While some people have the knack for playing music by ear, others need to learn to read music. In fact, most people need to learn to read music to be able to play it. Knowing the basics of reading music goes a long way toward actually knowing how to read it. Here are some of the basics that you’ll want to know when you are trying to learn to read music.
First, you want to realize that the musical notes really are, in many ways, like letters of the alphabet. The musical notes tell you what notes to play, but also tells you when to play them, how to play them, and for how long you should play them.
Find a page of sheet music. You’ll note the music is written across lines that go horizontally across the paper. These are called staffs — the higher the line of the staff, the higher pitch of the note.
At the very beginning of the staff, there will be a symbol. It will either be the G clef, which is the clef for piano music. You’ll notice that the G clef sits at the second line from below and it encircles the position of the g note. The next clef that you want to be aware of is the F clef. The F clef is also known as the bass clef. F clef is a lower pitched clef than the G clef. The F clef marks the note F on the second line of the staff and is usually played with your left hand if you are playing on a piano or a keyboard.
Notes may be written either with a stem pointing up or down, however the direction of the stem does not affect the way the note is played.
Next, you’ll notice that the sheet music is divided into sections by vertical lines. These lines are called bar lines. Inside of each bar line will be a certain number of notes. Depending on the length of the note, you’ll have a number of notes in each bar.
Notes come in many lengths. There are whole notes, for example, which are four times as long as a quarter notes. There is a half note that is half as long as a whole note, or twice as long as a quarter note. There is an eighth note that is an eighth as long as a whole note or half as long as a quarter note. A quarter note, generally speaking, is a single beat.
Those are the basics of learning how to read music. Obviously there is quite a bit more to it, however the best way to learn is to actually begin to start playing some music.