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The Music Staff | Rests | Dotted Notes | Tied Notes | Timing | Time Signatures | Music Notation | Chromatic Scale | Major Diatonic Scale
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Music Theory

  Music theory is a field of study that deals with the how and why of music. How music is written and played, based on certain mathematical principals, and why these mathematical principals form the basis of all musical compositions. Pythagoras is generally considered to be the creator of these math based rules which came about more as a need to standardize the composition of music, as well as the design and construction of the instruments of the time period. We should also note that while these tenets are firmly rooted in what is commonly accepted as, "harmonious sound patterns", it should remain obvious, by the shear volume of musical compositions, that the theory, (mathematics), of music is more a means of defining than limiting the creative process.
  Music Theory, while not an absolute requirement for playing music, is a "plus" in understanding music, and a definite "must" if you wish to advance your musical abilities . The aspiring musician should at least have some knowledge of basic music theory, as playing music and learning music are not quite the same. Music theory is learning the language of music, as well as the concepts of music, and understanding music theory will enable you to "sit in" with any musician, with any style/genre, and play/speak the language of music with some authority. Learning music, or at least some basic music theory will certainly do no harm and will open the door to a better understanding of music, and increase your versatility as a musician.

 

The Music Staff

 Music Staff Descrition

 

Staff Components

  The music staff has two main components, one being the treble staff, and the other being the bass staff. The treble staff is designated by the "G, or Treble Clef", and the bass by the "F, or Bass Clef". These two staffs come together at a common note "Middle C". Middle C is the division point on the piano between the bass and the treble notes. Notes below Middle C, (bass), are usually played with the left hand, while those above Middle C, (treble), are played with the right hand. The music staffs are divided by Middle C, with the treble staff being above and the bass staff being underneath. If we extend the ledger lines that pass through the notes that appear below the treble staff, or above the bass staff, we can see the continuation of the music scale, from the bass staff on up through the treble staff.

  In the diagram below the upper staff is the treble staff denoted by the "G Clef", the bottom is the bass staff denoted by the "F Clef" . The middle image shows the progression of the notes from the bass to the treble as they pass through "Middle C", (gold line).

Music staff note relationships

 It should be noted for accuracy that some beginning guitarists think "Middle C" is located at the 3rd fret on the A or 5th string which has a frequency of 130.81 Hz. In reality the frequency for "Middle C" in standard tuning is 261.62 Hz and is located at the 1st fret on the B or 2nd string. The reason for this is that the Guitar is a "treble" instrument and music written for Guitar is an octave higher than music written for the Piano, allowing "Guitar" music to be written on a single staff in contrast to "Piano" music which is written on two staffs one bass (left hand) and one treble (right hand). See image below.. Thanks to Noel H for the suggested clarification.

Piano/Guitar Staff

 

Mnemonics are sometimes used to assist in remembering where the notes are located on the staff. The more commonly accepted mnemonics are shown below.

Music Staff Mnemonics

 

Treble and Bass Clef Note Relationship

Six String Guitar (top) - 4 String Bass (bottom)

Treble and Bass Clef Note Relationship

 

Piano Keyboard

Piano Keyboard Note Positions
The Black Keys are for Sharps and Flats. Note that the intervals from B to C and from E to F are only a Half step, so there is no need for a Black Key between them.

 

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  Though the treble and bass clefs are the most commonly used in music composition, they are not the only clefs used for notation. Other frequently seen clefs are:

Common Clefs

  The need for a variety of clefs, (especially movable clefs), becomes apparent when we realize that not all instruments "play" in the same pitch range. Since the music staff has only 5 lines it would be difficult to write orchestrations for a large group of instruments without being able to designate the individual pitch ranges on the staff.

C clef (Alto Clef and Tenor Clef)

C Clef
This clef points to the line representing middle C. Positioned here, it makes the center line on the staff middle C, and is referred to as the "alto clef." This clef is used in modern notation for the viola. While all clefs can be placed anywhere on the staff to indicate pitch range, the C clef is most often considered a "movable" clef: it is frequently seen pointing instead to the fourth line and called a "tenor clef". This clef is used very often in music written for bassoon, cello, and trombone; it replaces the bass clef when the number of ledger lines above the bass staff hinders easy reading.

 

Neutral clef.Neutral Clef

 

Used for pitch-less instruments, such as those used for percussion. Each line can represent a specific percussion instrument within a set, such as in a drum set. . It may also be drawn with a separate single-line staff for each un-turned percussion instrument.

 

 

Next - Music Timing

The Music Staff | Rests | Dotted Notes | Tied Notes | Timing | Time Signatures | Music Notation | Chromatic Scale | Major Diatonic Scale
Minor Diatonic Scale | Scale Modes | Complimentary Scales | Pentatonic Scale | Blues Scale | Chord Theory | Circle of Fifths
Alternate Guitar Tuning | Finger Picking | More Fingers | Intonation

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