Now that we have seen how wide is the range of notes that different instruments can produce, we must understand how the pitch is represented in writing. We do not need to stress the importance of writing down music: when audio recording were not yet possible, the score was the only domain that a musical piece existed outside the live performance. Nowadays, apart from the classical music which still relies on writing music like in the old days, in pop-related music production musician and composer still write music to fix ideas, or to exchange information.
So how music is written in terms of pitch? You should be familiar with the staff: a set of five lines and for spaces
For now, we will represent notes in this way only, by placing an oval in a space or on a line:
However, we still do not know what notes do these ovals represent: in other words, we miss a reference that gives a meaning to each line and space. This reference is called clef. This is the most commonly used clef, the G clef:
It is called the G clef, because it shows where the G is on the staff, and consequently where all the other notes are. The G is on the second line from the bottom, where the centre of the clef curls.
Therefore, this will be the pitch for each line and space: every line or space is a specific note.
Of course you will see that on the staff there are 9 places in total, so a staff can fit a little more than an octave. For this reason, should one need to represent particularly high or low notes, he can use ledger lines as an extension of the staff.
Of course, depending on the instrument, the pitch can vary consistently, therefore there are numerous different clefs that one can use. It is out of the scope of this course to see them all, but we will learn just one more, the F clef.
The F clef curls on the second line from the top, and indicates an F:
You will probably see the F clef used mostly for bass guitar scores ore for the bass lines in a piano score, which often combines the two clefs, presenting two staves that are one the continuation of the other:
Both the G and the F clefs, can be shifted upward or downwards to move the reference G or F consequently, but this happens very rarely in pop music production.
We can only represent 'not altered' notes on the stave, which are also called 'natural' notes. If we want to represent a sharp or flat note, we simply indicate that before the note, as in the example:
Note that in these examples, the notes are divided by vertical lines, called 'bars': we will define them in the next class. The alteration symbol means that from the moment it is attached to a note, all the notes of the same pitch within that bar must be intended as 'altered' as indicated. If a new symbol is indicated for the same note within the same bar, it overrides the previous indication:
The above example also show the 'natural' symbol: if we have, say, a Bb note, and for some reason we want to include a natural B in the same bar instead of a Bb, we must use the 'natural' notation:
This is the natural symbol:
And this how it is used:
The supernatural indication follows the same rules as the alterations.
Well, that should be all as for the pitch... You must understand that what we deal with in this set of classes is very basic information, in fact there could be much more to say about different notation systems.
In the next class we will talk about rhythm notation, bars and beats. Before continuing, make sure you memorise the pitch positions in these two clefs. There are plenty of tests to do some practice.