The Scale

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A scale is a basic building block of all music, because it forms the basis of both melody and harmony. Learning about scales will take you far along in your musical knowledge.

In Chapter 13 we learned about how the notes appear on the staff. We also learned the basic relations between the notes, as defined by half steps (the distance of one fret on the guitar) and whole steps (the distance between two frets). A scale is defined as a special relationship of half and whole steps.

In this chapter we learn that tunes are composed by selecting notes from a succesion known as a scale. We discover that a note may be raised a half step with a sharp sign ( ) or lowered with a flat sign ( ), and that this enables us to keep the same note relationships when moving a song to a higher or lower range of notes. We learn the purpose of key signatures, and how a melody may be transposed from one key to another. Finally we play some tunes from notation to put these ideas into practice.

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The Music Staff

The musical staff has five lines. The notes can sit on the lines or can appear in the spaces between them, like this:

The important thing to realize from the start is that there is no similar-ity to the tablature staff. The lines represent musical pitch—the higher the note on the staff the higher the note. Let’s examine both at once to see the correct relationship:

Notice the time signature as before, showing that the count is in quarter notes, and that there are four counts to the measure.

Play the example now, and it will be clear that the upper staff represents sounds whereas the
lower (tablature) staff represents frets.

Let’s try a complete melody now to see if you can relate the two.

From playing the example you will have learned these points:
As the notes go higher on the staff, the pitch goes higher.
The measures and count are the same as for tablature.

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Why Learn Notation?

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

While guitar tablature is a convenient shorthand way of writing music it is in no way a substitute for standard musical notation. Here’s why:

  • Practically everything you are going to want to learn will be in music notation. If you can only read tablature you will be con- fined to a very small repertoire.

  • If you learn standard notation you can read music for any instru-ment. You might want to make a guitar arrangement from a piano score, or simply learn the notes of a song for which you wi be working out chords.

  • Chord construction and harmony theory is much easier to see in notation.

  • You want to be a guitarist, but you almost certainly also want to be considered a musician. It is hard to achieve this if you don’t understand the basic language of music. Other musicians don’t read guitar tablature.

  • One of the problems newcomers to music have is the difficulty of reading the time as well as the notes. Fortunately you already have experience with the basics of counting, so all we have to do now is understand how the notes fit on the music staff.

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    How to Read

    So far, we’ve been notating (writing down) musical examples using guitar tablature, a special system of notation developed just for the guitar. Tablature is a great, easy way to learn, but it can’t capture all the nuances of a piece of music. Plus, not all books feature guitar tablature. “Standard music notation” is more common. Believe it or not, notation is not hard to learn, and once mastered it will speed your learning of new music. Any system that has survived for centuries—and is used to record all types of music—must be a valuable one to learn!

    This chapter shows how music is written in standard notation for the guitar. We learn about the musical staff and how it differs from the one used for tablature. We see how notes are written on the staff and also above and below it, and we relate this to rising and falling pitch. Tones and half tones are discussed and related to the frets of the guitar. Then we put theory into practice and start actually playing from notation, with easy examples of notes on each string.

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