How to Read Sheet Music: For Beginners

We've created a fun infographic to help you learn how to read sheet music!

how to read sheet music

Sheet music uses symbols to represent sounds and gives clues to the performer on how to create those sounds.  Today we’ll learn what some of those symbols mean!

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  1. Staff
    1. A staff has five lines and four spaces, each of which represents a different letter name.
    2. Notes are placed on these lines and spaces to show which pitches to play and when to play them. The pitches A-G are arranged alphabetically bottom-up on the staff and in relation to the Clef.
  2. The Clef
    1. Clefs define where the letter names are on the staff.  Treble clef (or G clef) shows us which line represents G by circling around that line on the staff.  G is on the 2nd line up from the bottom, meaning that A sits in the space above it, then B on the next line up, and so on.
    2. Staff lines in treble clef are E, G, B, D, F (Every Good Boy Does Fine) from the bottom up, and the spaces represent F, A, C, E.
  3. Bass
    1. Bass Clef (or F clef) is used for pitches that are lower than the pitches in the treble clef.  It establishes where F is by putting dots around the line that means “F”.
    2. On a staff with a bass clef, the pitches are G, B, D, F, A, (Good Boys Do Fine Always) and the spaces are for A, C, E, G (All Cows Eat Grass).  
  4. Grand Staff
    1. Music written for piano often uses both a treble staff and a bass staff shown together with treble on top and bass below.  Pianists usually play the treble notes with their right hand and the bass notes with their left hand.
  5. Ledger Lines
    1. For notes that go higher or lower than can be drawn on a staff, ledger lines can be used to create extra lines and spaces outside the staff extending the range.  
  6. Sharps & Flats
    1. Sharps raise the pitch of a single note by a half-step
    1. Flats lower the pitch of a single note by a half-step



For more on reading sheet music, check out our article titled "How To Read Sheet Music: A Step-by-Step Guide"!