The beat goes on ­ in adagio, allegro and allegretto

The beat goes on � in adagio, allegro and allegretto by Bob Karolevitz People I really admire are piano players who can read � and play � all those notes on the two staff levels before them. (Three, if they're playing an organ because they've got to know what to do with their feet.)

I marvel at them, and wish I could do it, too. But I can't.

Goodness knows I've tried to learn to read music ever since grade school, but I'm afraid it's one of those things which will baffle me until they put me away.

Incidentally, I'm not so good at Sanskrit or hieroglyphics, either.

About the time I learn the name of the notes (there are just seven of them), they throw in the pound sign and the little b, so now I've got sharps and flats to contend with. Not to mention accidentals.

I'm convinced that accomplished pianists have split-level eyes. That's because they have to read all the notes on the five lines above and the five lines below. First, though, they've got to be familiar with the signature, which is all the stuff at the beginning of the staffs.

The signatures include the clefs. The G, or treble clef, is like a large ampersand (&), and the F, or bass clef, looks sort of like a backward capital C.

Are you with me yet?

Also in the signature by the G clef is the time information � 4:4, 3:4 or it could be 7:8 or 15:132 for all I know.

Besides that, you're supposed to be able to tell what key you're playing in by the number of sharps or flats (or none at all). But I wouldn't know if it was the key of C or the key of R.

Then comes the notes.

There are whole notes, half notes, quarter notes and some real fast ones that are tied together at the top. Some are followed by dots which probably means something to the experts, but not to me. I don't know about grace notes either.

What I really have trouble with, though, are the rests. They come in all sizes, and you have to know just how long each one is.

I've been embarrassed while singing with the congregation in church by sounding off all by myself while the rest of the people are mum. I should have known that the squiggly line meant I was supposed to pause ever so slightly.

To top it all off, there are written instructions scattered about to add to the confusion. In Italian yet!

Adagio means slow. Allegro means lively and cheerful, but slower than presto. Andante is a tempo between adagio and allegretto which is only moderately fast. I've never seen acciaccato which means with vehemence, but sometimes I feel that way.

I even expect to find Arrivederci Roma stuck in there some place.

All of this goes to show that learning to read music is not as easy as one would think. Maybe that's why I've never gotten beyond a one-finger keyboard rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

I did learn one Italian word, though, which has something to do with the end. I think I'll use it now.


© Robert F. Karolevitz

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