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By James H., Jr. Flynn

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A performer wishing to turn this written code back into sound must understand not only which musical elements are being dealt with but also how they are encoded. The key to reading and writing Western music is to realize that the written music of our culture focuses on and encodes two major musical elements: pitch, which is the basis of melody and harmony; and duration, through which the rhythm flows. While a lot of additional information is given in music notation, these two elements—rhythm and pitch—are the primary ones.

This is the distance from any key to the key immediately above or below it. The following example shows the three situations in which half steps can occur: (1) between a white key and a black key, (2) between a black key and a white key, and (3) between a white key and a white key. Notice that the third possibility, between a white key and a white key, appears in only two places in each octave—between E and F and between B and C. As you look at this example, remember that an interval is the distance between two notes.

They may appear either on a line or in a space, as in the following staff. Notice that the second notehead represents a slightly higher pitch than the first one, since the third space is above the third line. CLASS WORK Previously, you were asked to practice drawing notes on a single line. Look back at that effort now. Are your noteheads clearly on the line? In order to indicate pitch, noteheads must be placed exactly on a line or in a space. Practice notehead placement once more, this time on the staff, by drawing the following noteheads.

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