Can You Identify These Musical Notation Marks?

By: Jacqueline Samaroo
Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

The ability to read sheet music is often likened to knowing a foreign language. It's an impressive skill, indeed and one you can show off by trying to identify all the musical notation marks in our quiz. Think you're up to the challenge? Jump into this awesome quiz and find out!

The staff is called a stave in British English. Notes are written on the lines and in the spaces of the staff in such a way that higher pitch notes are placed in higher positions.

An accidental is used to alter the pitch of each note coming after it in the bar and in the same position as the accidental. A note is lowered by one semitone if modified by a flat accidental.

Clefs are usually written in the leftmost position on a staff with all other needed notations following them. The C Clef points to the position of middle C.

A tie is used to indicated that the two identical notes are performed as one unbroken note. The duration is equal to the sum of the lengths of the individual notes.

The half note is called a minim in British English. It is played for half the time of a whole note.

The sharp accidental affects notes following it on the same line or in the same space within a bar. It raises those notes by one semitone.

Ledger lines are placed either above or below the staff to show pitches that fall outside of it. They run for just a short distance before and after the note that they support.

The eighth rest indicates a pause as long as an eighth note. It is called a quaver rest in British English.

All clefs are used to give an indication of the pitch at which music is played or sung. The F Clef marks the position of F below middle C.

A trill is also called a shake. It involves rapidly alternating between playing a note and the next higher note to it.

The half rest is a period of silence equivalent to the length of a half note. In British English it is called a minim rest.

Cut time is also called alla breve. It is represented as 2/2 or by a letter C with a vertical line through it. The capital C by itself indicates common or 4/4 time.

Bar lines are drawn vertically through a staff. They may be single or in pairs and may also be bold or dotted. The total time for all notes and/or rests between consecutive bars is given by the time signature.

The slur indicates that the notes flow smoothly one into the other. No break is detected.

The notes in an arpeggiated chord are played in rapid succession in either ascending or descending order. The arpeggiated chord is sometimes called a broken chord.

The neutral clef is also called the indefinite pitch clef or percussion clef. It is typically used for unpitched or pitchless percussion instruments. This technically means the neutral clef is not a true clef since clefs are meant to indicate pitch.

The natural is a special type accidental. It can be used to cancel the effect of a previous accidental.

The dotted bar line is also called the dashed bar line or the auxiliary bar line. It is used as a subdivision between two unbroken bar lines and is meant to make the music easier to read and interpret.

The word “piano” literally means “soft” in Italian. It instructs the musician to play the indicated section of music softly.

A quarter rest (American English) or crochet rest (British English) indicates a break for as long as a quarter note. There are two symbols for the quarter rest, one of which looks like an eighth rest written back-to-front.

Time signatures tell you how many beats there are to the bar. They are also called meter signature or measure signature.

The tremolo notation instructs the musician to produce a trembling or wavering effect in how the played note sounds. The symbol is placed between two notes to show that the effect is created by combining them.

The ghost note has rhythm but lacks any obvious pitch. The ghost note goes by several names, including “silenced note,” “dead note” and “muted note.”

The word “forte” comes from the Latin word “fortis.” In Italian, it means strong or loud.

The double bar line separates sections within a piece of music. They are also used just before a change in the key signature.

The glissando indicates that the musician should glide from one pitch up or down to the next. The term is often used interchangeably with the term “portamento.”

The quarter note is called a crochet in British English. The name “crochet” is derived from its hooked shape

A dot is placed either above or below the note to be played in staccato fashion. It is played shorter than its actual length while the rest of the time the note would have lasted is rendered as silence.

The term “decrescendo” is used interchangeably with diminuendo. They are the opposite of crescendo and they call for a decrease in volume.

The instruction of pianissimo falls between piano and pianississimo. That is, between soft and extremely soft. It is usually described as very soft.

The bold double bar line is used to indicate the beginning or end of a piece of music. It is written with the thicker bar on the outside at all times.

The crescendo can be applied to a single note or to a series of notes. It indicates that the volume should increase gradually.

The double flat accidental has the effect of lowering a note by two semitones or the equivalent of a whole step. The symbol can be written to look like two separate or two joined "b"s.

The piece of music which falls between two repeat signs should be played through then over again. A single repeat sign gives the instruction to go again from the beginning.

A dot is placed to the right of any note to indicate that it is lengthened by one-half. A dotted note can also be dotted, shown as the original note with two dots to the right.

Common time is also called 4/4 time. It indicates that there is the equivalent of four quarter notes or crochets in each bar.

The bracket is used to join lines of music played at the same time by different instruments. It can also be used for showing parts of song performed simultaneously by different parts of a band or orchestra..

The multi-measure or multiple bar (British English) rest says there is silence for more than one bar. The number of bars for which the rest lasts is normally written above it.

Fortissimo falls midway between forte and fortississimo. That means the note or series of notes should be played very loudly but not extremely so.

The whole note is called a semibreve in British English. It is played for as long as four beats in common or 4/4 time.

The double sharp accidental, as its name suggests, is the equivalent of two sharp accidentals. It raises a note by a whole step or by two semitones.

The eighth note is called a quaver in British English. The single eighth note has a flag at the top of the stem. Two or more consecutive eighth notes are usually connected by a line at the top of the stems. They are then said to be beamed.

For players of wind instruments, the breath mark usually indicates stopping to take a (short) breath. Players of non-wind instruments use it as a signal to take a short pause.

The brace joins two or more lines of music. It indicates that they are played at the same time (usually by a single instrument).

Beams are used to connect consecutive eighth notes or notes valued less than the eighth. Notes of different values, such as an eighth note and a sixteenth note, can be beamed together. Beams do not cross bar lines.

Three-quarter time is also called three-four time. It tells you that each bar in a piece of music contains the equivalent of three quarter (or crochet) notes.

The whole rest corresponds to a break which lasts for as long as a whole note. It is called a semibreve rest in British English.

The caesura is a type of breath mark which indicates a brief pause in the music. It is governed by the conductor and so music resumes only when the conductor indicates to do so.

The semiquaver (British English) or sixteenth note (American English) is played for half as long as the eighth note. The single sixteenth note has two flags at the top of the stem while consecutive sixteenth notes are beamed or connected with a double line.

Most persons who have studied music even briefly would be familiar with the G clef as it is the one most commonly used. It shows the position of G above middle C.

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