed than higher tones.
For example, the lowest key on a piano vibrates at 27.5 hz.
While the highest key vibrates at just over 4,186 hz!
Written music uses the letters A through G to document these notes or tones. Every 8 notes, the letter name of the note will repeat. This 8 note interval is called an octave.
The following diagram shows the names of all notes from the bottom line of the bass clef to the top line of the treble clef.
Although there can also be notes "above or below the staff", the majority of church vocal music will fall in this range.
Think of flats and sharps as "modifiers" of notes.
From the prior slide you can see that the following note is an A:
But, if you put a flat sign in front of it, it becomes an A flat, which is lower than an A but not as low as a G.
Likewise, if you put a sharp sign in front of it, now it is an A sharp, which is higher than an A but not as high as a B.
Full transcript