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What is sound?

 

In physics, sound begins with the vibration of an object that travels through space as a wave, transmitted by the vibration of air molecules that make our eardrums vibrate too, and so, we hear the sound.

 

Physicist gave a special name for the frequency of vibration--they called it hertz.  They said that the lowest note on a piano keyboard is an “A” with a frequency of 27.5 hertz, and that it must be doubled three times to get 220 hertz.

 

This A220 hertz is the fifth string of a guitar.

 

In music, sounds have four properties: pitch (high or low); dynamics (loud or soft); tone color; and duration (time).

 

Music also involved three elements, melody, harmony and rhythm.

 

MELODY:  a series of single tone that add up to a conceivable whole, best described as tune.

 

HARMONY: defined as note or notes that sound pleasing when played together with the melody.  All chords involved melody.

 

RHYTHM:  the ordered flow of music through time; the pattern of duration of sound and silence; or a regular repetition of beats.

 

All these three elements of music can be written down in a system of writing music called notation.  This is the reason why a piece of music from the classical period of Mozart and Beethoven can still be played perfectly today.  Classical pianist read note for note, that is to say that every note played with each finger is read from the piano score.

 

Reading music note for note is quite difficult and need years have practice to be good at it.  But, there is an easier and quicker way to play music.  It’s by chord wherein you only read one melody note and one chord symbol at a time but sound beautiful too.

 

UNDERSTANDING A CHORD

 

 

 

Chord is two or more notes that when played together are harmonious.  The simplest chord but that is also the basis of all varieties of chord is called the triad.  This is made up of three alternate tones as: do-mi-so, of the scale which harmonized the melody.

 

Physicist mathematically described the triad as tones that are harmonious when played together because their frequencies are in whole number ratios of 4:5:6.

 

Therefore, it is a must to know the scale of every triad because of its harmonizing factor to a melody.  So, knowing only the execution of a chord is not enough but also knowing the four remaining tones, re, fa, la and ti that made up the particular scale.

 

Thorough understanding of chords is paramount, since it is the very heart of music.

 

Needless to say, it’s a waste of time and energy finding the right chord by trial and error method the fact that there are twelve major scales and twelve minor scales to try on.

 

So here, comes in the importance of reading music notation.  Think about it.  But don’t you worry since it’s very easy.  Thanks to the keyboard instrument.

 

What is a SCALE?

 

It is a series of pitches arranged in order from low to high or high to low.  And, there are two kinds of scale as I already said but I have to emphasize these because of its importance: major scale and minor scale.  When a piece of music is based on the major scale, it is said to be a major key, and if based on the minor scale, it is said to be a minor key.

 

Every major key has a relative minor key.  It is called relative in the sense that they shared all the seven keys in a scale but they differ in their interval of a whole steps and a half steps.

 

Ok, let’s get started and scale all the white keys starting with the first letter of the alphabet, “A” (5th string of a guitar): A-do,  B-re,  C-mi,  D-fa,  E-so,  F-la,  G-ti,  A-do.

 

The scale above is an octave, defined as an interval between two tones in which the higher tone has twice the frequency of the lower tone.  And, tone is defined as a sound that has a definite pitch or frequency.

 

As you can see in the keyboard, half steps are between B-re and C-mi and between E-so and F-la.  This scale is based on a minor scale and since the lowest and highest note of the scale determines the key, then this is a key of A minor. 

 

The triad: A-do,  C-mi,  E-so.

 

Now let’s scale again all white keys starting with the third letter of the alphabet: C-do,  D-re,  E-mi,  F-fa,  G-so,  A-la,  B-ti,  C-do.

 

As you can see on the keyboard, half steps are between E-mi and F-fa, and between B-ti, and C-do  again but they have different pitches now.  This scale is also based on a major scale with C as the lowest and highest note, so this is a key of C major. 

 

The triad:  C-do,  E-mi,  G-so.

 

Therefore, the relative of C major is A minor as they shared all the seven white keys.

 

C major and A minor are the only keys that has no sharp or flat,  all the others do.  However if there is a note that is played sharp or flat, it is called accidental and a sharp (#) sign or a flat (b) sign is placed at the left side of the note to indicate said note is to be played sharp or flat as the case maybe within the bar or measure.

 

As you can see on the header of this page all scales follow the pattern of C major and A minor.  Half steps between notes are indicated by red notes while the triad is indicated by a note with a stem.

 

So far, I think you have already an idea, how the chord is constructed but I’ll go further to the details so that you can fully understand it, by teaching you the fundamentals of a written music.

 

On the center of the header of this page you can see two groups of five horizontal lines where notes are written either on the lines or on the spaces.  This is called a staff.   The symbol at the extreme left of the one above is called a treble clef, while the symbol of the staff below is called a bass clef.  Higher notes are written on the treble clef and lower notes on the bass clef.

 

Reading notes is very easy as there are only seven letters to memorize.  It’s only a fraction of the letters on the keyboard of your computer that you mastered.

 

In reading notes all you have to do is to see the FACE and you’ll already know were GBD are.  When FACE is on the lines, GBD are on the spaces and vice versa.

 

KEY SIGNATURE

 

When a piece of music has no sharp (#) sign or flat (b) sign next to the treble clef or bass clef, it is understood that that piece is in the key of C major.

 

The # or b signs placed next to the treble clef or bass clef is called the key signature.  It tells us two things.   What note is to be played sharp or flat throughout the song and what is the name of the key of the piece.

 

Sharp (#) sign means to increase the tone by a half step and flat (b) sign means to decrease the tone by a half step.

 

 

 

Reading key signature is very easy with the use of a mnemonic device.   You can use any name you love to remember.   Mine are the following:  1#-go;  2#-down; 3#-and;  4#-eat;  5#-big;  6#-fish.  For flat:  1b-fat;  2b-boy;  3b-eats;  4b-adobo;  5b-drinks;  6b-gin.

 

Now let’s read a key signature with 1#.  If you have a songbook right now, you can see that the # sign is on the line of F.  So it means all F notes must be played sharp throughout the song and the name of 1# is go, so this is G major.

 

Following the pattern of  C major let’s scale it.  G-do,  A-re,  B-mi,  C-fa,  D-so,  E-la,  F#-ti, G-do.

 

Triad:  G-do,  B-mi,  D-so.

 

To find the relative minor, just count three keys to the left of G and you’ll find its E.   E-do,  F#-re,  G-mi,  A-fa,  B-so,  C-la,  D-ti,  E-do.

 

Triad:  E-do, G-mi,  B-do.

 

After the key signature with sharp sign let’s scale the key signature with flat (b) sign.  If you have a song book again, you’ll see that the flat sign is on the line of  B.  This means all B notes should be played flat, so it’s the black key to the left of B that is struck or pluck now called Bb.  Now let’ scale it as our mnemonic guide dictates.

 

Since the name of 1b is Fat, this is a key of F major.

 

F-do,  G-re,  A-mi,  Bb-fa,  C-so,  D-la,  E-ti,  F-do.

 

Triad:  F-do,  A-mi,  C-so.

 

Counting again three keys to the left of F major, the relative minor is D.

 

D-do,  E-re,  F-mi,  G-fa,  A-so,  Bb-la,  C-ti,  D-do.

 

Triad:  D-do,  F-mi,  A-so.

 

To scale the twelve major keys and twelve minor keys on a keyboard is quite easy because each key has its own specific tone and the keys are also arranged in alphabetical order.  All you have to do is to count the steps which can be done even on a piece of paper.

 

Remember, it’s not only the construction of a triad that you’ll learn knowing how to scale but varieties of chords based on the triad.

 

For example, chords that you can construct from the triad C-E-G:

 

C7--just add three keys from the highest note of the triad.  C-E-G- Bb

 

C diminished--flatten the three upper notes of C7.  C-Eb-Gb-A

 

C augmented--raise the highest note of a triad by a half step.  C-E-G#

 

C6--add a whole step from the highest note of the triad.  C-E-G-A

 

C minor 7--just flatten the 3rd key of C7.  C-Eb-G-Bb.

 

C major 7--raise by a half step the highest note of C7.  C-E-G-B

 

C 9-- just a C7 plus a whole step from the highest note of the octave.  C-E-G-Bb-D

 

         (C is omitted on keyboard unless the player have long fingers enough to reach all keys, but not on a fret board).

 

C suspended fourth--replace the 3rd key of the triad with the 4th key.  C-F-G

 

 

 

Although those varieties of chords except the seventh chord are played for a short period of time, it adds beauty to the chord structure of a song.  Thus, your execution of it when called for in a piece of music makes your playing like a pro.


I think, I have not omitted any of the things you’ll need to know about chords that involved the first and second element of music, melody and harmony.  So let’s move on to the third element of music which can also be notated.

 

RHYTHM

 

From the heavenly bodies, to nature and to our very own heart beats there is a rhythm.  In music, rhythm is the ordered flow of time that has interrelated aspects: beat, meter, accent, syncopation and tempo.

 

Beat--is a regular pulsation that divides music into equal units of time.

 

Meter--is the organization of beats into regular group.

 

Accent--is an emphasis of a note by being louder, longer or high pitch.

 

Syncopation--is an accenting of a note at an unexpected time.

 

Tempo--is the basic pace of the music.

 

While the key signature determines the key of a song, the number placed over another number next to the key signature called time signature, determines the rhythm of a song.  It’s just a simple arithmetic that tells two things.  The number above tells us how many counts are there per bar (vertical lines that divide the staff) in a song.  The number below tells us what note gets the count.

 

But, before we proceed let’s know first the kinds of notes and their values.  I’ll just describe the notes as well as their respective rest and I think you can picture it.

 

Whole note (oval and white)= four beats.

 

Half note (oval and white with a stem)= two beats.

 

Quarter note (black note with a stem)= one beat.

 

Eight note (black note with a stem and one flag )= one-half beat.

 

Sixteenth note (black note with stem and two flags)= one-fourth beat.

 

A dot (.) placed on the right side of a note adds one-half of the value of the note.

 

For rest of respective notes, here are the descriptions:

 

Whole rest--like inverted hat.

 

Half rest--like a hat in normal position.

 

Quarter rest--like a joined letters “Z” on top and “C” at the bottom.

 

Eight rest--tilted stem with one flag.

 

Ok, let’s proceed now with the most common time signature:

 

4/4 time--this tells us there are four counts per bar and a quarter note gets one count.

 

¾ time--this tells us there are three counts per bar and a quarter note gets one count.

 

6/8 time--this tells us there are six counts per bar and an eight note gets one count.

 

Another way of describing a 4/4 time signature is by a capital letter C instead of a number.

 

Now, your knowledge of time signature will make the difference in your playing as you’re strumming or picking the guitar and or the striking of the bass and chord by keyboard players will be guided with correct rhythm.  

 

And, with your knowledge of the key signature, you can also play even beautiful modulated songs like the following: “You Raise Me Up” by Brendan Graham and Rolf Lovland, popularized by Josh Groban.  This song starts in the key of Eb major and a chorus in C minor; then shifted (modulated) to F major that begins with a violin solo and the chorus in D minor which was finally shifted to Eb minor and ends on Gb major.

 

“Memory” by Andrew Lloyd Webber.  First modulation from Bb to Gb, and second modulation from Gb to Db.

 

Note:  While it is the root of the triad that is struck or pluck as the bass, sometimes a chord symbol ends with a “slash” and an extra letter, like this:  C/G.  This means the bass note is not the root of the triad C but G.

 

Thank you for visiting my website and I wish you all the success in your journey into the wonderful world of music.

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