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While some musicians can learn a new piece quickly and easily simply by hearing it once; most are not so fortunate. The majority of musicians learn pieces from sheet music, which is written in musical notation. Once you learn to read music, you can learn any song whether you have heard it or not when you use a songbook.

Musical Notation

Developed over centuries, at base musical notation is a system for recording the rhythm, speed, and pitch of music on paper. Notes serve the same purpose as letters, measures that of words, and phrases the same purpose as sentences. Put them all together and you can learn to play any piece you can read. Each line of music is based around the staff; an arrangement of five lines and four spaces that represent the notes A-G. The Base and Treble Clefs are used to signify lower and higher ranges respectively. The notes themselves determine what to play and how long to play it.

Choosing an Instrument

When you're looking for sheet music, it's always best to find it written for the instrument you want to play, such as piano sheet music. Sufficiently skilled musicians can transpose music written for one instrument for another, but it's easier for beginners to start with music that's already written in the proper key for their instrument, and piano books or violin versions help you find specific sheet music for your instrument.

Collecting Sheet Music

A lot of sheet music is actually very collectible. The three things to look for are age, condition, and provenance. Provenance is particularly important because if you can trace a given piece of sheet music to a famous musician it's going to be much more desirable. Even if that proves impossible, there are still first printings of a number of scores out there.

The Joy of Songbooks

One of the best things about both sheet music and songbooks is the sheer variety out there. You can find gospel songbooks, rock songbooks, even country songbooks. Some are organized by genre, others by instrument. Some songbooks are written specifically for students, with the pieces progressing in difficulty the further you get into the book. Others may focus on one particular group or artist. No matter what your musical tastes or skills, there is a songbook for you.

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