Chapter 2: Rhythm and Pitch Musical Notation

Chapter 2:
Rhythm and Pitch
Key Terms
Dotted notes
Dotted rests
Time signatures
Ledger lines
Key signatures
Many cultures notate, or write down, their
music in some way
Notation uses a complex set of symbols to
represent pitch, duration, dynamics,
expression, and so on
Even if you cannot read music, a basic
knowledge of musical notation can help
you follow along and understand concepts
more easily
Pitch and Time
Just as on a graph:
Pitch measured vertically, from low to high
Time measured horizontally, from left to
Rhythmic Notation
Note values
Note values express duration of notes
• Durations are relative and proportional
• A whole note equals two half notes; a half note
equals two quarter notes; and so on
• Names based on fractions of whole note (half,
quarter, eighth, etc.)
• Actual duration depends on tempo
White notes are longer than black notes
The more flags or beams, the shorter
Note Values
Flags and Beams
Flags and beams group together short
notes within a beat
They make rhythms easier to read
Represent the silences between notes or
Each note value has a corresponding rest,
a silence of equal duration
Short rests have flags that correspond to
the flags and beams of short notes
Rest Values
Dotted Rhythms
A dot placed after (to the right of) a note or
rest makes it half again as long (150% of
Dotted rhythms mix longer dotted notes
with shorter undotted notes
Any two or more notes (same pitch!) can
be tied together to make one long duration
Look like ties, but they connect two or
more different pitches
Indicate that the performer must move
smoothly from one note to the next, with
no gap in the sound
Staccato Dots
Dots placed above or below note heads
indicate that the notes should be played
staccato, in a detached manner
Musicians often play a staccato quarter
note as if it were an eighth note followed
by an eighth rest
Notes normally divide into two or four
equal parts
Triplets can be used to divide a note into
three equal parts
Three notes are bracketed together and/or
marked with the number 3
• Quarter note = two eighth notes = three eighthnote triplets
Basic time unit chosen for a piece of
Vertical bar lines separate one measure
from the next
Measures are normally equal in length
Time signatures
Found on the staff at the beginning of the
Top number = number of beats in each
Bottom number = note value of the beat
Pitch Notation
Seven letter names (ABCDEFG) assigned
to seven original pitches of diatonic scale
Letter names re-used in every octave
Octaves often distinguished by numbers
(c1 or c2) or prime marks (A’ or A”)
Middle C (c1) is just left of the middle of the
keyboard, under the maker’s name
The Staff
To specify exact pitches, notes are placed
on a five-lined staff
Notes can be placed on a line or in the
spaces between lines
Ledger lines temporarily extend the
number of lines in a staff when higher or
lower notes are needed
Clef signs at the beginning of each staff
identify a reference pitch (G clef or F clef)
Clefs enable musicians to quickly identify
specific pitches on any line or space
Most common are treble clef (G clef) and
bass clef (F clef)
Middle C is first ledger line above bass clef
and first ledger line below treble clef
• Since these clefs hardly overlap, they are often
used together to notate a maximum span of
Piano music brackets treble and bass clefs
together in a grand staff
With ledger lines, the grand staff can be
used to notate every pitch on the piano
Sharps and Flats
Letter names identify the white keys on the
piano keyboard
Sharps and flats are required to identify
the black keys
In music notation, we write sharps and
flats just to the left of a note head
In written prose or when speaking, we say
the letter name first (C sharp or B flat)
Sharps and Flats
To find a sharped note on the keyboard:
First find the white key for the letter name
Then find the key just above it (to the right!)
C sharp is the black key just above C
(B sharp is the white key just above B!)
To find a flatted note on the keyboard:
First find the white key for the letter name
Then find the key just below it (to the left!)
B flat is the black key just below B
(C flat is the white key just below C!)
Naturals are used to cancel a sharp or a
flat (to revert to the white key)
They are used when a sharped or flatted
note is followed by a “normal” version of
the same note
(Bar lines automatically cancel added
sharps or flats)
Key Signatures
Most scales consistently use certain
sharps or flats throughout a piece
Writing in those sharps or flats every time
they appear takes time and adds clutter
Instead, composers put them in a key
signature, found just after the clef at the
beginning of each staff
Key Signatures
These two tunes sound the same, but the
version with a key signature:
Looks nicer than the version without:
Music for a melody instrument (violin,
trumpet, etc.) is written on a single staff
Music for keyboard instruments is written
on two staves: one for each hand
Music for two or more instruments and/or
voices is written in scores
Scores contain the music for every voice
and instrument (every part) in a given
Parts are lined up vertically
In general, high sounding instruments go
on top, low ones on the bottom
Scores can be simple, with just a few
Or more complex (next slide):