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Page of hand written sheet music
Jazz LoungeNotation
Notation, A basic primer to key musical concepts PBS: Music notation
Other Music 101 Sections
Notation

Notation is the system for writing down music. It tells us what the note is and how long its duration is. The notes are represented by small black dots placed on a staff, which consists of 5 lines. A musician learns to read music by understanding what note the dot on the line or space of the staff represents. Each dot has a kind of a tail on it, and the shape of this tail represents the duration, or rhythm, of the note. There can also be small signs put in front of the note telling the musician whether to play the note a little higher or a little lower — these are called sharps (#) and flats (b). Each note has a particular place on the lines or spaces of the staff depending on its pitch: low notes are shown in the bass clef, and higher notes in the treble clef. The melody and rhythm of the music together determine how the notes are placed on the staff. The staff is also divided into measures, or bars, by vertical lines, which divide the music according to its meter. Additional information about how the music should be played — loud, soft, fast, or slow — is included to guide the musicians in their interpretation of the music.