An introduction to music theory
An introduction to music theory

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

An introduction to music theory

8.3 Following piano scores in practice

As you follow the two staves of a piano score, the upper staff will use, for the most part, the treble clef (and be played by the pianist’s right hand), and the lower staff, the bass clef (and be played by the pianist’s left hand). Basically, you need to follow the upper staff, because this is usually where the melody is. Concentrate on the way the rise and fall of the melody is reflected in the higher or lower position of the note heads on the staff. The ups and downs of the melody should correspond to the ‘undulations’ of the notated melody line. As you become familiar with both the sound and sight of a passage, you will be able to keep an eye on both the melody and the accompaniment as the music progresses. You will also be able to spot if the melody moves down to the lower staff, which happens from time to time.

In addition, keep a look out on the score for the changes in dynamics that you hear, or for places where there are rests in both staves. Sudden changes of loudness in the music or moments of silence, might help you to keep abreast of where you should be on the score, or help you find yourself if you are lost. Be prepared, too, for a possible change of clef, particularly with the lower staff. If the majority of notes that appear on the lower stave are above middle C, then a composer will more than likely change the clef from the bass to the treble.

Don’t be disheartened if you can’t follow a score at your first attempt. You will need several attempts (for each score) simply to become familiar with both the music and the score, and this needs a little time. But as you practise following scores, you will gradually become more proficient, and you will be able to understand more and more of the notation you are ‘reading’ and how this relates to the sounds you are hearing.

Skip Your course resources
A224_1

Take your learning further371

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses372.

If you are new to university level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. Find out Where to take your learning next?373 You could either choose to start with an Access courses374or an open box module, which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification.

Not ready for University study then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn375 and sign up to our newsletter376 to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371