Learn to Read Music
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Learn to Read Music

Making sense of all the lines and dots
5.0 (11 ratings)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a course's star rating by considering a number of different factors such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
1,893 students enrolled
Created by Johan van Rooyen
Last updated 12/2016
English
Price: Free
Includes:
  • 3 hours on-demand video
  • 23 Articles
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
What Will I Learn?
  • Identify the different elements present in sheet music
  • Explain the importance and meaning of each of these elements
  • Read any note
  • Read and execute rhythms
  • Understand the various expressive and performative instructions included in a score
  • Find the key of a piece of music
  • Identify and play various time signatures
  • Make sense of large complicated scores
  • Use notation as a means to record and store their own musical ideas
  • Have a strong grounding to help them pursue theory, composition, production or song-writing courses
View Curriculum
Requirements
  • Some basic music knowledge
  • A desire to learn more about music
Description

This course is in in-depth journey through all the things that are present in a musical score. It will help you to understand the confusing mass of dots, lines, and words that are used. Together we will be to understand how you can engage more with the written notes, so that you can find newer, more interesting ways to express yourself through music.

Understand and engage with written music with the information you will gain from this course.

  • Learn how to read the actual notes
  • Understand how to read the rhythms
  • Recognize the words that are used for speed, loudness, etc.
  • Find out what the composer wanted to piece to sound like
  • Learn how to add your own personality to the pieces that you play

Many composers and musicians choose to use musical notation to put their ideas down on paper. They have been doing this for hundreds of years, and for them, their music has endured past their death in its written form. Great musicians such as Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin have left their legacy in the form of pages of written music. Anybody that wishes to pursue a career in music would greatly benefit from knowing how to read.

Unlike other courses, which just help you to find certain notes on particular instruments, this course is designed to cover more of the music in more detail. You will finish the course with not only the ability to recognize notes, but also speed (called tempo), loudness (called dynamics), rhythms, and the expressive, emotive content of the written notes.

You will begin with learning about what each of the notes are called and how we write them in musical notation. We then proceed to look into rhythms, starting with very basic rhythms, going into more advanced examples. In each of these sections you will see numerous examples you guide you through the process.

From this basis you will start learning about things like tempo (speed) and dynamics (loudness). We will also see what other things composers use to tell you (the performer) what to do. From this, we look at a few real-life examples of musical notation, and you will see how all of the things we learnt about so far are used. The most incredible thing you will see is that most music uses the same things to say many different things.

We end up with a brief discussion of different ways of writing music, which may help you to see how any types of music can be written down.

Upon completing the course, you will receive a certificate of completion from the instructor, you will be welcome to submit topics that you want to be covered in more detail, and the doors to the fascinating world of music will be opened up to you.

Who is the target audience?
  • Musicians that do not know how to read music
  • Musicians that have limited ability to read music
  • People interested in gaining a solid grounding for their composition or song-writing
  • Parents of children that learn music that want to be more involved in the children's practise
  • People that would like to start exploring music theory
Compare to Other Reading Music Courses
Curriculum For This Course
96 Lectures
03:19:06
+
Introduction to Course
3 Lectures 05:50

The introductory lecture describes the layout of the whole course, helping you to know where the program is going and where to find all the different things. You can go through the sections in any order, and this introduction will help you find what you're looking for.

Introduction
02:26

We look at a real piece of music (also called a score) and point out what all the different things are. The idea is to help you peer into the mass lines and blobs and distinguish what all of them are for.

A bird's eye view of a complete score
02:26

This article goes through the same things as the previous lecture, but instead of seeing how every looks in a complete score, we take the important parts out. This allows you to get a really good look at all of the different things.

Why each score element is important
00:58
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What Note Do I Play
19 Lectures 28:18

A brief overview of the content of each of the lectures in this section. I will lay out very clearly where we are trying to go, and quickly go through each of the steps we will take to get there.

Section overview
01:13

This lecture answers that question, and the answer might be surprising to you. From knowing how many notes there are, I'll show you how letter names can be used to name each of the notes.

How many notes are there?
01:32

Now that you know the names of each of the notes, we will start to explore the relationships between the notes. You will start by learning how to count the distance between different notes.

Going from note to note
00:35

In this quiz, we will measure the distance from one note to another. From this basic, we can figure out notes based on which notes are near to them.

Measuring distances between notes
3 questions

We see how the notes that you can name are represented on the musical score. We use a system of five lines, and mark the note that we want by putting a blob somewhere on the lines. This lecture will help you to figure out these blobs.

The 5 lines
02:05

You now know that there are only seven notes, that the notes have letter names and that the notes are represented by blobs on a set of lines. This lecture shows you an important part of tying everything together - the clef.

Clefs
02:58

This article goes through a couple of examples of finding notes. We use all of the things that you've learnt so far and bring them together to figure out the names of these notes. The examples are presented as an article so that you can take your time going through each example.

Finding some notes
00:47

A quick reading quiz with notes near G in treble and F in bass

What Note Is This?
4 questions

This lecture introduces a few quick tricks for remembering where some notes are on the different clefs. These systems, or memory devices are each explained in detail in lectures 11-14.

An easier way to remember
01:03

The first of our memory devices discussed in lecture 10. This one deals with notes on the lines in the treble clef. After this lecture you should be able to identify any treble clef note on the lines, as well as be able to make up some of your own memory devices.

Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge
00:27

The second of our memory devices discussed in lecture 10. This one deals with notes in the spaces in the treble clef. After this lecture you should be able to identify any treble clef note in the spaces, as well as be able to make up some of your own memory devices.

FACE
00:24

The third of our memory devices discussed in lecture 10. This one deals with notes in the spaces in the bass clef. After this lecture you should be able to identify any bass clef note in the spaces, as well as be able to make up some of your own memory devices.

All Cows Eat Grass
00:23

The last of our memory devices discussed in lecture 10. This one deals with notes on the lines in the bass clef. After this lecture you should be able to identify any bass clef note on the lines, as well as be able to make up some of your own memory devices.

Great Big Dragons Fight Angrily
00:27

This lecture covers a few examples where I show you how to read some notes using the memory devices from the previous lectures. After this lecture you will be able to identify any note on the lines or spaces in either the bass or treble clef.

Some examples of note reading with mnemonics
02:25

Quiz
4 questions

The tricks we've learnt in the last lessons are very useful, but limited. In this lecture we start to look beyond the lines and spaces, and start exploring the space outside the lines. *note* this should be a video

Ledger Lines
01:09

This lecture gives a visual explanation of the ideas we discussed in the last lecture. I'll show you very clearly how to read and play notes outside of the lines. This is an article because I want you to go through each example in your own time.

Going beyond the lines
01:14

Here I go through a mixture of different notes, we use all the techniques that we've learnt about so far, to read any note that anybody could think to throw at you. At this stage you are able to read any note.

Mixed note reading examples
04:59

note reading quiz

What Note Is This 2?
6 questions

So far we've spent a lot of time with the seven notes with letter names, but we have utterly neglected the other five. In this lecture I will introduce them to you, so you can get to know the sharps and flats.*note* this should also be a video

Sharps and flats
01:52

This article gives you a visual explanation of how sharps and flats work. We can see where they are compared to the other notes. You'll also understand how one note could have two different names.

The black keys - sharps and flats
00:57

Here we look at how sharps and flats are marked in on the score. We address examples in both the bass clef and treble clef. We also look at some special cases, for example when we have a few sharps in a row. After this I'll show you to opposite of a sharp or flat - the natural sign.

Sharp and flats examples
02:41

Quiz
4 questions

A brief look back over everything that we've covered. This is a great opportunity to you to reflect on everything you've learnt, double check that you haven't forgotten anything, and reward yourself for your progress so far. By now you can confidently identify any note.

Section summary
01:06
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How Long Do I Play It For
13 Lectures 23:36

A brief overview of the content of each of the lectures in this section. I will lay out very clearly where we are trying to go, and quickly go through each of the steps we will take to get there.

Section Overview
01:05

This lecture answers the question in the title - what is a beat. You will learn about time, and how when playing music we divide time up into equally sized chunks called beats. These beats are the basis for your understanding of rhythm.

What is a beat?
00:54

We know that we get notes that go for different amounts of beats. This article shows what they all look like and how you can identify them.

What do these things look like
00:49

In this video I will go through a few examples of simple rhythms. We will see how by understanding the basic principles of beats and identifying the different types of notes, you can start figuring out basic rhythms.

Example of simple rhythms
03:08

Quiz
3 questions

We've learnt about notes that go for 1 beat, 2 beats, and 4 beats. So you've probably noticed that there is something missing - a note that goes for 3 beats. We look at these three beat notes and you'll see how they work.

Dotted notes
01:10

Now that you have a solid understanding of beats and you know that different notes go for different amounts of beats, we add in some counting. This allows us to group beats together and assign each note certain counts.

Adding in the counting
02:54

If notes are telling you when to play, then it stands to reason that we'll need something that tells you when not to play. You will learn about the things that tell you when not to play - the rests.

Rests
01:06

This article will show you how long each rest should go for. Just like notes, rests go for certain amounts of counts, and look different depending on how many beats they go for. You'll learn how to identify the different types of rests.

Different types of rests
00:40

In this lecture I'll go through a mixed bag of different examples, showing you how different notes and rests are combined in interesting ways to create a variety of different rhythms.

Mixed examples of simple rhythms
02:25

Quiz
4 questions

The time signature has an important role to play in how we count. This lecture looks at these time signatures and you'll find out how they change the way that you count.

Time signatures and bars
01:00

As useful as the various rhythms we've learnt are, there are some shortcomings. This lecture shows you where some of these shortcomings are, and how we can use ties to get around them.

Ties
03:11

This lecture goes into a few more examples that combine all of the different rhythmic elements that you've learnt about so far. You will get the chance to see how these things can be combined and how we can create an endless number of different rhythms.

Some more rhythm examples including dots, ties and rests
04:06

A brief look back over everything that we've covered. This is a great opportunity to you to reflect on everything you've learnt, double check that you haven't forgotten anything, and reward yourself for your progress so far. By now you can confidently play through most simple rhythms, you have the tools to start exploring more complex rhythms.

Section summary
01:07
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Advanced rhythm
17 Lectures 41:16

A brief overview of the content of each of the lectures in this section. I will lay out very clearly where we are trying to go, and quickly go through each of the steps we will take to get there. This section on advanced rhythm can get quite tricky, so if you are getting stuck, just skip ahead to section five.

Section overview
01:31

This lecture starts our exploration of different rhythms by introducing some notes that go for only half of a beat. You will learn how to change your counting to account for these half beat rhythms.

Half beats
01:28

This article shows you what our half beat notes and rests look like. The notes can take on different forms, so it's important for you to familiarize yourself with the different forms it can take.

Quavers, eighth notes
00:40

In this lecture I'll go through a few examples of rhythms that use half beats. You will get a chance to see how the counting fits in and that once the counting is correct the rhythm becomes quite easy.

Rhythms with ands examples
03:11

Quiz
4 questions

We go back to time signatures to start understanding what the bottom number of the time signature means. You'll see that this number is very important in figuring out the counting of any particular rhythm.

Bottom number of the time signature
01:20

This article shows a few tables where we can clearly see how the length of one beat is changed by the bottom number of the time signature. You will know exactly how to change your counting to account for any time signature.

How long is a count
01:04

Here I further explain the role of the bottom number of the time signature by going through a few examples that feature different bottom numbers. After this lecture you will be confident in your ability to count through different time signature.

Examples of 4 8 and 8 8 time signatures
03:05

Time signatures have another fairly specific role. The can suggest the way in which notes should be grouped together. You'll see that there are two different ways of grouping - with common and compound time signatures.

Compound time signatures
01:44

This lecture shows a few examples of compound time signatures. You will notice that the counting isn't actually any different - the only difference is the way in which the notes are grouped together.

Compound time examples
03:18

Quiz
4 questions

We look at ways to subdivide notes beyond half beats by having a look a quarter beat notes. I will show you can notes can be subdivided by half endlessly, creating all sorts of new time values.

more subdivisions
01:32

Article showing what these guys look like and how they are counted

What do these guys look like
00:59

These notes that go for a quarter of a half beat also require a change in counting. We look at a few examples, figure out the counting of these notes and show a few examples of these rhythms.

Semiquaver examples
02:42

Quiz
2 questions

We return to dotted notes, and take a deeper look into how they actually work. I will show you how some maths gets tangled up in music and you'll come to understand the function of the dot.

Dotted notes revisited
01:50

This lecture further explores the concept of dotted notes by going through a few examples of different dotted notes. I will show you how the function of dotted notes plays out in different scenarios.

Exploring dotted notes
02:53

This lecture shows several examples of advanced rhythms. We can see how the simple ideas that we've learnt so far can be combined in interesting ways to create a dizzying number if intricate rhythms and patterns.

Mixed advanced rhythm examples
11:10

Quiz
2 questions

A brief look back over everything that we've covered. This is a great opportunity to you to reflect on everything you've learnt, double check that you haven't forgotten anything, and reward yourself for your progress so far. By now you can confidently play through any rhythm. You can count any time signature with accurate counting, and correct groupings.

Section Summary
01:21

This lecture is a brief aside to discuss the ways in which these notes are named. You may have heard different names for these rhythms, and this lecture explains the two different systems.

A note on naming conventions
01:28
+
How should the note sound
13 Lectures 19:36

A brief overview of the content of each of the lectures in this section. I will lay out very clearly where we are trying to go, and quickly go through each of the steps we will take to get there. 

section overview
01:34

In this lecture I'll introduce the terminology that is used for loud and soft. In music we call loudness or softness dynamics. You will become familiar with the terms that are used in music.

Loud or soft - the words
01:17

In this article, you can see what all the different dynamic markings look like. I'll give examples of the different markings that are used as well as the different ways in which they can be combined to create new dynamic markings.

Loud or soft
00:24

Explain the ideas of gradually changing dynamic, also share the words

Transitions
01:05

This article gives a few examples of dynamic markings in a real life context. Here you will see how a real composer used dynamic markings in their work.

Examples of dynamics
00:51

Quiz
2 questions

In this lecture we start looking at groups of notes rather than just individual notes. We look at how strings of notes can be put together to create more meaningful phrases.

Music sentences - the slur
01:21

In this lecture I'll show you a few examples of slurs, so that you can see what they look like. We'll also have a brief look at the phrases - or musical sentences - that are formed by the slurs.

Slur examples
02:47

This article shows the difference between slurs and ties. You will be able to quickly identify what is a slur and what is a tie. You will also have a good understanding of the difference between the two.

Slurs vs Ties
01:01

This video opens us up to questions of how to play certain notes. Two important playing styles are introduced, legato and staccato. You will learn the difference between the two.

Legato and staccato
01:13

In this lecture we look at some of the practical considerations of legato and staccato on different instruments. We discuss how some markings also indicate playing techniques on certain instruments.

A note on instrumentation
01:23

This articles shows us a few examples of legato and staccato. You will be able to see how these different techniques are indicated on the score.

Legato and stacatto examples
00:46

Quiz
3 questions

This lecture continues asking questions about how to play particular notes by introducing various types of accents. These are interesting because accents can be interpreted in various different ways.

Accents
04:09

A brief look back over everything that we've covered. This is a great opportunity to you to reflect on everything you've learnt, double check that you haven't forgotten anything, and reward yourself for your progress so far. By now you are aware of the different clues that we have to create an intelligent interpretation of a piece of music.

section summary
01:44
+
What could this music express
15 Lectures 23:05

A brief overview of the content of each of the lectures in this section. I will lay out very clearly where we are trying to go, and quickly go through each of the steps we will take to get there. 

section overview
01:05

In this lecture we discuss the speed, or tempo, of music. In other words, how fast or slow does it go. You will learn about the tempo markings, and how to think of musical speed.

Tempo markings
01:23

In this article you will see some examples of how tempo is written down on the score. There are two different methods which can be used individually or together.

Some examples of tempo
00:45

We've talk a lot about beats per minute and metronome markings. In this lecture I'll show you a very simple metronome and how to use it based on the tempo marking.

Using the metronome
01:47

This article shows a few different tempo markings and their meaning in English. This is a useful reference when learning new pieces.

Common tempos and their meanings
00:13

Quiz
1 question

In the section on slurs we talked about several notes in a row. In this lecture we start asking about notes that sound at the same time. A combination of notes is called a chord, and you'll learn about the two main categories of chords.

Major and minor. Chord types and relationships
01:16

Key signatures sit next to time signatures, and are very important for changing how we read notes. This article shows a few examples of reading key signatures.

Key signatures
00:59

Key signatures might seem intimidating. This lecture has a closer look at them and tries to find patterns that can make reading them easier. You will learn a very quick method for figuring out key signatures.

Looking for patterns
04:18

Based on the patterns that we found in the last lecture, the cycle of fifths ties in all together and allows you to quickly figure out the names of the keys from the key signature.

The cycle of fifths
00:40

Now that you know what a key is, and how to identify it, we'll take a short amount of time to discuss why these keys are important. I'll explain the things that keys do, and although there's some heavy theory involved, the important thing is that keys do have a purpose.

Why are keys important?
01:23

In this lecture I go through a key examples of finding keys based on the key signature and the cycle of fifths. 

Key finding examples
03:23

Quiz
4 questions

Just like we have transitions in musical dynamics, we also have transitions in tempo. This lecture will show you the different ways you can speed up and slow down and how these are marked on the score.

Playing with tempo
01:41

In this video we look at the practice of using emotive words in place of tempo words. You will see how composers are able to tell you about the character of the piece, as well as the speed in the tempo marking.

Emotive words
01:14

In this lecture I take a moment to elaborate on what exactly interpretation is. Just because you are allowed to use artistic license does not mean you can do anything you like.

A note on interpretation
01:25

A brief look back over everything that we've covered. This is a great opportunity to you to reflect on everything you've learnt, double check that you haven't forgotten anything, and reward yourself for your progress so far. By now you are aware of the ways in which composers can turn their music into expressive and emotive works.

section summary
01:31
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How does this all fit together
7 Lectures 35:50

This section is all about the examples. You've had a whirlwind tour of the different things that are present in a score, now lets have a look at how different composers have put it together in different ways.

Section overview
01:05

This is a piano work by Beethoven. In here we'll look at how Beethoven uses the simple elements that we've learnt about so far in his compositions.

Beethoven example
10:20

This lecture looks at how the normal musical tools are used to notate music for the drum kit. You will see that most of what we use is exactly the same, with only a few minor adjustments for the drum kit.

Drum music example
05:25

In this lecture we look at a string quartet, music written for a group of four string players. You will see that except for a few string specific markings, most of the same things are used to write music for this group.

String quartet example
07:54

In this lecture we jump right into the deep end and have a look at music for a full orchestra. You can see how the music is laid out, and how each of the musical elements we've learnt about so far is used.

Orchestra example
08:48

In lecture takes us back to real world and how you can apply the things that we've learnt in the real world. You will learn that the only way forward is practice, practice, practice.

Practical considerations
00:46

A brief look back over everything that we've covered. This is a great opportunity to you to reflect on everything you've learnt, double check that you haven't forgotten anything, and reward yourself for your progress so far. You will have seen some real examples, and you will realize that 90% of music reading is using the same things.

Section Summary
01:32
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Alternate Notation styles
8 Lectures 21:18

In this section we look at a few examples of music that does not use the notation system that we've been learning about. These are useful because they offer alternate routes into music, showing that music is indeed universal.

Section overview
01:18

This lecture looks at guitar tablature - an extremely popular method for notating and reading guitar music. I will explain how it works, and you will learn some of the advantages and disadvantages of guitar tablature.

Tablature
04:40

In this lecture we'll have a look at the notation style preferred in the jazz world - lead sheets. We look at how standard musical notation is simplified and extended to provide a basis for jazz musicians to build their music.

Lead sheets
03:34

Another notation style used by guitarists is the chord box and slash notation. We'll have a look at how this system works, where it draws from traditional notation, and you'll learn some of its advantages and disadvantages.

Chord boxes and slash notation
02:53

In this lecture we will look at a form of notation that has gained huge traction in church choir, and gospel settings. It is also widely used as a educational tool - the tonic sol-fa system. We look at how it works, and discuss why it is such an effective system.

Tonic sol-fa
02:29

Here we'll take a side path from 'normal' and look at some of the weird things that artists and composers have created. A graphic score is one such thing where the idea of a reading system is completely disrupted.

Graphic scores
02:56

In this lecture we discuss the many musical traditions and musicians that don't write their music down. While this music, technically, can be notated, the notation of it is not an important part of the musical production process.

Non-notated forms
01:29

A brief look back over everything that we've covered. This is a great opportunity to you to reflect on everything you've learnt, double check that you haven't forgotten anything, and reward yourself for your progress so far. By now you are aware of the ways in which traditional Western notation is limited, and how other groups have gotten around it.

Section Summary
01:59
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Course Wrap-up
1 Lecture 01:32

Thank you for sticking it out to the end. Where to from here? This video explains what your next steps should be.

Where to from here?
01:32
About the Instructor
Johan van Rooyen
4.4 Average rating
40 Reviews
3,208 Students
5 Courses
Music Instructor

I engage with music on a daily basis. Whether it be performing on stage, writing and composing music, teaching my students, or working with the other teachers in the school, I have music with me.

I completed a BMus (Hons), and received numerous bursaries and awards over the course I my studies. I have also written music for the stage and screen, performed in bands across the country, and produced research.

I spend each day empowering my students to bring music into their lives, helping them to not only become better musicians, but also to become better people.

I live in Johannesburg with my fiance, enjoy motorcycles, hiking, reading and, of course, music.