How to Read Music: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Shoshana Yarin

Shoshana has taught all grades with an emphasis in science and has a master's degree in science.

Did you ever wish you could play your favorite song on an instrument, or be able to sing a song from a book? Reading music is almost like learning another language, but it's as simple as A-B-C. Read this lesson to get started reading music.

Rhythm Is Important

First of all, numbers are very important for reading music. That's right, there's math in music! Think of any song you know and it has a rhythm or beat. Even a song as simple as ''Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star'' has a beat of four. That would be like counting 1-2-3-4. Try to sing it and tap along with your fingers. You'll see it's like counting 1-2, 3-4, 1-2, 3-4. Some music has a beat of three, and even some has a beat of two. You must know the beat to read music!

How Are the Lines Used?

Just as you read a book from left to right, reading music has five lines and four spaces called the staff. A staff is like a staircase: lower sounding notes are on the bottom, and the higher up the staircase you go, the higher the notes. Think of singing something like Do Ra Mi Fa So La Ti Do and climb the stairs of the staff from left to right at the same time.

Notes on a Staff
Staff Lines

It's easy to remember the lines of the staff from the bottom to the top by saying, ''Every good boy does fine.'' That represents the notes E, G, B, D, and F. The spaces then fill in the missing letters and are easy to remember because they spell F-A-C-E, or face! If you put them together, you have all the letters from A to G.

More About Beat

Notes on the lines or in the spaces describe the melody, but how do you know about the rhythm?

The number representing the beat will be at the beginning of the staff and is called the time signature. The time signature is written as a fraction like 3/4 or 4/4, but let's not get too complicated here! Notice that the staff is broken up into sections with vertical lines. Each section represents a measure of time, so if it was 4/4 time, you would count four beats in each measure.

What about the Notes?

Now, take a look at the notes themselves. You might have noticed there are several different types. The basic quarter note is the simple black dot with a stem. It represents 1/4 of a whole note, or a quarter of the four-beat measure. In other words, it would take four quarter notes to fill a measure. For example, twinkle (1-2) twinkle (3-4) would be represented with four quarter notes in one measure.

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