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Sheet Music Quick Reference

 Last Updated: Sept 30, 2009
Notes of the treble
and bass clefs:

Timing durations for notes:
Tied notes    


Timing durations for rests:

= sharp
= flat
= natural


While much of the music on TabNabber is in "Piano Tab" notation, we have the technology to:
Turn a piano tab into sheet music     - and -    Turn a guitar tab into sheet music

Sheet music is read from left to right (notes above and below each other are played simultaneously).

Sheet Music for Pianists:

A 49 key keyboard.  "Middle C" is the "c" key in the middle of the keyboard. 
More keyboard layouts.

Here's a simple example of sheet music - the scale of "f" played on two octaves:


Sight Reading Sheet Music (for pianists):

As a musician, you can read and play sheet music by mentally converting the sheet music into note names and then playing the corresponding note on your instrument.

However, advanced pianists don't need to identify all the note names as they play a piece of music.  Finding the note's key on the piano is an important first step, but this would be quite a mental task for playing advanced sheet music.  One way to read sheet music faster is to know that a note equals a specific key (so you don't even think about the name of the note).

A common technique is to use the vertical distance between notes.  Look at how far apart one note is from another and move that distance on the piano... if you work on quickly identifying intervals in sheet music and separately work on moving intervals on the piano with your hands without looking then put the two together it'll help with your sight reading.




Also see:
   How to read piano tabs     - and -     How to read guitar tabs


Comments / Corrections (44):  

(2 years ago)
very helpful

(2 years ago)
@Volt - Where did you learn your manners? I do not think 32nd notes are the rare gems you think they are. Good thing we didn't put 64th notes up there, jeez. But thanks for helping out with the additional details on the legatos (or "Lagatos", as you say).

There are many aspects of sheet music that are not covered (yet) on this page as it was simply meant to be a quick reference. But maybe we'll incorporate some of these tidbits of information further up on the page, minus the 'tude.

Hey @NewbieNeedsHelp, assuming you're still looking for an answer here 2 months later :P... I recommend:
(2 years ago)
@BA: where did you learn to read music? You can do tabs great but when it comes to teaching actual sheet music you are not that great. I mean looking up at your example you just made it more difficult for people to learn. Most piano players, especially those who look through music on this site, will never see a 32nd note. Calling it 1/32 note is just funny. Its like you learned a dead language of music.

@harryb: the example you are talking about is not a tie but a Lagato marking for piano. It means everything inside the arch of the mark, the "tie" as you call it, is actually to be played as smooth or unbroken as possible. Just like the Slur marking on a Flute or any wind/string instrument. You will not hold E through to C, you will just play EGE/C as smooth as you can.
(2 years ago)
How to read key signatures?

(2 years ago)
@Akash - This page is a description of piano sheet. What don't you understand?
(2 years ago)
Can u give a brief description on piano sheet to understand

(2 years ago)
@harryb - What the? I don't think I've ever seen sheet notation like that before, did you just make that example up?

If not, post a link to it and I'll make up a better answer.
(2 years ago)
Not much said about how to play tied notes on piano. First note E (first bar) tied to first note Middle C (seccond Bar)3/4 timing. In between these notes is G & E (first bar)/E G E/C C C/ I under stand that you play the first E and hold the count for 4 beats (I belive I understand that correctly). What do I do with the notes G & E. Do I play them at all like in a slur on a flute or what?
(2 years ago)
Are you guys seriously fighting about format? Be happy for what you've got. Tabnabber is a good website. behappy for it.
(3 years ago)
this was extremely helpful for mee

(3 years ago)
@Learjeff - thanks for the feedback. You'd have to agree that A# and Bb do have the same frequencies on the piano, so for the purposes of the "sheet music for pianists" section I believe the A# is acceptable (though not traditional). Having hung up my bow and rosin long ago I cannot speak for the violin. But you make a compelling argument, and I shall look into that.
(3 years ago)
attackattackrocks is right. In any major scale, you want every letter to appear. You want to see A, Bb, C ... not A, A#, C. That's what Read Mee means.

Furthermore, A# and Bb do not have the same frequencies. On a piano, each key actually corresponds to 3 different notes, and is tuned to the geometric mean of the three. But when playing a violin and not playing in a tempered scale, they're different notes.

This is a helpful page. You might want to make it accurate as well.

(3 years ago)
@read mee: Read this! The B key is labeled in the keyboard picture. I don't know what you mean 'where is your B key'? Where is your B key?
read mee
(3 years ago)
where is your B key. you have to fix that. those dummies out there may not understand it

(3 years ago)
@attackattackrocks - Conventional wisdom is that the note should be shown as a B flat, not an A sharp. Granted the musical scholar may consider it bad "musical grammar" to use them interchangeably. But is there ever an instance where Bb does not sound exactly like A#?   

A# and Bb may serve different purposes for the music scholar but music is not composed solely with the intention of impressing the academics. A-sharp and B-flat are the exact same frequency, audibly indistinguishable.

For more information on this topic or how to quickly lose interest in it, see the following:

New Tabber
[New Recruit]
(3 years ago)
@BA It really should be B flat in the key of F...get your keys right.
(3 years ago)
this website helped me learn how to read the music
thanks so much!

(3 years ago)
Yes 187.140... we DID list the note as A# and not Bb. And we did it on purpose. You got a problem with that?
(3 years ago)
The scale of F should be shown as being in the key of F Major, with a Flat indicated for B, i.e. it's not A# in the scale, but B flat.
(3 years ago)
yo yo yo yo
i can't understand anything!
i'm just settin' here trying to read these things.
all i wanna know is ( How to read music sheets )if you have a videos that would really help.

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