Why Read A Score Before Playing?

Reading a score (before playing) is essential to understanding the context and knowing what you are going to interpret. There is a multitude of information present on a score, it concerns the writing of the work itself (the tone, the notes …) but also the indications of play, rhythm, repetitions…

It is very important to take into account all these elements: it will allow you to work all that needs to be and not be “off-topic”. Better to take a little time to avoid taking bad directions.

For example, if on a score, notes should be stitched, it should be in mind right away and play these notes as they are written. Playing them differently during the work phase will make things more complicated later because you will have trouble getting used to your hands and listening.

There are several elements to take into account from the start, even before playing the score:


It is important to know the tone of a piece and the armor will help you, the armor being sharps or keys present at the key. According to her, you will be able to define a major or minor scale. For example, if there is only one sharp (F sharp), then we are in G major or E minor. If we have 3 flats, we are in E major or C minor. The armor does not give you the mode (major or minor) but allows to define the subject well.

Then, to determine if you are in major or minor, the chords will help you, including the dominant and tonic chord. The first and / or last chord (s) played also give an indication. Also remember that there may be changes of armor, ie a modulation.

The keys

As you know, the name of a note is given by the key present on the staff. The note placed on the second line in clef of Sol is a Sol, it is a Si in key of Fa. It is thus necessary to look at the keys used, on the piano one often has a range in key of Sol and the other in key of Fa. But we can very well have two keys of Sol or a change of key during the game. You have therefore understood, the key will give you the name of the notes.

The tempo and the rhythm

It is indicated by indications or by a metronomic indication (the metronome ;-). In any case, during the work phase, you must start with a slow pace. Better to play slowly and just, than quickly with mistakes.

It is also important to know the rhythm of the song, whether it is binary or ternary. For this, the measurement indicator numbers (4/4, 9/8 …) placed at the beginning and possibly being read will help you. This information will allow you to determine the number of times per measurement and the value of a time.

The partition simply

There is a multitude of details and information by reading a score: observe the covers, notes played (stitched, bound …), those that have alterations (sharp, flat or natural). If the score is accompanied by chord encryption, it can of course help you know or locate the notes played. For example, if you have the mentioned Re 7 (D7) chord, you will most certainly or at least partly have the notes Re, Fa #, La, and Do.

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A short example to explain

Let’s take as an excerpt this early song written and composed by Billy Joel: Allentown.

The score shows two keys, the first a key to Sol and the second, a key to Fa.

We have a sharp (#) in the armor, so we are in G major (we could have been in E minor)

At the rhythm level, we are in a binary measure: the “C” surrounded in green is the alternative writing of 4/4, 4 beats per measure and each time has the value of a Black.

In red, you have above the range the chord notation: C, D and G, respectively Do, D and Sol. These are agreements. If you look at the notes played at the beginning, we have Do and Mi at the key of Sol and Do at the Key of Fa. It is the chord of Do (even if the fifth, namely the Sol, is not played).

On the third beat of the first bar, we have at the key of Sol the chord of Do (Do – Mi – Sol) and at the bass (key of Fa) the note Mi. The publisher could thus have noted the C / E chord (or C / E). The following chord is D (Re), with C / E and D, we could visualize more quickly the joint movement of the bass.

Then, we have the agreement of D (Re), or more precisely its 2nd reversal (La – Re – Fa #). On the bass, we have Re, the fundamental of the chord.

Finally, we have the chord of G (major G chord, composed of the notes Sol – Si – Re): the Sol is on the bass (clef of Fa) and the treble clef, we have the other two notes, Si and D.

All this to tell you that if you know the chords and their notes well, you’re reading of notes will be greatly facilitated.

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