All musicians should know basic music theory before beginning their musical careers, whether you are in the school band or joining a local orchestra. In the previous article we discussed the music staff and pitches, treble and bass staffs, basic notes, basic rests and simple meters. Now we will discuss grand staffs, ledger lines, compound meters and more notes and rests.
The grand staff (as shown in Diagram 1) consists of both a treble and bass line. This is most commonly used for piano and vocal music. It is important to be able to read both lines simultaneously. This takes practice so stay diligent. Ledger lines are for notes that go above or below the staff. The notes stay in the sequence of A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. On the treble staff, the ledger lines above the staff start with the note G and continue in sequence. The ledger lines below start with D and go in reverse sequence (i.e. C, B, A, etc.) On the bass staff, the ledger lines follow the same sequence of A through G. The lines above the staff start with B and continue in sequence. The lines below start with F and continue in reverse sequence. For a better understanding of ledger lines, refer to Diagram 2.
Now on to compound meters. In the last session we covered the basic meters of 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4. Now we will cover the compound meters of 6/8, 9/8, and 12/8. The beats in a simple meter are divided into two notes but the beats in a compound meter are divided into three notes. To put it simply, look at compound meters using only eighth notes. The 6/8 meter gets 6 eighth notes, the 9/8 meter gets 9 eighth notes and the 12/8 meter gets 12 eighth notes. Now, eighth notes receive half a beat so you can break the meter down two different ways. The first way is to look at each eighth note as a quarter note but the other way is to simply place a dot beside the quarter note. The dot stands for half a beat. Refer to Diagram 3 to see each meter.
Since we have now covered the grand staff, ledger lines and compound meters we can move on to the other notes. In addition to whole, half, quarter, eighth and sixteenth notes and rests there are thirty-second, sixty-fourth and one hundred and twenty-eighth notes and rests. Sixty-fourth notes and rests get an eighth of a beat and the one hundred and twenty-eighth notes and rests get only a sixteenth of a beat. See Diagram 4 for each of these notes and rests.
Now we have concluded our second session of music theory. Take what you have learned and enjoy the thrill of putting your newly discovered theory to use for whatever instrument you wish to play! See you next time for more on music theory!