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How to Draw Musical Notes

Updated: Jan 20, 2021

Writing music is as important as playing your instrument.

Hand written music needs to be clear and easily understood.

The important part of the note is the note head, for C5 this means the note head needs to sit neatly in the 3rd space when counting up from the bottom.

I have seen many students, of all ages, draw notes from the stem first and move straight into the note head producing a rather curly version that looks like the tail of a snake. Alternatively some young people draw many P's and d's in the way you would with hand writing. Not ideal for music, it works but produces the wrong effect.

The stem needs to be drawn down on the left hand side of the note and should be at right angles or ninety degrees to the stave. The accepted length is approximately 4 lines long.

The note is named by the location of the note head. I have had one student who learnt all the notes by the length and location of the end of the stem. The stem length can vary dependent on the music content or note requirement, it can also change direction if needed which is dependent on context. In general stick to the accepted length and direction.

Practice drawing minim or half notes on a piece of manuscript paper, you can download one from this link.

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You can also book an online theory lesson on my business website

The note D5 is a line note, this means the note head needs to sit neatly on the 4th line when counting up from the bottom. Half the note head should sit below the line and half the note head above the line.

The note G5 is a space note, this means the note head needs to sit neatly on the very top of the stave. It is a space note but it looks as if it sits on top of the stave as there is no line above it.

The note F3 is a line note, this means the note head needs to sit neatly on the fourth line of the stave or staff. It is a line note which means half the note is above the line and half below.

I have had students who are used to hearing 'write on the line', which actually means write on top of the line and in the space between the lines on the page. When we say a line note in music it means the note literally sits on the line with half of the note either side of the line. This can be confusing for some younger students and should be considered before homework is set.


Chris Caton-Greasley LLCM(TD) MA (Mus)(Open)

Ethnographic Musicologist, Teacher, Researcher

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