How to Read Music

Heyo!! Reading music is a great skill to have and it’s also one that you can learn at any age. So, here are some of the basics.

The Staff
A music staff has five lines and looks like this:

The music notes can either lie on the lines or in the spaces. They can also lie above or below the staff on ledger lines, which look like this:

Lines of music are usually separated into bars, which look like this:


Time Signatures
The time signature tells you how many beats per bar are in a piece; the most common ones are:
4/4 - Four beats per bar (also represented with a C for Common Time)
3/4 - Three beats per bar
2/4 - Two beats per bar
6/8 - Six beats per bar

Note/rest values
Different notes and rests have different beat values that determine how long you hold the note or pause for a rest. Here’s a chart I found that breaks down the different note and rest values:

The Clefs
The clef determines the range of notes on a staff. The two most common ones are the treble clef (the one on top) and the bass clef (the one below it).

Each clef has different note values for each line and space. In the treble clef, the lines (from bottom to top) are the notes E G B D F and the spaces are F A C E. The way I learned to remember them is for the lines, use the phrase Every Good Boy Desrves Fudge and for the spaces, they spell out FACE. In the bass clef, the lines are the notes G B D F A and the spaces are A C E G. The phrases I learned to remember these by are Great Big Dogs Fight Animals for the lines and All Cows Eat Grass for the spaces.

Keys and Scales
Most pieces of music are written in a key. The key determines the tonic or home note of the piece. So, if a piece is written in the key of C, that means C is the tonic note. Scales are a collection of eight notes in order from low to high. They can be major or minor. For the sake of this, I’ll just stick to the major scales. Common major scales include:

C Major

F Major

G Major

Bb Major

Key Signatures
The key signature is the collection of sharps and flats that appear on the scale. It will be placed at the beginning of the piece beside the clef and time signature. It looks like this:

Sharps, Flats and Naturals
You may have noticed weird symbols beside some of the notes on the scales. Those are called sharps and flats. They’re the black keys on a piano. Sharps are the ones that look like hashtags. They raise the note by a semitone. The ones that look like a lowercase b are called flats. They lower the note by a semitone. Sharps and flats can be part of the key signature or appear as accidentals throughout the piece. Naturals cancel out any previous accidentals. Here’s a diagram I found that shows what the different symbols look like:

Whole Tones and Semitones
Tones are the distance in pitch between two notes. A whole tone is the equivalent of two semitones. On a piano, a whole tone would be from one white key to the next one and a semitone would be from a white key to a black one.

I hope that you find this guide helpful!! I’ve included everything I can think of, but if there’s anything you think is missing, let me know so I can add it and don’t be afraid to ask questions if there’s something that doesn’t make sense!


Oof, thanks for this! It’s been so long since I’ve looked at a sheet of music that I forgot how to read it (I used to play the piano).



Music kids: draws treble clef on every piece of paper

Drawing a treble clef is the T pose for a music kid


That’s true. I still doodle it on stuff occaisionally.


I learned this at school a while ago but I’m still bad at this :joy::green_heart::eyes::sparkles:

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Same though, and the bass clef


It definitely takes practice. I used to take piano lessons, so part of every lesson was dedicated to music theory.


The last time I had to read music is a while ago so I forgot almost everything by now :sweat_smile::green_heart::eyes::sparkles:

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Bookmarking! I play an instrument other than mayonnaise and I need a refresher :joy:


Me being a band kid and feeling like a goddess for the first time ever :ok_hand:t5:


i played cello in 6/7th grade so *dusts shoulder *

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youre such a not-bandy band kid lol

Recently I graduated my music school. I didn’t really like it, nor was interested in it, but now I’m really grateful that my mum made me audition for it. This thread is well explained and I wish good luck to everyone learning! :blue_heart:

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I can never remember which note of the bass clef is which :pleading_face:

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So, the acronym for the lines and spaces on the bass clef is lines: Great Big Dogs Fight Animals and spaces: All Cows Eat Grass. They start at the bottom and go up, so A would be the first space on the staff and then they’d go upwards. I hope this made sense.

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