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Popular Piano Lessons: Fundamentals - 15 Things to Know to Read Music

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15 things you need to
know to be able to read music.
Number one,
Playing notes towards the right
of the keyboard is
the equivalent of going up.
The notes get higher
as we play the notes further to the right.
The further we go to the left
is the equivalent of going down.
And as you can hear, the further to the
left I go, the lower the notes will be.
So, it's very important to
understand up and down,
your basic directions on the piano.
Number two,
names of the notes.
The entire musical language
is made up of seven letters.
Let's see what they are on the piano.
On your piano, you'll see a pattern
of two and three black keys, and
this pattern's gonna repeat
itself over and over again.
Two, three, two, three.
Look for three black keys.
And after the second one,
between the second and third black key,
there's a white key.
[SOUND] This is A.
The first letter of our musical alphabet.
A, and going on,
the next one will be B,
C, D, E, F, G.
And then the alphabet
starts all over again.
And you'll notice the visual pattern.
Remember we started, this first A between
the second and third black keys,
down here.
[SOUND] If you look up ahead, we're
back to that same visual pattern, and
they almost sound the same.
This is an A, this is an A.
This is a higher A, and this is a lower A.
Now, it's easy to read your
musical alphabet going forwards,
a good practice would be to practice
reading your musical alphabet backwards.
So let's do that, A,
going down is, G, good.
F, E, D, C, B and
then A again.
And then once again, see the three
black keys, between the second and
third, between the second and third.
So here's this A, and here's this A lower.
Lower A, middle A, and upper A.
And so you can the sequence repeats
itself over and over again.
So practice reading all the notes names
on your piano, going up and going down.
Number 3,
Black & White Keys.
As I briefly mentioned,
there's a visual pattern to the piano.
We have sets of two black keys,
little bit of space,
set of three black keys,
a little bit of space, and the two and
three pattern continue
throughout the piano.
This is a way for us to be able to
easily identify where we are or
what the notes are.
We play notes,
basically every key is available.
We'll be starting mainly playing
mostly white key notes, but
we will also work on black keys, as well.
So when I ask you to find a note, many
times I will be referring to the two or
three black key patterns and
where the white keys fall either before,
or in-between, or
after those black key sets.
Number four.
Reading music notation is
basically reading a grid.
Music is presented as dots or
circles on a series of lines,
and those lines are called staff lines.
Do you remember when we were talking
about up and down on a piano?
Well, just in the same manner when
you're looking at a staff of music,
looking up on the page will correspond
to notes that are going higher.
Looking down on the staff will
correspond to notes that are lower.
And so, you wanna understand that
all those lines that you see for
music are basically like reading a grid.
The higher the dot, the higher the note.
The lower the dot, the lower the notes.
There are two main positions
that we use on the staff line to
identify where notes are.
Notes can be either written so that
they are, they have a line going through
them or they can be written so
that they are in between the lines.
So it can either be in between two sets
of lines, we call those the space note.
Or they can be written in such a way
that the line is directly above them or
below them.
But line notes will always have
the lines crossing right in the middle.
So technically speaking, a note,
which is represented by a circle or a dot,
a note is only represented by
either one of two positions.
Either a line note, with a line
going through it, or a space note,
with the line touching the top or
the bottom or both, but not going through.
So lines and space notes.
Number five.
How well do you know your GF?
No no no I'm not talking
about your girlfriend.
I'm talking about your GF.
Your G clef and your F clef.
What is a clef?
A clef is a little bit of an abbreviation
to help you orient yourself on
where you are on the piano.
Where the notes are.
The G clef stands for G,
it doesn't look like it, but
the G clef actually evolved from
a fancy kind of a script G, okay.
And if you look at
the belly of the G clef.
The belly is actually drawn around
the line where we find the note G.
And it's exactly this note.
If you're sitting at
the middle of the piano the G
tells us that this is where G will be
in relationship to all
the lines around it.
Now, for the G clef,
I have this fun mnemonic to help you
recognize what the notes will be.
And this mnemonic will rely on seeing
all the notes on the staff line.
So these are all line
notes in this mnemonic.
There are five staff lines for each clef.
In the G clef, the very lowest staff
line will represent the note, E.
So here's the mnemonic,
see if you can remember this.
Ew Great Big Dog Fur.
Ew Great Big Dog Fur,
representing E, G, B, D and F.
And so, if we're looking for a note,
we're gonna be referring to this mnemonic
an awful lot for the early lessons.
And if I'm looking for
a note that's in between those lines.
I will typically say go okay,
lets find this note over here [SOUND].
Ew, great, big.
Here's B [SOUND].
What comes after B?
[SOUND] And so I'll be using the mnemonic
to quickly jump up and down, and
then we can find adjacent notes.
So it's going to be very important for you
to understand the order or the alphabet,
the musical alphabet,
to be able to find your notes.
Now for the F clef,
again it does the same kind of thing.
The F clef tells us where the note F
is a little lower on the keyboard.
Ok, and the way you can identify
that is take a look at the,
there are three dots of an F clef.
The dot where the F line is
that starts the hump, and
then you have two more dots that go
above and below the line the F line.
And now, identifying the F clef notes.
Let's start from this note over here and
we're gonna read going down.
A, Fall, Down, Ball, Game.
These are the F clef mnemonic notes.
A Fall Down Ball Game.
A for A.
Fall for F.
Down for D.
Ball for B.
Game, okay?
For G, I almost forgot that.
A fall down ball game.
And again, if we're looking for notes, if
I'm looking for this note over here, I'll
say, okay, let's jump down, a fall down,
and right below that D will be that C.
Well fine and dandy but
that only covers about these many notes.
What about the rest of the notes above and
Let's go to number eight.
Number 8: Ledger Lines.
Ledger lines I sometimes
nickname as ladder lines.
Ledger lines work almost
identically to staff lines except
if we were to have staff lines for
every single note on the keyboard,
your music would be ginormous,
you would, just, your mind,
your eyeballs would explode because
there'd be too many things to interpret.
So, by limiting ourselves
to just ten lines,
the five lines on top, five lines below,
we use ledger lines to make up the rest.
So, for example,
if I want to read a note that's right
below the G clef line.
So, here's the lowest note of the G
clef staff, I can create a ledger line.
By doing so it's almost like I create
another line where I can skip down so,
as single line will represent
a single scale down.
In this instance,
it'll take me to middle C.
Let's go the opposite direction.
F is the top note of the G clef staff.
If I want to go higher,
I can create a staff line that'll go to A.
If I want to go even higher,
I can create a little ladder,
an extra miniature line and then a second
line, and then climb that up [SOUND] to C.
Now, you'll notice that
these ledger lines so
far I'm showing you
are [SOUND] line notes.
If I want to show you [SOUND]
a ledger line involving a space note,
we take that same line, [SOUND] and
here this high B is drawn right
above that line, you understand?
You can see the difference?
Here's A,
[SOUND] with a single ledger line.
And here's B, [SOUND] same single
ledger line but drawn just above it.
Then you can see C, [SOUND] which requires
a second ledger line underneath and
then again we can repeat the pattern.
If we're going higher
here's a space ledger line
this is resting right on top of
those two lines which represent
these notes over here.
And the same thing can happen if I
want to take this note over here
this is the lowest note of the F clef,
this low G.
And again if we're going to go down,
here's one ledger line down, that's an E.
Two ledger lines down takes me to C.
Now if I want to take this E over here and
go lower this
time the note is drawn directly underneath
that ledger line that represented E.
Here's the C with two ledger lines and
here's a B.
Again with two ledger lines, but now with
the note drawn directly underneath,
not with the ledger line going through it.
So, that in a nutshell is
how ledger lines work.
And as you can see, with the more ledger
lines we have, we can encompass the rest
of the range of the piano keyboard,
especially if you have 88 keys.
Number nine,
Finger Numbers.
Repeat after me.
And five.
That was easy.
Number ten,
Accidentals are special musical symbols
that help modify the sound of a note.
We're gonna start with
three basic accidentals.
Sharps, flats and naturals.
[SOUND] A sharp next to a note,
like this G over here,
will change it so
that it's slightly higher.
We move to the very next half step above.
This is a G sharp.
[SOUND] A flat makes a note
sound slightly lower.
G with a flat next to it,
will sound like this.
It moves one half step below.
This is a G flat.
Now, if you have a G flat and
then you suddenly see a natural sign next
to another G that takes away the preceding
accidental whether it's a sharp or a flat.
If you have a G sharp and you see
another G with a natural next to it,
again that will take that away.
So a natural will eliminate
whatever sharps or
flats have been applied
to that note previously.
Note values.
I'm gonna give you a very quick overview
of understanding what note values are.
But I really want you to take advantage
of Jonathan Coopersmith's excellent
theory series.
He goes into great depth about pretty much
everything you need to know to understand
music theory.
But in any case,
let's think of note values like apple pie.
Do you like pie?
Do you like pizza pie?
We just had pizza for lunch today.
So a whole pizza would be a certain unit.
If I cut that pizza in
half suddenly I have what?
Two pieces.
If I cut those halves in half now,
I will have four pieces or quarters.
I cut those quarters in half
then I will have eighths.
Music notation, music note values
work along the same fraction rules.
You will begin with a whole
note as your slowest value.
So a whole note's typically gonna be very,
very long.
Half notes are played
exactly half the value
of a whole note or twice the speed.
So for the space of one whole note that's
on the bottom, I can play two half notes.
Now, for every half note, I can play two
quarter notes which would
be the equivalent of
four quarter notes for
every whole note we play.
Now, this gets a little tricky.
It can start splitting it up even more,
we can add eighth notes, okay, and again.
Two eighth notes for each quarter note.
You can hear the note
values are getting faster.
So hopefully you can see from this example
The relationship between whole notes,
half notes, quarter notes and
eighth notes.
We can continue splitting the note values
by doubling the speed of the notes.
When you're reading music,
we represent this by an increasing
number of stems and flags.
If you ever seen old fashioned cartoons
sometimes you see a picture of a character
and if they're walking, you just see them
kind of put their feet up in the air.
If they're running, what do you see?
You see little zip lines behind them.
Little bursts of clouds.
The more zip lines,
the faster they're going.
Music notation works
very much the same way.
A whole note is just the note by itself.
It's an open note.
A half note is represented.
It looks like a whole note but
it has a stem.
And already that introduce
an element of speed.
Quarter note is filled in with the stem.
An eighth note is a stem with a beam or
a flag.
And once you start adding more beams, the
more beams you have, the faster the note.
So a single beam eighth note will
be one value and then if you have
16th notes you'll see two beams making
this twice as fast as the 8th note.
Then from 16th notes you can go to 32nd
notes, 64th notes, and so on and so forth.
So we can calculate the exact speed or
the value of a note by
measuring how many beams it has and
whether or not it has a stem.
Number 12.
Rest values.
Just as with notes,
we also have rests that correspond
to the same kind of fraction.
Unfortunately, visually,
they don't look as clean as the notes do.
This is what a whole rest looks like.
This is what a half rest looks like.
This is what a quarter rest looks like.
And this is what an eighth
rest looks like.
Now from here on out, when you have
eighth rests, and then 16th rests,
then you start to see the flag
system coming into place.
Kind of a simple way that I use to teach
to help recognize the difference between
a whole and a half rest.
A whole rest is hanging upside down of
the line, that takes a lot of effort
just to hold on, okay, so that's taking
your entire, or your whole effort.
Whereas a half rest is sitting on top of
a line, nice and easy, half the effort.
If that visualization helps, be my guest.
And a quarter rest just
looks like a flying bird.
I used to kind of teach folks how to
draw it by thinking of a C, a slash and
then a D or something to that effect.
Or D, slash and then a C.
If you want to draw it that way.
But anyway, think of a funny bird,
that's your quarter rest.
And then with the eight rest, as you
can see, we start to see a single flag.
On the 16th rest we see a double flag,
so on and so forth.
Dotted values.
Now for all notes and for all rests,
we can extend the value a little bit
by adding a dot next to the note.
Don't worry too much about this,
we're going to show you how this
works as we work on certain pieces.
But the basic principle is this,
when you have a dot next to the note it
adds half the value of that note again.
So for example, if I have a half note,
and normally this half note would be
equivalent of two quarter notes.
If I add a dot next to this half note,
instead of
two quarter notes it would be
the equivalent of three quarter notes.
It added one more quarter
note value to it's length.
The same thing can happen, so
if you have a quarter note and
an eighth notes here [MUSIC].
If I add a dot next to
this quarter note.
you've added one more eighth note to
that value making it slightly longer.
Again, don't worry too much,
we will demonstrate this as we go
through the pieces in our course.
This same thing will happen for rests, if
you add a dot next to a half rest instead
of two beats, you would count three
quarter beats, so on and so forth.
Number 13,
time signatures.
Time signatures take what you
understand of notes as fractions and
counts them in groups For example,
when you see the time signature
with a three and a four,
that's representing three beats,
or three counts per measure.
And each count is gonna be
represented by a quarter note.
The bottom number is
the bottom of a fraction.
So if you took away that three on top and
replaced it with a one, that's
the fraction unit we're counting with.
So, if you see six, eight.
That means we are counting six
eighth notes in a given measure.
If you see four, four, it means we're
counting four quarter notes in a measure.
So on and so forth.
So, the bottom number is always
the fraction value of the note we're
counting with.
And the top number is the unit that we're,
is the number of units we're counting.
Music is always comprised of regular set
numbers of counts, we insert as measures.
And, when you get to the end of a count,
typically in music we add
what's called a bar line.
And it starts the counting all over again.
And so
that repeats throughout a piece of music.
And you can change the time signature
in the middle of the piece, and
we'll see that every once in a while.
But for now, just try to understand
the relationship between the top note and,
this top number, excuse me, and
the bottom number representing
the fraction of the note value.
Number 14,
The two most important dynamics you want
to be aware of are represented by letters.
The letter f represents the Italian
word for Forte which means loud [SOUND].
The letter p, the italic letter p is for
the Italian word for
Piano which actually means soft [SOUND],
So the two most by basic dynamics,
Forte and Piano indicate loud and soft.
Now we can modify those dynamics
by the following abbreviations.
Mf and mp, the m for both of these
represents mezzo which means medium.
So when you have mf that is now
medium loud and medium soft.
So kind of in between values,
Mezzo Forte and Mezzo Piano.
Consequently if you have two f's, ff or
two p's, pp, can you guess what happens?
It's Fortissimo which means
twice as loud or very very loud.
And Pianissimo or very soft.
So we can kind of extend the extremes of
those two basic dynamics, Forte and Piano.
The last thing we wanna consider is number
15, the difference between melody and
A melody is gonna be
something that you can sing.
Harmony is generally
gonna be something that is played
underneath to support the melody.
sometimes the harmony
can sound like a melody.
It's really up to you to use your ear and
trust me if you've been
listening to music at all,
you will be able to recognize what
a melody and what a harmony is.
Now, the melody
will sometimes be one hand,
sometimes it'll be in another.
In this instance
the melody is in the left hand.
It switched hands, and
the harmony is in the right hand.
So right off the bat, I want you to get
rid of the notion that the melody is only
in the right hand and
the harmony is only in the left.
They can switch places.
It's really going to be identified with,
what part could you sing or
what part carries the words of
the song and what part supports it?
And don't worry if you don't have
that completely clear in your mind.
I'm not quizzing you.
But we will be introducing those concepts
as we work on music because part of what
we will be doing is putting melody and
harmony together as quickly as possible so
that you always are working
with them together and
understanding their differences.