Basic Music Reading (Guitar Lesson)


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Jim Deeming

Basic Music Reading

Jim covers basic music concepts such as the staff, time signatures, clefs, measures, note duration, and note representation.

Taught by Jim Deeming in Music Reading seriesLength: 16:25Difficulty: 1.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (07:17) Music Reading Basics In the previous lesson, you learned where all of the natural notes occur in first position. These notes comprise the C major scale. Now, Jim Deeming demonstrates how these notes are on the musical staff.

Clef Signs

Guitar music is always written in what is called treble clef. Sometimes this clef symbol is referred to as "G" clef. The loop at the bottom of the clef symbol designates where the note G is written on the staff. This note is written on the second line from the bottom on the staff.

On the other hand, piano music o utilizes both treble and bass clef. The piano covers a much wider range of notes than the guitar. To write all of these notes on a single staff would be impossible. The piano extends much lower into the bass range than the guitar.

Lines and Spaces

Each individual line on the staff is called a stave. The area in between each of the lines is appropriately called a space. From bottom to top, note names of the lines are E, G, B, D, F. Remember "every good boy does fine" or "every good boy deserves fudge" to help you memorize these notes. From top to bottom, the note names of the spaces spell the word "face."

So how do these notes on the staff relate to the notes learned in the previous lesson? The bottom E line represents the E located on the second fret of the D string. Use this as a reference point when determining the guitar location / staff location of a certain note. Watch as Jim plays from the E on the bottom line up to the F on the top line, so you can compare the locations of these notes on the guitar to their location on the staff.

Ledger Lines

So what about the notes on the A and low E strings? These notes are written below the staff on what are called ledger lines. Ledger lines are used above the staff for notes above G (3rd fret of the high E string).

The goal of this scene is to link the location of the notes on the staff to their appropriate location on the guitar. This brain to hand connection must become automatic. You can't take the time to sit and think about it this information while you are trying to read a piece of music. You will quickly become very frustrated.
Chapter 2: (09:16) Timing and Note Duration The measure or bar line separates a piece of music into equal increments. These increments are specified by the time signature. For example, each measure in 4/4 time contains four quarter notes per measure or other notes that equal the sum of 4 quarter notes.

Note Stem Direction

A filled in note head with a stem attached represents a quarter note. The stem is a vertical line connected to the note head. The stem will either point up or down depending on where the note is located on the staff. Notes that are C (third space from the bottom) or above are written with the stem going downwards. Notes A or below have the stem going downwards. B can go either way depending on the context of the melody line. These rules are applied to keep the musical score from becoming messy from a visual standpoint. There are some exceptions to this rule however. For example, if you are playing a piece that involves two simultaneous lines, the stems of the notes on the highest part will always go upwards. The stems on the lower part will always point downwards.

Demonstration of Counting

Jim has written out a small excerpt of two measures in 4/4 time. This excerpt is comprised of two quarters followed a half note. Then, the next measure features one whole note. Each of the quarter notes receive one beat. The half note receives two beats. Finally, the whole note receives four beats, or one full measure. Listen carefully as Jim plays this excerpt on the guitar to ensure that you understand how these note values function. In addition, all of the notes he plays are the note C on the third space. Make sure you are playing this note properly on the guitar (1st fret of the B string).

2nd Demonstration

This example is in 3/4 time. Remember that this means that there are 3 beats per measure instead of four. The first measure consists of a quarter note followed by a half note. Once again, the quarter note receives one beat, and the half note receives two beats.

The second measure features a half note with a dot written beside it. A dot adds half of the written value of the note. Half of a half note is a quarter. So, hold this note out for a half note plus a quarter note for a total of 3 beats or one whole measure in this time signature. Look at some other examples to make sure you understand this concept. For example, how many beats would a dotted whole note be worth? A whole note receives 4 beats by itself. What is half of four? Half of four is 2. So, add two additional beats to the existing value of this note for a total of 6 beats.

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Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.


shadowblueshadowblue replied on April 4th, 2011

Going through this one last time before moving on.

williamgraffwilliamgraff replied on January 21st, 2010

Scene 1 @ 3:50 the word you were looking for is "acronym" :)

rolo95rolo95 replied on October 28th, 2009

I really like your lessons! but how do i know wich octave i'm supposed to play? Like the E note at the begginig on the 2nd fret of the d string, why can't it be played as the ope 3 string?

SylviaSylvia replied on August 7th, 2008

but Jim, the 3 lowest open string notes are notes found on the bass clef. Why not use the bass clef rather than writing tiny stave lines below the Treble clef?

joergen98joergen98 replied on November 9th, 2012

I think it's done to make music writing easier and the music sheets look better and shorter, I guess.

Music Reading

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

Reading music and rhythm is the foundation for anyone serious about music. In order to understand the theory necessary to progress as a player, a basic understanding of how to read music and how to read rhythms is necessary.



Lesson 1

Basic Notes and Theory

Understanding notes, intervals, and scales is key to music reading. Jim proves a beginner crash course on these subjects.

Length: 18:53 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 2

Basic Music Reading

Jim covers basic music concepts such as the staff, time signatures, clefs, measures, note duration, and note representation.

Length: 16:25 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 3

The First Two Strings

Jim covers the first two strings in this lesson. He explains where the natural notes are located on the fretboard and how they appear on the staff.

Length: 17:12 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 4

The Third and Fourth Strings

Jim covers the third and fourth strings. He explains where the natural notes are located on the fretboard and how they appear on the staff.

Length: 11:43 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 5

The Fifth and Sixth Strings

Jim covers the fifth and sixth strings. He explains where the natural notes are located on the fretboard and how they appear on the staff.

Length: 11:34 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 6

Symbols, Timing, and Notes

Jim Deeming explains more music symbols in this lesson. He also introduces 3/4 time and eighth notes.

Length: 10:25 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 7

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

In this lesson Jim Deeming uses the classic song "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" as a music reading exercise.

Length: 11:06 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 8

The Low Strings

In this lesson Jim takes the song "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" and plays it on the lower strings. This is an excellent exercise for reading and memorizing these notes.

Length: 5:39 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 9

Echo

Jim Deeming teaches a music reading exercise entitled "Echo." This fun, play-along lesson is a perfect way to hone your reading and counting skills.

Length: 18:03 Difficulty: 3.0 Members Only

About Jim Deeming View Full Biography Jim Deeming got his first guitar when he was only six years old. His Dad was taking fingerpicking lessons, and Jim wanted to be just like him. The Mel Bay books didn't last very long before he strapped on a thumb pick and added the Chet part to Red River Valley so it sounded better.

Most of Jim's early learning was by ear. With unlimited access to his Dad's collection of Chet Atkins albums, he spent countless hours decoding his favorite songs. They were never "right" until they sounded just like Chet. Around the age of 12, Jim heard Jerry Reed for the first time and just knew he had to be able to make that "Alabama Wild Man" sound. The styles of Chet & Jerry always have been a big influence on his playing.

More recently he has pursued arrangements by Tommy Emmanuel and Doyle Dykes, in addition to creating some of his own and writing originals.

Jim has performed in front of a variety of audiences, including concerts, competitions, weddings and the like, but playing at church has always been a mainstay. Whether playing in worship bands or guitar solos, gospel music is deep in his roots and is also the driving theme behind his debut CD release, titled "First Fruits".

Jim has been playing for about 38 years. He also has taught private lessons in the past but believes JamPlay.com is an exciting and better venue with many advantages over the traditional method of weekly 30 minute sessions.

Jim lives in Berthoud, Colorado with his wife, Linda, and their four children. Although he still has a "day job", he is actively performing and is already back in the studio working on the next CD. If you wonder how he finds time, look no further than the back seat of his truck where he keeps a "travel guitar" to take advantage of any practice or song-writing opportunities he can get.

The opening song you hear in Jim's introductory JamPlay video is called, "A Pick In My Pocket". It's an original tune, written in memory of Jim's father who told him early on he should always keep a pick in his pocket in case he ever met Chet Atkins and got the chance to play for him. That song is slated to be the title track for his next CD, which will feature several more originals plus some of his favorite covers of Chet and Jerry arrangements.

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