How to Read Music – Article 2

Notes on Your Instrument

Last article I talked about reading the first measure of a score and today I want to talk about knowing the string names and starting to read our first score.

You gotta know your string names. So learn them if you haven’t already.

Do not try to read guitar music while in another tuning. Stay in standard tuning. Piano players and other instrumentalists you must also know the notes on your instrument so begin studying them as much as possible.

You have to know where all your E notes are for example, and your A notes and your D notes… and so on.

This one single note can serve as a reference note to other notes all over the neck. Once you know where all your E notes are… a half step above are your F notes.

The way I learned on the guitar was Do Re Mi.

On the 5th string 3rd fret was Do, 5th fret was Re and 7th fret was Mi.

In other words I learned my instrument by first learn where C D and E were.


Let’s take a look at this piece of music right here



The First 6 notes are f – f – eb – d – eb -c.

3 quarter notes, a dotted quarter note, an 8th note and 2 more quarter notes.

The 4th note is a dotted quarter and lasts for 1.5 times the quarter note, aka a quarter plus an 8th note.

f f g a Bb g

Same motive.

f f eb f g f

Bar 4 –

eb c c Bb c c

Go back and figure out the notes yourself without looking at the notes I just gave you.

When you’re finished with that figure out the notes on the top staff for all 16 measures on the first page.

This is a Hungarian peasant song by Bella Bartok. I chose this because I like his music and for no other reason. I looked for a fairly simple piece.

At the top you will see that it says improvisation. An improvisation is just played…and the the notes are figured out later, which turns this piece not into it an improvisation, but into a real piece.

But it was originally an improvisation and that’s why it’s called an improvisation.

It’s taken from the eight improvisations on Hungarian peasant songs … you can see the full score by scrolling down on the PDF.

At the top it also says moderato. This means at a moderate pace, sort of like walking pace, not too fast not too slow either… but moderate.

The next piece of information is the three over two time signature. What this means is that there are 3 half notes that can fit into a measure.

The 3 tells you how many are allowed in the measure and the 2 tells you the value of the note that gets the beat.

On the left-hand side you see a Treble clef although this is played on the piano.

Normally you would see a G clef or a Treble clef and a bass clef. This means with the left hand you are gonna play the melody although you could probably do it with either if you’re a piano player.

If you’re a guitarist it doesn’t matter.

What I’m trying to get at is to be careful when you look at a score. You have to look on the left-hand side first before you play a piece to see what key it is in.

And in what octave or register you are going to play those notes.

In article 1 how to read music I told you I was going to show you things as we went along as opposed to the very boring way of reading music with nursery rhymes.

We shall continue on in that fashion…


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