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The Open University

From Notation to Performance: Understanding Musical Scores

The Open University via FutureLearn


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.

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.


  • Understanding the principles of musical scores
    • The principles of musical scores
    • Introducing pitch
    • Introducing rhythm
  • Pianists and piano scores
    • Introducing the piano score
    • What is texture?
    • Dynamics and silence
  • Musical collaboration and the role of the score
    • Introducing new genres and instruments
    • Timbre and texture
    • Instruments, timbres and textures of big band jazz
  • Understanding orchestral scores
    • The conductor and the score
    • Understanding a large orchestral score (1) – Mahler
    • Understanding a large orchestral score (2) – Beethoven
    • Take your learning further

Taught by

Catherine Tackley


5.0 rating, based on 3 Class Central reviews

4.5 rating at FutureLearn based on 71 ratings

Start your review of From Notation to Performance: Understanding Musical Scores

  • Profile image for Pam Gould
    Pam Gould
    Even if you think a quaver is a crispy cheesy snack that comes in crackly packets, you can learn to find your way round even an orchestral score. It takes a bit of practice, but it turns out to be quite easy! Lots of interesting interviews and performances, too. And there's not one mention that a quaver is also a musical note!
  • Gudvin Ustal

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