Reading notes – quick& understandable

But still, it helps a lot to understand music, if you can read notes.

And because the piano keyboard is actually the easiest to explain, let’s have a look at it.

Piano scale

On the white keys of the piano there are always the Root notes. In the C major scale we have the above seven root notes: C-D-E-F-G-A-H-C

On the black keys we have the extended root tones C sharp – D sharp – F sharp – G sharp – A sharp.

It is worth to learn this sequence of the C major scale (C – C sharp – D – D sharp – E – F – F sharp – G – G sharp – A – A sharp – B – C) completely by heart.

By the way, the smallest distance between two keys is always a Half step.

D – D sharp = semitone step

C sharp – D = semitone step

E – F = semitone step (there is no black piano key in between)

A Whole tone step on the other hand is composed of two semitones

D – E = whole tone step

C sharp – D sharp = whole tone step

Small learning aid: The C major scale starts at C. The notes after this are arranged almost alphabetically: The note is followed by the D, then the E, F and the G. Before the next note B, however, there is still the A. Now the C comes again and the notes begin again from the beginning.

To learn more background about this system, read the following article about the scale again at your leisure:


What often causes confusion is the root note B or. B. In German-speaking countries, the B is often used – but this is actually not quite correct. In the Middle Ages – due to changing fonts – the original B became a H. When in 15. In the 19th century, when Gutenberg introduced letterpress printing, this false tradition was solidified. So here is a little "translation table" for your convenience

German designationInternational designation
A sharp (rarely H flat) Bb

The staff

The understanding of the twelve notes from C to B is already a big step. Now we distribute the notes times on the sheet of music.

First of all, the lines are important: There must be five of them. At the beginning there are often strange symbols (clef or accidentals) or numbers (measure) – but this should not irritate us for the moment.


An empty stave with five lines

By the way, the lines work almost like a ladder, but in music tones also find their place between the rungs.

So a note can be written directly on a line, or just below or. above a line. So you need two tone steps (see again the scale) to get from one line to the next line.

Note values

Two note values

Particularly high or particularly low notes are supplemented by auxiliary lines upwards or downwards, in order to be able to notate these notes as well.

Reading notes - quick& understandable

Auxiliary lines above and below

But now let’s get concrete and start with the actual sequence of note reading!

Reading notes – this is how it works

You now know the whole tone and half tone steps and have seen the line system. If we transfer the whole tone steps to the sheet of music, it looks like this.

Whole tone steps

We have now placed the white keys of the piano score (i.e. the whole tone steps) on the lines. The note value always jumps up one rung.

As guitar tabs (see also Learn to read tabs) it could look like this:

semitone steps

Semitone steps are either signed with a sign. Either this is a "#" (cross) or a "b" (bb). A "#" increases the note value by a semitone step and always adds an -is to the note. How to turn a G into a G sharp. From a C a C sharp.

A "b", on the other hand, reduces the note value by one semitone step, an -es is appended to the note. A G becomes a Ges. From a C to a Ces.

Read notes accidentals

g sharp and g flat

Here once again all root tones and extended root tones, as they look in each case with the cross sign # in the notation.

Scale with all semitones

Note values

So now we can determine the pitch. Still missing is the speed – the note values.

A note value indicates how long a note is to last.

Note values

note values

Let’s look at the note values from left to right:

  • the whole note: empty notehead without stem
  • the half note: empty note head with note stem
  • the Quarter notefilled notehead with stem
  • the eighth noteblack head with flags
  • the sixteenth note: black head with two
  • the Thirty-second note: black head with three

By the way, instead of the flags you can often see bars.

Abstractly speaking, a whole note lasts 4 times longer than a quarter note. Or. Four quarter notes are as long as one whole note.

Let’s make it concrete: The song has a 4/4 beat. That means you can pack four quarter notes into a bar until a new one begins. A whole note, on the other hand, lasts a whole measure.

By the way, a bar is separated by the vertical bar line – a bar line.

Now let’s assume you play a song with 60 beats per minute (also called 60 bpm). Then one bar beat would correspond exactly to one second.

So you would play a quarter note for the first 4 seconds each, in the 5. Second then comes the whole note. Second 6, 7 and 8 still echo this note.

Rests values

Just as there are note values, there are also rest values. And these can be matched 1:1 to the note values, just with different symbols.

  • Whole rest: Hangs on the line
  • Half rest: stands on the line
  • quarter rest
  • eighth rest
  • sixteenth rest
  • thirty-second rest

And otherwise?

These are in any case already the basics for learning notes. Then there are some subtleties like the key or the beat.

In most cases, you’ll encounter a treble clef and a 4/4 time signature (a waltz typically has a 3/4 time signature).

The time signature simply indicates how many note values fit into a measure. In a 4/4 time signature, four quarter notes or. put in a whole note.

The best known and most used clef is the treble clef. As a guitarist you will almost always work with this one and you will recognize it by the following symbol

Treble clef

Treble clef

Like this post? Please share to your friends:
Leave a Reply

;-) :| :x :twisted: :smile: :shock: :sad: :roll: :razz: :oops: :o :mrgreen: :lol: :idea: :grin: :evil: :cry: :cool: :arrow: :???: :?: :!: