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Piano Teaching

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Reading sheet music made easy (Part 2)

This is a continuation from Part 1 The aim is to get to a point to be able to read the following piece: Seeing how written music maps to the piano extremely well, leads me to believe that modern sheet music was invented first for the piano (or maybe the piano was invented with sheet music in mind... Who knows???). This sheet music to keyboard mapping is so intuitive that it is the logical place to start (at least in my opinion :P) Step 2 (Marching forward) We will begin with the grand staff (incidentally the exact same staff our extract of the "For Elise" is written in) which is the most popular of all the staffs (see I made a funny). (BTW plural of staff is staves) Wikipedia defines the Grand staff admirably and I quote it here: " When music on two staves is joined by a brace or is intended to be played at once by a single performer (usually a keyboard instrument or the harp), a grand staff is created... Typically, the upper staff uses a treble clef and the lower staff has a bass clef. When playing the piano or harp, the upper staff is normally played with the right hand and the lower staff with the left hand." If you are really irritating and nosy like me you would impatient to know what cleffs are too, even though I can safely say its too much information for now. However if your curiosity cannot be curtailed please go here and read all about them. And now to carry on where we left off; The Keyboards of most modern pianos look like this: If you look carefully you will be able to see there is an repeating pattern after the first three keys. The repeating pattern of the keys are called octaves and most modern pianos have 7 1/3 octaves or more on their keyboard (7 full octaves like the image below and three extra keys which are A, B and the black key between them). Here's an easy way to remember the keys of any octave; Observe that the black keys (after the first single black key) repeat in sets of 2, 3, 2, 3, 2... Every white key immediately on the left of each set of two black keys is the 'C' key. In the following image the keys of all the octaves have been numbered with the 'C4' key additionally marked as the 'Middle C' (Look at it closely and keep it in mind as it becomes very important very soon) Now I am going to show you how the Grand staff we saw earlier maps to this keyboard. The Nine white keys starting from G2 key all the way to A3 key make the Bass Clef and are usually played with the left hand (Highlighted in the image below in green). The Nine white keys starting from E4 key all the way to F5 key make the Treble Clef and are usually played with the right hand (Highlighted in the image below in red) What I am going to do next is to rotate this keyboard 90 degrees counter-clockwise and map the two clefs onto the lines of the grand staff: As you can see the keys highlighted with the darker colour correspond to the notes on the lines and the keys highlighted with the lighter colours correspond to the notes on the spaces. Now try to keep the keyboard in mind when as I remove it and show you where the notes on the two clefs are written along with the three notes in the middle of the two clefs that we have been ignoring. You are right to guess that the middle C can be written on the first ledger line above the Bass clef and also the first ledger line below the treble clef (So in effect could be shown in either place depending on which hand the composer intends for you to play it with in the melody). There are lots of other markings and symbols used in music but that is a battle for another day. This tutorial was only intended to bring across the basics of reading the pitch and beat of a melody from paper. This brings us to the end of my basic tutorial. You might be going "Whoa! What about the black keys" Well the black keys are complicated but the simplest way to describe them is that they are accidentals of the white keys. There are five kinds of accidentals: The "natural" symbol is used to cancel the effect of the flats and the sharps. The Flat symbol denotes a value for the note which is one semitone (or half note) less than the natural The Sharp symbol denotes a value for the note which is one semitone (or half note) more than the natural. Therefore the accidentals are to be interpreted as follows: Wikipedia mentions the following six rules for accidentals: An accidental carries through the measure affecting both the note it immediately precedes and any following notes on the same line or space in the measure. Accidentals do not affect the same note of a different octave, unless indicated by a key signature. Accidentals are not repeated on tied notes unless the tie goes from line to line or page to page. Accidentals are not repeated for repeated notes unless one or more different pitches [or rests] intervene. If a sharp or flat pitch is followed directly by its natural form, a natural is used. Cautionary accidentals or naturals (in parentheses) may be used to clarify ambiguities, but should be held to a minimum With this we truly come to an end of this basic intro. You should now be able to read the opening from 'For Elise' Try it out. (I've solved the first two measures for you) E5 D5# | E5 D5# E5 B4 D5 C5 |

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