Online course

From Notation to Performance: Understanding Musical Scores

Find out how musicians turn the notation of a musical score into a memorable performance. Change how you listen to music.

From Notation to Performance: Understanding Musical Scores

Understand musical scores and how musicians use notation

Would you like to know more about what musicians do in rehearsal and performance? Are you keen to learn different techniques for listening to and understanding music?

This online course will help you understand a musical score, what musicians do with the notation they contain, and how the notation you see is connected with the music you hear – from a short melody to a full orchestral score.

Focussing on Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven and Mahler, we’ll introduce you to a pianist, small chamber group and 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 secondsCATHERINE 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 secondsCATHERINE 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 secondsCATHERINE 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 secondsCATHERINE 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 secondsCATHERINE 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]

What topics will you cover?

Week 1 Understanding the principles of musical scores

Week 2 Pianists and piano scores

Week 3 Musical collaboration and the role of the score

Week 4 Understanding orchestral scores

When would you like to start?

Most FutureLearn courses run multiple times. Every run of a course has a set start date but you can join it and work through it after it starts. Find out more

  • Available now
    This course started 18 February 2019

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Develop and understand the reasons for different musical notations
  • Apply and understand the relationship between notation and performance
  • Demonstrate hoe to navigate printed music
  • Engage and listen to a simple musical example alongside its notation

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?

Naomi Barker

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

Emily Chambers

OU Facilitator and Associate Lecturer at The Open University. I teach Level 1 modules in the arts and humanities and specialise in music. I also have an interest in educational technology.

Who developed the course?

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.

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Introductory offer. Available until 11 May 2019. T&Cs apply.