Have you ever heard a song on the radio and thought to yourself, “Hey, that’d be really awesome if I could play that?” Do you have musical instrument-playing friends and wish to join in the fun? Do you simply want to broaden your artistic horizons? Learning the fundamentals of how to read sheet music can help you reach all of these goals, and in less time than you would think!
At its most basic level, music is a language, similar to reading aloud from a book. For hundreds of years, the symbols you’ll see on sheet music pages have been in use. They indicate the song’s pitch, pace, and rhythm, as well as the expression and skills utilised by the performer to perform the composition. Consider the notes to be letters, the measures to be words, and the phrases to be sentences. Learning to read music truly opens up a whole new world for you to discover!
You’ll be playing along in no time if you follow our step-by-step introduction to the language of music below and download your FREE tools at the end of this article.
How to Read Music Sheets
Step 1: Learn the Basic Notation Symbols
Music is composed of a number of symbols, the most basic of which are the staff, clefs, and notes. These fundamental components may be found in all music, and learning to read music requires a thorough understanding of them.
Five lines and four spaces make up the staff. Each of those lines and spaces symbolises a distinct letter, and each of those letters indicates a note.
The treble clef is the first of two main clefs with which to get acquainted. On the extreme left side of the treble clef is an ornate letter G. The inner swoop of the G encircles the staff’s “G” line. The treble clef represents the higher registers of music, therefore if you play a flute, violin, or saxophone, your sheet music will be written in the treble clef. The treble clef is also used to notate higher notes on a keyboard. To remember the note names for the treble clef’s lines and spaces, we employ mnemonics. We recall EGBDF via the word cue “Every Good Boy Does Fine” for lines. Similarly, FACE is the same as the word “face” when it comes to spaces.
The “F” line on the bass clef staff, often known as the F clef, is the line between the two bass clef dots. The bass clef represents the lower registers of music, thus if you play a bassoon, tuba, or cello, your sheet music will be written in the bass clef. The bass clef is also used to notate lower notes on a piano.
The notes on the staff inform us which note letter to play and for how long on our instrument. Each note is made up of three parts: the note head, the stem, and the flag.
Every note has a note head, which is either filled (black) or unfilled (white) (white). Which note you play depends on where the note head is on the staff (on a line or a space). Note heads are sometimes placed above or below a staff’s five lines and four spaces. In that situation, as in the B and C notes above, a line (known as a ledger line) is placed through the note, either above or below the note head, to indicate the note letter to play.
The note stem is a slender line that runs from the note head up or down. When pointing upward, the line extends from the right, and when pointing downward, it extends from the left. The orientation of the line has no bearing on how you play the note; it simply makes the notes easier to read while still fitting neatly on the staff. Notes at or above the B line on the staff typically have downward pointing stems, whereas notes below the B line typically have upward pointing stems.