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Piano Nanny - Free Piano Lessons
Starter Studies

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Lesson 3 - Section 1

Staff and Keyboard

Music is an Art and a Way of Thinking

You have come a long way now. “Good for you!” Music is a language that all people understand. It reaches into the soul and speaks a special message to each person. It helps to relieve stress and you can talk to someone through instrumental music when the words are just not there.

It is an art and a way of thinking. Did you know that it also teaches problem solving? Music is a type of math. And, it is a science too! Playing in a band of musicians can teach a person how to work in a group of people and how to get something done together. In other words, work toward a common goal in a creative way. Performing music in front of an audience can teach a person how to give a presentation in front of a group of people.

Well the time has come to learn about beats and measures. You have all the tools you need to play any note on the piano and to tell someone which note you are playing. Right? You know the white notes. And you know both names for the black notes (and some of the white notes). So now it’s time to learn how long to play a note. In other words, make a little music!

Lesson 3 - Section 2

Staff and Keyboard

Music and Maps and Math

In order for someone to play music, and not just the notes in a random way, they will need a kind of map to tell them which note to play, when to play it, and for how long. It is like a hiker on a trip. The hiker’s map tells them where to go, how to get there, where to rest, and how long (or short) to stay if they want to get to the end of their journey on time. Reading a piece of music is a kind of hiker’s map. And if more than one person is playing the same music with you, you will both need a map to tell you which note to play, where to rest, and how fast or slow to go so that you both end your journey at the same time. This is what measures and beats do for you. They are the directions on a map to play music . . . a musical map.

These map directions are written on the Staff. The staff is divided into very small parts of a journey. These parts are called measures, and the measures are divided into even smaller parts called beats.

This is where the math of music begins. If you add all the beats together in 1 measure, they need to equal the size shown for that measure.

As an example, let’s say that we have a measure size of 1. Let us also say that we have 4 beats divided equally within that measure.

Questions and Answers

Q: What size do 4 equal beats need to be to equal 1 when they are all added together?
A: 1/4 each. . . If you add 4 quarters together you get 1.

Q: What size do 8 equal beats need to be to equal 1 when they are all added together?
A: 1/8 each. . . If you add 8 eighths together you get 1.

Q: What size do 16 equal beats need to be to equal 1 when they are all added together?
A: 1/16 each. . . If you add 16 sixteenths together you get 1.

Q: What size do 2 equal beats need to be to equal 1 when they are all added together?
A: 1/2 each. . . If you add 2 halves together you get 1.

Q: What size does 1 equal beat need to be to equal 1?
A: 1 each. . . If you have 1 whole you have 1.

Lesson 3 - Section 3

Music Notation

Let’s Review

We have beats in each measure that equal this portion of the measure:

one Quarter
one Eighth
one Sixteenth
one Half
one Whole

When you describe a note in music, there are at least two parts to the description. The first part, as you have learned in previous lessons, is its Melodic name. Its melodic name is determined by its location on the staff. There are “C” notes, “D” notes, “F#” notes and so forth. And now, we are going to learn its Rhythmic name.

Its rhythmic name tells you how long (or short) to play a note you see written on the staff.

Rhythmic Names include (from our study about beats):

Quarter notes
Eighth notes
Sixteenth notes
Half notes
Whole notes

So when describing a note in music, we can have a “C” note that is a Quarter note. Or, we can have an “A#” note that is a Half note.

Just remember that there are two parts to describe each note that you see written on the staff. And that when you add all the notes together in 1 measure, they need to equal 1 Whole measure.

Lesson 3 - Section 4

Music Notation

Music Notation

As you look at musical notes, what we call notation, you will see that a note can have a solid black circle or a black circle with a hole in it.  

You will also notice that some notes have a line that extends upward from the note. In some cases, these lines have a little flag at the top of them. The line that extends upward from the note is called the Stem. The flag that trails off from the stem is called a Flag. The note is being flagged to tell you it’s Rhythmic name. Let’s look at some of the different kinds of Flags in the image.

To summarize, notes have at least two parts to their description. And if they are a sharped or flatted, they can have three parts.

Melodic part of the name
Rhythmic part of the name
Sharp or Flat part of the name

Well Done! You are on your way to being able to read and play what you read on the piano. In our next lesson we will learn more about Rhythm and the part it plays in the language of music. Again . . . well done! Ready for a quiz?

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