Beginning the Experience of Playing Music

Marilynn Dawson By Marilynn Dawson, 10th Oct 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Music>Reading Music

Playing music has many benefits both to the musician and to the listener, but what if you've never picked up an instrument before?

Following Suit

Your musical friends and family have long touted the benefits of playing music. You've seen them play for others who sing, for theatre performances, etc. One of your relatives just likes to sit at the beach and strum his guitar. To him, the benefits of playing music are deeply personal.

So you followed suit and pick up an instrument! Awesome! You came home from the local music store armed with a number of books all proclaiming they'll teach you how to play, but what on earth are all these lines, dots and squiggles on the page?! It's safe to say that the benefits of playing music won't be fully realized until you learn what they all mean and how to use them to guide your playing well.

Understanding a few basics

Let's go over some of the details to help you get started, shall we?

First off, those groups of lines on the page are known as "staffs". There is a top staff and a bottom staff of every set, known as the Grand Staff or system. On top, we see what looks like a very fancy letter "S". This is called the Treble Clef, and is typically where higher ranges of notes are played, such as women's voices for example. The bottom staff contains a symbol looking like a deformed letter "C", known as the Bass Clef. This staff typically holds the lower ranges of notes, such as men's voices for example.

Beside these two clefs, are two sets of notations that tell us the tempo: 4/4, 3/4, 6/8, and whether the notes are to be played natural, sharp:# or flat: indicated by a deformed letter "b". Sometimes you will see these symbols elsewhere in the music when a given note or tempo needs to change from the original notation.

It's important to note, pardon the pun, that the tempo signature will tell you how many beats are in each measure. A measure is the length of space holding notes from one vertical line, called a bar, to the next along the staff. If the tempo is 4/4 time and you see four black circles with vertical lines in one measure, each circle is to be played for one full beat. Those circles with lines are known as notes. They sit on a given line of the staff, telling you as the musician, which note to play on your instrument. Sometimes you will see a bar with no notes, but with another symbol indicating a rest. There are whole rests, half rests, quarter rests looking like fancy "Z"'s, and eighth rests, which appear to be funny-looking commas in the middle of the staff.


Together, all these squiggles help you as the musician to play the piece accurately and correctly, so that both you and your hearer can experience the benefits of playing music together. Indeed there are many benefits of playing music for sure. Hopefully today's short introduction will help you understand those books you brought home, so that the benefits of playing music so promoted by your musical relatives, will be yours to enjoy for many years to come.


Beginner, Notation, Playing Music, Reading Music

Meet the author

author avatar Marilynn Dawson
I am a computer tech by trade, as well as a Christian author and freelancer. Topics range from devotionals and online safety, to how-to's, family finances, product reviews, and more.

Share this page

moderator Mark Gordon Brown moderated this page.
If you have any complaints about this content, please let us know


Add a comment
Can't login?