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  • 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 axesup 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 in 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 thisthe 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 1 beat.

  • This is a half note, and it's worth 2 beats.

  • This whole note here is worth 4 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 3, this one 4, and so on.

  • The bottom number tells us what kind of note is to be used as the basic unit for the beat.

  • 1 corresponds to a whole note, 2 to a half note, 4 to a quarter note, and 8 to an eighth note, and so on.

  • So, this time signature here tells us that there are 4 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?

  • 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, we know that the actors probably learned their lines from a script,

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A2 TED-Ed performer staff clef music beat

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

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    Zenn posted on 2022/08/24
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