Reading standard notation 101


Warning - beginner content
It’s been a long time since I’ve read standard notation but decided to go back and see if I could refresh my memory. There’s a free app called “Music Tutor” that I’m playing with that’s basically just a timed quiz on naming notes as it randomly generates them.

I’m a firm believer in mnemonics so D-FACE is what I use to remember notes on the treble staff. Since there’s five lines in a standard treble clef, the notes in between the lines are F, A, C, and E. I added in the D from the bass line just because it’s easy for me to remember D-FACE so it adds an extra note for my memory.

One other shortcut that I use is knowing that each note repeats at every three and a half lines. For instance, if you are at A and want to find a higher or lower A, count three and a half lines.



On the music staff (notation lines) a sharp (#) means a half step up and a flat (b) means a half step down. Regarding sharps (#) and flats (b), just remember that intervals between notes going up the scale are a whole step (two frets) unless it’s B or E. Going from B to C and E to F are a half step (one fret). In other words, there’s no such thing as a B# or an E sharp as a B# is C and an E# is F. Consequently, there’s no such thing as an Fb as it’s E and no Cb as it’s B.

For single note lines, I think this is pretty easy. Where I get all tangled up is when I have to read chords. Those jumbles are a pain in the ass. :smile:

Sorry for posting such a beginner lesson but I’m woodshedding big time. Although I play for hours a day, I’d say that I probably practice for about fifteen minutes in that time. The rest of the time is me jamming to the drum machine. Since I’m not distracted by gear acquisitions, I’m craving knowledge again.


I read music notation so slooooow…

It’s been a year since I’ve practiced any keyboard playing too…I’m completely rusty. I know what you mean :slight_smile:


[quote=“AlbertA, post:2, topic:6737”]I read music notation so slooooow…

It’s been a year since I’ve practiced any keyboard playing too…I’m completely rusty. I know what you mean :)[/quote]

I think reading notes and applying it to a keyboard is easier. It’s not like we need read but it’s useful for composing as tabs have a lot of limitations. My reading is painfully slow as well right now but I’m getting faster. That’s why I like having cheats.


Since I got out the big band, about a year ago, I’ve noticed my sight reading skills dereriate. The only way I know of is to read a little every day. Ever hear the Godfather theme? That’s one of the greatest sight readers ever. (Tommy Tedesco). He suggested to sight read daily and when you run out of material to read, Read it backwards.

More on Tedesco

He used to have monthly article in Guitar Player back in the day. I found it facinating reading. He would describe a call for a session. Arriving at the session. Getting the music, and sight reading it on the 1st take. Was known as the “The greatest guitar player, you’ve never heard of”.

Bruno’s not shabby either. Here he is sight reading Jack Wilkens tune “Baden”.

For Baden


Right now, I’m challenged enough reading it forwards. :smile: I thought that you did it enough where it kinda sticks. It’s a fun endeavor for me now so I’ll keep practicing until I get distracted by something else.