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Have you ever wanted to read and write music?
Is there an instrument that you've always wanted to play?
Do you love to create music but need more training?
Have you tried learning music theory but found it boring, difficult, and irrelevant?
If you want to play an instrument, if you want to compose every tune that pops into your head, if you just want to learn music theory that's interesting and useful, then this course is for you.
Learn the simple and straightforward secrets of how to get a basic grip on reading music in just a few days.
The simple steps in this course have been tried and tested over seven years of one-to-one teaching with hundreds of students ranging from 4 to 70 years old.
This course will take you step-by-step through beginner music theory. I have included musical examples throughout so that you can see and hear the results of what I'm teaching.
No previous musical training is required. You don't need a piano. You can be any age and any standard on your instrument: you don't need to be a 5 year old musical prodigy!
NEW! Now includes aural and composition tests. Learn to train your ear and compose amazing music.
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Today, you can start to make, read and write music, easily, with no previous experience and without having to be the next Mozart apparent!
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|Section 1: Getting Started|
My name is Liam Hindson. I am the founder and owner of the music service Teach Tutti that offers lessons on all instruments in person and online.
This course is aimed at people that want to learn how to read and write music with no prior experience.
In this course, I will discuss:
I thought it was important to include this document so that you know what we won't be discussing in the course. This includes advanced music theory and the musical qualities of the different music genres.
Please feel free to get in touch with me if you have any questions. I will aim to answer any questions within a few hours of them being posted.
If it takes longer for me to reply, it may for reasons including that I'm asleep! If that's the case, I'll reply as soon as I can.
|Section 2: Learning The Notes|
A stave/staff is five vertical lines of the same length. You place notes on these lines to create music.
Pitch means how high or low a sound is. If you place a note high on the stave, the pitch will be higher than if you placed the note lower on the stave.
When the stave ends it will continue below from left to the right. Essentially, the stave follows the same rules as if you were reading text: left to right, line below, left to right, line below, left to right, and so on.
A clef is a symbol that appears at the very start of each stave line before anything else. There are many different types of clef. The most common are the treble clef and bass clef.
There is a huge variety of instruments in the world that have a very wide collective pitch range. Without help, there is no way that you can place all of these notes on the stave. This is where the different clefs come in. Depending on the clef you use, the same note on the stave will sound completely different. For example, a note placed through the bottom line of the stave in the treble clef would sound 13 notes higher than if the same note was written in the bass clef.
You can change clef midway through a piece of music. This is very unusual and will only happen with certain instruments, such as the piano.
The treble clef is used by instruments that have a middle to high pitch range. Examples are the violin, the flute, the piccolo, the trumpet, and the top half of the piano.
The bass clef is used by instruments that have a low pitch range. Instruments using this clef include the cello, double bass, trombone, and the bottom half of the piano.
Are We Clear On The Stave And Clefs?
A note is a circle. There will almost always be a line called a "tail" or "stem" attached to the note. This is partly used to show you the length of the note. The tail will point upwards from the right of the note if the note is placed anywhere in the bottom three lines of the stave. The tail will point downwards from the left of the note if the note is placed anywhere in the top three lines of the stave. If the note is placed through the middle line on the stave, you can decide whether the tail goes up or down.
There are two ways that you can place a note on the stave: between the lines and going through a line. I call them "space" notes and "line" notes respectively.
Remember to always work out where the note is placed on the stave from the note itself. You never do this by looking at where the tail or stem of the note ends.
Note names follow the alphabet. The different notes that you can play are A - B - C - D - E - F - G. When you go forwards in the alphabet, the notes rise on the stave and the pitch gets higher. When you go backwards in the alphabet, the notes drop on the stave and the pitch gets lower.
After you have reached G, the circle repeats and you play A again. This will be another version of the A that sounds higher. Similarly, if you go backwards in the alphabet and reach another A this way, this note will also sound like A but lower. This is the same with all notes. When you play the same note higher or lower it is called an "octave".
Middle C has a line going through it. It is the note that is in the middle of the piano and is useful as a reference point for all instruments. It is below the stave in the treble clef and above the stave in the bass clef.
There are rhymes that can help you to remember where the different notes are on the stave. These rhymes all start from the bottom of the stave and work through to the top. They are separated into rhymes for space notes and rhymes for line notes.
Rhyme for space notes
Rhyme for line notes
You can remember all these rhymes or memorise just one set of rhymes. If you choose the latter option, remember that you can work out any note by finding the note nearest that you do recognise. For example, let's say that the note you need to work out is through the top line of the stave in the treble clef. You know that the top "space" note is E from the rhyme FACE and that this note is one position higher on the stave. Therefore one letter after E is F so the note is F.
A note name in either clef will be two notes and one octave different in the other clef. For example, if you know that a note in the bass clef would be a B in the treble clef, then count two notes higher (B - C - D) and this will be the note one octave lower in the bass clef.
Can We Recognise Note Names Now?
Ledger lines are a small horizontal line that notes are placed on.
These lines are used as an extension of the stave when a note is particularly high or low.
The ledger line is essentially another line of the stave. However, it is only shown for the notes that need it. It does not stretch across the length of the stave.
You can add ledger lines on top of each other. After a while, it becomes difficiult to recognise the note quickly. In this case, you can use "8va" and "8vb", which means play the music an octave above or below respectively. This way, you can write eight notes lower so that they are more recognisable.
How Well Do We Understand Ledger Lines?
You can make a note last different lengths by changing its appearance. It will still sound the same pitch but will be longer or shorter. This is because you aren't changing it's vertical position on the stave.
All the note lengths are referenced using something called the beat. This is a unit of time and is similar to the heartbeat: it is constant and regular. It goes faster when the music is fast and slower when the music is slow. It doesn't sound like the music and is instead a constant beat, like your heartbeat.
The following are the different note lengths covered in this lecture:
View the downloadable document in the "Rests" lecture to see all the different note lengths.
If you add a dot to the right of any of the above note lengths, you increase the length by half. For example, if you added a dot to a minim, the total length would be three beats (2 + 1 = 3).
A rest is a symbol that creates a silence in the music.
You can use different rest symbols to create longer and shorter silences. Download the attached document to view all the different rest symbols and their respective lengths.
Do We Understand Note Lengths And Rests?
|Section 3: The Rules Of Music|
Bars are essentially the blocks that create music. A bar line is a vertical line going through the stave. Two bar-lines create a bar, which is the content between them. The only exception is at the start of each stave line, where the beginning of the stave and the first bar-line make a bar.
There will be a different number of notes and note lengths in every bar. The combined note length will always add up to the same number of beats. For example, three crotchets in one bar and six quavers in another bar both add up to three beats.
Every piece finishes when you see a double bar line. This is two vertical lines next to each other going through the stave.
The number at the start of each stave line tells you what number bar you are on and how many bars you have completed so far. It's helpful as a reference point, such as if a composer says to pick up the piece at bar 24.
The time signature is two vertical numbers at the start of the first stave in the piece. The top number tells you how many beats there are in each bar, such as 4. The bottom number tells you what the length of each of these beats. If the bottom number is 2 then the beat length is a minim. If the number is 4, the beat length is a crotchet. If the number is 8, the beat length is a quaver. If the number is 16, the beat length is a semiquaver. For example, if the time signature was 2/2 then there would be 2 beats per bar and the beat length would be a minim.
If you want a note to continue over the bar-line, you need to use a tied note. To do this, you write the note before and after the bar-line and draw a curved line between the note-heads. This tells the performer to only play one note and combine the note lengths.
Are We Clear How To Use Bars And A Time Signature?
|Lecture 12||2 pages|
This is a written test where you need to compose short pieces of music according to specific time signatures. Take care that you include the bar-lines and that each bar has the correct number of beats in it.
Rhythm is the movement of music. Rhythm varies across every piece. Music genres furthermore have certain rules about what types of rhythm can be used. For example, jazz always tends to have a distinctly different rhythm to rock music.
The movement of the music is characterised by strong and weak beats. This means that certain beats in each bar will be emphasised to give it a particular sense of movement. For example, the waltz has a strong beat followed by two weaker beats (Strong - Weak - Weak | Strong - Weak - Weak | Strong - Weak - Weak).
Meter is how you structure the rhythm in a piece of music. We use a time signature to structure the rhythm. Therefore meter effectively means the time signature.
There are two types of meter: simple and compound. The beat length in simple meter can always be divided into two notes of the same shorter note length. Compound meter has a beat that can be divided into three notes of the same shorter note length.
Duple (2), triple (3), and quadruple (4) all tell you what number of beats there are in the time signature. For example, 2/4 is a duple simple meter (2 beats per bar and the crotchet beat length can be divided into two quavers, making it a simple meter).
A simple meter will always have 2, 3, or 4 as the top number. Every compound meter will always have a dotted note as the beat.
The following is a list of all the simple meters covered in this lecture:
The following is a list of all the compound meters covered in this lecture:
Odd meter is when you combine simple and compound meter. You can choose how you order the different meters in the music.
The following is a list of all the odd meters covered in this lecture:
Do You Remember These Pointers On Meter?
Note groupings are designed to help the musician. They group together notes next to each other that are less than a beat in length so you can identify the collective beat. For example, two quavers would be joined together to show the collective beat.
You link the top of the note stems together to join notes together. This is called "beaming". The notes are still played separately but now show the collective beat.
You can link semiquavers and quavers together under the same beaming.
The number of notes you beam together depends on the beat length. For example, if the time signature was 2/2 then the beat length would be a minim and you could group 4 quavers together or 8 semiquavers to represent the beat.
When you are beaming for an odd meter, remember that there is at least one simple and one compound meter in every bar. This means that in 5/8, you would need to join two quavers together for the simple beat and three quavers together for the compound beat.
A tuplet is when you shorten or lengthen a number of the same note lengths so that they fit into the beat of the music. If the piece is in 3/4, then one type of tuplet would be when you play three quavers slightly faster so that they fit into the crotchet beat.
The most common type of tuplet is a triplet. This is when you play three of the same note lengths in the time it would take to play two. The above example is a triplet because there are three quavers.
|Section 4: What Is A Scale And Why Is It Useful?|
An accidental happens when you slightly raise or drop the pitch of a note.
There are two types of accidental:
If a note is sharp or flat, this symbol is always shown to the left of the note. It still belongs to the main note and doesn't become a new note name. For example, if you add a flat to the note B it is called B flat and not X.
The accidental applies to the relevant note for the rest of the bar. For example, if an F sharp is introduced and you see a later F in the same bar, this will still be an F sharp (regardless of whether the sharp is shown).
To remove an accidental, you need to use a natural. This symbol looks like a sharp with the top-right and bottom-left lines removed. This returns the note to normal.
There is normally only one sound available between the main notes. For example, there is only one sound available between C and D. This means that C sharp (slightly higher) and D flat (slightly lower) make the same exact sound. The same is true of D sharp and E flat, F sharp and G flat, G sharp and A flat, and A sharp and B flat. The alternative name for the note you play is called the enharmonic equivalent. For example, C sharp is the enharmonic equivalent of D flat.
There is no sound available at all between B and C and between E and F. If you write B sharp you will be playing a C and if you write C flat you will be playing a B. It is fine to use these accidentals but beware that it will create the sound of the main note name above or below.
How Well Do We Understand Accidentals?
A step is the distance between two notes.
There are two types of step:
Tones tends to be more common because a semitone usually means playing a sharp or flat. However, because there is no sharp/flat between B-C and E-F, in these places you need to move only a semitone to remain on the main note names. For example, B to C is a semitone, not a tone.
Music is created from scales. They are a set of notes that follow certain rules. They are great for practising on your instrument because they help to improve your tuning in particular.
We're going to focus on the main scales that are used. These scales follow an ascending and descending pattern. They go up to the same note an octave higher before returning back to the first note. For example, a scale beginning on C would go: C - D - E - F - G - A - B - C - B - A - G - F - E - D - C.
There are two types of the above scale: major and minor. Major sounds happy and minor sounds sad. The title of any scale is the note it begins on and whether it's major or minor. For example, C major scale.
The formula for every major scale is: first note – tone – tone – semitone – tone – tone – tone – semitone. For example, C major scale will be C - D - E - F - G - A - B - C.
There are three types of minor scale: natural, harmonic, and melodic. Natural minor is the main type of minor scale.
The formula for the harmonic scale is: first note – tone – semitone – tone – tone – semitone – tone and semitone – semitone. For example, the C minor harmonic scale will be C - D - E flat - F - G - A flat - B - C.
The formula for the natural scale is: first note – tone – semitone – tone – tone – semitone – tone – tone. For example, the C minor natural scale will be C - D - E flat - F - G - A flat - B flat - C.
The melodic minor scale changes on the way back down. On the way up the pattern is : first note – tone – semitone – tone – tone – tone – tone – semitone. On the way down, the pattern is: top note - tone - tone - semitone - tone - tone - semitone - tone. For example, the C minor melodic scale will be: C - D - E flat - F - G - A - B - C - B flat - A flat - G - F - E flat - D - C.
Can We Now Identify Tones, Semitones, And Scales?
Every scale but C major and A natural minor need specific sharps and flats to sound correct.
The sharps or flats that are used to create each scale are placed in something called a "key signature". For example, if you played D major scale, you need to use F sharp and C sharp, which would be the key signature for that scale.
These key signatures are then applied and followed for a piece of music. If you were following the key signature of D major, you would have to always play F sharp and C sharp instead of F and C when using these notes.
The key signature is shown at the start of every stave line and only shows the sharps or flats. All other notes are assumed to be normal. You never combine sharps and flats in a key signature. You also have to write each sharp or flat at a particular octave. Use the downloadable material to this lecture for the specific octaves used.
The order of sharps is F - C - G - D - A - E - B. You can remember this by thinking of the following rhyme: Father Christmas Gave Dad An Electric Blanket.
The order of flats is B - E - A - D - G - C - F. You can remember this by thinking of the following rhyme: Blanket - Explodes - And - Dad - Gets - Cold - Feet.
Each key signature is used by both a major and minor scale. D major and B minor both use F sharp and C sharp in their key signature.
Only the natural minor is shown in the key signature. You have to write in the additional sharps, flats, or naturals needed to make it a melodic or harmonic key. These are then called "accidentals" because they don't belong to the key signature.
The list of key signatures is downloadable for this lecture.
|Section 5: Transposing For Your Instrument|
An interval is the distance between two notes. This is an important skill to learn for transposing, which is when you need to change the music that is written.
An interval always includes the first note as the first interval. For example, if the interval was from C to C, this would be called an interval of a first.
The following intervals are covered in this lecture:
Intervals can continue in size beyond this point. Intervals also apply in the opposite directions. For example, C to B one note below it in pitch is an interval of a second.
The distance between intervals is the same regardless of whether a sharp or flat is used. For example, C sharp to C is still an interval of a first because the position of the note on the stave doesn't change.
Can We Recognise Different Intervals And Key Signatures?
Transposing is when you change the pitch of the notes written in the music. The aim of this is so that the instrument, when playing the transposed notes, will actually play the music at the originally intended pitch.
If an instrument is tuned to "concert pitch" this means that when they play a particular note, it will produce the sound of the same note in the music. For example, if the violin plays a C, the sound produced will be a C.
There are a number of instruments that are not in concert pitch. For example, the Clarinet in B flat will play any note one tone lower than written. So if you wrote the note D, the Clarinet in B flat would play the note C. To correct this, you would need write all the music for this instrument one tone higher. This way, if you wanted the clarinet to play the note C, you would have to write the note D.
The following is a list of all the instruments that need transposing:
|Section 6: Decorating The Music|
The word "dynamics" means volume. It refers to how loud or quiet the music is.
There are different types of dynamics that you can use in music. These are:
You can continue adding f's or p's to fortissimo and pianissimo to increase the dynamic in either direction. I'd recommend sticking largely to these dynamics however as the extremes to be used.
There are two dynamics that gradually change the volume louder of quieter:
There is a wide variety of articulation markings. All articulation serves to make the note/s it is applied to stand out.
The articulation markings covered in this lecture are:
An ornament emphasises the note it is attached to. Unlike an articulation, ornaments draw attention to notes by adding additional notes around the main note. These notes are normally played with great speed and give the main note a "flourish".
The ornaments discussed in this lecture are:
Trill [tr~] - You play the main note and the note above continuously at high speed for the length of the note.
Mordent [written as a zigzag] - You play the main note, the note above, and return to the main note in quick succession. The "inverted mordent" is the same but you play the note below rather than above.
Turn [written as an S lying on its side] [ You play the main note, the note above, the main note, the note below, and return to the main note in quick succession. The "inverted turn" is the same but begins from the note below rather than above.
Appoggiatura [a small note to the left of the note it belongs to] - You play the signalled note before the main note. The appoggiatura takes half the length of the main note. For example if the main note was a crotchet, both notes would last a quaver in length.
Acciaccatura [a small note with a line through it to the left of the note it belongs to] - You play the signalled note as quickly as possible before the main note.
Glissando [a diagonal line between two note] - You slide between the two notes, aiming to hear the pitch slide. The diagonal line points down or up depending on the direction of the slide.
|Lecture 24||2 pages|
This document is a guide that you can download of all the markings that I have just discussed. It includes all dynamic, articulation, and ornamentation markings with their different appearances in the music and their meaning.
Do You Know How To Decorate Music?
Tempo refers to the speed of the music.
There are hundreds of tempo markings, which always appear at the beginning of the music (unless you change the tempo mid-way through the piece).
The tempo markings discussed in this lecture are:
Two additional tempo markings are:
A metronome marking is shown at the beginning of the music. It will show the following: [picture of note length] = [number]. The note length shown is the length of the beat. The number means how many beats there should be in a minute.
You put this number into a metronome (which you can download for free on your phone or iPad) and it will make a sound for the beat at the selected speed. You then practice the piece at this speed using the metronome.
To shorten the length of a piece of music you can use structural markings. These markings are used whenever the music repeats for whatever reason. It involves returning to a previous point in the music that you've already played.
The structural markings discussed in this lecture are:
Repeat [two vertical dots before a double bar line] - Return to the beginning of the piece or where the partner repeat sign is if this has been shown [a double bar line with two vertical lines after it].
1st and 2nd time bars [two brackets with the number 1 or 2 below them that cover the length of the required music] - Play through the first-time bar until you reach a repeat sign ending the first-time bar. Return to the beginning of the music or where the partner repeat sign is shown. When you return to the same point in the music, skip the first-time bar and play the second-time bar. Continue with the music after playing the second-time bar.
Da Capo [D.C.] - Return to the beginning of the music. End the piece when you reach the word 'Fine'.
Dal Segno [D.S. and a symbol that looks like an S] - Return to the symbol shown earlier in the music. End the piece when you reach the word 'Fine'.
Coda [Coda and the symbol O with a cross through it] - Return to the required point in the music after reaching the D.S. or D.C. marking. When you reach the symbol, jump straight to the Coda, which will be shown at the bottom of the piece.
Testing Your Memory Of Musical Terminology
|Section 7: Wrapping Up|
This lecture goes through my recommendations for what to do after completing this course.
My recommendations vary depending on why you are taking the course. I've separated them below into performers and composers.
|Lecture 28||2 pages|
This is a mock test that covers all the areas I've discussed in the course. It is modelled on a Grade 2 ABRSM music theory test and is written to match this standard. The answers are included below the mock test in the same document.
I love to teach music!
Getting to know me:
I am the founder of the music service Teach Tutti. Teach Tutti provides lessons to students learning any instrument, at any age, and any standard throughout London. Our teachers are qualified, experienced and enthusiastic. Teachers focus on making sure the student enjoys their lessons while progressing on their instrument and reaching their personal targets.
I want to make music accessible to everyone and I am currently expanding Teach Tutti to include online lessons with students from anywhere in the world.
Teaching music has been my life for the past seven years. I've taught the violin and piano to students aged from 4-70 years old. Most of my students choose to take instrumental and theory exams which I help them to prepare thoroughly for. I teach students of a wide range of experience and ability.
In my private teaching, I've always taken a relaxed approach to lessons. If you're not enjoying the lesson then I'm not doing my job! I tailor my lessons to individual students and make sure I explain everything clearly. I take the same approach in my Udemy courses
I have taught at primary schools throughout London. I've given online lessons using Skype. My teaching work includes time at Merton Music Foundation and Lewisham Music Service. There have even been times when I've taught 30 eight years old at once (gulp!).
I am a member of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, which I've been part of since 2011. This body represents musicians across the UK and I follow their teaching advice.
“My son started violin and piano tuition with Liam Hindson in Autumn 2013. I have been exceptionally happy with the style of tuition and the progress made. For Violin, my son was already working toward his Grade 3 which he has since passed with merit. He is enjoying working toward his Grade 4. Liam is very effective at breaking down tricky passages of the music and offering advice on ways to practice to improve confidence and overall progress with each piece. For piano, my son was new to the instrument and I have liked the very patient and encouraging way in which Liam has taught each step, as they have been working through Grade 1 pieces."
"Liam has been teaching my daughter for over a year now. I've been very happy with the progress that my daughter has made, who's now working towards her grade 2 exam. Liam's very friendly and approachable, and my daughter always looking forward to lessons with him. I sit in on all of their lessons so I can see that he is always constructive when he makes a suggestion about my daughter's playing. He also always asks her questions so she understands what they're talking about. I'd definitely recommend him to anyone looking for fun, rewarding, and quality violin lessons."
“Liam is teaching Yasmeen how to play on the violin, as well as how to read music. Liam is great teacher. He is calm, patient, funny, reliable, trustworthy, very likable. He makes Yasmeen feel special and talented. He is very motivating and is able to keep my daughter focused for the duration of lesson- 45 minutes, without any problem (and that is not an easy task). I consider Liam Hindson to be an excellent teacher and I am very happy to have this opportunity to know him as a person and teacher."
- Emilia Hameed