If you are new to piano sheet music, a simple glance can get you confused. Here are the basics you should know for properly reading sheet music.
Know Your Staff
The lines across the page represent the staff. The staff is an arrangement of two sets of five horizontal parallel lines. Each line and space can house a particular note. When referencing the staff, the lines and spaces are counted from the bottom of the staff to the top of the staff. Each set of lines will begin with a particular clef and time measure. There may also be a set of sharps or flats that are marked on the lines and spaces next to the time measure. Let’s break down these symbols at the beginning of the staff.
The Treble Clef
The treble clef may also be referred to as the G clef. It looks like a fancy cursive symbol with a part of the symbol gracefully wrapping around the line that represents the G note. This clef is displayed on the top set of parallel lines and signifies the higher ranges of notes on a piano. When notes are added following the treble clef, they have the following values:
- Starting from the bottom, the five lines represent the notes, E, G, B, D, and F.
- From the bottom, the four spaces represent the notes, F, A, C, and E.
The Bass Clef
The bass clef may also be referred to as the F clef. It looks like a backward letter C. This clef is displayed on the bottom half of parallel lines and signifies the lower ranges of notes on a piano. When notes are added to the staff following the bass clef, they have the following values:
- Starting from the bottom, the five lines represent the notes, G, B, D, F, and A.
- From the bottom, the four spaces represent the notes, A, C, E, and G.
The Time Measure
The staff is crossed with vertical lines at regular intervals. These intervals are called measures or bars. Measures allow the musician to keep his or her place on the piano sheet music. The set of numbers next to the clef represents the underlying beat of the song. The top number tells you how many beats exist in each measure, while the lower number tells you the note value that equals one beat. The easiest meter or time measure to understand is 4/4 time. In this meter, there are four beats within each measure and a quarter note equals one beat.
The Key Signature
After the time measure, you may notice a set of symbols displayed on the staff. These symbols are either sharps or flats. The sharp symbol looks like a slanted hashtag, and the flat symbol looks like a lowercase B. Different sets of sharps or flats represent different key signatures for the notes of a song. As you become more familiar with reading notes and understanding the patterns of sharps and flats, learning how to recognize the various key signatures is your next step to becoming a pro at reading piano sheet music.