Beginner Violin Tips

Pitch – How to Read Sheet Music

  • On the simple line of music above, the five horizontal lines are called the staff.
  • Each note, depending on which staff line it rests on or between, has a different pitch. Notes higher up on the staff sound higher, and vice versa.
  • Each note has a letter name depending on how high or low it falls on the staff. Letter names range from A through G. Once you run out of letters (i.e. get past G) you go back to A, as shown in the line of music above.
  • The line of music pictured here is what’s called a scale, which is when the notes are arranged in note-name order.
  • The scale pictured above is what’s called a G Major scale, meaning it starts and ends on a G note.

A quick way to remember note names

The spaces spell FACE

The spaces between the lines spell “FACE.” This is a quick mnemonic to help you remember which notes go where. Though we do like to use this trick as a quick reference, it is best if you learn the note names so well that you can instantly say what note is what. Otherwise there is always a mental calculation (especially if the note falls on a line instead of a space) before you know what note you’re looking at. We want to avoid this and make it automatic. The best way to do that? Practicing the violin.

Ledger Lines

Ledger Lines

Ledger lines extend the range of notes beyond the staff. Basically, notes that are extra high or extra low are printed on ledger lines, so you know exactly how far off the staff they are.

What’s Next?

Go to the next lesson, about Rhythm in sheet music.

See a list all our lessons about How to Read Sheet Music for Beginner Violin.

Check out our favorite book/CD combo for How to Read Beginner Violin Sheet Music.


5 Responses to “Pitch – How to Read Sheet Music”

  1. Anshuman Says:

    sir, in the figure given under the topic ‘Ledger Lines”, what is the symbol just below the note with ledger lines ?

  2. Leopold Says:

    Hi Anshuman, the note just to the left of the note with ledger lines is an Eighth Note. This is indicated by the Flag (curvey swish) attached to its Stem (the Stem being the vertical line attached to the note head). What this means is that this note (the Eighth Note) is held for half the duration of a Quarter Note (the note with the ledger lines in this example is a Quarter Note).

    For more info on the different types of notes and their durations, see our Rhythms page.

  3. kira Says:

    Thanks! Info has been most helpful for someone trying to find a place to begin.

  4. Jeff Goodson Says:

    Hello Leopold,
    Thank You so MUCH for all that you have done!!!
    This has helped me greatly!
    I do have two questions….
    1. Referring to the example on the top of this page “g-major-scale”. At the beginning of the 3rd measure “G” repeats itself from the last note in the 2nd measure. Is this correct?
    2. Is there any relevance as to the lines on the side of the notes going up or down? Is it just done this way to neatly keep the notes on the scale?

    Thanks again!
    Jeff Goodson
    Hiawatha, IA

  5. Leopold Says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Sorry for the delayed reply. Glad this has helped you. Here are the answers to your questions:

    1. Yes, you are correct. The last note (G) in the second measure is the same as the first note in the third measure. So in this example, that same G is repeated.

    2. The line on the side of each note is called the note’s “stem.” You guessed correctly – the direction the stem goes makes no difference as far as how the note is played; it’s just a way to make it look neater on the page (usually the stem of any note on or above the center line points downward, and any below that point upward. But this rule is often broken for various reasons, especially in more complicated pieces of music).



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