full transcript

From the Ted Talk by Tim Hansen: How to read music

Unscramble the Blue Letters

When we watch a film or a play, we know that the actors probably learned their lines from a script, which essentially tells them what to say and when to say it. A piece of written music operates on exactly the same principle. In a very biasc sense, it tells a performer what to play and when to play it. Aesthetically speaking, there's a world of difference between, say, Beethoven and Justin Bieber, but both artists have used the same building bclkos to create their music: notes. And although the end ruslet can sound quite capleictmod, the logic behind musical notes is actually pretty shtftariogarrwd. Let's take a look at the foundational emeentls to music notation and how they interact to ctaree a work of art. miusc is written on five parallel lines that go across the page. These five lines are called a staff, and a staff operates on two axes: up and down and left to right. The up-and-down axis tells the performer the pitch of the note or what note to play, and the left-to-right axis tlles the performer the rhythm of the note or when to play it. Let's sratt with pitch. To help us out, we're going to use a piano, but this ssteym works for pterty much any instrument you can think of. In the Western music tradition, pitches are named after the first seven letters of the alphabet, A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. After that, the cycle repeats itself: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and so on. But how do these ptcihes get their names? Well, for example, if you played an F and then pyaeld another F hhegir or lower on the piano, you'd notice that they sound pretty similar compared to, say, a B. Going back to the staff, every line and every space between two lines represents a separate pitch. If we put a note on one of these lines or one of these sacpes, we're telling a performer to play that picth. The higher up on the staff a note is placed, the higher the pitch. But there are obviously many, many more pitches than the nine that these lines and spaces gives us. A grand piano, for example, can play 88 separate notes. So how do we condense 88 notes onto a slgine staff? We use something called a clef, a weird-looking fugrie placed at the beginning of the staff, which acts like a reference point, telling you that a particular line or space corresponds to a specific note on your instrument. If we want to play netos that aren't on the staff, we kind of chaet and draw extra little lines claled ledger lines and place the notes on them. If we have to draw so many ledegr lines that it gets connsfuig, then we need to change to a different clef. As for tenlilg a performer when to play the notes, two main elements control this: the beat and the rhythm. The beat of a piece of music is, by itself, kind of bionrg. It sounds like this. (Ticking) Notice that it doesn't chgane, it just plugs along quite happily. It can go slow or fast or whatever you like, really. The point is that just like the second hand on a clock deviids one minute into sixty seconds, with each second just as long as every other second, the beat divides a piece of music into little fragments of time that are all the same length: beats. With a steady beat as a foundation, we can add rhythm to our pitches, and that's when music really starts to happen. This is a quarter note. It's the most basic unit of rhythm, and it's worth one beat. This is a half note, and it's wotrh two beats. This whole note here is worth four beats, and these little guys are eighth notes, worth half a beat each. "Great," you say, "what does that mean?" You might have noticed that across the length of a staff, there are little lnies dinvidig it into small socintes. These are bar lines and we reefr to each soctien as a bar. At the beginning of a piece of music, just after the clef, is something called the time signature, which tells a performer how many beats are in each bar. This says there are two beats in each bar, this says there are three, this one four, and so on. The bottom nbmuer tells us what kind of note is to be used as the basic unit for the beat. One corresponds to a whole note, two to a half note, four to a quarter note, and eight to an eighth note, and so on. So this time signature here tells us that there are four quarter notes in each bar, one, two, three, four; one, two, three, four, and so on. But like I said before, if we just stick to the beat, it gets kind of boring, so we'll replace some qeatrur notes with different rhythms. ncitoe that even though the number of notes in each bar has changed, the total number of beats in each bar hasn't. So, what does our musical creation sound like? (Music) Eh, sounds okay, but maybe a bit thin, right? Let's add another innsrtemut with its own pitch and rhythm. Now it's sounding like music. Sure, it takes some practice to get used to reading it quickly and playing what we see on our instrument, but, with a bit of time and patience, you could be the next Beethoven or Justin Bieber.

Open Cloze

When we watch a film or a play, we know that the actors probably learned their lines from a script, which essentially tells them what to say and when to say it. A piece of written music operates on exactly the same principle. In a very _____ sense, it tells a performer what to play and when to play it. Aesthetically speaking, there's a world of difference between, say, Beethoven and Justin Bieber, but both artists have used the same building ______ to create their music: notes. And although the end ______ can sound quite ___________, the logic behind musical notes is actually pretty _______________. Let's take a look at the foundational ________ to music notation and how they interact to ______ a work of art. _____ is written on five parallel lines that go across the page. These five lines are called a staff, and a staff operates on two axes: up and down and left to right. The up-and-down axis tells the performer the pitch of the note or what note to play, and the left-to-right axis _____ the performer the rhythm of the note or when to play it. Let's _____ with pitch. To help us out, we're going to use a piano, but this ______ works for ______ much any instrument you can think of. In the Western music tradition, pitches are named after the first seven letters of the alphabet, A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. After that, the cycle repeats itself: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and so on. But how do these _______ get their names? Well, for example, if you played an F and then ______ another F ______ or lower on the piano, you'd notice that they sound pretty similar compared to, say, a B. Going back to the staff, every line and every space between two lines represents a separate pitch. If we put a note on one of these lines or one of these ______, we're telling a performer to play that _____. The higher up on the staff a note is placed, the higher the pitch. But there are obviously many, many more pitches than the nine that these lines and spaces gives us. A grand piano, for example, can play 88 separate notes. So how do we condense 88 notes onto a ______ staff? We use something called a clef, a weird-looking ______ placed at the beginning of the staff, which acts like a reference point, telling you that a particular line or space corresponds to a specific note on your instrument. If we want to play _____ that aren't on the staff, we kind of _____ and draw extra little lines ______ ledger lines and place the notes on them. If we have to draw so many ______ lines that it gets _________, then we need to change to a different clef. As for _______ a performer when to play the notes, two main elements control this: the beat and the rhythm. The beat of a piece of music is, by itself, kind of ______. It sounds like this. (Ticking) Notice that it doesn't ______, it just plugs along quite happily. It can go slow or fast or whatever you like, really. The point is that just like the second hand on a clock _______ one minute into sixty seconds, with each second just as long as every other second, the beat divides a piece of music into little fragments of time that are all the same length: beats. With a steady beat as a foundation, we can add rhythm to our pitches, and that's when music really starts to happen. This is a quarter note. It's the most basic unit of rhythm, and it's worth one beat. This is a half note, and it's _____ two beats. This whole note here is worth four beats, and these little guys are eighth notes, worth half a beat each. "Great," you say, "what does that mean?" You might have noticed that across the length of a staff, there are little _____ ________ it into small ________. These are bar lines and we _____ to each _______ as a bar. At the beginning of a piece of music, just after the clef, is something called the time signature, which tells a performer how many beats are in each bar. This says there are two beats in each bar, this says there are three, this one four, and so on. The bottom ______ tells us what kind of note is to be used as the basic unit for the beat. One corresponds to a whole note, two to a half note, four to a quarter note, and eight to an eighth note, and so on. So this time signature here tells us that there are four quarter notes in each bar, one, two, three, four; one, two, three, four, and so on. But like I said before, if we just stick to the beat, it gets kind of boring, so we'll replace some _______ notes with different rhythms. ______ that even though the number of notes in each bar has changed, the total number of beats in each bar hasn't. So, what does our musical creation sound like? (Music) Eh, sounds okay, but maybe a bit thin, right? Let's add another __________ with its own pitch and rhythm. Now it's sounding like music. Sure, it takes some practice to get used to reading it quickly and playing what we see on our instrument, but, with a bit of time and patience, you could be the next Beethoven or Justin Bieber.

Solution

  1. cheat
  2. instrument
  3. system
  4. blocks
  5. confusing
  6. tells
  7. higher
  8. single
  9. refer
  10. pitches
  11. divides
  12. sections
  13. pitch
  14. notice
  15. figure
  16. section
  17. dividing
  18. elements
  19. pretty
  20. basic
  21. create
  22. played
  23. start
  24. music
  25. telling
  26. change
  27. called
  28. quarter
  29. spaces
  30. worth
  31. straightforward
  32. complicated
  33. number
  34. ledger
  35. boring
  36. lines
  37. result
  38. notes

Original Text

When we watch a film or a play, we know that the actors probably learned their lines from a script, which essentially tells them what to say and when to say it. A piece of written music operates on exactly the same principle. In a very basic sense, it tells a performer what to play and when to play it. Aesthetically speaking, there's a world of difference between, say, Beethoven and Justin Bieber, but both artists have used the same building blocks to create their music: notes. And although the end result can sound quite complicated, the logic behind musical notes is actually pretty straightforward. Let's take a look at the foundational elements to music notation and how they interact to create a work of art. Music is written on five parallel lines that go across the page. These five lines are called a staff, and a staff operates on two axes: up and down and left to right. The up-and-down axis tells the performer the pitch of the note or what note to play, and the left-to-right axis tells the performer the rhythm of the note or when to play it. Let's start with pitch. To help us out, we're going to use a piano, but this system works for pretty much any instrument you can think of. In the Western music tradition, pitches are named after the first seven letters of the alphabet, A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. After that, the cycle repeats itself: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and so on. But how do these pitches get their names? Well, for example, if you played an F and then played another F higher or lower on the piano, you'd notice that they sound pretty similar compared to, say, a B. Going back to the staff, every line and every space between two lines represents a separate pitch. If we put a note on one of these lines or one of these spaces, we're telling a performer to play that pitch. The higher up on the staff a note is placed, the higher the pitch. But there are obviously many, many more pitches than the nine that these lines and spaces gives us. A grand piano, for example, can play 88 separate notes. So how do we condense 88 notes onto a single staff? We use something called a clef, a weird-looking figure placed at the beginning of the staff, which acts like a reference point, telling you that a particular line or space corresponds to a specific note on your instrument. If we want to play notes that aren't on the staff, we kind of cheat and draw extra little lines called ledger lines and place the notes on them. If we have to draw so many ledger lines that it gets confusing, then we need to change to a different clef. As for telling a performer when to play the notes, two main elements control this: the beat and the rhythm. The beat of a piece of music is, by itself, kind of boring. It sounds like this. (Ticking) Notice that it doesn't change, it just plugs along quite happily. It can go slow or fast or whatever you like, really. The point is that just like the second hand on a clock divides one minute into sixty seconds, with each second just as long as every other second, the beat divides a piece of music into little fragments of time that are all the same length: beats. With a steady beat as a foundation, we can add rhythm to our pitches, and that's when music really starts to happen. This is a quarter note. It's the most basic unit of rhythm, and it's worth one beat. This is a half note, and it's worth two beats. This whole note here is worth four beats, and these little guys are eighth notes, worth half a beat each. "Great," you say, "what does that mean?" You might have noticed that across the length of a staff, there are little lines dividing it into small sections. These are bar lines and we refer to each section as a bar. At the beginning of a piece of music, just after the clef, is something called the time signature, which tells a performer how many beats are in each bar. This says there are two beats in each bar, this says there are three, this one four, and so on. The bottom number tells us what kind of note is to be used as the basic unit for the beat. One corresponds to a whole note, two to a half note, four to a quarter note, and eight to an eighth note, and so on. So this time signature here tells us that there are four quarter notes in each bar, one, two, three, four; one, two, three, four, and so on. But like I said before, if we just stick to the beat, it gets kind of boring, so we'll replace some quarter notes with different rhythms. Notice that even though the number of notes in each bar has changed, the total number of beats in each bar hasn't. So, what does our musical creation sound like? (Music) Eh, sounds okay, but maybe a bit thin, right? Let's add another instrument with its own pitch and rhythm. Now it's sounding like music. Sure, it takes some practice to get used to reading it quickly and playing what we see on our instrument, but, with a bit of time and patience, you could be the next Beethoven or Justin Bieber.

Frequently Occurring Word Combinations

ngrams of length 2

collocation frequency
axis tells 2
ledger lines 2
basic unit 2
quarter notes 2

Important Words

  1. actors
  2. acts
  3. add
  4. aesthetically
  5. alphabet
  6. art
  7. artists
  8. axis
  9. bar
  10. basic
  11. beat
  12. beats
  13. beethoven
  14. beginning
  15. bieber
  16. bit
  17. blocks
  18. boring
  19. bottom
  20. building
  21. called
  22. change
  23. changed
  24. cheat
  25. clef
  26. clock
  27. compared
  28. complicated
  29. condense
  30. confusing
  31. control
  32. corresponds
  33. create
  34. creation
  35. cycle
  36. difference
  37. divides
  38. dividing
  39. draw
  40. eh
  41. eighth
  42. elements
  43. essentially
  44. extra
  45. fast
  46. figure
  47. film
  48. foundation
  49. foundational
  50. fragments
  51. grand
  52. guys
  53. hand
  54. happen
  55. happily
  56. higher
  57. instrument
  58. interact
  59. justin
  60. kind
  61. learned
  62. ledger
  63. left
  64. length
  65. letters
  66. line
  67. lines
  68. logic
  69. long
  70. main
  71. minute
  72. music
  73. musical
  74. named
  75. names
  76. notation
  77. note
  78. notes
  79. notice
  80. noticed
  81. number
  82. operates
  83. page
  84. parallel
  85. patience
  86. performer
  87. piano
  88. piece
  89. pitch
  90. pitches
  91. place
  92. play
  93. played
  94. playing
  95. plugs
  96. point
  97. practice
  98. pretty
  99. principle
  100. put
  101. quarter
  102. quickly
  103. reading
  104. refer
  105. reference
  106. repeats
  107. replace
  108. represents
  109. result
  110. rhythm
  111. rhythms
  112. script
  113. seconds
  114. section
  115. sections
  116. sense
  117. separate
  118. signature
  119. similar
  120. single
  121. sixty
  122. slow
  123. small
  124. sound
  125. sounding
  126. sounds
  127. space
  128. spaces
  129. speaking
  130. specific
  131. staff
  132. start
  133. starts
  134. steady
  135. stick
  136. straightforward
  137. system
  138. takes
  139. telling
  140. tells
  141. thin
  142. ticking
  143. time
  144. total
  145. tradition
  146. unit
  147. watch
  148. western
  149. work
  150. works
  151. world
  152. worth
  153. written