I've been learning music since I was, like, five. At least since 2006. I remember taking my violin with me to Italy, claiming I was going to practice all the while long (yeah, right!). I wanted to learn piano, but my mother made me learn the violin instead, for some reason. My older-younger brother also learned the violin.
Recently, I took a Music Theory class. It was both to satisfy a credit, get an A (which was harder than it sounds, truly), and learn how to compose music. I came out with all three, thankfully (although, the 'composing music' bit is still coming along). I bought my music theory book instead of renting it, so I still have it on hand. Half the book was stuff I already knew about music theory, since my violin teacher made me do theory non-stop, but I did come out learning things.
So, I thought, why not make a blog post series about it, since I still have my book (though I could do it from memory)? This motivation mainly comes from talking to people about music theory and they having no clue what I'm going on about. It's like speaking German to an only-English speaker! (Oh. I should do some German blog posting. That would be fun. Did I mention anywhere that I'm learning German?) I don't like it when people don't understand me when I'm talking about music, so I'm going to try and shove knowled--gently teach some people along the path.
Here we go! I may skip things in the book that aren't relevant (or things I don't think are relevant. Buy the book if you want to read it all. XD)
Hopefully, no one sues me for teaching from this book online. I bought it! and I credit the author, Ronald J. Gretz. I do not subscribe to the belief that everyone must pay $100 for a textbook to learn things (though I think this one was more like $20). Most of what I write will be straight from the book, often just paraphrased. Pls don't be suin' me.
So, I guess, this is a Reader's Digest version of Music: Language and Fundamentals. With fun pictures!
Chapter 1: The Notation of Pitch
The musical language has an alphabet of only seven letters:
A B C D E F G
It's beneficial to know those backwards:
G F E D C B A
The seven letters of alphabet represent seven different pitches (regular vibrations). These pitches are placed on a staff. The modern staff is five, parallel lines. The staff alone shows only the relationship of pitch: high (top) or low (bottom).
Pitches are represented by notes on the staff.
See how the treble clef noms that second line from the bottom with its swirlyness? That's G. This also identifies all the other lines and spaces.
(Note: D before E at the beginning, F after G on the end. Too lazy to go back and draw 'em in.)
If a letter is on a line, it will be on a space the next time it appears (an octave: the distance in pitch between a note and the next repetition of its letter name. (e.g., E-E or F-F in "Note Names")).
Ledger Line: an extension of the staff above or below the usual five lines. Ledger lines are equidistant from the staff and long enough for only one note. Only use as many ledger lines as are necessary to notate the desired pitch.
The Piano Keyboard
There are 52 white keys and 36 black keys (88 keys total) on a piano. They have a repeating pattern (I feel like this book thinks you've never seen a piano before).
Learning the keyboard will help you visualize pitches and their relations. If you have one handy, or a virtual one, you can also use it to help you with chords, since it is capable of playing pitches simultaneously.
The grouping of black notes helps us identify white notes. To the left of any group of two black notes is always a C, the middle the D, and, to the right, always an E.
Clefs are used to show specific locations of a pitch on the keyboard. High pitches are on the right, low on the left ("Talk to me like I'm five." / "Oh my gosh, where are your parents?!"). Thus, treble clef represents those on the right, bass those on the left.
On the wood directly above the keyboard, you should see the name of the maker of the piano (Yamaha, Steinway, Bach, etc.,). Directly under the name, there is a group of two black notes. The C of that group is called "middle C" and is written below the staff on a ledger line in the treble clef, or above the staff on a ledger line in the bass clef.
Location of sind viele (many many) notes can be shown by a Grand Staff, which is actually two staves combined.
Why have ledger lines? So you can do stuff like this:
This also works for the bass clef. Ledger lines are used to write pitches higher and lower than the staves, and to simplify notation.
That's all for chapter one!
Practice the above knowledge here:
Note Identification (You must turn off accidentals in the 'customize' sidebar (upper right hand corner, left of the piano symbol))
Reverse Keyboard Note Identification (You must turn off accidentals for this as well)
Keyboard Note Identification (There is not a quick and easy way to turn off the accidentals for this one, unfortunately, so this will be harder to use. The black keys are accidentals, which are sharps (#) and flats (b), so you could have a stab at this. We'll get into more of that in chapter two.)
Some helpful mnemonics:
Music: Language and Fundamentals by Ronald J. Gretz. 2nd Edition. Published by McGraw Hill, 1990-1994.