Saturday, March 21, 2009

Music Basics Guide for the Beginning Musician

Hello! Welcome to the wonderful world of music. Have you always dreamed of being able to learn to READ MUSIC and play the piano, keyboard, guitar or any other instrument? Well, your dream is just about to come true with this Beginning Music Course.

This is not rocket science but it does take a genuine commitment on your part to read all this Music Course in order to learn the music fundamentals that will apply to any instrument. Be sure to STICK WITH IT!

Did you know that pianos in some form have been around for over 500 years? Some of the first instruments of this kind 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.

MUSICAL TERMS Let's begin our musical study with a review of the main musical terms you will need to be familiar with to proceed with your music education.

  • 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 is to 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.
  • BASS CLEF - The reversed C-shaped symbol which stand for notes played with the left hand.
  • 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.
  • QUARTER REST - Musical symbol resembling a sideways W which gets one count.
  • HALF NOTE - Musical symbol with hollow note head and stem which gets two counts.
  • 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.
  • WHOLE NOTE - Musical symbol resembling a circle on the staff which gets four counts.
  • 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 together.
  • BLOCKED CHORD - Two or more notes played at the same time
  • BROKEN CHORD - Two or more notes from the same chord played in sequence
  • INTERVALS - The distance between two notes on the musical staff 


There are only seven (7) letter names used on the piano:
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.
Since it is not possible to include a graphic in this format, simply remember that the 'CDE' note groups in always located directly underneath the two black note group. The letter name 'D' in the white key always located directly inbetween the two black key note groups. ANY TWO BLACK NOTE GROUP on the piano has the letter name 'D' as the white key located in between them.

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 we will learn about the F - G - A - B note groups. Simply located 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!

The vehicle for expression in music comes through the context of dynamic markings. Since the Italians were the ones to first write marks of expression in their music as well as print the first music manuscripts on paper, all of the marks of expression or dynamics are from Italian words.

Piano - Italian word for soft. symbol used in music: p
Pianissimo - Very soft; symbold used: pp
Mezzo Forte - Medium Loud; symbol used: mf
Forte - Loud; symbol used: f
Fortissimo - Very Loud; symbol used: ff

Now that you have learned the Basics of Music by learning the note names, learning the note values and exploring music dynamics, you are ready to progress to the next level, that of learning to actually READ MUSIC.

About The Author

Jan Durrant creates music learning resources for new musicians of all ages.
Regardless of your current musical skill level, you will find wonderful multil media music learning resources for the whole family at email