Saturday, May 2, 2020

Consonance And Dissonance In Music

Consonance And Dissonance In Music

This article is useful in the practice of improvisation. It will explain why certain scales can be used to good effect in improvising and also why a certain amount of chord theory is handy.
If you don’t understand what the term interval means, you should first go and read over the following post; Intervals And Their Qualities
A picture showing major and perfect intervals within a C Major scale.
Major and perfect intervals in a C major scale
So, having established what an ‘interval’ is, we can move on to the concept of consonance and dissonance.
It’s a rather simple concept that states that certain intervals harmonize or are pleasing to the ear and certain intervals clash or are unpleasant to the ear. Naturally this is a bit subjective and changes somewhat from era to era, but we can establish a basic overall accepted norm and work from there.
The intervals, which harmonize and are known as consonant, are specifically the thirds and sixths, regardless of their quality (major or minor.) Fourths and fifths are also considered consonant but with a somewhat less harmonious quality than the thirds and sixths. The exception is the diminished fifth which is considered dissonant and has historically been called ‘The Devil’s Interval,’ but that’s another story. The eighth or octave is also considered consonant.
The dissonant intervals are the seconds and the sevenths in whatever quality. 
Now, how does this information fit in with improvisation? Well, there is a relationship between the chord progression and the melody. Ideally the melody should be made up of mostly intervals, which are consonant with the chord. It is not, strictly speaking, necessarily desirable to have all note in the melody be consonant with the chords as a good mix of consonant and dissonant intervals will give the music some interest and edge.
It is chiefly desirable that the consonant intervals fall on the beat. Dissonant intervals work best after the beat and resolving to a consonant interval.
Let’s take up an example. Suppose you have a C major chord. 
Picture showing a C major chord in treble clef
C Major Chord
This chord has the notes C, E and G in it. If you play a C major scale over this, you will have the notes C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C. 
Image of keyboard showing the notes of the C Major scale
C Major Scale

Obviously the notes from the scale C,E and G will be consonant. The notes D and A will be dissonant as they will be seconds to the notes around them but they will be major seconds and, if used in between two consonant notes, will not present much problem. On the other hand the notes F and B will give you minor seconds (B to C and F to E,) and minor seconds are the most dissonant intervals of all. You would be instantly in the realm of modern music.
This is why using other forms of scales can make improvising easier. The major pentatonic scale, for example, simply removes the forth and seventh notes of the major scale. In the case of C major, the F and the B would be removed, solving the problem of running into the minor seconds. 

Friday, April 17, 2020

How To Read Treble Clef Notes

Key Signatures And The Circle Of Fifths

Key Signatures And The Circle Of Fifths

A 'key signature' shows up at the very beginning of a piece of music, directly after the clef;

The key signature tells you two things; the name of the key and what flats or sharps, if any, are to be applied in the music. 
Flats or sharps that appear in a key signature apply to the entire piece, which is different than when they are used as accidentals.
 You can learn more about sharps, flats and accidentals by watching this short video; Accidentals, Whole Steps and Half Steps.
There is a scale that goes with each key that starts on the same note as the name of that key. For example; for they key of G Major, the scale would start on G. Any sharps or flats that are in the key signature would apply to that scale. For example; the key of G Major has one sharp which is F, so the scale of G would have an F sharp in it.

There is a system to the key signatures and understanding it makes using key signatures much clearer and easier.
The first step is to learn the order of the sharps and flats because they are always used in the same order;

The order of the sharps is F C G D A E B.
You can use the nemonic; Four Cats Go Dancing And Eat Birds to help you remember this.
So, if a key signature has one sharp it is F;

If a key signature has two sharps, they will be F and C;

If a key signature has three sharps, they will be F C and G;

And so on, always using the sharps in that specific order.

The order of the flats is; B E A D G C F.
The nemonic you can use for this is; Barney Eats And Drinks Garbage Can Food.

So, if a key has 1 flat, it is B;

If a key has two flats, they will be B and E;

And, if a key has three flats, they will be B E and A;

The Circle Of Fifths

Lastly, all the keys are arranged in what is known as 'The Circle of 5ths.' 

A 5th is an interval, so this is saying that each key is the interval of a 5th from the last one.
The 'Circle' starts with C Major, which is the only key that has no sharps and flats (all notes being naturals). On the right side, the sharp keys go upwards by fifths and add one sharp each time.
On the left side of the circle, the flats go downward by 5ths, adding one flat each time.
It is important to note that these are 'Perfect 5ths' and so, for example, you go from B to F sharp and not F natural on the sharp side and you go from F down to B flat, not B natural on the flat side.

There are a couple of short-cuts to reading key signatures, but the above information is still vital as you need to know what sharps or flats to apply to your music to be able to play in the right 'key.' Practicing the corresponding scale to the key you are working in is the quickest way to master a particular key.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Note Reading Made Easy-Learn Music At Gurus Of Music

Note Quiz For The Bass Cleff

Intervals And Their Qualities

Intervals And Their Qualities

This gives more information about intervals and their 'qualities.' Before tackling this information you should view the video on Note Reading Made Easy. 
It is important that you study music theory by following the right gradient; the proper gradient is outlined in the article about gradients.


The definition of the term interval is the distance between any two notes. The distance is counted by simply counting up the letters inclusively from one note to the next.
For example; C to G would be called a fifth because there are five letters from C to G (counting C and G); CDEFG.

Interval of a 5th

In counting the interval on the staff, you would count the note you go from and then count every space and line until you got to the second note and count it as well. The above example would be called a harmonic interval since the two notes would played simultaneously.
An interval can also be melodic, meaning the two notes would be played separately as in a melody;

The Qualities

Since C to G would be a 5th but C to G flat would also be a fifth, there was needed a way to make a distinction between two such intervals. Hence the four qualities. The four qualities are; Major (Perfect), minor, augmented and diminished.
Major or Perfect can be thought of as the default. They both mean the same thing thing except that the term perfect applies only to 4ths, 5ths and Octaves (8ths). What Major or Perfect means is that the upper note of the interval is found in the scale of the bottom note.
For example; all intervals that have C as the lower note will give you Major and Perfect intervals as long as the upper notes are naturals;

If, for example, the lower note is G, then you figure from the scale of G, which would mean you use an F sharp for the 7th since the key signature of G major has an F sharp in it;

The following would be applied then, to get the other 'qualities;'
A Major interval becomes minor by making it a half-step smaller and a minor interval becomes diminished by making it a half-step smaller. A Major interval becomes Augmented by making it a half-step larger.
A Perfect interval become diminished by making it a half-step smaller-there is no minor quality for Perfect intervals. A Perfect interval becomes augmented by making it a half-step larger.
Obviously there are several different ways to make an interval larger or smaller; you can flat the upper note or sharp the lower on to make it smaller and, conversely you might sharp the upper note or flat the lower note to make it larger. A note that is already flatted or sharped could be changed to a natural. For example, a Perfect 4th of F to B flat could become augmented by making the B a natural.
Finally; Major is designated by capitals, as in M3rd. Minor is shown by lower case as in m2nd. Augmented uses a plus sign as in 5+ and diminished uses a very small zero that resembles a degree sign.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Purpose In Music Lessons

Purpose In Music Lessons

One thing you should do in regards to taking music lessons, or any learning activity for that matter is to take a bit of time and decide what your goals in learning are.
I’m not really talking about big long-term plans, necessarily, but something quite a bit simpler. 
One consideration is what style or genre of music are you mainly interested in playing?
For example, so-called classical music relies heavily on note reading. Being able to play the classics requires fluency in note reading and a solid foundation in theory.
Now pop music breaks down into a few categories. The songwriting end of it definitely requires much of the same expertise and theory as classical music and, if you’re going to be happy picking up song books off the music store shelves and playing them, then a good basis in note reading will take you to your goal the quickest.
However, often has been the time that someone has learned a song from a piece of sheet music and then said ‘that doesn’t sound like the original song.’ That’s because sheet music is more of a conglomeration of all the parts in a song but it’s not really how the original band or artists did it.
You will come closer to realizing a melody in music if you choose an arrangement of that song for whatever instrument you play. An arrangement is a realization of a song that best suites a particular instrument.
You must realize, however, that many pop bands work around a melody with the other parts being improvised or made-up by the other band members. This is why playing an Elton John song from a piece of sheet music doesn’t sound much like when Elton performs it because he is utilizing a jazz or improvisational style of piano playing to accompany himself. 
Improvisation is the core of much pop music and the basics to this are the Blues. 
With Blues, Jazz and improvisation in general, there is not a lot of note reading. What there is instead are chords and scales, particularly what is called the Blues Scale. 
This type of music works off of a predetermined progression of chords, which might be simple, or it could be a lot more complex. The Twelve Bar Blues, however, is rather simple and usually serves as a starting point for this kind of training. The improvising musician matches a scale to a chord and ‘plays around’ with that scale to achieve his improvisations.  
So, if your goal is to play in a band, your focus in music lessons should more on chords and scales, starting with the Twelve Bar Blues.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Balance In Learning

Balance In Learning

There are basics to almost any field of endeavor. Let’s take a look at basketball, for example. I’m certainly no basketball player, so that makes me uniquely qualified to write about it.
I am fairly certain that things such as dribbling, throwing a ball, catching it and being able to get a ball into the hoop (I do remember a thing called the ‘layup’) would all qualify as ‘basics’ in basketball. There are probably at least fifty or more other things that are basics that I’m unaware of, not being a pro basketball player, as I’ve said.
I would guess that, when basketball players practice, they drill some of these basics, especially if they are newer to the game. Then, having all these basics under their belt, that is to say these basic skills have become more or less second nature, the players play the game, using each of the skills where needed with intention and focus now on playing and winning the game.
What do you suppose the reaction would be to a player who only dribbled the ball up and down the court during a play-off game?  Well first he’d have a red-faced coach yelling at him to ‘pass’ and ‘shoot,’ among other things and then he’d find himself warming a bench pretty quickly.
The coach would ask what the heck was wrong with him and he’d say ‘well, I thought dribbling was the game.’
No, dribbling’s not the game.
I use this example to try and show what happens when people fail to take into account how a particular skill applies to what they are trying to accomplish.
This is quite a problem, especially in music. Very often, especially in past times, people have tended to make a sort of Holy Grail out of music theory. It’s true that some musicians of the snob variety have piled complexities upon complexities to try and show superiority in their genre of music and this is all just silliness.
This has damaged pedagogy (music teaching) in the recent past and people and society in general have suffered for it. The diverse musical genres are not that different because they all use the same musical system.
The trick is not to make a separate study out of theory but to see how it applies and use just enough to get the ball down the court to the hoop.
Let’s take note reading, for example. You ask any high level musician ‘what are notes?’ and they will tell you that notes are just symbols that literally point the direction you go to play a piece of music. Notes are not like the hieroglyphs in the Egyptian Book of the Dead.
Now because certain pedagogues were content to leave note reading almost purely over in the realm of theory, people struggled with this, looking at a note, figuring it out and then finding it on the instrument and this is all extra thought processing that is not part of playing music. Students became frustrated and gave up.
In answer to this, people came up with ‘new’ teaching systems that did away with theory. Well, this is ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater.’
Whether you like it or not, putting notes down on a printed page is still the most prominent way of conveying music.   
The answer, as I’ve said, is seeing how to apply music theory. In the case of note reading, it’s just there to point the direction up or down (the only two directions in music,) and also to let you know how many beats a note should get.
Of course you should also look at how much you are going to be using note reading. If you intend to go into jazz, you might not be using note reading that much, but you will need to know about chords and scales.
People make a big deal of how famous artists such as The Beatles didn’t read music, but this shouldn’t lead one to think they were musically ignorant as they had a very large chord vocabulary that they worked from.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Online Music Lessons

Online Music Lessons

You see a lot on the Internet these days about online lessons. Mostly people are talking about the switch to online studies that most schools have made and there have been quite a number of critical opinions about this voiced.
Certainly the challenges of delivering quality online lessons to a class are a bit formidable.  Even one on one video tutoring can be problematic, if there has not been enough preparation for use of this medium and, certainly, events have demanded that many make an immediate jump.
Online music lessons, on the other hand, have been around for a long time and many have made a good study of the most effective ways to deliver online music lessons.
Indeed, with the technology available and the correct preparation of teaching materials, online music lessons can be every bit as effective as music lessons in person.
One of the challenges of it is not just demonstrating the technique of the instrument but the theory end of it; reading notes or chords and such things. Teaching the rudiments is especially a problem and it is not well solved by simply holding a book up to the screen and pointing, saying ‘see this thing here? That’s a half note!’
This is where good screen sharing technology comes in and several ‘video meeting’ platforms have great screen sharing capabilities.

The video in this post is a very short example of screen sharing on the platform. In it, I’m sharing a previously made video about violin technique. You can see me as I’m sharing it in the upper right corner.
One can also share anything that can be displayed on the computer desktop such as EBooks and materials that are prepared as PDFs or Word Docs as well as pictures, of course.
One can switch back and forth between the screen sharing and the live screen where the teacher can watch the student play or play and demonstrate for the student on the instrument.
A good teacher will have lots of material prepared to screen share and then he can even send the material directly to the student. This is digitalized material that can be shared and sent quickly and it supports and elaborates on any regular printed lesson books that might be used.
These lessons can also be recorded obviously and made available for the student to review on his own later, if he desires and this is an added bonus that you don’t even get from in person lessons.
If you’d like to find out more about online music lessons, go to my Facebook page;
Brian’s Music Lessons. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Five Reasons To Take Music Lessons

Here are Five Good Reasons Why You Should Take 

Five Reasons To Take Music Lessons

In this day and age, short cuts abound and people are constantly looking for the quick way to learn a song. I'm not going to enumerate the various ways that people try this, hoping to bypass any music lessons, because I'm sure you seen or even gotten involved with some.
I've had many people, at their first lesson, tell me that they have tried learning this or that on the internet or some video course and just gotten very mixed up and frustrated. So here are five reasons to take lessons;
1. There are a few separate skills involved with playing music correctly, such as Rhythm, note reading and music theory.
2. A skill such as Rhythm is easiest to learn by having it explained and then demonstrated.
3. Having a teacher right there means you can get instant feedback as to whether or not you are doing it right.
4. A good teacher will make a careful assessment of your level and make sure you learn the appropriate level well before going to the next.
5. A good teacher will keep you out of any of the many pitfalls that students can fall into.

How a Good Teacher Can Help You to Reach Your Goals in Music

There are many pitfalls that students will get into on their own such as playing with no definite beat, trying to get into something that is over their level and memorizing all the short pieces they play in the first level. A good music teacher will watch out for these so that the student will make steady progress in his music lessons. Any of these pitfalls will essentially stop you in your tracks and leave you very frustrated. Short-cut methods may get you a certain ways but, when you decide you want to try something harder or a bit different, you will be faced with going back to get your basics in and few people have the will to take that on. Most musical genres have the same basics involved, so the shortest way is to take lessons.

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Case For Music Basics

The Case For Music Basics

Why Learn Music Basics?
You've probably seen this sign in a mechanics garage or something, that says; "Why is there always enough time to do it over, but never enough time to do it right in the first place?"
This applies to many things in life and it certainly applies to music study. This country has been all through a craze of looking for short-cut methods; everything from trying to follow finger numbers, putting the letters on the piano keys, making the keys different colors and learning by rote (just mimicking someone else's hand and finger motions.) This whole approach has been compounded by the idea the media has always presented that famous rock artists never practiced or ever did practice a day in their lives; something that is categorically, factually untrue.

The Only Shortcut

In my experience as a music instructor, I have invariably found that music students who have tried to learn from some short-cut method are so mixed up that they can't play at all or, if they have gotten somewhat along, they have come up to the realization that they want to play some particular advanced technique or get to another level.
And guess what? To do that, they need the theory or music basics to do it, which pretty much amounts to going back and starting over. Most people don't have it in them to do this.
This is why the shortest way is to just do it right from the start.
Get The Book Of Music Basics

The Book Of Music Basics

You can learn to play music! Just the Basics you need in the right amount, in the right order. This book will ensure your success on an...