Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • When we watch a film or a play,

  • we know that the actors

  • probably learned their lines from a script,

  • which essentially tells them

  • what to say

  • and when to say it.

  • A piece of written music

  • operates on exactly the same principle.

  • In a very basic sense,

  • it tells a performer what to play

  • and when to play it.

  • Aesthetically speaking, there's a world of difference

  • between, say, Beethoven

  • and Justin Bieber,

  • but both artists have used

  • the same building blocks to create their music:

  • notes.

  • And although the end result

  • can sound quite complicated,

  • the logic behind musical notes

  • is actually pretty straightforward.

  • Let's take a look

  • at the foundational elements to music notation

  • and how they interact to create a work of art.

  • Music is written on five parallel lines

  • that go across the page.

  • These five lines are called a staff,

  • and a staff operates on two axes:

  • up and down

  • and left to right.

  • The up-and-down axis tells the performer

  • the pitch of the note

  • or what note to play,

  • and the left-to-right axis tells the performer

  • the rhythm of the note

  • or when to play it.

  • Let's start with pitch.

  • To help us out, we're going to use a piano,

  • but this system works for pretty much

  • any instrument you can think of.

  • In the Western music tradition,

  • pitches are named after

  • the first seven letters of the alphabet,

  • A,

  • B,

  • C,

  • D,

  • E,

  • F,

  • and G.

  • After that, the cycle repeats itself:

  • A,

  • B,

  • C,

  • D,

  • E,

  • F,

  • G,

  • A,

  • B,

  • C,

  • D,

  • E,

  • F,

  • G,

  • and so on.

  • But how do these pitches get their names?

  • Well, for example, if you played an F

  • and then played another F

  • higher or lower on the piano,

  • you'd notice that they sound pretty similar

  • compared to, say, a B.

  • Going back to the staff,

  • every line and every space between two lines

  • represents a separate pitch.

  • If we put a note on one of these lines

  • or one of these spaces,

  • we're telling a performer to play that pitch.

  • The higher up on the staff a note is placed,

  • the higher the pitch.

  • But there are obviously many, many more pitches

  • than the nine that these lines and spaces gives us.

  • A grand piano, for example, can play

  • 88 separate notes.

  • So how do we condense 88 notes onto a single staff?

  • We use something called a clef.

  • A clef is a weird looking figure

  • placed at the beginning of the staff

  • and it acts like a reference point,

  • telling you that a particular line or space

  • corresponds to a specific note on your instrument.

  • If we want to play notes that aren't on the staff,

  • we kind of cheat and draw extra little lines

  • called ledger lines

  • and place the notes on them.

  • If we have to draw so many ledger lines

  • that it gets confusing,

  • then we need to change to a different clef.

  • As for telling a performer when to play the notes,

  • two main elements control this:

  • the beat

  • and the rhythm.

  • The beat of a piece of music is,

  • by itself, kind of boring.

  • It sounds like this.

  • Notice that it doesn't change,

  • it just plugs along quite happily.

  • It can go slow

  • or fast

  • or whatever you like, really.

  • The point is that just like the second hand on a clock

  • divides one minute into sixty seconds,

  • with each second just as long as every other second,

  • the beat divides a piece of music

  • into little fragments of time

  • that are all the same length,

  • beats.

  • With a steady beat as a foundation,

  • we can start adding rhythm to our pitches,

  • and that's when music really starts to happen.

  • This is a quarter note.

  • It's the most basic unit of rhythm,

  • and it's worth one beat.

  • This is a half note, and it's worth two beats.

  • This whole note here is worth four beats,

  • and these little guys are eighth notes,

  • worth half a beat each.

  • "Great," you say, "what does that mean?"

  • You might have noticed

  • that across the length of a staff,

  • there are little lines dividing it into small sections.

  • These are bar lines

  • and we refer to each section as a bar.

  • At the beginning of a piece of music,

  • just after the clef,

  • is something called the time signature,

  • which tells a performer how many beats are in each bar.

  • This says there are two beats in each bar,

  • this says there are three,

  • this one four,

  • and so on.

  • The bottom number tells us what kind of note

  • is to be used as the basic unit for the beat.

  • One corresponds to a whole note,

  • two to a half note,

  • four to a quarter note,

  • and eight to an eighth note,

  • and so on.

  • So this time signature here

  • tells us that there are four quarter notes in each bar,

  • one,

  • two,

  • three,

  • four;

  • one,

  • two,

  • three,

  • four,

  • and so on.

  • But like I said before,

  • if we just stick to the beat,

  • it gets kind of boring,

  • so we'll replace some quarter notes

  • with different rhythms.

  • Notice that even though the number of notes

  • in each bar has changed,

  • the total number of beats in each bar hasn't.

  • So what does our musical creation sound like?

  • Eh, sounds okay, but maybe a bit thin, right?

  • Let's add another instrument

  • with its own pitch and rhythm.

  • Now it's sounding like music.

  • Sure, it takes some practice

  • to get used to reading it quickly

  • and playing what we see on our instrument,

  • but, with a bit of time and patience,

  • you could be the next Beethoven

  • or

  • Justin Bieber.

When we watch a film or a play,

Subtitles and vocabulary

Operation of videos Adjust the video here to display the subtitles

A2 TED-Ed staff performer clef music beat

【TED-Ed】How to read music - Tim Hansen

  • 2668 551
    Zenn posted on 2013/11/22
Video vocabulary