Sheet music can be imposing if you are a new music student. Seemingly written in its own language, it can seem like you are expected to be able to read code. In a way you are. Sheet music is written in such a way that musicians can look at it and tell instantly what key, tempo and scale they should be playing in. If you are looking to learn more about sheet music and how to read it then you will have to start at the beginning and work your way through; just as you would when playing a piece in the first place.
The very first thing you must recognize is the structure. While different pieces of music may have varying parts, the basic elements of sheet music will always remain the same. The first important piece of this would be the staff. The staff includes not only the five lines that you see on the paper. It also includes the four spaces in between each of these lines. Each of the lines and spaces will correspond with a single note. You will find the other musical portions in various places on the staff.
There will be a clef sign, a time signature, a key signature and then any other marking that may denote a certain tempo or pitch that is intended. Each of these will work together in order to bring order to the notes that will be found across the staff and help to build the piece of music that they are to become. Now that you know the name of the different parts you can begin to learn what each one is and what its purpose might be. The first part you will find is the clef symbol.
The clef symbol is determined by the the voice that you sing or your particular instrument. There are two different clefs, treble and bass, which determine the octave of the notes you play or sing. They also determine the notes that will be played. The treble clef is the first one we will discuss. Mainly used for higher pitched voices and instruments, it looks somewhat like a reverse S with a line that bisects it vertically.
The lines of the treble clef staff can be memorized quite easily by the use of an acronym. From the bottom to the top: Every Good Boy Does Fine or EGBD and F. The spaces can be memorized just as easily if not more so: FACE or F A C and E. The bass clef is the second of the two clefs. It is used for instruments and voices that are in a much lower register. The acronym for bass clef notes are as easy to memorize as those of the treble clef. The lines are Good Boys Do Fine Always or GBDFA. The spaces are All Cows Eat Grass or ACE and G.
The next part of the musical language you must learn is the key signature. This will tell you which scale you will be using as a base for your piece. The notes will be marked as to which ones are sharp, flat or natural and this will hold true for the entire piece unless individual notes are marked otherwise. The last piece of the language you will find at the beginning of the musical piece will be the time signature.
The time signature will let you know how many notes you will be playing per measure. A measure is a part of the staff separated from the other parts by vertical lines. The time measure is represented as a whole number or a fraction. 4/4 is regarded as the standard time signature unless another time signature is listed. There are several different time signatures that may be used including 6/8, 2/3, and 3/4.
Now that you know the basics of the staff you will be all set to begin learning the basics of the different notes and the length of time they should be held. Enjoy!