• The Open University

From Notation to Performance: Understanding Musical Scores

Explore what’s involved when musicians create a performance from musical notation in this free online course.

32,182 enrolled on this course

From Notation to Performance: Understanding Musical Scores
  • Duration

    4 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Would you like to know more about what musicians do in rehearsals and performances?

Would you like to learn different techniques for listening to and understanding music?

This free online course provides a general introduction to how to understand a musical score, and insights into what professional musicians do with the notation that these contain. You’ll learn how to connect the notation you see with the music you hear, from short familiar melodies to a full orchestral score.

Focussing on works by Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven and Mahler, we’ll introduce you to a pianist, a small chamber group and a conductor who will explain how they create memorable performances from the notes on the page.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 0 seconds [Beethoven’s 5th Symphony playing]

Skip to 0 minutes and 13 seconds CATHERINE TACKLEY: Have you ever wondered what a conductor does? How do musicians work together to create complicated music that sounds like a single person or instrument playing? [More Beethoven’s 5th Symphony playing]

Skip to 0 minutes and 25 seconds CATHERINE TACKLEY: What do musicians have propped up on stands in from of them and how do they use it? What makes the lines and dots meaningful to musicians and allows them to create the sounds we call music? [More Beethoven’s 5th Symphony playing]

Skip to 0 minutes and 41 seconds CATHERINE TACKLEY: What does reading music mean? Why do some musician need printed music and some not? [More Beethoven’s 5th Symphony playing]

Skip to 0 minutes and 50 seconds CATHERINE TACKLEY: Music is a bit like a language. If you understand a little bit of the language of a country you visit you really get more from your trip. If you understand a little bit about how music works you will experience music in a different and more meaningful way. [More Beethoven’s 5th Symphony playing]

Skip to 1 minute and 8 seconds CATHERINE TACKLEY: Come behind the scenes with us to explore what musicians do in rehearsals and concerts. Understand more about how they use notation to create the performances that we all enjoy. Ultimately learn about how a conductor navigates the full orchestra scores of symphonies by composers like Mahler and Beethoven. [More Beethoven’s 5th Symphony playing]

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

You can take this self-guided course and learn at your own pace. On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

Who is the course for?

This course is intended for anyone with an interest in music. You do not need to be able to read musical notation or play an instrument.

Who will you learn with?

I am Head of Music at the Open University. I am interested in jazz, especially in the UK - I have written a book on this topic and also one on the jazz clarinettist Benny Goodman.

Lecturer in music at the Open University. Flautist, researcher in late 16th and 17th century instrumental music and early modern enthusiast. @naomibarker3

Who developed the course?

The Open University

The Open University (OU) is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning, with a mission to be open to people, places, methods and ideas.

  • Established

    1969
  • Location

    Milton Keynes, UK
  • World ranking

    Top 510Source: Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020

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