Learn to Read Piano Music...This Afternoon!
by Jan Durrant
Making Music Now
MUSIC MINI COURSE
LEARNING THE BASICS OF READING MUSIC ON A KEYBOARD INSTRUMENT
CHAPTER ONE: OVERVIEW AND MUSICAL TERMS
Welcome to the wonderful world of music. As you begin reading this Music Mini Course it is fun to realize that you are also participating in a very important cultural aspect from around the world which has been going on for centuries. Did you know that pianos in some form have been around for over 500 years? Some of the first instruments of this kind were created in the late Medieval Period and were called clavichords. They had a very light, metallic sound because the small hand-pounded 'hammers' were made of very light weight metal-like material. These hammers struck strings of varying lengths to create different tones or pitches. The next cousin to the clavichord was the harpsichord invented by Cristofori in Italy around 1450 A.D. This keyboard instrument had a mechanism in it called the plecktrum which 'plucked' the strings and produced a slightly stronger sound than its predecessor. Whether you are playing an acoustic instrument, which is the closest relative to the history just mentioned, or an electronic keyboard, you are now participating in a centuries old musical art form.
SOME PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS: PIANO OR KEYBOARD?
Does it matter if you apply the information in this course to a keyboard or a piano? Certainly not. The only real difference is that a full size piano has 88 keys (counting both the white and black keys). Keyboards come in several different sizes. Some have 60 keys, some even less. There are also 88 key electronic keyboards and digital pianos that produce very realistic acoustic sounds. Whatever size your instrument may be, remember that the ARRANGEMENT of the keys and the ORDER of the KEY NAMES is the same on both instruments. Rest assured that your basic knowledge of the fundamentals of music can be done very effectively either on a keyboard or a piano.
As an added bonus for you I have created a practice chart and placed it at the end of this Course. Please feel free to make copies of this practice chart for your own personal use. As I am sure you have heard before, a habit of doing anything takes root much better when we write down the thing that we are doing on a daily basis.
Begin your musical study by becoming familiar with these very important musical terms:
BAR LINE - A vertical line which separates notes into groups.
DOUBLE BAR LINE - A set of two (2) vertical lines which stand for the end of a piece of music.
REPEAT SIGN - Double bar with two dots at the end of a section or piece of music which indicates that section will be played twice.
MEASURE - The distance between two bar lines.
TREBLE CLEF - The S-shaped symbol which stands for notes played with the right hand. This is also referred to as the G cleff since this inner curve of the symbol rests on the G line.
BASS CLEF - The reversed C-shaped symbol which stand for notes played with the left hand. This clef is also referred to as the F cleff since the two dots beside the clef surround the F line.
STAFF - The five lines and four spaces of both the bass and treble clefs.
QUARTER NOTE - Musical symbol with solid note head and stem which gets one count of sound.
QUARTER REST - Musical symbol resembling a sideways W which gets one count of silence.
HALF NOTE - Musical symbol with hollow note head and stem which gets two counts of sound.
HALF REST - Solid half block sitting on third line of the staff which gets two counts of silence.
DOTTED HALF NOTE - Musical symbol with hollow note head, dot and stem which gets three counts of
WHOLE NOTE - Musical symbol resembling a circle on the staff which gets four counts of sound.
WHOLE REST - Solid half block hanging from the second line on the staff which gets four counts of silence.
CHORD - Two or more notes played at the same time.
BLOCKED CHORD - Two or more notes from the same chord played at the same time.
BROKEN CHORD - Two or more notes from the same chord played in sequence.
INTERVAL - The distance between two notes on the musical staff.
FINGERING - Refers to which finger number is used to play a particular note (See Chapter Two: Fingering)
CURVED FINGER - Refers to playing with a rounded finger and on the tip of each finger. This is the best position of the fingers for playing piano or keyboard because it develops finger strength and independence.
CHAPTER TWO: FINGERING, LEARNING BLACK AND WHITE KEYS
EACH FINGER HAS A FINGER NUMBER!
5 4 3 2 1 1 2 3 4 5
LEFT HAND RIGHT HAND
**THE THUMB OF EACH HAND IS FINGER #1 *
*THE INDEX FINGER OF EACH HAND IS FINGER #2 *
*THE MIDDLE FINGER OF EACH HAND IS FINGER #3 *
*THE PINKY FINGER OF EACH HAND IS FINGER #5
WHICH FINGER IS #4???????????
CURVED FINGER EXERCISE
Are you ready to play your first piano exercise? Let's start with a right hand finger exercise. Place your right hand thumb on any white key in the middle of your piano or keyboard. If you do not have a piano or keyboard, simply place your hand on top of your desk or any flat surface and continue. Now, simply place each finger numbers 2, 3, 4 and 5 (pinky finger) next to each other on the keyboard or desktop. Each finger should have a key of its very own to strike if you are using a keyboard. Never put more than one finger on a key.
Now start with your thumb and plan the white keys in sequence. Say: 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5- 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 as you play each of those fingers. Repeat this pattern three times. Now place your left hand thumb on any white key of your piano or keyboard and go through the same exercise. Be sure to say the fingers number as above. Say the finger numbers reinforces the fact that thumbs are one and pinky fingers are five. This will especially helpful to you later as you will be saying counts instead of finger numbers.
LEARNING THE BLACK KEY GROUPS
Take a look at your keyboard and notice the pattern of two black note groups and three black note groups repeating itself all up and down your keyboard instrument. This is the same way that these black note groups look on your piano or keyboard.
Please take a moment at your own keyboard and find the two and three black note groups in the following sequence:
2 Black 3 Black 2 Black 3 Black 2 Black 3 Black 2 Black 3 Black
(bottom of keyboard) (top of keyboard)
When I refer to the 'bottom' of the piano please go down to the left-hand side of your instrument. Obviously, when I refer to the top of the piano please go all the way up to the right hand side of the piano.
Using the diagram above, go to your keyboard and practice moving in both upward and downward directions.
FIRST FINGER EXERCISES USING THE TWO AND THREE BLACK NOTE GROUPS
Following are two finger exercises. The first exercise will introduce the two black note group. First, place finger number 2 and 3 on top of any two balck note group (remember your right hand thumb is finger number 1, your right hand index finger is finger number 2, etc.). Repeat the finger number sequence below as you practice on your keyboard or just on a table top. Just say the finger number that you are using at that moment. Use your RIGHT HAND FIRST and play evenly. Then use your LEFT HAND and repeat the same pattern:
TWO BLACK NOTE GROUP EXERCISE:
2 3 2 3 2 3 2 3 3 2 3 2 3 2 3 2 2 2 2 2 3 3 3 3
2 3 2 3 2 3 2 3
The second exercise will introduce the three black note group. Use finger numbers 2, 3 and 4 on this exercise while placing these three fingers on top of any three black note group on your piano/keyboard. Again, be sure to whisper the finger number as you play evenly. Even though these are just finger exercises, it is still very important to practice evenly and clearly without rushing through. Use these two exercises daily to warm up your fingers and develop finger independence and strength. Use RIGHT then LEFT hands:
THREE BLACK NOTE GROUP EXERCISE:
2 3 4 3 2 3 4 3 4 3 2 3 4 3 2 3 2 3 2 3 4 3 4 3 2 3 4 3 2 3 4 3
After practicing each of the above finger exercises on the two and three black note groups five times each for 2-3 days, you will then be ready to place both of your hands on the piano/keyboard and play them together. Once you play both hands together you must stop saying the finger numbers because you will be using different finger numbers in each hand. This practice involving both hands playing together will greatly improve your finger independence and facility in the weeks ahead.
INTRODUCTION TO THE WHITE KEYS
There are only seven (7) letter names used on the piano: A B C D E F G. It is interesting to note here that no matter what instrument you play, whether it is piano, tuba or violin, ONLY the seven letter names above are used in the entire realm of music! There are two very easy ways to visualize and remember the names of the white keys on your piano and keyboard. Remember, the note names on an electronic keyboard are the same as on the acoustic piano.
A B C D E F G A B C D E F G A B C D E F G A B C D E F G
Go to your keyboard NOW and start to play all of the C-D-E groups from the lowest (bottom left) to the highest (top right) on your keyboard. Say C - D - E as you play each key.
Now notice the F - G - A - B note groups above. Simply locate any three black note group on your piano or keyboard and realize that the F-G-A-B white keys are located directly beneath them. Directly outside of the three black note groups are 'F' on the left hand side of the three black note group and 'B' on the right hand side of the three black note group. Just fill in the outer 'F' and 'B' with G and A and you are done!
Go to your piano or keyboard NOW and find all of the F-G-A-G white keys underneath each three black note group. As above, play slowly and evenly saying the letter names as you play the F-G-A-B groups from the bottom of the piano or keyboard (low left hand end) to the top of your piano or keyboard (top right hand end). Congratulations! You now know ALL of the white key names on the piano!
TREBLE AND BASS CLEF NOTE NAMES
Both the Treble and Bass clefs each have five lines and four spaces. Learning the actual note names of each line and space (the spaces between each line) is very simple. Please memorize the sentences below for the Treble Clef Line and Space Notes:
Treble Clef Line Notes (starting from the bottom line and moving up)
E G B D F Every Good Boy Does Fine (the first letter of each word helps you remember the order of the notes)
Treble Clef Space Notes (starting from the first space and going up): F A C E Just remember that the treble clef spaces spell the word 'FACE'.
Bass Clef Line and Space Notes are as follows:
Bass Clef Line Notes: G B D F A Great Big Dogs Fight Animals
Bass Clef Space Notes: A C E G All Cars Eat Gas
Now you know all the names of the white keys on your piano or keyboard. You also learned today the actual letter names of each line and space on both the treble and bass clefs. Be sure to keep this article for future reference. By memorizing all of the very important music facts contained here you will be ready to take the next step in your exciting musical journey!
Happy Music Making,
Jan Durrant, Publisher
About the Author:
Jan Durrant is the music publisher of "Play Piano Now" and manages the marketing, composing and publishing for
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