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Old 19th September 2008 , 08:40 PM
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Default Music Theory 101

They say music is a language and, if we want to speak it well, then we need to understand what itís made up of.

Following on from an idea which occurred to me during our discussion on the thread Who's actually studied music, I think it would be a good idea to have a thread where new arrivals to music production could find the basics regarding music theory and notation. For the experienced, it may also serve as a means to revise what we all ready know.

These posts try to be as complete as possible while maintaining simplicity. Anything you notice that I have forgotten to mention or havenít given enough detail to can be further expanded. Your input will be much appreciated. If there is anything that needs further clarification, we can also discuss it.

There are lots of images but unfortunately for that reason I have had to put the hyperlink rather than the image.

Music Theory 101 Part 1 Music Notation

Music is made up of sounds and silences.

Sounds can have many characteristics but we initially think of duration or how long the sound lasts and pitch or how high or low the sound is in frequency. Sounds also have a level of strength or dynamics but letís leave that until later.

Duration is how long the sound or silence lasts. Throughout history there have been many ways to notate this but now we have settled on a system of symbols as follows:

This system relates the durations to one another. Thus a crotchet (or quarter note in the American system) is half as long as a minim (a half note) and is twice the length of a quaver (an eighth note).

Written notes can have three parts Ė a note head, a stem and a tail or flag. Two or more notes with flags can be combined to make them visually easier to read and in this case the flags are replaces with a beam.

Image:Parts of a note.svg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Notes can be made longer by joining or tying them together using a tie or by adding on half of their value using a dot which is place after the note.

Image:Tie music.png - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Imageotted notes3.svg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Music is divided into bars which are repeated quantities of beats. A tune may have a regular number of beats such as 2, 3, or 4. This differentiates a ď4 to the 4Ē disco beat from a waltz, for example. Additionally, bars may contain 5 or 7 beats and these can be seen as combinations of 2, 3, or 4 and may be termed irregular.

Bars of music are divided up by bar lines. There are also double bar lines to mark the end of a tune and repeat signs which tell you to repeat the tune or the section between two repeat signs.

Image:Barlines.svg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A time signature is a symbol used to tell us how many beats are in each bar. It consists of two numbers one on top of the other. The upper number tells us how many beats are in each bar while the lower number tells us what value or duration each beat has.

There are simple time signatures such as 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4 where there are 2, 3 and 4 beats per bar respectively.

Image:3 quarter time.gif - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Image:Common time signatures.gif - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Also the beats in a bar may be subdivided to give whatís called compound time where each beat has three subdivisions.

Rhythm is the combination of long and short sounds to make patterns.

Pitch differentiates high sounds or notes from low notes. Think of the difference between a male voice and a female voice singing the same melody. The male voices is lower in pitch than the female (normally Ė unless we consider the Bee Gees or a castrati and thatís too painful!). There are various systems for labelling pitch and in Western music we use the alphabet letters A, B, C, D, E, F, G or solfa syllables doh, re, mi, fah, soh, lah, ti.

The stave or staff is used to represent pitch. This consists of five parallel lines and the spaces between them. Notes are places on the lines or between the lines. We count the lines and spaces from the bottom up. Thus the lowest line is the first and the highest line is the fifth. Moving up through the lines and spaces implies an increase in pitch.

Image:Staff240.svg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

When we write notes on the stave, we want them to look nice and fit on the stave. Therefore we focus on the middle line. If the note head goes below the middle line, then the stem of the note goes upwards and on the right of the note head. If the note head goes above the middle line, the stem goes downwards and on the left. If itís on the middle line then you can choose up or down but this is usually dictated by the direction of the notes before and after.

Image:Music notation.svg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

We use ledger lines if we want to extend the pitches above or below the stave.

Image:Ledger lines.svg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

We use a clef to fix the pitch of the notes on the lines and in the spaces. There are various clefs in use but the most common are the Treble or G Clef and the Bass or F Clef. The former locates the second line as the pitch of G and the latter locates the note of F on the fourth line. A typical use of both these clefs is seen in piano music where the right hand plays the higher notes on the treble clef and the left hand lays the lower notes on the bass clef.

The treble clef:
Image:GClef.svg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The bass clef:
Image:FClef.svg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

If we fix one note on the stave, then working backwards and forwards we can identify all the notes on each stave as well as above and below it.

Image:Treble clef with note.svg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Image:Bass clef with note.svg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

We can now combine pitch and duration and produce a melody or tune.

Image:Pop Goes the Weasel melody.PNG - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Last edited by sphelan; 20th September 2008 at 12:12 PM. . <
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