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There is a song I want to play with my 12 holes ocarina: "The Place I Will Return to Someday" (also known as "A Place to Call Home").

These are the music sheets:
Music sheet part 1
Music sheet part 2

Some questions about the music sheet (part 1):

  1. Is the song key is C Major or A Minor? How to find out if it's C Major or A Minor? I saw there is big "A" letter above the time signature, does it mean the song is in A Minor?

  2. There are two staffs, but it's not a grand staff as it seems. What does that two staffs mean? Is the song mean to be played by two instruments (duet)? If I want to play with my ocarina, is the top staff that I should play? so the bottom staff can be ignored?

  3. If there are two note symbols stacked together, what does it mean? For example, look at the part with red square below:
    enter image description here

    The high A note symbol and Rest symbol are stacked together, it seems contradictive to play and take a rest at same time. So how should I play that two note symbols?

  4. Some note symbols has number on top, for example like the first note (D) symbol has number "1" above, the fifth note (A) has number "5" above, some others doesn't have number at all. So what does the number mean?

  5. The four notes that has 1 2 3 1 number above seems doesn't sound good when played (see image below with red square), their existence just break the melody between high A and B note.
    enter image description here

    Could you explain how to deal with those four notes?

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I believe the song is played by three individual wind instruments. That's just based on my memory of the song from long ago. –  SirBraneDamuj May 1 at 19:40

2 Answers 2

up vote 11 down vote accepted

"Is the song key is C Major or A Minor?"

This piece is in d dorian.

"How to find out if it's C Major or A Minor?"

There are no accidentals at the beginning of the staff which could apply to both C major or A minor. But apart from the diatonic scales, there are also modes, and this happens to be in d dorian mode.

The only way to really tell what key it is in is to listen, and try to discover what sounds as if it should be "the last note".

You can cheat a little though, and actually look at the last measure to see what chord you find there. In this case, it ends on a D major chord, indicating the tonal center would be on d. d dorian can be seen as a special case of the normal diatonic minor scale of d. This may seems strange that a piece which is in a kind of d minor scale ends on a d major chord, but this is not that strange. Sometimes that is called a "picardy third" (= major third in final tonic chord in an piece that is in a minor scale)

"I saw there is big "A" letter above the time signature, does it mean the song is in A Minor?"

No. This is a rehearsal mark - a label that identifies a particular section. You can use this as a recommendation to hook in when you're rehearsing the piece.

"There are two staffs, but it's not a grand staff as it seems. What does that two staffs mean?"

There is an accolade indicating the staffs form a unit. Most likely this score is originally for piano.

"If I want to play with my ocarina, is the top staff that I should play? so the bottom staff can be ignored?"

Yes, it seems the upper staff is the melody. The bottom staff is accompaniment. You wouldn't be able to play the bottom staff on a wind instrument (except, maybe bagpipes or organ) since it sports simultaneously sounding notes (chords).

"If there are two note symbols stacked together, what does it mean? For example, look at the part with red square below: "

It's two independent parts (voices) on one staff. The upper voice gets its beams up, the lower voice gets its beams down. You should pick one when playing the ocarina. I think it would make most sense to always pick the upper most voice when there are multiple parts in the measure.

If the voices are completely dependent, then you'll find multiple noteheads on the same beam. There's a lot of that in the lower staff.

"Some note symbols has number on top, for example like the first note (D) symbol has number "1" above, the fifth note (A) has number "5" above, some others doesn't have number at all. So what does the number mean?"

I believe this is fingering for piano.

"The four notes that has 1 2 3 1 number above seems doesn't sound good when played (see image below with red square), their existence just break the melody between high A and B note. "

That's because they are a second voice. The upper voice lets the a ring on while the lower voice plays this scale figure.

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Wow, I just aware there is another answer coming. Your answer is really excellent! Now I really got it, but I think it's impossible to create two parallel note sounds (harmonic or chord) in ocarina as it is wind instrument just like flute or piccolo. It's only possible to do this by adding one more ocarina player. I'm thinking this sheet has to be played by four persons if I want to play it with only ocarina. I read in the wikia page, the song is contrapuntal (counterpoint) in nature. So this parallel notes feature is what we called as counterpoint? –  suud May 1 at 13:52
1  
@Kevin, true. That's why I referred to it as "cheating". That said, key signature, first one or two chords and final chord really do very often provide enough clues. –  Roland Bouman May 1 at 19:04
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@suud, tonality is an emerging property. It is the tone that feels like it should be the final tone of the piece, or, in case the piece changes or shifts tonality, the tone that feels like the concluding tone of the section. This may sound mysterious but in practice it isn't that difficult. In a vast majority of cases, the melody starts and ends on the tonic - that is, the tone that gives the name to the tonality. The score you linked to satisfies this criterion, as it starts and ends on d. In a fair amount of cases, melody starts or ends on the dominant. To all practical ends and purposes... –  Roland Bouman May 3 at 17:10
1  
...the dominant is the tone that is a perfect fifth above (or a perfect fourth below) the tonic. In the piece you linked to, a is the dominant. In dramatically fewer cases, the piece may start with the third. In your piece, this is the f. It is not a coincidence that the tones I mentioned so far, tonic, dominant and third, form a triad - the "chord" on d, in this case, d minor. There are a few more possibilities for especially the first melody note but at this point it would overcomplicate the matter to mention those. –  Roland Bouman May 3 at 17:14
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With regard to deciding whether to look at the chord or the melody, you should consider that "the chord" and "the melody" are not separate entities. The melody will contain notes that are part of the chord. It is the total, cumulative sound that will have the most prominent role of establishing the tonality. In most cases, the chord will confirm or reinforce the melody. –  Roland Bouman May 3 at 17:18

It seems you don't know much about sight reading beyond some basic things. I am not an expert either but I'll answer as well as I can:

  1. The best way to find out if it's C major or A minor is to look for accidentals (sharp or flat signs) A minor scale not only has natural notes but also can have sharpened 6th and 7th notes (F#, G#) due to the special nature of minor scales (read up more about melodic and harmonic minor scales) If the piece has those notes then it's likely that it's in A minor, otherwise it's in C major (note that sometimes accidentals are brought in not according to the scale but for temporary special purposes of the composer)

  2. Most likely it's a duet- to be played with two ocarinas. So you and your partner should decide who is going to play which part, if you want to solo yourself then pick the staff you like. I once arranged a duet for my solo playing purposes.

  3. If two notes are stacked together then it's called double-stopping, meaning you play them at the same time. I understand your confusion about the bottom one being a rest but that too is logical. the upper note is a dotted note lasting 1 and a half beats while the rest is a 16th beat rest after which you start playing the other 16th note (C,D,E) while still sustaining the high A. let me be more specific- if we break down the dotted crotchet we have 6 16th notes. when you're playing the high A, the first 16th beat you only play A. but when you move on to the second 16th beat of the A note you start playing the C,D,E notes at the same time if you notice carefully- the notes above (dotted high A and 16th B,D notes make up two beats of the 2/4 time signature on their own while the bottom notes including the rest also make up 2 beats on their own. if played correctly and together as required they won't break the rhythm)

  4. the numbers on top refer to the fingering they are instructing you to use particular finger patterns for playing the notes. you are free to use whatever fingers you like for non-numbered ones, but make sure to use same fingering for the notes specified until you are instructed otherwise. sometimes (in violin) the use 4 to mean using your fourth finger instead of the open string but if they want you to revert back they use a 0 on that note, meaning you can go back to the usual fingering.

  5. the reason those notes don't sound well is most likely because you didn't understand how to play them to begin with (refer to answer no. 3)

Hope this helped :) I once heard the performance of Heian Zakura in my country where the female performer used a ocarina. It was lovely.

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Hi, first I want to say thanks a lot for your answer, it really helps. I have to admit that I don't have musical background, I only learn basic music theory from internet and forums. Responses to your answer: (1) I just read the wikia page about this song, it said that the song is in D Dorian mode. It's obvious as the cadence is D note at the upper staff. (2) I don't think the sheet is mean for ocarina. I got the sheet from googling :). I'm guessing it's for piano as they have many dyads on the sheet. –  suud May 1 at 13:34
    
(3) Your answer is really awesome! Now I really got it, but I think it's impossible to create two parallel note sounds (harmonic or chord) in ocarina as it is wind instrument just like flute or piccolo. It's only possible to do this by adding one more ocarina player. I'm thinking this sheet have to be played by four persons if I want to play it with only all of ocarina. I read in wikia page, the song is contrapuntal (counterpoint) in nature. So this parallel notes feature is what we called as counterpoint? –  suud May 1 at 13:36
    
Yes, you should refer to Roland's answer though- his answer was spot on. Also, an ocarina quartet did perform this piece in youtube. check it out youtube.com/watch?v=9xHLhWkoQNM –  Sazid_violin May 1 at 13:36
    
(4) I see, so this fingering number must be piano fingering as there are only number 1-5 on the sheet related with human's five fingers. Yes, I have seen that video :). Btw, I'm still curious what does the squared A, A', B, and B' letter mean. –  suud May 1 at 13:46
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@suud The A, A', B and B' label the four sections. The overall structure of the piece is "First theme is expressed, first theme is repeated with slight variation, second theme is expressed, second theme is repeated with slight variations." Each of these is labeled, A being the first theme, A' being the variant restatement, B being the new theme, and B' being its variant restatement. –  Codeswitcher May 2 at 5:49

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