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Learning to Read Music 1: Lesson 10

 

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Learning To Read Music Tutorial 1

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Now we have a beginning, introductory grasp on how to read music. We have explored how music notation shows what notes to play and when to play those notes & for how long.

There are further aspects of reading music:

1. What speed to play the piece, called tempo.

2. How loudly or quietly to play those notes, called dynamics.

3. What qualities those notes should have; such as staccato (sharp & disconnected) or legato (smooth & connected), called phrasing & timbre.

4. What scale is being used, called the key signature .

For example, we learned rhythm notation, which shows when to play those notes & for how long. This is the most essential information. But it only shows how fast or slow to play the notes relative to each other. It doesn't tell us how fast or slow to play the piece overall.

That is what tempo is for. Tempo is the overall speed at which a piece (or section) of music is played. It is measured in Beats Per Minute, abbreviated as BPM, in order to have an objective way of measuring the passage of time in reference to the passage of beats in a measure.

The GT Metronome (or any metronome) will show the Beats Per Minute and play a click according to that number. A metronome is an absolutely essential tool every musician should have for practicing.

60 BPM is one beat per second. This is a relatively slow tempo. 120 BPM is twice as fast! One beat every one-half second; or two beats evenly spaced per second. This is a relatively medium tempo. 180 BPM is three times as fast; it is three beats evenly spaced per second. This is a relatively fast tempo.

Most music notation shows the tempo in BPM at the top of the score.

Although tempo can be indicated by means of BPM, it can also be indicated by means of descriptive words such as "slowly" or "quickly". Classical pieces frequently use Italian words like "adagio" or "allegro"; which mean slowly or quickly, respectively. Sometimes both types of indications will be seen in a musical score.

Other characteristics, such as key signature, dynamics, phrasing & timbre are covered in the Learning To Read Music Tutorial Part 2.

In the video lesson I use Beethoven "Ode To Joy" theme again to show how to get better at reading music. I hope this gives you a good introduction to the essential skill of reading music. The sooner you learn this skill the quicker your ability to play music will greatly improve. And in the end that is what all this stuff is about!

Happy playing ... and reading!

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