So far, we have used a limited number of pitches, keys and note-values. By keeping it simple, the hope was that you would have a chance to internalise some really fundamental knowledge and skills. If you've done that successfully, moving on will be easy. If you haven't, now's a good time to backtrack a lttle . . . .

The following is a set of questions about the skills and knowledge that you should have accumulated so far. Answer them thoughtfully & honestly and, if there are problems, you'll find advice on what to do about them.


Here are 12 of the most important symbols that you have come across so far. Can you name and explain each one? Poke the dots to check your responses.

Treble Clef. This indicates that the stave contains music for higher sounding instruments. The note on the lowest line is the E just above middle C.

The key-signature. This defines the scale that will be used in the piece. In this case, the Bb indicates a scale in which all notes except Bs are naturals. This scale might be F major, D minor or it might be a mode . . .

The time-signature. In simple-times, the top number tells you how many beats there are in a bar. The lower number tells you what kind of note lasts for one beat.

A sharp sign raises the pitch of the note by one semitone.

A dotted half-note/minim. The dot adds an extra 50% to the length of the note. This half-note lasts for 2 beats so the dotted version is worth 3

A half-note/minim. This lasts for twice as long as a quarter-note/crotchet, and half as long as a whole-note/semibreve.

A tie. When this directly connects two notes at the same pitch, their lengths are added together.

First-time & Second-time endings. Skip the first-time ending when you play the repeat.

Repeat mark. Two dots before a thin-thick double bar tell you to go back to the last right-facing double dots or, if there aren't any, to the beginning of the piece.

A whole-note/semibreve. Worth four quarter-notes or two half-notes.

A Natural sign cancels previous sharps or flats that would have applied to the following note.

A quarter-note/crotchet. This is half as long as a half-note, a quarter of the length of a whole-note.

Note recognition

Your ultimate aim is to sight-read. That involves a number of skills, but the ability to make an instant connection between a printed note and a fingering on your instrument is obviously one of them. For the moment, you should feel good if you can respond after a short delay.

Try reading and playing the notes as they pop up on the left. Is your response -

a) aargh, b) mostly right, c) Pas de problemo

If you answered b, give yourself more of the note-spotting exercises that you did recently. If you answered a, it should help a lot to go through all the tunes again.

Key Signatures

Do you forget which sharps & flats are in the key signature? Do your fingers reach for naturals when there should be flats etc.?

Yes? You need to practise playing 'in keys' - in other words, you need to become so familiar with the prevailing scale in a piece that you don't have to hesitate to check whether that's an F or an F#, an E or an Eb.

Learning to switch your mind and fingers into G major, D Dorian, F# minor etc. is partly a matter of practising scales and all the other scale-based patterns you can think of (arpeggios, chains of thirds & fourths and so on), but also things like learning to improvise in different keys. It all helps.

For the moment, you should at least be able to reconise and name the key signatures below and play the following scale patterns @ 72 bars per minute.

C major / A minor / related modes.

G major / E minor / related modes

F major / D minor / related modes

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Rhythm Reading

You should be able to sight-read the rhythm below.

  • Look through the rhythm first
  • Set the metronome for 4s and 120bpm
  • Once you've started, don't stop.
  • Give yourself at least two bars in . . . memorise the first two bars and keep your eyes at least a bar ahead.

When you've sight-read the rhythm, play along with this track to see if you were right. Two bars in . . .

Don't worry if a few notes were in the wrong place - it's more important to maintain your sense of the underlying 4. If there were a lot of mistakes, go back over the earlier tunes and exercises and simply sight-read them as rhythms.