How to Read Organ Sheet Music

Brent Phillips

How to read organ sheet music and How to read piano sheet music are similar to reading for playing. Two instruments which read and interpret music are different because they look different. There is a heading on top of each piece and an added bass clef below at organ sheet music.

We're going to explain three points; differences you read and interpret between piano and organ sheet music, between piano and organ tone, and differences between different organs in their sheet music.

Differences between Piano and Organ Sheet Music.

 Reading sheet music for piano. - You don't have to worry about preset organ settings, or the usage of vibrato and percussion, or the lower pedal. You always read sheet music horizontally on the piano, and most of the time, there aren't chord references above the notes.

Reading sheet music for organ. - Reading organ music takes on the vertical approach while making quick hand adjustments on presets to get the right sounds or timbres to match the composition

Differences between Piano Tone and an Organ Tone vs. Organ Touch.

  • Key depression - In piano playing, loudness of tone is control by how much force is used by the fingers. On organ, tone is produced by just pressing down, otherwise, factors such as registration usage, and the position of the pedal make loud and soft .
  • Tone quality -Tone quality with piano quickly diminishes with key depression. On the other hand , organ tone maintains a steady duration until key release.

Differences in Makes and Models for Organ Sheet Music.

 Included-presets for each organ model for each piece in a collection folio were popular in the '60s. The Wurlitzer's, Hammonds, and pipe organs set-ups have differed for church, theater, and home. They had headers at the top with each organ model- including every preset and a diagram above and below. Key charts had vibrato, reverb, percussion, and timbre of instruments, mainly on Wurlitzer home organs. 

 Sheet music for the organ was written widely during the twenties when acting in silent films had no sound. The organ was used in movie theaters while the movie was running, and theater organs had the most presets. Music stores sold sheet music with headers mainly during the '30s to the late seventies. Reading organ sheet music kept the organist scanning constantly in each part to get a different sound, so reading organ music is more than reading piano music.






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How to Read Piano Sheet Music.

Brent Phillips
The way to read piano sheet music is to have a good conception of musical notation not just for the piano but for most instruments. To interpret any composition for performance like symphonies, the player has to have a background of violins, violas, string basses, and even percussion notations. The piano player is like a conductor who reads through scores. Everything is fine and good, but what does that have to do with the beginner player who does not know about reading piano sheet music.


 We're going to cover three essential principles to reading piano sheet music.

1. Basic Musical Notation.

All musical notations are symbols and not musical sounds; it takes a good teacher to explain their meanings. Musical symbols are:

  • The Staff -  basic forms are treble and bass clefs. 
  • Notes - denotes pitch on the staff.
  • Note lengths - whole, half, and quarter notes denote time.

2. Sight-reading Skills.

Understanding musical notations through the study of piano sheet music and method books trains both hands to react to tempo, change of key signature, and repeats. For example using, a metronome for one hand, treble or, bass clef, then putting them together for completion, makes the pianist aware of how reading sheet music is vital.

3.Understanding Chord Structures.

A sequence of notes with written chordal notation gives the jazz pianist a map of the melody he plays. Along with sight-reading skills, a pianist knows with practice about the harmony he produces by chord structures all harmonic relations by sequencing form similar patterns. An example would be I(C)(IV(F)V(G) in the C major scale preceding the end of a melody, and references to this would be scorebooks such as; Norton Scores and Improvising Jazz by Jerry Coker.

We have looked at the essential principles for reading piano sheet music. Still, constant practicing major and minor scales, along with modal scales, will do you no good unless you start slow and simple in sight-reading with a metronome and understanding musical notation.

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How to Read Drum Sheet Music

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Many people are surprised to learn that drummers use sheet music. In fact, drummers have their own language. Drum notation is a form of sheet music specifically for percussion musicians. Specific drum symbols are used to communicate what part of the drum set to play and when to play it. Once you are proficient with drum notation, you will be able to play a beat without ever having heard it before.

How is Drum Notation Different?

If you are familiar with traditional sheet music, you may be wondering how drum notation is different. With sheet music, the symbols on the staff communicate different notes. In drum notation, different symbols represent the different parts of the drum set:

  • Hi-hat
  • Bass drum
  • Snare
  • Ride cymbal
  • Tom-tom drum

Drum notation is especially helpful for those learning how to play the drums because it can guide their coordination on the drum set. Just like with traditional sheet music, the notes are on the staff. They are separated by vertical bar lines and the spaces between the lines are called a measure. Different measures have different notes and counts. Measures are read the same way as with traditional sheet music. OnlineDrummer has a useful drum notation guide for anyone learning to read drum notation.

Tips for Reading Drum Notation

Just like reading a book, drum notation reads from left to right. Here are the important tips to remember when learning to read drum notation.

  • Notes are positioned on the staff depending on which part of the drum set should be played.
  • Drums are depicted with dots and cymbals are notated with an "x." The stems that are attached to each communicate how to count the beat. 
  • A time signature is a set of two numbers. The top lets us know how many beats within one measure and the bottom tells what type of note gets the beat. 
  • Repeat sign indicate that you should repeat the pattern, but drum notation has several types of repeats.
  • Drum notation symbols are used to dictate the drum techniques for a measure (marcato, ghost note, flam drum, accent drum, etc).
  • Cymbals have their own drum notations dictating which technique should be used.

Steps for Learning Drum Notation

Break Lessons into Manageable Parts. Learning new languages can be intimidating. Break lessons down into parts that are easier to manage and avoid overwhelm.

Be Patient with Yourself. It takes new drummers some time to coordinate their limbs and feel comfortable with the different parts of the drum set. 

Practice Regularly. As with learning any new skill, the number of hours invested into practice is directly proportional to the outcome. 

Use a Metronome. A metronome will help you to locate the beat and keep time. Using a metronome while practicing can improve tempo control.

Now that you understand drum notation, it is time to buy some drum sheet music and get started. 

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