Reading Music on Ukulele Series - The Basics

The roadmap to reading standard music notation.

Published: Jan 2, 2006 Updated: Mar 23, 2019 • Visitors: 31 • Page Views: 1

ukulele Subjects: beginnerintermediatereading

The first step in learning to read is to first recognize the notes on the staff and know where on the fingerboard they are located. Knowing the name is also a beneficial skill.


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Note Recognition

notes_heads

Music uses a five line staff with four spaces and the first seven letters of the alphabet ( A, B, C, D, E, F, and G ) to names notes. Notes can fall on the lines and spaces of the staff and above and below the staff. Additional lines called ledger lines are added for notes above and below the staff.

The ukulele uses the treble or G clef.

The Lines and Spaces of the Staff

FACE_EGBDF

The lines are named, starting with the bottom line, E G B D and F. This has been traditionally remembered as Every Good Boy Does Fine. Other popular nemonics include Empty Garbage Before Dad Flips,

The spaces are named, starting with the bottom space and going up, F A C and E. This spells "face".

Practice reading and writing these notes.

There are two notes that fall directly above and below the staff. There are D and G. D is the first space below the staff and the G is the first space above the staff.

Note: Put the names of the lines and spaces in a continious loop and you have: E G B D F A C E G B D F A C E G B D F E C ... In music the distance from one letter the next in this sequences is an interval of a third . You'll find that chords are typically built in thirds - so this sequence is handy to rember when somes to reading chords and arpeggios.

Sharps, Flats and Naturals - Accidentals

accidentals_sharp_flat_naturalThe Sharp(), flat() and natural() symbol always appear to the left of and before the note. Just say the sharp, flat or natural after the letter name of the note. C sharp, B flat, F natural, E flat, etc...

The sharp raise the pitch of a note 1/2 step or semitone.

The flat lowers the pitch of a note 1/2 step or semitone.

The natural return a previously sharped or flatted note to it's original "natural" note.

Learn the recognize these sharp, flat and natural notes. Where to play them on the ukulele will come after learning the locations of the natural notes.

For more information on whole step and half steps visit this lessons page on the The Chromatic Scale

Ledger Lines

leger_lines

Ledger lines are small lines that appear above or below the staff. These extend the range of notes above or below the staff. The ukulele will use one or two ledger lines below the staff depending on the tuning you use. C tuning uses one ledger line below and a C tuning with a low G uses two ledger lines below.

Natural, Sharp and Flat Notes of the `Ukulele Fingerboard - C Tuning

Here is a FREE Chart of the Natural, Sharp and Flat Notes in C Tuning .

Note Duration

First the note symbols used to indication the length or duration that a note is to sound.

Whole Note Semibreve

In music, a Whole note (American) or Semibreve (British) is a note represented by a hollow oval note head and no note stem.

Half Note Minim

Half note (American) or Minim (British) is a note played for half the duration of a whole note (or semibreve) and twice the duration of a quarter note (or crotchet).

Quarter Note Crotchet

A Quarter note (American) or Crotchet (British) is a note played for one quarter of the duration of a whole note (or semibreve). Often, musicians will say that a crotchet is one beat, but this is not always correct, as the beat is indicated by the time signature of the music; a quarter note may or may not be the beat. Quarter notes are notated with a filled-in oval note head and a straight, flagless stem. The stem usually points upwards if it is below the middle line of the stave or downwards if it is on or above the middle line. However, the stem direction may differentiate more than one part. The head of the note also reverses its orientation in relation to the stem.

Eighth Note Quaver

An Eighth note (American) or a Quaver (British) is a musical note played for one eighth the duration of whole note (semibreve), hence the name.

Sixteenth Note Minim

Sixteenth note (American) or minim (British) is a note played for half the duration of an eighth note (quaver), hence the names.

Thirty-Second Note

Thirty-Second note (American) or Demisemiquaver (British) is a note played for ​1⁄32 of the duration of a whole note (or semibreve). It lasts half as long as a sixteenth note (or semiquaver) and twice as long as a sixty-fourth (or hemidemisemiquaver).

Other note durations such as Hemidemisemiquaver / Sixty-Fourth note, Semihemidemisemiquaver / Quasihemidemisemiquaver / Hundred Twenty-Eighth note and Demisemihemidemisemiquaver / Two hundred Fifty-Sixth note. Which are quite rare.

Time Signatures

The actual duration depends in the Time Signature. A time signature is a notational used in standard music notation to specify how many beats are to be contained in each measure and which note value is equivalent to one beat. That equivalent to one beat is critical to know.

leger_lines

The time signature appears at the beginning as a time symbol symbol_common_time or 4
4
stacked numerals.

Music Symbols

Musical Symbols are the marks and symbols, used since about the 13th century in the musical notation of musical scores, styles, and instruments to describe pitch, rhythm, tempo and, to some degree, its articulation (a composition in its fundamentals).

A great list of music symbols, more then you'll ever need or see can be found on the WikipediA page: List of Musical Symbols

D.C, D.S., and Endings

Most musician terms are Italian, French, or Germany - with Italian being the most common.

Da Capo (lit. "From top") Tells the performer to repeat playing of the music from its beginning. This is usually followed by al fine (lit. "to the end"), which means to repeat to the word fine and stop, or al coda (lit. "to the coda (sign)"), which means repeat to the coda sign and then jump forward.

Da Segno (lit. "From the sign") Tells the performer to repeat playing of the music starting at the nearest segno. This is followed by al fine or al coda just as with da capo.

Da Capo al Fine Back to the Beginning and then to Fine (the end).

Da Segno al Fine Back to the Sign and then to Fine (the end).

Repeats

Repeats come in two flavors. Both indication what measures or section to repeat.

For the next repeat it used to indiation repeating long section, more measures that the above repeats. Repeat once if there is no indication of the number of times to repeat.


Related Lessons

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Enharmonic Equivalents

An Enharmonic Equivalent is where a musical pitch can have different names depending on the context in which it is functioning.

The Major Scale

Not called the learning scale for a reason.

Whole Steps and Half Steps Explained

The distance between any two notes can be defined by steps - half steps, whole steps, semi-tones, whole tones.

The Chromatic Scale

The only scale in music with ALL twelve notes of one octave.

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A glossary of common music terms.

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Rather than do a complete lesson on standard music notation.

Related Lesson Files, Resources and Assets

Related Assets for Reading Music on Ukulele Series - The Basics at this time.

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Standard music notation flash chards for learning the notes in open position for C tuning.

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This series of lessons picks up after right after the Reading Music on Ukulele - Primer which focused on reading in the open position. This series is a Pro level series of lessons to get you really reading.

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Reading music on ukulele is all about learning what the notes look like and where there are on the instrument for your favorite tuning.

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