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Music Reading:
Understanding the Music Staff



Q: Was hoping that you could help me with the topic of Music Reading. I have absolutely no understanding of reading music. So, I will just go over what I have been researching so far...

- Ive learned that music is read off of the Music Staff.

- The staff is composed of 5 lines and 4 spaces.

- The lines are named from the bottom going upwards; E, G, B, D, F. (mnemonic = Every Good Boy Does Fine)

- The spaces are named again from bottom going up F, A, C, E (spelling the word FACE).

- There are 5 note durations: Whole = 4 beats, Half = 2 beats, Quarter = 1 beat, Eighth = 1/2 a beat Sixteeth note... (but, I have no idea what it looks like or what it does).

This is all I know. Ive heard that the lines on the staff represent strings on the guitar. If so, how come there are six strings on a guitar and five lines on the staff? And, if the lines are the guitar strings, what do the spaces on the staff represent? I am having a very difficult time understanding this. I have been watching your videos and I am hoping that you could help me to understand all of this. ?
~ Shane

A: Music on the music staff can be difficult to understand because the guitar has a good deal of repeating notes or unisons on it. The music staff only represents one note and it's pitch. However, on the guitar we can have multiple locations to perform that same note.

To develop a good ability at music reading it is important to learn about the staff as well as the notes on the neck.

The music staff range is indicated by a clef sign. Music for guitar is written in the treble clef or also known as the G-Clef.

clefThe staff also contains a key signature indicated by a quantity of sharps or flats.

In the above, we see one sharp. This indicates the key of G Major or E Minor.



Time signatures are also given at the beginning of a piece. The time signature indicates how many notes are in each measure as well as which note receives the count.


Popular time signatures include:

4/4, 3/4, 2/4, 2/2, 3/8, 6/8, 9/8, 12/8

Since the time signature of 4/4 is so popular it is often written as a letter C. The letter C given at the start of a piece is representing something called Common Time. This is the equivalent of 4/4 time.

Aside from the notes and their fingerboard locations, the next most important aspect is rhythm. The rhythms you will need to fully understand are...

Whole Notes: 4 Beats
Dotted Half: 3 Beats
Half Notes: 2 Beats
Quarter Notes: 1 Beat
Eighth Notes: 1/2 a Beat

Get to know their look and feel in time.

Find books which contain long complex classical pieces. This method seems to work extremely well. The beautiful flowing lines of classical music pulls the reader along in easy to relate melodies. Many times, the classical melody can be so easy to relate to that the reader can even anticipate upcoming melodies. This helps immensely with the reader being able to anticipate melody so easily that they can practice lifting harmony as a perfect next step.

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