You are on page 1of 13

Music Symbols and

Notation
Overview
• This lesson will show you the basics
of the different symbols and notations
that are used in music, whether they
be in instrumental or choral literature.
• It is important to know the meanings
and applications of these symbols in
order to better understand music as
an art form.
Some Basics
• (a) Staff- the lines on
which musical notation is
written
• (b) Bar Line- a line that
separates the staff into
measures
• (c) Ledger Lines- lines
that extend the staff up
and down
• (d) Double Bar Line-
two lines that either can
separate two sections of
music, or end the piece
Some Basics
• You will see these symbols in just
about all pieces of music.
• The Clef symbol will help indicate
the voicing. Often times, the
Treble Clef will be used for higher
voices, and the Bass Clef for
lower voices, but there are
exceptions.
• The Key Signature helps to
identify which notes on the staff
are raised and lowered, and the
effect remains throughout unless
an accidental cancels the effect.
• The Time Signature sets what the
rhythm of the music is. The top
number identifies how many
beats are in a measure, and the
bottom number identifies what
note value the beat is.
The Clef Symbols
• The Treble Clef is also
known as the “G Clef”
because the curl in the
symbol wraps around
the line on the staff that
is named G.

• The Bass Clef is known


as the “F Clef” because
the two dots are
centered on the line F.
Note Names
• As you know, the musical alphabet uses the
letters A-G. The lines and spaces of the
Treble Clef and the Bass Clef are spelled
differently.
• For the Bass Clef from the bottom up
– The lines are spelled GBDFA; Good Boys Do Fine
Always
– The spaces are spelled ACEG; All Cows Eat Grass
• For the Treble Clef from the bottom up
– The lines are spelled EGBDF; Every Good Boy
Does Fine
– The spaces spell the word FACE
Accidentals
• Accidentals are symbols that
precede notes and tell us to
either raise or lower the pitch
of the note.
• (a.) Sharp- raises pitch by
one half step
• (b.) Flat- lowers pitch by one
half step
• (c.) Double Sharp- raises the
pitch by two half steps, or one
whole step
• (d.) Double Flat- lowers the
pitch by two half steps, or one
whole step
• (e.) Natural- cancels the
effect of any other accidentals
and makes the pitch sound
unchanged.
Dynamic Markings
Dynamic markings are used to describe the
volume, or rather the intensity of the volume of
music.
Dynamic Markings
• (a) Crescendo- a
gradual increase in
volume
• (b) Diminuendo- a
gradual decrease
in volume
• (c) Sforzando- a
sudden increase in
volume
Articulations
• Sometimes, symbols are
added to notes to give
them a certain emphasis or
length
• (a) accent- the note is
louder with a strong attack
• (b) fermata- the note is
held for an indefinite
length
• (c) staccato- the note is
shorter and more detached
sounding
• (d) tenuto- the note is
held for its full value and is
slightly accented
Phrase Markings
• Phrase markings help give shape to musical lines.
• (a) Tie- a curved line that connects two notes of the same
pitch to make them sound as one note.
• (b) Slur- a curved line that connects two notes of different
pitch so that there is no break between them.
• It is possible to see both of these markings occur across bar
lines
Repeating Symbols
• Finally, there are some symbols that tell us to repeat sections
of music.
• (a) Repeat signs- play again what is in between the two
markings
• (b) 1st and 2nd endings- once you reach the last measure of
the 1st ending you will usually see a repeat sign. Go back to
repeat the material and when you come to the first measure
of the 1st ending, skip ahead to the 2nd ending section
Repeating Symbols
• (c) De Capo- Repeat from the
beginning of the piece.
• (d) Dal Segno- repeat from
the Segno, or Sign
• (e) Segno [Sign]- point at
which a repeated section may
begin at. This symbol usually
occurs in the opening or
middle sections of a piece.
• (f) Coda- marks the place
where you skip ahead to the
final section of a piece.
– Note: D.C. al Coda and D.S.
al Coda are used sometimes.
– Another common symbol is
D.C. al fine or D.S. al fine,
which means that the piece
will end when you see the word
Fine written in the music.