Continuing his series on reading music, Charlie Griffiths looks at reading a complete musical piece that contains a number of different musical elements, terms and signs.
Charlie Griffiths continues his series with more full pieces for you to tackle.
In this reading study we will continue to revise some of the skills you will have previously learned in this series, including: key signatures, notes, rests, ties, articulations, directions and sign posts. although we have looked at all of these elements in isolation before, integrating them into an entire piece will give you the opportunity to test your skills in a more realistic setting.
as always, we have provided a backing track for you to play along with and this time we have set the tempo at 120bpm, which means that the quarter-notes are played at the same rate as the downbeats. this speed is set out at the beginning of the track with a one bar count. As soon as you hear the first stick click, get into the groove as soon as you can. this might mean tapping your foot on the downbeat, or even rocking your body to emphasise your internal feeling of the tempo. It is also useful to feel the constant tempo in your picking hand. Whatever the main subdivision of the bar may be; quarter-notes, eighth-notes or triplets, you should keep your hand constantly moving to match that subdivision. this not only improves the feel of what you are playing, but it can reduce a lot of the conscious effort of counting through rhythms; in the main, your hand will incisively know what to play, even though you may not have consciously thought it through. a useful thing to do when looking at a score for the first time is to ignore the pitches and play through it rhythmically only to find the trickier areas you might need to focus on.
Once you are satisfied from a rhythmic point of view, we can look at the notes and the first port of call is to check the key signature. at the beginning of this piece there are no sharps or flat shown, so we know that we are in the key of either C major or its relative key – a minor. as this melody starts on the note a, there is a good chance that we are in a minor; this is confirmed by playing the piece which has a minor flavour throughout.
Upon reaching the second line you will see the introduction of one flat symbol placed on the middle line, which means that all B notes should be played as Bb unless otherwise shown with a natural symbol before it. a single flat in the key puts us in the key of D minor. You will see that the third line has two flats and the fourth line has three flats. With every flat added the key moves up a fourth as per the ‘cycle of fourths’; two flats is G minor and three flats is C minor.
this piece makes use of traditional Italian directions and sign posts, which are there to guide you through the form of the song. ‘d.s.’ means ‘return to the sign’, ‘al Coda’ instructs you to go to the Coda when specified and ‘da Coda’ translates to mean ‘go to the Coda’. Make sure you can follow these symbols like a road map – otherwise you may take a wrong turn!
Finally, you can add the ornamentations to the notes. In this piece there are ‘turns’, which add a note above and below the written note to produce a five-note phrase: the written note itself, followed by the note above it, then the note itself again, followed by the note below it and finally returning to the written note; the two added notes should be diatonic and adjacent to the original note. We also have staccato marks, which indicate that the notes should be played short and detached from each other; tremolo markings, which denote that you should alternate pick each note as fast as possible and, finally, there are accents, which are played louder than the other surrounding notes.
When looking at a score for the first time, ignore the pitches and play through it rhythmically.
With every flat added, the key moves up a 4th