Lesson 2: The Music Staff


In the picture below, notice how there are different pitched notes with the same letter names? This is why clefs exists! Clefs help indicate which note to play. For example, look at the 3 notes which are identified as "C". Having clefs will tell each musican which "C" to play. The symbol in the top right hand corner of the picture above is called the treble clef. The symbol on the bottom right corner is called the base clef.

Time Signatures and Measures:

A measure (or commonly called a bar) is the piece of music in between the vertical lines. Time signatures helps organize the music by giving measures structure. Each time signature has 2 numbers stacked on top of one another and are written next to the clefs on a music sheet. The top number indicates how many beats are in a given measure. The bottom number indicates what note gets the beat. For example, a number 4 on the bottom signifies that the quarter note gets the beat. Likewise, a number 2 on the bottom means a half note, an 8, eight notes, and a 1, whole notes. Below are common time signatures that composers frequently use. Time signatures are written once at the beginning of the piece, and is understood thoughout the piece unless it gets changed somewhere in between. This is commonly referred to as a "time change".

Here is an example of how the clefs, time signatures, and measures work together. Notice that at the end of this example, there are double lines; these signify the end of the piece.


Tempo is how fast a piece of music is to be played. It is measured in beats per minute (or BPM). A metronome is commonly used to keep track of tempo while practicing. During performaces, metronomes are not used. A conducter(a human person), gives the tempo, which the musicians are expected to follow. Often times the tempo is written like this:

The number 120 means that there are 120 beats in one minute, which indicates the speed of the music. The quarter note means that it "gets" the beat, meaning that each beat is equivalent to one quarter note.

Now you know the nessessary componets to reading music!


What note is this?