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Chapter 1
Music notation is much more precise and
complicated then written language. When
we notate music, we use symbols that
show three of the four properties of sound
described in the introduction chapter:
pitch and duration are given accurately,
and relative intensity is indicated.
Furthermore, pitch and duration are shown
We have determined in the
previous chapter that pitch
describes the highness or
lowness of a tone. In music
notation, we show the desired
pitch by positioning symbols on
a staff and they are identified
with letter names.
The Staff consists of five equally spaced
horizontal lines
For the letter names that we give the
different pitches, we use the letters……..
Please take a look at the piano in figure 1.2
A Clef is placed at the beginning of each line of music, and this tells us
what letter names go on each line and space of that particular staff.
The treble clef is a fancy letter G. The curved line terminates at the
second line of the staff, thus designating the letter name of the note on
that line as G.
Please look at Figure 1.3 to see the staff with the Treble, or G clef
The bass clef is called the F clef because it
was derived from the letter F The dots are
placed above and below the fourth line of
the staff, designating that line as F.
Please look down at Figure 1.4 to see the staff with the Bass or F Clef
When we put the treble and bass clefs together we
make was is called the Grand staff.
Figure 1.5 shows the point at which both clefs converge. The two C’s are the
same pitch: Middle C
The grand staff is associated most often with keyboard music. Look at
Figure 1.6 to see the relationship between the grand staff, the standard 88
key piano keyboard, and middle c
Pitches that go beyond the limits of the staff are written by
adding ledger lines above or below the staff. Ledger lines, which
parallel the staff, accommodate only one note.
Look down at Figure 1.7
The odd ball of the group and the one that is not commonly used in
many instruments is called the C Clef
A C Clef may be positioned on any line of the
staff. The line that the middle of the clef
rests on is designated as middle C. The
name we give the clef depends on what line
it is on. Look down at figure 1.8
Let’s practice
some on the
Since the pitch spectrum is so wide, it is often
necessary to identify a specific note by the
octave in which it appears.
Simply Put……..How do we know what “C” we are talking about? How
do we know what “G” we are talking about and so on……
Look down at Figure 1.9 to see the number system……
Accidentals are symbols that are placed to the left of the noteheads to
indicate the raising or lowering of a pitch.
Sharp – raises the pitch a half step
Flat – lowers the pitch a half step
Natural – cancels any previous sharp or flat
and returns to the natural, or unaltered,
Double Sharp – raises the pitch two half
Double Flat – lowers the pitch two half
Check out Figure 1.11
An interval is the relationship or the
distance between two tones. In
Western music, the half step is the
smallest interval used. It is the interval
between any two adjacent keys – black
or white – on the keyboard.
To notate duration we use the following notes:
A tie is a curved line that connects two
adjacent notes of the same pitch into a
single sound with a duration equal to the
sum of both note values.
Placing a dot next to a note lengthens the value
of the note by half of it’s value.
We talked about meter as being the regular,
recurring pattern of strong and weak beats.
This recurring pattern of durations is identified
at the beginning of a composition by a meter
signature or time signature.
There are two parts of a time
signature……….the top number and the
bottom number.
The top number tells us how many beats are in each measure.
The bottom number tells us what type of beat equals one full beat.
If the number on the bottom is:
This note that is 1 full beat:
A simple meter means that each beat or pulse is divided into two
equal parts.
And then there is a compound meter which means that each beat
or pulse is divided into three equal parts.
The top
numbers that
indicate a
simple meter
The numbers on the
top that indicate a
compound meter
The other part of identifying a meter is whether or not it’s a duple
meter, a triple meter or a quadruple meter.
This just labels how many “pulses” there in each measure.
The two numbers
for a duple meter
The two numbers for
a triple meter
The two numbers for
a quadruple meter
Measures that cannot be grouped into equal groups of 2, 3, or
4 beats are known as asymmetrical meters
Top numbers of
asymmetrical meters are
If a part of the measure that is usually unstressed is accented, the
rhythm is considered to be syncopated.
We talked about dynamic markings that indicate a certain single
volume to be performed. There are certain dynamic markings
indicating a change to be made over a certain time frame.
Look down at the second half of the chart at the top of page 15,
and it will show you a couple of examples.
As mentioned in previous classes, there are certain directions or
rules that you need to follow when writing out music notation,
which you will have to do in later chapters.
The first rule is that the stem must be drawn exactly one
When a staff contains only one melody, there is a very general rule as to
which direction the note stems go. If the note head is on the middle line
or higher the note stem will be pointing downward. If the note head is
below the middle line the stem will point up ward.
If note heads are placed on ledger lines, the stem must be drawn back to
the middle line.
If the staff consists of more than one melody, the stems for one of the
melodies will point up, and the stems for the other melody will point
If there are notes that get connected by beams…….the stems must be
modified so that the beam for each group of notes doesn’t cross more
than one line on the staff.
It is also very important to beam those notes in groups that coincide
with the beats of the measure
To divide a group of notes into an abnormal grouping, you use a number over
the grouping indicating the number of notes in that group.
When two notes in a chord are adjacent notes, the higher of the two gets
placed on the right side of the stem.