Growing up (and now!) we all saw and fell in love with Julia Andrews in many movies but my favorite is “The Sounds of Music” from 1965. In the movie she plays the role of the joyful Maria.
When Maria found out that the seven Von-Trapp children don’t now anything about music she gave them a crash course.
Let’s join the lesson and sing along.
A very good place to start
When you read you begin with A-be-see
When you sing you begin with do-re-mi
The first three notes just happen to be
Let’s see if I can make it easy
Ray, a drop of golden sun
Me, a name I call myself
Far, a long, long way to run
Sew, a needle pulling thread
Tea, a drink with jam and bread
That will bring us back to Do (oh-oh-oh)
are only the tools we use to build a song
Once you have these notes in your heads
you can sing a million different tunes by mixing them up
We will summaries what we have just learned with Andrews and then we will continue a bit more with music theory that we may find useful in the future.
Julie sang about the notes. There are 2 popular ways of naming notes:
Every cycle from Do to Do is called an Octave.
Physically speaking every note is a vibration of the string on a different frequency. When going exactly an octave up the frequency of the note doubles.
Tons and semi-tones are the given names for the difference in frequency between notes. An octave Is constructed from exactly 12 semi-tones. It is easy to identify on a piano keyboard if two adjoining notes are separated with a tone or a semi-tone as shown in the net image.
While we gave a name to all the white notes we did not specify the names of the black ones. Now that we know our tones and semi-tones it will be an easy job. If we go up half a tone (equivalent to semi-tone) from do we will end up at the first black key on the left of the above diagram. When going up half a tone we call it Dies, also called Sharp, #. So we arrived at the key Do#. If we take a look at Re and go down a semi-tone we will arrive at the same black key as before but this time it will be called Re♭. This is re Bemol or re Flat.
In conclusion we can make a finger rule:
- when going from a white key to a black key we jump half a tone.
- when going from a white key to a white key that in between them we have a black key we jump a tone.
- when going from a white key to another that do not have a black key in between we jump half a tone.
A very useful way to view the tones and semi-tones in between the notes and all the possible names for every note we often use the note circle. Every step in it is exactly half a tone.
Let us move on to our last topic in this quick music theory overview.
Scales are a sequence of 7 notes.
They can be divided in to two categories.
- Major scales
- Minor scales
Major scales are more popular in western music. They are a sequence of 7 notes. It is customary to add an eighth note that is an octave of the first. To know the scale you need to choose a starting note and follow the sequence:
Tone Tone Semi-Tone Tone Tone Tone Semi-Tone
Let’s take a look at a the major scales. Each scales name will be the first note and then Major. For example the first one is a Do-Major scale.
After that take a few minutes to listen to one of the Beatles most popular songs that was written in the F Major key: “Yesterday”-1965.
Minor scales are much more complicated. They mainly divide into three groups:
- The Natural Minor
- The Melodic Minor
- The Harmonic Minor
We will focus only on the first group.
The formula for creating Natural Minor Scales is:
Tone Semi-Tone Tone Tone Semi-Tone Tone Tone
Take a look at these examples:
Although Minor scales are less popular in western music there are some very famous examples. One of my personal favourites is “Funny Valentine” by Frank Sinatra 1937.
Thank you for granting Julie Andrews and me the honour of helping you make your first steps in understanding music theory.
Before we say goodbye let’s take one last look at what we have learned today:
- Tones and Semi-Tones
And of course the joy of listening to great music!