- We saw in the page on scales a simple example of a major scale:
- We can now insert the relevant clef at the front (do you remember what this clef is called?);
click to hear this scale:
- And we also now know that the note names are C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C.
- The key note is C and this is called a scale in the key of C major.
- Looking at the stave above, you could be forgiven for thinking that these eight notes are equally spaced from each other;
- But if you look at where these notes are on a piano keyboard, you will see that it's not true:
- There are "black notes" between some pairs, but not between all:
You can click on the note heads or on the piano keyboard to hear the notes:
- From C to D is two steps because there is a black note between them;
- From D to E is two steps, but from E to F is only one step, because there is no black note between them;
- F to G, G to A and A to B are all two steps, but B to C is one step.
- These steps are called semitones, and there are 12 of them in an octave.
- Don't be confused - it's called an octave because it's made up of eight notes of the normal major scale.
- Pick two consecutive white notes on the keyboard above which have a black note in between:
- Sing the two white notes by clicking on the keyboard.
- Then try singing the black note in between - click on it to check whether you are right.
- Try singing a "chromatic" scale - this is, all the notes, white and black in ascending order
- This is difficult, so don't worry if you need to click the notes a lot to get used to it
- An accidental is a symbol placed immediately in front of a note head to signify that it is changed in pitch up or down by one semitone from what it would otherwise be:
- This usually means moving to the black note immediately to the left or right of the white note.
- A sharp sign: changes the pitch upwards, (usually) going to the black note to the right;
- A flat sign: changes the pitch downwards, (usually) going to the black note to the left;
- A sharp or a flat applies to all following notes of the same pitch in the same bar or measure;
- A natural sign: cancels the change.
- So each black note has two names and can be written on the stave in two ways:
- The black note between C and D can be called either "C sharp" or "D flat"
- It depends on the context, but they make the same sound.
- In this example, the F in the second bar is sharpened, and so is the F marked "*"
- But the F marked † in the next bar is not sharpened, because an accidental does not carry over into the next bar
- In this example, the two "B"s at the start of the third and fourth bars are flattened, but so is the B marked *
- This example shows naturals that cancel the sharp or flat on the previous note:
For more details, see Basic Music Theory - Accidentals
- To get the feel of singing simple accidentals, try singing the three tunes above, first singing with the demonstration, and they try without:
- If you completed the previous exercises, you should be able to manage the rhythm and the note pitch;
- So the only thing to change is to appropriately adjust the pitch of the notes that have accidentals applied to them.
- Don't forget before you start to count a bar of beats to yourself, and also to think of the key note and scale;
- Be aware that the third example above does not start on the key note, but two notes up from it.