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How to Read Sheet Music: Note Types
In order to play an instrument, most of the time you will need to be able to read sheet music. What do those mystical lines and dots mean, and how do they correspond to musical notes? Here I will go over the different types of notes and what they indicate.
Appearance: open oval with no stem
*This is assuming a time signature with a 4 in the denominator. If it is an 8 instead, double the beats.
Rest Equivalent Appearance: bar below line (sometimes thought of as hole)
Appearance: open oval with stem
Rest Equivalent Appearance: bar resting on line (sometimes thought of as a hat)
Appearance: filled-in oval with stem
Rest Equivalent Appearance: squiggle (almost like a 'z' with a 'c' attached to the bottom)
Appearance: filled-in oval with stem and one flag*
*When two notes with flags are adjacent to one another, the flags will often be replaced by a beam connecting the tops of the stems. Notes can be connected until the value of the group of notes equals 1 or 2 beats.
Rest Equivalent Appearance: sort of a backwards 'r'
Appearance: filled-in oval with stem and two flags
Rest Equivalent Appearance: like an eighth rest except with two branches off the stem
Appearance: filled-in oval with stem and three flags
Rest Equivalent Appearance: like an eighth rest except with three branches off the stem
Appearance: three notes connected with a beam or a bracket with a 3 written above the central note
Beats: double the beats that the note type would normally be*
*Example: a triplet consisting of eighth notes would be 1 beat (2 x 1/2 = 1)
Appearance: a small period-like dot located to the right of a note
Beats: adds to the beats of the note by 1/2 the note's normal beats*
*Example: a dotted half note is worth 3 beats (2 + (1/2 x 2) = 2 + 1 = 3)
Rest Equivalent Appearance: dot next to the equivalent rest