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Author Topic: Walnut Tree - help breaking down notation  (Read 802 times)
johncassell
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« on: November 23, 2015, 10:35:36 AM »

Hi all, first post here (and absolute beginner) so please be gentle! I spent last night learning the absolute basics (treble clef and bass clef) and the FACE / EGBDF sequences. I then thought I would be qualified enough to attempt the play the first part of Keanes 'Walnut Tree' (before the drums kick in). I thought it was simple melody but was totally lost as to the notation. I spent a lot of the night trying to find tutorials to explain it to me but either I'm searching wrong or they are telling me and I'm just not understanding. If someone would be kind enough to look at this following picture

https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/55521542/WalnutTreeSheetMusic.jpg

Ignoring the bass clef for now, I've put lines to the first 14 notes on the sheet and also an online keyboard.

This is what I thought I should be pressing but it sounds nothing like the song.

Note1 = F (g on the PC keyboard)
Note2 = D (d on the PC keyboard)
Note3 = C (s on the PC keyboard)

Would someone be able to explain how to play those first 14 notes please. I don't know why notes 2 and 3 are joined together and if that means they should be played at the same time?

If someone could walk me through this intro bit I think it will help me much more than the tutorials have so far.

Thanks, John
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nystul
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« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2015, 10:10:11 AM »

This is quite a lot to process for an absolute beginner, but we'll give it a shot.

First, let's introduce sharps and flats.  You may have already picked up on these but I don't want to assume it.  # is the symbol for sharp.  b is the symbol for flat.  A sharp (#) makes the note a half step higher than it would normally be.  In other words, it moves one key to the right on the piano keyboard.  For example, the black key between C and D can be called C#.  A flat (b) makes the note a half step lower than normal, or one piano key to the left.  For instance, the black key between C and D can be called Db.  Sharps and flats usually fall on the black keys, but there are exceptions when the two white keys don't have a black key between them.  Look at Note5.  It is on the third line, so it is B.  But you see the # sign in front of it is there to say, "turn this note behind me into a sharp".  So Note5 is B#.  B# is a white key, the same key used for the note C (s on the PC keyboard).

Now, we must understand the "key signature".  At the start of the line of music, right after the treble clef sign, there are 6 # signs on particular lines and spaces.  The first one is on the top line, F.  The second one is on the third space, C.  The third one is on the space above the staff, which is G.  The fourth one is on the fourth line, D.  The fifth one is the second space, A.  The sixth one is on the fourth space, E.  So altogether we have # signs on F, C, G, D, A, E.  Notice the only letter we don't have a # for is B.  The key signature tells us the "default" state of each note.  Since the key signature has a # on F, any time we see an F, we play F#.  The exception would be if another symbol in that particular measure tells us to play the F differently.  But for this piece, the default is that everything should be # except for B, which is natural (normal).

Alright, let's take it note by note and see if this makes sense:

On your little keyboard diagram, I'm not sure which octave it starts with.  We need to identify one C note as "Middle C", which is the C near the middle of a full piano keyboard and the one that would be above the bass clef, but below the treble clef.  I'm going to assume that the note labeled "t" is Middle C, and go from there.  I'll indicate the black keys with + since I'm not sure how that is really being mapped either.  This song is in a key that uses all of the black keys so most of the notes are actually black keys.

Note1 = F# (i+ on PC keyboard).  You correctly identified this as an F, but because of the key signature it is sharp.

Note2 = C# (t+ on PC keyboard).  The bottom line on the treble clef is E.  If we could write another line below it, that would be C, and the space in between would be D.  Well, it turns out, we can indeed add little lines above or below the staff, and this note is written on a line below the staff.  That line is Middle C.  But it is on the black note above it, C#, because of the key signature.

Note3 = the higher C# (s+ on PC keyboard).  You had the right idea, but it needs to be sharp because of the key signature. 

Note4 = you are still holding Note3.  When you have the same note twice, and there is a little curved line between them, that is called a tie.  When notes are "tied", you play the first one and just keep holding it through the second one.  This is about the rhythm, the timing of the song.  Learning how to count the rhythm is really important, but that's a lesson for another post.

Note5 = B# (s on PC keyboard).  In this piece, B is the only note that isn't sharp according to the key signature.  But they want this particular B to be sharp anyway, so they wrote a # symbol right in front of it.  That is called an accidental.  So again, B# is one note above B, which happens to be the same piano key as C.

Note6 = A# (p+ on PC keyboard).

Note7 = still holding that A#.

Hopefully this will help.  Try to figure out the other notes yourself and feel free to ask more questions about it.
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johncassell
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« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2015, 10:15:26 AM »

Wow, thank you so much for this! I don't think I've had someone spare me so much time on any forum before. I cannot thank you for your time enough!

I assumed that my question was being ignored as it looked like I was just being a lazy beginner so I spent last couple of nights trying to work through it some more.

I have managed to get it almost sounding perfect but some notes just didn't make sense (for example the #b, I just guessed a different key that sounded right but then was left wondering why the sheet music was wrong.

Now that you've explained what the 6 #'s are at the beginning, it might all make sense now.

I'll have a go again tonight and feel confident it will be right now!

And that little curved line - thanks for the explanation on that, its hard to google things like that and you don't know how many tutorials you'll have to sit through before something like that is mentioned.

Thanks again, really appreciate your time and the explanations have been spot on.

I'll post back tomorrow hopefully to say it all plays perfectly now :-)
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johncassell
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« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2015, 08:12:21 PM »

Hi back again, I've followed your notes and now almost everything makes sense whereas it didn't yesterday. Bars 1,2 and 4 sound exactly like I expect but bar 3 just sounds weird and although I'm sure I've got the right notes, its just not coming out right.

Here is a video (30MB - sorry couldn't figure out how to make it smaller) https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/55521542/WalnutTree.avi of me using a program called 'MuseScore' so you can easily see what notes are being played and what they sound like.

Would you mind having a look please and let me know your thoughts. I'm trying to get it to sound exactly like the intro of this.. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THzJsylwOL8 so hopefully you can see where I'm coming from.

Thanks again
John
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nystul
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« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2015, 10:06:19 AM »

OK, it sounds like you are getting the right notes, but the rhythm is throwing you off in places and especially in that third bar.  So now is time to talk a bit about rhythm and counting.

Going back to the first measure of the sheet music, right after the key signature (the 6 #s) there is a symbol with the number 4 on top of another number 4.  This is called the time signature, and it tells us how to keep track of the beat.  The top 4 means that each measure will have 4 beats.  The bottom 4 means that each beat is a quarter note long.

Different types of notes last for different amounts of time, and the shape of the note tells us roughly how long the note lasts.  A quarter note has a filled in circle with a vertical stem.  Note1 is a quarter note.  Note5 is also a quarter note.  These notes will last for one beat (in 4/4 time).

Most of the other notes in the right hand also have a filled in circle and a vertical stem, but they have something else.  Notes 2 and 3 have a horizontal beam connecting their stems.  Note 4 has a flag hanging from its stem.  These are all eighth notes.  They are only half as long as a quarter note.  So two eighth notes fit in one beat.

The left hand part has examples of other note shapes.  The open circle is a whole note.  A whole note is 4 times as long as a quarter note, so it lasts 4 beats.  The open circle with a vertical stem is a half note.  The half note lasts half as long as a whole note, or twice as long as a quarter note: 2 beats.

We can keep time in 4/4 by counting to four each measure.  As a beginner you should count this out loud until you get used to the timing.  Just in a nice steady beat, we want to be able to say "One Two Three Four" and get back to One right when the next measure starts.  Each time you count a number that is a beat.  If you want to count using eighth notes, you can add another syllable in between each number, counting for example like: "One And Two And Three And Four And".

Let's try to count measure one.  Note1 is a quarter note, so it lasts one beat.  It's at the start of the measure, so we play it right when we count One.  

Since Note1 lasts one beat, that means Note2 is going to start right on count Two. But Note2 is an eighth note, so it only lasts half a beat.  So Note3 is going to start halfway between count Two and count Three.  Right when you would say "And" if you count in eighth notes.  

Note2 and Note3 were eighth notes, combining to take up the second beat.  Note4 should start right on count Three.  But we need to remember that curved line between Note3 and Note4 is tying them together.  So Note4 is not actually a new note, it just means Note3 lasts an additional eighth note.  On count Three you don't play that note again but just keep holding it for an eighth note longer.  It's practically the same as if Note3 had been a quarter note and Note4 didn't exist.

So Note5 must start in between count Three and Four, on the "And" of count Three.  Now in this case, they actually did choose to write it as a quarter note.  So we're still going to be holding it when we count Four and it's going to last until the "And" of Four.

Note6 starts on the "And" of Four.  Again it is tied to the next eighth note.  So we actually keep holding this note when we count One at the start of the next measure.  And that will lead to Note8 yet again starting not on the beat, but halfway in between beats.

The third measure is actually a variation based on the first measure.  OK, everything in the third measure is an eighth note.  So it should actually be easy to count once you understand the basics of rhythm.  Just count it out "One And Two Three And Four And" and make sure each note fits the right syllable.  But the interesting thing is that a lot of the important notes in the measure are actually in between beats instead of on the beats.  In fact, they are marked in the sheet music with accents (>) suggesting to make them stand out a little bit.  There is a C# between count 2 and count 3.  There is the B#, between count 3 and count 4.  And there is the A# on the And of count 4, which holds over into the fourth measure.  Looking back at the first measure, there was a C# between count 2 and count 3, a B# between 3 and 4, and an A# on the And of 4.  Exactly the same!  When you listen to the original song intro, those in between notes like the third measure are actually always there.  Other than a single note difference at the very beginning, it's really just a two measure pattern that repeats many times.  So obviously measure 2 and measure 4 are the same, but measure 1 and 3 should also sound nearly the same.
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johncassell
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« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2015, 02:08:02 PM »

Hi again, sorry but not had chance to play around with this again just yet. Just posting to say thanks for your reply and that I will get round to it and I'm sure it will make perfect sense.

I am kind of okay with the rhythm (but clearly not 100% yet!).

I'll be back touch when had chance to have another go

Cheers
john
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