If you’re learning to play the flute, you also need to learn how to read sheet music. Then, you can figure out how to play new exercises and pieces.
Read on to learn about some basic concepts to help you get started reading flute sheet music!
One of the biggest things you need to know about how to read sheet music for flute or any instrument is what the staff is. The flute reads music from a group of five lines with four spaces in between.
You’ll read both vertically and horizontally to determine what pitches to play and when to play them.
The Treble Clef
As a flute player, you’ll almost always read music from what’s called the treble clef. It looks almost like a fancy G, and the clef curls around the second line, which tells you that line corresponds to the note G.
Rarely, you may see the clef positioned higher or lower. But that’s technically not a treble clef despite the design.
The Bass Clef
After you master the basics of the flute, you may choose to play other members of the flute family including the bass or contrabass flute. While these instruments have bass in the name, they don’t use the bass clef.
Where you might use the bass clef, though, is to read music written for other instruments, such as the cello. You don’t need to know how to read the bass clef, but it’s good to know it exists.
Note values tell you how long to hold a note. An open note with no stem is a whole note and lasts for four beats. Next, there’s the half note, which is similar but does have a stem.
A quarter note has a stem, but the center of the note is filled in. The eighth note has a small tail at the end of the stem. Finally, a sixteenth note has two tails on the stem. You can get even smaller, but this is a great start.
There will most likely come a time when you will play music that doesn’t have you playing for every second of the piece. To show you not to play, you’ll encounter what are called rests.
These last for the same amount of time as notes. You can refer to a music book to learn what rests look like, including whole, half, and quarter rests.
Note values are only so helpful if you don’t know how long each note is supposed to last. This is where the tempo marking comes in. Some music will tell you exactly how many beats should occur per minute.
Others might be more vague and give a range. Some will even list a term, such as Allegro, which means fast, or Largo, which means slow.
When learning how to read sheet music for the flute, you should know what accidentals look like. You’ll most commonly encounter sharps and flats. A sharp looks almost like a hashtag (#).
Meanwhile, a flat looks like a lower case “b.” Then, there’s the natural symbol, which looks like: ♮.
You can also come across double sharps, which look like an X. A double-flat will look like two flat symbols right next to each other.
Instead of writing accidentals every time they occur, some music will be written with different key signatures. These appear at the beginning of the music just after the treble clef.
You’ll see the notes you’re supposed to play sharp or flat based on the placement of the sharp or flat symbols.
After the key signature, you’ll find the time signature. This will appear as two numbers stacked on top of the other. The top number refers to how many beats are in a measure (which is separated by small thin lines).
And the bottom number refers to the type of note that gets the beat. At first, you’ll almost always see a 4 as the lower note, so a quarter note gets a beat. But some music gives the beat to the half note or eighth note.
Why Do You Need to Read Sheet Music?
You need to learn how to read sheet music to help learn the flute. A lot of flute music is written out. While you can learn by ear, it’s good to learn what music looks like on paper.
That will make it easier and faster to learn a lot of music, especially if you enjoy playing classical music.
Do You Know How to Read Sheet Music for Flute?
Every musician should know how to read sheet music. While it can be overwhelming, it gets easier with practice and time.
To help you out, I wrote The Ultimate Flute Notation Guide. It includes visuals to help you understand the concepts and learn your music much faster.