14 More Notes on the Fifth String, Expression & Tuplets


In this unit you will learn more fretted notes on the fifth string, expression indicators and tuplets.



The Notes ‘A‘ and ‘B

‘A♯’ and ‘B♭’ are enharmonics. To play ‘A♯’ or ‘B♭’, fret the first fret on the fifth string.

The Notes ‘C‘ and ‘D

‘C♯’ and ‘D♭’ are enharmonics. To play ‘C♯’ or ‘D♭’, fret the fourth fret on the fifth string.

The Note ‘D’

You already learned to read this note as the open fourth string. However, this same pitch can be played as the fifth fret of the fifth string as well.



Expression Indicators

The following five words, or abbreviations, frequently appear in scores to make music more expressive.


The accelerando, or accel. for short, directs you to gradually increase tempo. If a line of dashes accompanies the command, increase tempo until you reach the end of the dashes. If the accel. appears alone, continue increasing tempo until you hit another indicator (usually a tempo).


The rallentando, or rall. for short, directs you to gradually decrease tempo.


The ritardando, or rit. for short, directs you to gradually decrease tempo. Debates abound regarding the subtle differences between rit. and rall.

A Tempo

The a tempo directs you to resume the original tempo or the tempo maintained prior to an accel., rall. or rit.


The rubato directs you to lengthen and shorten the duration of beats at your discretion. This indication affords ample space for personal expression. Rubato can be applied in various ways, which is why you may want to explore the topic further.


Degrees of Expression

The following adjectives modify other musical commands.


Poco means ‘a little’ in Italian. For example, poco accel. means to accelerate a little.


Molto means ‘very’ in Italian. For example, molto accel. means to accelerate a lot.


Tuplets are groups of rhythms equally subdivided across a specific duration in a way that is irregular  in the context of the time signature. You already learned a tuplet. Remember the eighth-note triplet discussed in Unit 10.

Eighth-Note Triplet

The triplet is considered irregular because the three eighth notes of a triplet add up to one quarter note. Bear in mind that the regular  rules of rhythm dictate that three eighth notes should equal a dotted half note. The number ‘3’ (placed either above or below the triplet) temporarily alters the rules regular  to irregular.  According to irregular rules, each eighth note in the triplet equals one-third of a beat.  All tuplets, like the triplet, have a number placed either above or below them to signal the shift from regular to irregular rules. Here are two more common tuplets.

Sixteenth-Note Quintuplet

The example above is in simple duple meter. In this meter, the quarter note gets the pulse. The second beat is a sixteenth note quintuplet, which indicates five equally spaced rhythms across the duration of a quarter note.

Eighth-Note Duplet

The example above is in compound duple meter. In this meter the dotted-quarter note gets the pulse. The second beat is an eighth note duplet, which indicates two equally spaced rhythms across the duration of a dotted-quarter note.


Let’s Play

Sight-Reading Tip

Expressive sight-reading is fun! Use your intuition to play with feeling and musicality, even if you are playing a piece for the first time.

A fluid pulse can enhance expressive playing. Indulge in the human tendency to create a pulse that waxes and wanes. It is tempting to think that excellent musicianship is achieved by playing with a metronome. However, in my experience, the most exhilarating (and excellent) musical experiences happen while playing with other musicians, not a metronome or a click.

The expression indicators introduced in this unit are often impossible to implement while playing with a click. If possible, I recommend that you sight-read this unit’s exercises with another musician. If it is not possible, then play with the pre-recorded tracks below but be aware that, in some cases, you will not be able to follow the expression markings.

Checklist for Sight-Reading

  • Count the beats out loud (including the &).
  • Keep going (even if you make a mistake).
  • Maintain your best playing posture.
  • Look at the score, not your hands.
  • Play with the feel of the meter.
  • Play patterns instead of individual notes (AKA chunk).
  • Cultivate a calm demeanor.
  • Have fun!

Let’s Play Rhythms

Attitude Tip

A sponge to wipe away the past; a rose to sweeten the present; a kiss to greet the future. —Arabian Proverb

Exercise 14.1: Score

Exercise 14.1: Audio

Exercise 14.2: Score

Exercise 14.2: Audio 

Exercise 14.3: Score

Exercise 14.3: Audio

Exercise 14.4: Score

Exercise 14.4: Audio 

Let’s Play Patterns

Attitude Tip

Mastery – the sense of purpose and expressive intent – does not improve, and may be invoked at the outset, and at every succeeding moment. In the meantime, the resources available to communicate it broaden and deepen. –Peter Yates

Exercise 14.5: Score

Exercise 14.5: Audio

Exercise 14.6: Score

Exercise 14.6: Audio

Let’s Play Duets

Attitude Tip

The path from pretty to beautiful passes through strange. —Peter Yates

Exercise 14.7: Score

Exercise 14.7: Audio

Exercise 14.8: Score

Exercise 14.8: Audio

Exercise 14.9: Score

Exercise 14.9: Audio

Let’s Play Compositions

Note: These compositions are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International license  (CC BY-NC 4.0).

Attitude Tip

All performances combine the familiar and the strange, only in different orders and proportions. —Peter Yates

Obelisk No. 3 by Ashraf Fouad: Score

Obelisk No. 3: Audio

Waves by Joan Greenwald: Score

Waves: Audio

Keep Moving by John Baboukis: Score

Keep Moving: Audio

The standard method of fingering applies to the next composition. The composer, Bahaa El Ansary, chose to represent string numbers with circled Arabic numerals .

Process II from The Art of Process by Bahaa El Ansary: Score

Process II from The Art of Process: Audio


You have completed this unit! If you kept up with the beat and accurately played approximately 70% of the pitches and rhythms, you are ready for the next unit. Feel free to repeat the exercises. However, do not play them so often that you memorize them. Once you memorize the notation, you are no longer developing the skill of sight-reading.



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