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Music Theory

PostPosted: December 1st, 2016, 5:18 pm
by Scruffy Nerf Herder
Reading Music-

Okay, baby steps first, guys.


That is called 'the grand staff'. At the left you can see two clefs, the 'bass clef' on the bottom and the 'treble clef' on the top. There are other clefs that overlap those two, having their own five lines which are more appropriate for the range of particular instruments.

Lines above, in between, and below clefs are ledger lines, and they assist in counting steps away from the clef. There are special forms of notation for handling notes that would take an excessive number of ledger lines otherwise (e.g. the symbol "8va"). For our current purpose you need only familiarize yourself with the two standard clefs, bass and treble, and learn an easy way to memorize the names of the notes on and in between their lines.

Notice how the notes are given in an ascending sequence from A to G. Try thinking of something like the phrase "Every Good Boy Does Fine" for the lines of the treble clef, and "FACE" for it's spaces. When memorizing the bass clef, try the phrases "Good Boys Do Fine Always" and "All Cows Eat Grass". Most musicians look at one clef while reading; grand staves are used by pianists, and in order to reduce many parts down into something like a conductors score; many staves are used to read many parts.

E and F, and B and C, are a half-tone or semi-tone from one another, which would be one fret on a guitar/violin or the very next key on a piano. The others are a whole-tone from one another. In order to notate other notes, a symbol called a 'flat' or a 'sharp' (or even double sharps and double flats on occasion, which are rare and needn't be thought of much by a beginner) is used, and those symbols are used either right next to the big squiggly things all the way at the left (the value of whose tails actually tell you which clef they are; as you can see, the treble clef up top is the G clef and the bass clef, which doesn't look so squiggly, rests on B), or they are used right next to individual notes. When used at the left next to the clef, you are being given 'the key signature' and every time you see a not corresponding to those you are to interpret them accordingly. Conversely, when such a symbol is used next to an individual note, you are being given an 'accidental' and only the value of that note has been changed.


The notes are those open circles you see. Each note has a different appearance telling you it's intended length of time. However, distinguishing between all of those is a matter for later because beginners already have quite enough to think about trying to absorb the staves, clefs, ledger lines, and note/pitch names from A to G. I know, it can confusing that I have just used "note" in more than one sense here...

Compare what you know at this point to what you see here in order to form a perspective on how much more there is to reading music (see how one of the clefs is different for the viola?):

It has been compared to learning another language. Everything from how loud, how fast, what rhythms, what tone, to even general impressions (e.g. "with feeling") the composer wants musicians to try for, and virtually everything else one can imagine, is on the page. Many specialized expressions exist in a standardized list, using various phrases from European languages, and a whole host of symbols that would be unintelligible to someone unfamiliar or presented them in another context; even methods of notation invented by individual composers can come into play.

Some pieces are exceptionally experimental and their sheets are disseminated with copious instructions written by the composer on how to read them:

Re: Music Theory

PostPosted: December 1st, 2016, 5:27 pm
by Scruffy Nerf Herder
The history of music notation-

The earliest literature on music theory is from Greece, in the 6th century B.C. Musical notation, on the other hand, began in Mesopotamia, on cuneiform tablets dated to ~2,000 B.C. See this Hymn to Nikkal:


Their music was composed in harmonies of thirds, using a diatonic scale.

Ancient Greek musical notation was in use from at least the 6th century B.C. until approximately the 4th century A.D.; several complete compositions and fragments of compositions using this notation survive. The notation consists of symbols placed above text syllables. An example of a complete composition is the Seikilos epitaph, which has been variously dated between the 2nd century B.C. to the 1st century A.D.:


Chrysanthos' Kanonion with a comparison between Ancient Greek tetraphonia (column 1), Western Solfeggio, the Papadic Parallage (ascending: column 3 and 4; descending: column 5 and 6) according to the trochos system, and his heptaphonic parallage according to the New Method; this is an excerpt from a Byzantine author, who primarily studied and compared ancient music theory and notation from the Byzantines, Romans, and Greeks:


Modern Western notation has, as it's protozoic form, late Byzantine and Roman notation, for the monophonic chants in liturgical use at the time. This is how musical staves, ornaments, measure bars, and different dots indicating note length originally looked:

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