Musical Definitions and Reading the Staff

For those of you who have just finished reading the first part of this section, you'll remember that I covered just the basics of reading the musical staff.

On this page, I'm going to work on providing a few more important musical definitions for you.

Today, I'm going to cover a few more of the things that you'll find on any basic sheet of music. Except that on this page, there are going to be more things that are variable or that can be changed according to the needs of the composer or piece of music. Nothing too complex, just a few basic things and a few basic Musical Definitions.

One of the things that changes often from piece of music to piece of music is the Key Signature. The Key Signature is a marking at the beginning (And sometimes at other points in the music) that tells you what notes are consistently sharpened (raised a semitone) or flattened (lowered a semitone) throughout the piece (Don't worry if this doesn't make any sense now; It will later). In a later lesson, I'm going to cover the actual key signatures, so all you have to know now is what they are.

Another thing that changes often is what they call the Time Signature. The Time Signature is used to give anyone who reads the music an idea of how many beats there are in a bar and what kind of beats they are. The vast majority of the pieces that you'll play are in 4/4 (what they call common time) or, sometimes, 3/4 time.

Time Signatures are fairly easy to understand. The top number refers to the number of beats that there are in each bar (measure) and the bottom number refers to the kind of beat that is being counted as one. For example, 4/4 means that there are four beats per bar (1-2-3-4) and that each beat is worth one quarter note (Don't worry if this doesn't make any sense now; I'll be covering this more in depth later on).

Here are a few examples of both of those concepts in action:

Another thing that commonly changes from piece to piece (fairly often) are the endings or repeats. These are markings that are placed at the end of a section of music that denote a change in the piece of music in some way.

When you see a repeat, it means that you have to go back to a certain section in the piece of music (That is marked as such) and play from that part again so that you are "Repeating" that part of the music. The endings (and there are a few different kinds) are there to tell you what you are expected to do at that point in the music as a section comes to a close.

Here are a few different kinds of endings and a repeat to show you what they are:

Chord Symbols are, well, symbols that are usually placed above the musical staff. They are used to give the musicians an idea of what kind of harmony is to be played in the piece at that moment.

Generally, a Guitar Player or a Piano Player is expected to Comp (Modified form of accompany) in a certain style with the music, using the chord symbols to give an idea of the harmonic content of the music. I'll be delving into this more thoroughly later on, but again, you only need to know what it is at this point and I'm not expecting you to have a thorough knowledge of how they work. That will come with time.

Here are a few Chord Symbols to give you an idea of what they are:

The two other things that I will be talking about today are "Cues" and "Dynamics". "Cues" are used to provide an idea of important parts in the music or certain inflections or notes that the composer wants to point out and "Dynamics" are markings on the music that provide an idea of the relative volume of the piece at the moment.

Dynamics are explained in more detail later on in another section. "Cues" can really be anything. From a simple letter to denote a specific part in the music to a full on explanation of how a specific part is to be played, a cue is anything that provides a note or direction.

That's it for this section.

One note about this section: I've called this section musical definitions due to the fact that there are quite a few pieces of information on this page, and in fact, quite a few musical definitions.

However, there are a lot more in the way of musical definitions on the other pages of my site.

If you're feeling Brave and Strong and Full of Knowledge (and quite possibly cookies if you're anything like me right now (Blah)), you should move onto some of my other lessons and continue to pick up as much knowledge on this as you can.

Check out my Next Lesson Now.

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