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This content is taken from the The Open University's online course, From Notation to Performance: Understanding Musical Scores. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 1 second NAOMI: Hello. I’m Naomi.

Skip to 0 minutes and 2 seconds CATHERINE: I’m Katherine.

Skip to 0 minutes and 3 seconds NAOMI: Welcome to this Open University short course on understanding musical scores.

Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds CATHERINE: Here we are at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, where we’ve been recording some films for this course and talking with musicians about how they work with musical scores.

Skip to 0 minutes and 16 seconds NAOMI: Have you ever seen a musical score in a museum and wondered why it was so important? The object itself may be a tatty pile of paper, or it may be a beautifully bound book. But it has a story to tell. To a musician, a score is a fundamental tool of the trade. It has all the information that they need for learning, rehearsing, performing, and composing pieces of music. But every musician thinks about scores differently. They look at them differently, think about them differently, and work with them in different ways.

Skip to 0 minutes and 46 seconds CATHERINE: Musicals scores might seem a bit confusing and mysterious, and you might think that it takes years of training to be able to decipher all the dots and lines. It’s certainly true that scores do contain all of the information. But you don’t necessarily have to be able to read music be able to understand a little bit about how a musician’s used them. Thinking about how musicians make a performance in this way can help you enjoy listening to music in a completely different way. So in this course, we’ll be explaining how musicians work with scores, studying scores for different types of music, and discussing them with musicians who use them on a day to day basis.

Skip to 1 minute and 19 seconds If you’ve ever wondered what a conductor does or how an ensemble rehearses, we’ll be exploring those questions over the next few weeks. But fundamentally, a musical score needs to be interpreted and turned into sound. We’ll be talking to a pianist, a conductor, and some ensemble musicians who will all share their insights into the way in which they use musical scores and turn those dots and lines into the spine-tingling performances that we all enjoy.

Skip to 1 minute and 43 seconds NAOMI: We’re delighted you can be with us. We really hope you enjoy this course.

What is a score?

Welcome to the course! Over the next four weeks, you will begin to understand how music is written down, what a musical score is and what it does. You will also learn how musicians use and interpret musical scores in their work.

By the end of this course you will understand what music notation does and some aspects of how it works. You will be able to understand more about different types of music and how they are written down, and what that notation means.

This course includes some musical terms which you may not be familiar with. We have produced a glossary of terms which is attached to the bottom of this step. When new musical terms appear they are in bold text, and will have a definition in the glossary.

In the video, course educators and Open University lecturers Catherine Tackley and Naomi Barker tell you a little more about what to expect from this course.

We would like to thank the Royal Northern College of Music for their assistance. RNCM musicians appear by kind permission of the Principal, Professor Linda Merrick.

We are sure you will enjoy the video material on this course, but we do ask you not to attempt to download or circulate material that has copyright restrictions. Much of the video material can be accessed on YouTube so you should have no need to download anything. Compliance with these restrictions is part of the terms and conditions of doing this course, and we thank you for your co-operation in this.

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Unlimited access to the course: Go at your own pace with unlimited access to the course for as long as it exists on FutureLearn.

A Certificate of Achievement: To help you demonstrate your learning we’ll send you a Certificate of Achievement when you become eligible.

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This video is from the free online course:

From Notation to Performance: Understanding Musical Scores

The Open University