Music Literacy
Basic Music Theory
Introduction
The Basics
The Major Scale
Key Signature
Intervals
Chords
Minor Keys
Application
Conclusion






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The Basics

We'll begin with a review of the basics.  This material was covered in the Music Literacy course, and is foundational to the lessons to come.

Note Names

Notes are named after the first seven letters of the alphabet.  These correspond to the seven white keys on the piano keyboard, as follows:

Keyboard with Note Names

They correspond to the lines and spaces on the treble and bass staves as follows:

Grand Staff with Note Names

Half Steps and Whole Steps

The distance between two consecutive notes on the piano keyboard is called a half step; two half steps make up a whole step.

Looking back at the illustration above, the distance between B and C is one half step.  The distance between E and F is one half step.  The distance between A and B is one whole step (there's a black note in-between).  The distance between F and the black note immediately above it (to the right) is one half step.

Sharps and Flats

The seven note names correspond to the white keys on the piano keyboard.  In order to refer to the black notes, we use sharps Sharp and flats Flat.

A sharp Sharp, placed immediately before a note, raises the pitch of that note by one half step.

A flat Flat, placed immediately before a note, lowers the pitch of that note by one half step.

The black note between A and B, therefore, can be referred to either as A-sharp or B-flat.

A-sharp and B-flat refer to the same note

A-sharp and B-flat are said to be enharmonically equivalent.  That is, although they are spelled differently, they both refer to the same note.

Likewise, the black note between C and D can be referred to either as C-sharp, or D-flat.

C-sharp and D-flat refer to the same note

C-sharp and D-flat are enharmonically equivalent.

The black notes on the piano keyboard are named as follows:

Sharps and Flats on the Keyboard


If you would like a more extensive review on the above material, please read through the chapter on "Pitch" in the Music Literacy course.  There are also flashcards for the note names on the keyboard.


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