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Video:Musical Symbols in Piano Notation

with Caroline Welles

There are many musical symbols in piano notation and each serve a very specific purpose so that the sheet music is played as the composer intended. Watch this About.com video to learn more about musical symbols in piano notation.See Transcript

Transcript:Musical Symbols in Piano Notation

Hello, my name is Caroline Welles. I am a professional freelance pianist and I am going to talk for About.com about musical symbols in piano notation.

Bass and Treble Clef Symbol

There are hundreds of these symbols, but the most basic that you learn when you first start in piano is the treble clef which shows you that you are going to be playing the notes really generally speaking in the right hand and that is the top half from middle C in the piano. There are exceptions, but that is the general rule.

Then we have the bass clef which shows which notes you are going to be playing in the left hand and those generally speaking are the notes below middle C. And then we get to the key signature that can either be flats or it can be sharps or maybe no flats or sharps indicating that the key is C major.

Time Signature Notation

And then we have the time signature which actually tells us how many beats we have in a bar. And then the signs from then onwards. In fact, all music is constructed on sets of five lines. So, from a pianistic point of view, we have five lines with the notes of the right hand, and then we have lines with the notes of the left hand. And so we then start to read the notes on both of those clefs.

Notations for Dynamics

The other thing that you find as a pianist and as a musician in general is that we have instructions on the music as to the dynamics of which we play a piece of music. So, we would like to start a piece of music loud, in which case we will see an f standing for forte, which means loudly in Italian. We might see something else saying legatissimo, which means very very smoothly, and then we might see p for piano which means that we have got to then start playing softly.

In between the louds and the softs, we can get marks indicating either diminuendo, which means getting softer or we can have a mark indicating crescendo, which, as it would suggest, means that the music is getting louder. Then we have smaller marks which can indicate accents, whereby we play a cord with force of perhaps if we have a little dot above the cord it means that we play if very, very quickly, staccato.

How Musical Symbols are Used

So, as a pianist we have to be looking for these symbols all the time, because it is not just playing the notes that is important, it is reading behind the lines, what does the composer mean, what, how does he want us to play something. And that is where we have to be very observant of all these pianistic musical notations.

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