As you may have noticed, there are a lot of dotted notes in music. What is their value? How long do you hold them for? How do you figure them out? There are probably a million questions like this running in your head every time you see one.
Need help reading music? This is the place to go for extra help understanding music theory.
Tempo markings in music tell us how fast or slow to play the music. The word tempo in Italian literally means “rate of speed”. The tempo markings themselves are mostly written in Italian. However, you can find a few periodically in other languages.
Dynamic signs are symbols found throughout your music that tells us the volume, or how loud or soft the music should be played. You will find most of these musical terms written in the Italian Language. Why is that? Italian composers were some of the first people to include “volume instructions” in their music.
The top 3 musical dynamic markings everyone learns first are piano, mezzo forte, and forte. These dynamic signs tell us how soft or loud to play the music. They are written in the Italian language in your music. In English, they mean soft, moderately loud, and loud.
At the end of every song you read, you will find a double bar line. The purpose of this marking is to tell us that it is the end of the music. It’s like one giant “stop sign” commanding you to come to a screeching halt when you see it.
The vertical lines you see on the music staff are called bar lines. Their job is to separate a line of music into sections or measures. For instance, the bar lines in the middle of this example break up an otherwise long line of music into four different parts.
Those crazy little squiggles you see in your music are called quarter rests. Much like quarter notes, they receive a total of one count each.
Half rests are very similar to half notes. They are both worth two counts each. The only difference is that a half note represents sound while a half rest symbolizes silence.
Whole rests are similar to whole notes. They both receive four counts. The only difference is that a whole rest is four counts of silence while a whole note is four counts of sound.
One of the simplest ways of understanding a steady beat in music is to listen to your heart beat. Even better yet, feel your heart beat. Notice how it pulses at regular intervals? It moves at a very steady and even beat (or at least it should to ward off the concerns of many doctors).