Vol. 17 No.6 Vol.17 No.6

Techniques: Navigating a Score

Here’s an explanation of the signs posted throughout most music notation. Only by recognizing and following them will you be able to find your way.

National Standards: 1-3, 5-7, 9, 11


Have the class read Techniques: Navigating a Score (page 20 of the student edition).


Ask students how comfortable they are reading music. Who thinks they have a sufficient understanding of the symbols in a piece of music?

Example 1

Before reading the text in example number 1, have students explain what happens in the sheet music sample to the best of their ability. How many times do you think the first measure is repeated? What happens during the last measure?

Example 2

What is the difference between a double bar line with the dots facing forward versus the dots facing backward? What are the brackets for?

Example 3

What is the difference between D.C. and D.S.? What is the difference between “al coda” and “to coda?” Students should be able to identify a “segno” symbol and a coda symbol.


Select any piece of sheet music you have available. In pairs, have students take a few minutes to identify as many symbols they can and ultimately navigate all the way through the score.