Introduction to Music, Conclusion

Introduction to Music

for those wanting to become musicans, or improve their musicianship


I hope this Introduction to Music series has been helpful. While it is obviously not a comprehensive look at all there is to music notation and music theory, if you know this stuff, you have a great amount of tools to help you as either a performer or composer, no matter the style of music.

I have a number of YouTube videos that cover a range of music topics, some duplicating what was in this series, but many that go beyond this series. Here are a few below for you to take a look at.

To see and hear how I’ve used my musical knowledge, you can download any of our sheet music for Free at the website. I also have six albums (as of January 2013) available on GooglePlay, Amazon, iTunes and CD Baby.

If you would care to make a donation to help in my efforts with free content – blogs, videos and sheet music – your Donation is most appreciated.

Introduction to Piano Lessons and general music theory
Introduction to Chords
A Review of iPad Apps of help for musicians
12-tone, Dodecaphonic Composition Overview

Scales and Modes

Some Sibelius (notation software) Tips
Making another Arrangement using Sibelius
Making an Organ arrangement in Sibelius
I hope you enjoyed this. Your comments and questions are welcome here or via the contact page on the website.


Session Strings Pro Animator Revisited

Session Strings Pro Animator Revisited

Back in 2011 I did a YouTube video showing the Animator function of Session Strings Pro. It was a quick overview and not terribly detailed.

At the request of a few people, I’ve come back to the Animator to take a more detailed look. The video is intended as a starting off point for you to be able to use the Animator function yourself.

Please consider subscribing to the YouTube channel and checking out our website

Introduction to Music, Part 10 (Scales)

Introduction to Music

for those wanting to become musicans, or improve their musicianship

Scales and Modes


Rather than a long blog article about scales, I’ll point you to a video I did on YouTube about scales and modes. I’ve added a few things below the video, so come back here when you’re done with the video.
Types of scales and modes

There are basically 2 types of scales, Major and Minor that are used the most. The Minor scale has 3 variations. As to modes, which are used less often, there are 7, one for each letter used in music. The Major scale is also known as the Ionian mode while the Minor scale is also known as the Aeolian scale. There are of course, other scales, from blues to whole-tone that are used less often.

One of the easiest ways to remember the correct order of the various scales is by the half-steps, whole-steps order between the notes. Here’s a list:

whole whole half whole whole whole half
(C-D) (D-E) (E-F) (F-G) (G-A) (A-B) (B-C)


Natural: whole half whole whole half whole whole
Harmonic: whole half whole whole half whole+half half (note augmented 2nd from 6 to 7)
Melodic: whole half whole whole whole whole half (Ascending ONLY)

whole half whole whole whole half whole

half whole whole whole half whole whole

whole whole whole half whole whole half

whole whole half whole whole half whole

half whle whole half whole whole whole

Introduction to Music, Part 9 (Intervals & Chords)

Introduction to Music

for those wanting to become musicans, or improve their musicianship

Chords and Intervals

Intervals & Chords


An interval is the distance between two notes. We describe intervals in numerical terms, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc. From the note C to the note D is a 2nd. Although D is only one note away from C, we call it a second because two notes are involved. Think of intervals in terms of letter names. If you are on a G and the next note is a D higher, you have G, A, B, C then D, 5 letters. Thus, G up to D is an interval of a 5th. You can have major or minor 2, 3, 6 & 7ths. You can have perfect, augemented or diminished 4, 5 and octaves. More about these differences later.

We usually only count intervals from a 2nd to 8th. The 8th is called an octave. Once you get higher than an octave it is common to say ‘an octave and’ whatever the interval is. That being said, you will hear about 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th and even 13th, particularly when talking about chord extensions. But you rarely, if ever, will see intervals beyond 13ths used.

Why intervals? When reading music, it is often easier to read intervals than specific note names, especially if you are trying to read multiple notes, as in keyboard music or chords. For example, on piano, rather than try to figure out the note name on the music staff then figure out where you play it, you can quickly figure out the interval, then play the finger that many intervals higher. So, if your thumb is playing a G and the next note is a 5th higher, just play your 5th finger. I would say most experienced musicians read music more by intervals than by reading actual note letter names.



(See the graphic at the top of the article for examples of chords). The basic definition of a chord is this: “Three notes or more, when played at the same time is a chord.” In the majority of the most popular music in the world, most chords consists of triads. For our purposes, we will only be talking about triads. That is, the notes in the chord are made up of intervals of thirds. A C major chord, for example, consists of the notes C, E and G, all intervals of 3rds.

To properly spell a chord (triad), each letter of the chord must be an interval of a third. For example, a C# major chord is C#, E#, G#. Although E# is the same note as F, it is not considered proper to spell the C# major chord with an F, it must be an E#. The reason being that from C to E (with or without a sharp) is a third. From C to F is a 4th. If you ever wondered why we have double sharps or double flats, this is one reason why. For example, a D# major chord is spelled D#, F-double-sharp, A#. A G-flat major chord is spelled Gb, B-double-flat, Db.

The four types of chords are major, minor, diminished and augmented chords. (Yes, there are ‘suspended’ chords but they aren’t triads). What’s the difference? This is where chords and intervals come together.

A major chord consists of 4 half-steps, which is also called a Major 3rd, between the lowest note (called the root) and the middle note. A Minor chord has three half-steps, also called a Minor-third, from the root to the middle note. From the lowest note to the top note in Major and Minor chords is always 7 half-steps which is better known as a Perfect 5th.

We haven’t talked about scales yet, but another way to think of chords would be using scales. For now, suffice it to say that a C major scale consists of all the letter names (without accidentals) from C to the next highest C: C D E F G A B C. If we assign numbers to each letter, the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of the scale, the C,E & G make up the C major chord. We call the notes of the chord the root, 3rd & 5th (from bottom to top).

An augmented chord consists of a Major 3 from the root to the 3rd and an Augmented 5th from the bottom to the top note. An augmented 5th is 8 half-steps.

A diminished chord consists of a Minor 3 from the root to the 3rd and a Diminished 5th from the bottom to the top note. A diminished 5th is only 6 half steps.

A chord has to be 3 notes at a minimum, but there is nothing that says it can only be 3 notes. We can have chords with 7 notes. To add a 4th note, you guessed it, we add a note a 3rd higher. In a C chord, we would add a B. Then we could add a D, F, etc. I cover this and more about chords in my YouTube series.

For more on chords, see my YouTube series on the subject (shown below)

Next time: Scales and modes


Introduction to Music, Part 8 (Symbols concluded)

Introduction to Music

for those wanting to become musicians, or improve their musicianship

Music symbols, part 2

Symbols (2)

As we look into more symbols a reminder of how we will talk about symbols in this series. I divide symbols into a few categories: 1) Articulations; 2) Accidentals; 3) Dynamics; 4) Tempo or rhythm; 5) Ornamentations and 6) Directions. All of these are shown in the example.

Let’s start with some more Articulations. Take a look at the image (remember you can click on it to see a bigger picture):
Staccatissimo – a very short staccato
Marcato – play marked – emphasizing each note.
Bowing directions – String players only. The first means an up bow, the second a down bow.
Accent – play the note louder than normal, with emphasis.
Tenuto – hold the note for its full value, emphasizing the note’s length
Roll – or arpeggio. Keyboard, harp, guitar only. Play each of the notes one at a time in quick succession, usually holding down the notes when done on piano


These refer to variations in the pitch of a note. Remember the piano keyboard with its 2 black notes and 3 black notes pattern, each separated by two white notes along with white notes in between each black note? The distance from one key on the piano to another is known as a half-step. On a guitar, a half-step is one fret to another. When you go from the note C to the next key to the right, the black key, that is a half-step and the black note is called C-sharp, written C#. To go from D to the next key to the left, the note is now D-flat (written Db). Between B & C and E & F, no matter the instrument, it is always a half-step. On the piano, this is easy to see because there are two white keys right next to one another. An accidental lasts for the entire measure in which it appears. So in our example, the two F# in the last measure of the first line are both sharped.

In addition to sharps & flats, we can have double-sharps and double-flats. These simply raise the note another half-step. Yes, we could write F-double-sharp as G, but there are reasons why you don’t always want to do that. That’s for a later section. We also have something called a natural sign. This cancels any accidental and makes it just the letter name, no flat or sharp. On a piano, a natural note is always a white note.


These refer to how loud or how soft a note is. From softest to loudest they are:
pp; p; mp; mf; f; ff. Pianissimo; Piano; Mezzo-Piano; Mezzo-Forte; Forte; Fortissimo. You can add a 3, 4 or more p’s or f’s to make the sound softer or louder, respectively. There are also symbols, as shown, to indicate gradual changes in dynamics. The crescendo and diminuendo symbols are somtimes written out and abbreviated, cresc. and dim.

The tempo marking is indicated above the time signature at the start of a piece of music and whenever a composer wants to change the speed. In the example here, there is a tempo marking at the very beginning of the piece of music and another in the 3rd measure from the end. The 1/4 = 80 is a Metronome indicator. It means that there are to be 80 quarter notes per minute. Notice the ‘rit.’ and ‘accel.’ text at the last line. These are the most common indicators for slowing down and speeding up, respectively, that one will find in music.

Ornaments are indications to the performer to embellish the given note. The squiggly line is a mordent, the one with the vertical line through it is an inverted mordent. A mordent is typically played, in this example, as a 1/32 D, 1/32 E then back to the original D for the remainder of that beat. A trill (tr) indicates to alternate rapidly (usually 1/16 or 1/32 notes) between the given note and the next note higher, keeping in mind the key signature. In some style periods, you might start the trill on the note above. In some situations, a flat or sharp sign appears after the trill. That indicates to flatten or sharp the trilled note as indicated. A complete discussion of ornamentations could fill an entire book.

The repeat sign indicates, in this example, to go back to the beginning of that line. If there was no forward repeat sign at the beginning of the line, then one would repeat back to the 1st measure. There are other direction indicators that tell the performer to jump back to a specific symbol (DS), others that indicate to jump back to the beginning (DC) and play to the word ‘Fine’ (pronounced ‘fee-nay’). There can also be jumps to measures near the end, a Coda. We’ll show examples of other direction indicators in future articles.

Next time: An introduction to intervals and chords