Once you have got the members of your band together and chosen a name, you will want to be sure that everyone possesses the basic skills required for making music. Surprisingly, many band members have never learned how to read music. Follow the tips below for getting everyone up to speed on this essential competency.
Making Time for Effective Practice
Allocating time along with your band rehearsal strategies to ensure that all band members know the basics of reading music makes sense. This will enable them to quickly get on board with new material. Other rehearsal strategies include: allowing time to set up; warming up; knowing in advance what the practice session will include; getting gear and spares ready before coming to the practice session; making sure nothing like being hungry or needing the restroom will interrupt your time; and not bringing visitors that would cause a distraction.
Since these steps are meant to maximize your time slots (more so if you are renting practice space by the hour), it is important to have a schedule to work with. This schedule should include specific times for practicing reading music. You will find that at pirate.com, you can hire a studio cost-effectively. If you need to extend a session by an extra hour or two, they make use of a live calendar where you can check to see if the slot is open and book it immediately. For more information and helpful resources, check these key band rehearsal strategies over at the Pirate blog.
Why Band Members Need to be Able to Read Music
If every member of the band can read sheet music, it makes it easier to communicate problems, such as a section of a song that is just not quite right. When you play in rehearsal, you want to work through all possible mistakes so that when you play live it is perfect. Reading music provides a better understanding of music in all its forms. Writing music uses a universal language of symbols that can be used to play any instrument. As opposed to a vocalist, those playing instruments are not limited to producing one note at a time. An instrumentalist will need to play chords and complicated rhythms.
Very few players can hear music. It involves a lot of trial and error and fiddling around on your instrument trying to duplicate what you have listened to. This is valuable time that is needed for rehearsal, especially if you take your band seriously and aim to play to live audiences or produce albums. Leave tinkering to the individual in their own time. That said, learning to play by ear can be accomplished with practice.
With an unfamiliar song, you will need to refer back to the sheet music to play difficult parts and check that you have the chords right, or you could unknowingly be making mistakes and putting your performance at risk.
As soon as you get two or more musicians together, those who can read music will be speaking a different language to those who can’t. How then can you guarantee a compatible band with synergy if the basis of your communication is compromised?
Writing your own songs requires an ability to read music and to provide the rest of the band with the right notes, chords, and tempo. It is unlikely that most band members will be able to simply listen to you play the song and play their parts.
The First (Very Basic) Lesson in Learning to Read Music
Picture five lines on top of each other with four spaces between them. This is the foundation of reading music and is called the staff. Each line and each space has a letter of the alphabet from A to G allocated to it. But because music can be high or low (such as the difference between a flute and a cello, or all the notes across an entire piano), there are two staffs, one for each. Although only one staff is shown, the two can be identified by the clefs. These are two symbols, one of which is written at the beginning of the staff. The one that looks like a fancy G in scriptwriting is known as the treble clef and refers to the higher notes. The other one looks a bit like an ear followed by a colon (:). It is called the bass clef and refers to the lower notes. If you are playing the piano, the treble clef notes will be played with the right hand and the bass clef notes will be played with the left hand.
If you can picture the staff with its five lines and four spaces, the letters of the music alphabet (A to G) for the treble clef start with E on the bottom line, followed by F in the space, then G on the next line and A in the next space. So, the lines use the music letters E, G, B, D, F, which can be remembered with the mnemonic ‘Every Good Boy Does Fine’. The spaces use the letters F, A, C, E (or ‘FACE’).
The same pattern occurs with the bass clef (lower notes), except that the first line starts with the music alphabet letter G. Its pattern is G, B, D, F, A. This makes up the mnemonic ‘Good Boys Do Fine Always”. The spaces take the letters A, C, E, G, which can be remembered as ‘All Cows Eat Grass’.
Just remember that the letters move consecutively from the bottom of the staff to the top and are written on the first line, first space, second line, second space, third line, third space, fourth line, fourth space, fifth line. Also, look out for the symbol at the start of the staff to see if it is a treble clef or bass clef sign. Then you will know which notes to play.
Learning How Long to Play a Note
Notes are written as a circle (or head) with a line (or stem). The most basic types you need to learn are a colored circle with a stem (this equals a quarter note), an open circle with a stem (this equals a half note), and an open circle without a stem (this equals a whole note). A quarter note gets held for a single beat, a half note is held for two beats, and a whole note is played and held for four beats. So, in other words, you can play four quarter notes, or two half notes, or one whole note for the length of four beats. All three will last for the same duration.
The stems of notes point either upwards or downwards. The middle line, which has the letter B, will have the line pointing downwards, as will all the spaces and lines below it. All spaces and lines above this middle line will point upwards.
An easy way to keep the beat is by using a metronome to play it for you. Then all you need to do is keep time with the metronome, which can be set to play at a set number of beats per minute. So, you can play a piece slower or faster by adjusting the tempo or speed. A metronome app can be downloaded for free and used for all your practice sessions. This will get the band members all playing at the same speed.
There is obviously much more involved in learning to read music. However, these basic tips will get you started in no time at all.