solidwalnut

Standard Notation

13 posts in this topic

Fret--

Man, this is really an excellent lesson! Very thorough. I've always been one who hasn't always known how to read it fluently, and this will surely help.

Thanks,

Steve

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Thanks a lot Steve. I've still got a few more to add to it but I'm quite pleased with the way it's shaping up.

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Wow - it is great source of info. I appreciate the time it must have taken you to do this, Fretsource. Thankyou.

By the way, I'm still confused about the bottom number in the time signature. I understand the top number - the number of beats in a bar. Can you elaborate on the bottom number?

thanks,

Doug

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Hi Doug,

I'm no expert, but the bottom number tells you which note gets 1 beat. So if the the bottom note is a 4, the quarter note is 1 beat. If it is an 8, it's the eighth note that is one beat, etc. The timing of the other notes is then based on this. For example if it the eighth note is one beat, a quarter note would be 2 beats in this case, etc.

Hope this helps.

Nutty

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Thanks Doug - I'm glad you're finding the lessons useful.

As for the bottom number of the time signature, it's a good question because it confuses a lot of people.

To expand a bit on Nutty's good answer, the top number is the important one. In fact it's the only REAL one. When you hear a piece of music, you can usually hear the music naturally divides into an equal 'measure' of beats. On hearing it we can usually say it has three beats per measure, or four, or whatever. But's that's ALL.

The bottom number doesn't exist until we come to notating the music. So let's say you compose a simple and very short song with just 10 equal length notes:

C E E |C E E |G A B |C--||

If you play those notes with a little emphasis on the bold notes, the "three beat per measure" time is unmistakeable. And we can hear that every note coincides with the beat

So when it comes to notating it, you know that the top number of the time signature MUST be THREE.

But how do you write the notes of your song? Do you choose 10 quarter notes? or 10 eighth notes? or even 10 half notes?

The good news is that it's up to you because whichever note length you choose they'll all sound the same. The tempo of the song is unaffected because it's measured in beats per minute, regardless of what note length you choose to equal one beat.

If you decide to write it as 10 quarter notes - then, as Nutty says, the quarter note will be the beat - and your bottom number will be four.

If you decide to write it as 10 eighth notes, then the bottom number will be eight.

Either way, they'll sound exactly the same, They'll still have exactly the same tempo in beats per minute. Whether it's 60 quarter note beats per minute or 60 eighth note beats per minute, they'll sound the same because 60 beats per minute is 60 beats per minute, whatever the beat happens to look like.

Here's an analogy - If I recite a poem to you from a sheet of paper. You can hear the words but you've no idea whether the words on the sheet are written using all capital letters, or lower case or even shorthand. And if you like the poem and decide to copy it yourself by ear, it doesn't matter if you write it the same way as on my sheet - The words will come out exactly the same when you recite it.

A common cause of confusion that you hear is when someone says something like "that song is in three-four". Many of us do it because it's a very common time signature, but strictly speaking, there's no way of knowing the bottom number without seeing the notation. Strictly, we should say it's in 'triple time'.

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I have some very basic questions about sheet music. I go to the store and buy some sheet music. On the cover it says its for piano, vocal, and guitar. So, what I see on the sheets are the chords on top, then, three staffs, and tabs.

Now, I want to play the guitar section. The piano section I know from the Grand Staff notation. So, do I play the chord notation with the tabs or just the tabs by themselves? Or can I play the melody section?

I know these questions sound very simplistic but I would appreciate any feedback.

Thanks all. :brickwall:

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I know these questions sound very simplistic but I would appreciate any feedback.

Hi Tonedeaf

You've no idea the amount of frustration those same questions caused me when I started buying songbooks. (Revolver, Sgt Pepper and others) There were three staffs plus chord symbols and lyrics - no tabs.

I assumed that it contained everything played on the record and the chord symbols were for rhythm guitar, the top staff was lead guitar, the middle one was other instruments and the bottom one was bass guitar. WRONG!!

Nobody told me they were just simplified piano arrangements. I couldn't read music at the time but I could work out the notes one by one from a school text book so I was completely baffled when trying to follow the song on paper while listening to the track. They hardly ever seemed to match up. I would hear a great guitar lick from Harrison but there was no sign of anything remotely similar on the page.

I learned later they are just piano arrangements and they were produced that way because, at the time piano was still considered the right way to present song arrangements. The fact that guitar had exploded onto the pop music scene and completely dominated it was lost on those publishers and professional transcribers from an earlier generation who seemed reluctant to accept the guitar as a proper instrument at all.

Guitarists had to make do with those simple little chord boxes at the top and be thankful for it. I also learned later that those chord shapes usually bear no resemblance to the shapes actually used.

Worse than that - songs would often appear in downright unfriendly keys, such as E flat, when they were actually in simple keys like D. (Apparantly E flat is a friendly key for pianists).

A lot has improved. At least now they tell you when it's a piano arrangement and don't just expect you to assume it.

If tab is provided then you know that it has been written especially for the guitar part and that's what you should play from if you just want the guitar part. But if you want to make your own arrangement of the whole song from whichever instruments are used, then transcribe the piano part - or at least a simplified version as the two handed piano part usually has more notes than you can manage on one guitar.

The chord boxes are just a simplified version of the harmonies of the music - ok for strumming along and singing but pretty useless for anything more elaborate - That's what the tab and notation are for.

Good luck :smilinguitar:

(Hi Knight - Glad you found our explanations helpful :winkthumb: )

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I've been looking to learn standard notation, but I've been postponing it. :yes:

Thanks to you I can get started today, thanks Fretsource. :winkthumb::winkthumb::claping::guitardude:

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I've been looking to learn standard notation, but I've been postponing it. :yes:

Thanks to you I can get started today, thanks Fretsource. :winkthumb::winkthumb::claping::guitardude:

Glad to hear it Europa. I'll be stopping by there regularly to check you're hard at work. :D

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Hello Fretsource,

You are reading my mind! That says it all about the frustration between the sound tracks and the sheet music. Thank you very much for the insight. When listening to sound tracks I keep wondering where the heck do all these extra notes come from!

Thanks again, I'm off to learn how to transpose!

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