Tag Archives: Music theory

Introduction to Music, Conclusion

Introduction to Music

for those wanting to become musicans, or improve their musicianship

Conclusion

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
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRdYzYjxl5M]
Introduction to Chords
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmezVWK0Ex8?hl=en&fs=1&w=425&h=349]
A Review of iPad Apps of help for musicians
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7Ia92GaSrg]
12-tone, Dodecaphonic Composition Overview


[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMayH_p5GS0]
Scales and Modes


[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHhf7mB4180]
Some Sibelius (notation software) Tips
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OouCZ-Uz0zM?hl=en&fs=1]
Making another Arrangement using Sibelius
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7yKV-GI-5KA?hl=en&fs=1]
Making an Organ arrangement in Sibelius
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B49i8EtmS-w?hl=en&fs=1]
I hope you enjoyed this. Your comments and questions are welcome here or via the contact page on the website.

 

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

Accidentals

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.

Dynamics

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.

Tempo
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.

Ornamentations
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.

Directions
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

 

 

Introduction to Music, Part 7 (Symbols)

Introduction to Music

for those wanting to become musicans, or improve their musicianship

Music symbols, part 1

Symbols (1)

First of all, notice the time signature is “C”. That is known as Common Time which is the same as 4/4 time.

Let’s take a break from rhythm and counting and look at various symbols that can affect the way a note is played; the pitch of a note or other aspects of the music. Above are a number of symbols you are likely to encounter in music. I divide the symbols into a few categories: 1) Articulations; 2) Accidentals; 3) Dynamics; 4) Tempo or rhythm; 5) Ornamentations and 6) Directions. Only a few of the many symbols in music are shown above. I don’t want to overload you with everything right now. The names of many of these symbols are Italian words. Time does not allow an explanation of why this is true, but suffice it to say that you will learn quite a few Italian words when learning music.

Let’s start with Articulations. These have to do with how the note is played. Is it connected, is it played short, is it held, or what? The musician accomplishes whatever the symbol is asking for through the technic, the physical logistics of playing their instrument. (Vocalists will remember that your body is your instrument so don’t feel left out if I only refer to playing an instrument. I mean singing too).

The two most common articulations are the slur, sometimes called a phrase mark, and the staccato. The slur is the curved line that happens over or under two or more different notes. A slur indicates that the notes should be played in a connected manner, smoothly. The Italian word, that is sometimes written out in the music is legato. How you do this depends on your instrument. The resulting sound should be of a sequence of pitches without any gap in the sequence. It should be mentioned that in keyboard music, a slur is sometimes used to indicate a phrase and does not necessarily mean that every note within the slur is to be played legato. A wind instrument could play a slur by not tonguing between the notes. A keyboard player would make sure there is no gap between notes when moving from one finger to another. A string player could keep the bow going in the same direction for the entire slur.

Staccato is just the opposite of legato (slur). When the staccato dot is present above or below the note, it is performed shorter than normal. You will remember I said shorter not faster. If a 1/4 note, for example, is marked staccato, you would play the note and then immediately release (stop the sound) but you would still wait until the next beat before playing the next note. Imagine you have a series of 1/4 notes. Play them as though they are all 1/8 notes with an 1/8 note rest in between them. That is a typical way in which staccato is played.

Notice the line joining the last note in the next to last measure of the treble clef into the last measure is called a tie. Do not confuse a tie with a slur. A tie connects the same two notes (pitches), one after another. It is only when the two notes are the same note and no other notes happen in between those two notes that it is a tie. For a tie, you sustain (hold down on a piano) the note for the combined length of both note values. In this example, it is held for a whole note plus an 8th note. You only sound the first note of the two tied notes. You do not sound the second note. A pianist would play the first eighth note and keep the finger pressed down during the entire next measure.

Finally, in the last measure you will see the half-circle with a dot, sometimes called a bird’s eye. That is a fermata. It means to hold the note longer than marked. How long depends on the music and is open to interpretation by the performer.

Next time, a whole bunch of symbols…

Introduction to Music, Part 2 (Notation)

Introduction to Music

for those wanting to become musicans, or improve their musicianship

Basic Notation, Part 1

Piano Keyboard with Letters

You may be thinking, ‘why a piano keyboard, I’m not a pianist.’ Knowing the layout of a keyboard can be helpful in figuring out some elements of music. This will make more sense later, but for now, be familiar with the look of a keyboard. Note the pattern of the black notes. Plus, there are plenty of times when being able to play notes on the piano, even with one finger, can be helpful. You will find that most good musicians know a little bit of piano. But, the reason I show it here is to point out the letters that are used in music. (Tip: To get a better view of the examples shown, click on them to view the full-size versions).

In music we only use the letters A through G. Once you get to G, you start repeating the letters. As you go forward in the alphabet, you go higher in pitch. For the technically minded, pitch refers to how many times a second a note vibrates. Let’s take string instruments as an example. You can’t see it, but when any string instrument is sounded, the string vibrates. The longer the string, the slower the vibration and the lower the sound. The shorter the string, the faster the vibration and the higher the sound. As you go backwards in the alphabet, the pitch gets lower, as you go forward, it gets higher. In notation, as the notes go toward the top of the page (higher), the pitch gets higher. As the notes go toward the bottom of the page (lower), the pitch gets lower. A good tip is to memorize the alphabet backwards from G to A. While we used the example of string instruments, all pitches vibrate, no matter the source.

Music Staff

This is a musical staff. It consists of 5 equally spaced lines. The distance between the lines is called a space. There are 4 spaces in the staff. We number the staff lines and spaces starting from the bottom up. Music is written on this staff. In order to specify a specific pitch, we use clefs. The two most common clefs are the Treble Clef (also called the ‘G-Clef’) and Bass Clef (also called the ‘F-Clef’). As the names imply, the Treble clef is for higher notes and the Bass clef is for lower notes. Depending on what instrument you play, you will use on or the other, but rarely both. Only keyboard and harp players, of the more common instruments, need to read both clefs. Even so, learning both clefs is a good thing to do. If you want to compose or arrange music for other instruments, you need to learn all the clefs.

Blog02-02

Here are the Treble Clef and Bass Clefs. (Remember, click on the image to see a full-size version where you can read the letter names). Use the sayings shown to help memorize the notes. Remember the keyboard at the top with the one key marked ‘middle’? That is middle C. The first line in the treble clef is the E, two white notes higher than middle-C. The fifth (top) line of the bass clef is A, two white notes lower than middle-C.

Next time: More about basic notation

Introduction to Music, Part 1

Introduction to Music

for those wanting to become musicans, or improve their musicianship

A quick word or two before we get started

This series is designed to introduce you to the world of music. It is not intended as a music appreciation series for the non-musician, but rather it is intended for those who want to be musicians or want to improve their musicianship. It could be that you’ve never played an instrument or sung before and would like to. Perhaps you learned to play or sing by rote, that is, you copied what you heard and saw but don’t really understand why or what you are doing. Perhaps you’ve reached a point where you just aren’t improving as a musician. Hopefully this series can help all of you.

musical notation example (clef, key signature,...
(From Wikipedia)

There is much in the way of theory and how to read music in this series. If you want to learn to play or sing by ear or in a way that results in you only being able to play music someone else has already recorded or that you’ve heard, there is plenty of other material, good or not, that I would point you to. This series isn’t for you, it’s for the person who wants to be a well-rounded musician. It’s for someone who can read music and understand what they are reading and performing.

If you want to be able to play or sing any music, even music you’ve never heard, and do more than just play notes, actually make music, then you absolutely must learn to read music notation and you need to understand why those notes are there in the way they are there. In other words, learn the theory behind the music. That’s what the series is for. I want you to be more than someone who just copies what they’ve heard. I want you to be a well-rounded musician. This series is a very small step in the long process required to be a good musician.

If you are a musician, each instrument – singers, the body is your instrument – has different techniques necessary to play that instrument. String players have to learn how to bow properly. Guitar players need to learn finger positions. Brass and woodwind players need to learn breathing. Singers need to learn diction. Keyboard players need to use proper hand technique, etc. You can learn much on your own in this department, but the best players, even if they say they are self-taught, have had someone at some point in their career show them the technique of their instrument. A teacher is highly recommended. This series will not discuss technique or how to play an instrument.

For all the examples shown, you can click on the picture to see a bigger version.

Next time, we look at basic notation.

Piano lessons and music lessons over the internet

Piano

I’m happy to announce that I’m now teaching piano lessons and general music lessons via the internet. Please pass the word on to all you know.

I mainly teach piano lessons, but I am also available to teach Composition, Music Theory, Sibelius 7, Reaper DAW and Native Instruments Komplete 8 (with the various software like Absynth, Battery 3, FM8, Guitar Rig 5, Kontkat, Massive and Reaktor). For piano I teach all levels of experience and all styles. For Composition, Music Theory and Sibelius 7, I teach all levels, from beginner to advanced. For Reaper DAW and Native Instrument software contact me for details. If you are interested in organ lessons via the internet, let me know.

Image representing Skype as depicted in CrunchBase

I’m using Skype with video to teach lessons*. I have a webcam with high quality video setup to show my hands at my keyboard and one to show me. I can alternate between the two. I also have the ability to share my desktop. On the desktop I can show various material to supplement the lesson. Of course, I can also speak to the student. This makes it almost like me being in the same room with the student.

All that is required of the student is the ability to use Skype near where they are playing the piano or for other lessons, wherever they want.

Being able to see the piano student’s hands and their keyboard is preferred and is almost essential for beginners. But, if a video connection is impossible on the student’s end, then audio will also work. For other non-piano lessons, audio is sufficient although being able to share our desktops with one another would be desired.

For a limited number of new students, lessons (of any type) are ABSOLUTELY FREE through the end of 2012. After that, I will charge half price through May 2013, then go to regular price.

For general information about piano lessons, either in person or via the internet, visit my Piano Lessons Page and then use the Piano Inquiry page to contact me.

Don’t forget, we have over 400 free sheet-music titles available on our website for FREE! All we ask is that you consider making a donation to help the effort.

*My Skype name is: “JamesGilbertMusic” (all one word, without the quotes). Go ahead and give me a call. NOTE: I can also teach lessons via FaceTime but the experience will not be quite the same as described above.

Chords – Part 3

Part 3 of our ongoing series about chords is now available on YouTube.

In this video we talk about Augmented and Diminished chords.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOVHzQ9Ggos?hl=en&fs=1]

You can think of Diminished chords as minor chords with a flat-5th.

You can think of Augmented chords as major chords with a sharp-5th.

When adding 7ths to diminished chords, in order to get the correct spelling, the chord must be spelled, from the bottom up with every other letter. For example: a C diminished 7 chord (fully diminished) is C, Eb, Gb, and Bbb (double flat, which is the same as A).

Check the video out for the rest of the story.