Music notation is the language by which musicians communicate with one another. Written music indicates what notes to play, note pitch and rhythm. Other symbols used in conjunction with the notes help tell you how a particular piece of music is played. Writing songs with music notes is the most effective way to read and write songs. While reading and writing music can take anywhere from a few months to a few years for some people to do proficiently, learning the basics can help you get started writing songs immediately. Getting better comes with using these basic skills over time.
Things You'll Need
- Music Staff Paper
Set your song up on music staff paper. You can buy music staff paper at music stores or you can print it directly online, free of charge. See the Resources section for downloadable staff paper. Write a key signature and time signature at the beginning of each staff on the music paper. A key signature includes sharp or flat symbols written on lines or spaces on the music staff that indicates the key in which the song will be played. The time signature indicates the timing of the song (how many beats per measure of music). These elements provide essential information to anyone who will play the song from the written music.
Write notes on the music staff to create a song. Notes are made of note heads, stems and tails. These elements combined indicate tone, pitch and rhythm. Some note values include whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes and sixteenth notes. Each note value has a corresponding rest value. Combine notes and rests in bars of music (as indicated by the time signature) to write the melody and rhythm of your song.
Place music notes on the appropriate lines or spaces of the music staff to indicate the appropriate note. Each line and space on the music staff represents a note name. The line or space upon which you write the note head is the note that will be played. The appropriate stem and tail attached to the note head, and whether the note head is filled in or open, indicates how long the note will be played.
Write chord names above your music staff. Chord names, such a C major, E minor and D7 help musicians look at the sheet music and get an idea about the overall sound of the song before they begin reading the more detailed notation.
Understanding the basic musical elements for writing songs can get you started, but to fully understand notating songs, consider spending time with the musical language, which includes how notes are written and how scales and chords are built and used to write a song. There are plenty of music theory books and websites available to help. See the Resources section for more information.
Carl Hose is the author of the anthology "Dead Horizon" and the the zombie novella "Dead Rising." His work has appeared in "Cold Storage," "Butcher Knives and Body Counts," "Writer's Journal," and "Lighthouse Digest.". He is editor of the "Dark Light" anthology to benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities.