Ode To Joy is the theme from the final movement of Ludwig Van Beethoven's ( 1770-1827) 9th symphony. It is a common tune for students of any instrument to play in their early years of learning an instrument.
I would just like to point out that a symphony is a musical composition for full orchestra, usually in four movements. So take a look at this “orchestral version” below.
To be able to read and play it and other tunes like it on an instrument you nead to have an understanding of the musical terminology involved.
This blog goes over all the musical notation, terms and sighs you need to know in order to learn and play Ode To Joy on the piano. I have numbered each musical term on the sheet music. So just look at the corresponding number with meanings underneath.
Stave or Staff
A staff or stave is represented by the 5 lines and 4 spaces and it is where music is written. On piano music you see two sets of lines.
1. Treble Stave: The treble stave is the upper set of lines on piano sheet music and is also used for some single line instruments such as the violin, flute and trumpet.
2. Bass Stave: The bass stave is the lower set of lines on piano sheet music and is also used for some single lined instrument such as the bassoon, double bass and cello.
A single line refers to one row of music.
A double line refers to two rows of music.
3. Grand Staff
This is when the treble staff and bass staff are joined together with vertical bow-shaped bracket called a brace, at the start of each line.
4. Treble Clef
This is a sign which goes at the beginning of the treble or top stave in the grand staff to indicate playing notes with the right hand or high pitched musical instruments.
5. Bass Clef
This is the sign which goes at the beginning of the bass or lower stave in the grand staff to indicate playing notes with the left hand or lower pitched musical instruments.
6. Bar Lines
These are the vertical lines you see at regular intervals on sheet music for the ease of counting and flow of the music.
7. Bar or Measure
This is the piece of music or notes seen between 2 bar lines.
8. Double Bar Line
This is a thin and thick bar line seen at the end of a piece to signify the end.
9. Time Signature
A time signature is represented by the two numbers seen at the beginning of a piece. It indicates how many beats or counts there are in a bar.
The top number indicates the number of beats/counts in a bar
The lower number indicates the type of beat there are ‘x’ of.
3 indicates there are three crotchet or quarter beats / counts in a bar
In Ode To Joy the time signature is 4, so there are 4 crotchet beats in each bar.
10. Bar Numbers
In some sheet music you you can see numbers above some bars. This represents the number of the bar in the piece. For example the 9 above the first bar of the third line represents bar 9. These numbers are particularly useful in a group setting if the group is to repeat a certain section of the piece. The conductor or equivalent can just say ” Lets practice from bar 9 to bar 30 or whatever “.
11. Key Signature
A key signature is represented by the number of sharps or flats written on the stave before the time signature. And this tells a musician what key the piece is in. Sometimes there are no sharps or flats written before the time signature.This means the piece is in C major or A minor. You get to know the keys and key signatures in your process of learning your musical instrument.
The arrangement of Ode To Joy above has a key signature of 1 sharp and is in the key of G major.
12. Slur or Phrase Mark
A slur or phrase mark is the curved line written above a set of notes. A slur tells a musician to play the notes underneath it as smoothly as possible. A phrase mark is is a long slur and at the end of the curve you can break the sound of the note before playing the next note for example pianists lift their fingers off the keys and wind players stop blowing through their instruments.
Words above the stave and written notes like Moderato in Ode To Joy, indicate a speed to play the piece. These are usually Italian words. Moderato means 108 – 120 beats per minute between andante and allegro. You can measure the timing or beats per minute with a metronome.
These are written below a stave or in the middle of the grand stave to indicate how loud or soft to play the notes. In this Ode To Joy example there are three examples.There are of course more dynamic markings in music.
14. f is forte and means loud.
15. mp is mezzo piano and means moderately soft.
16. The 2 lines which start off at a point and get bigger is a sign to tell the musician to get gradually louder.
Another way to indicate getting gradually louder is with the Italian words cresc. or written in full crescendo.
These are indicated by sharp, flat or natural signs written just before the note within the piece of music.
There are three accidentals in the given Ode To Joy as indicated in bars 11 and 12. There is D sharp, D natural and C sharp.
These signs and terms are a lot to take in when you are first learning to read piano sheets so they are there to keep referring to. Sometimes they are found at the beginning of tutor books or throughout tutor books as you are learning them for the first time.
As you play lots of exercises and pieces on the piano you will find that you will know them well and can then concentrate on learning the piece at hand such as Ode To Joy on the piano.
Below is the piano playing of the sheet music represented near the top of the blog.
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