A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Posts tagged “Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music Theory

Coursera – FoMT Week 1 / Video 2 extra: Bass Clef

There were a few concepts introduced in the 2nd video for Week 1 of Fundamentals of Music Theory that I wanted to expand on a little, for the sake of beginners who hear these words and don’t know what they mean. Some came from the video, and others from my own rambling about the video. As this is a bass-centric site, some of this information might be bass-specific.

Bass Clef/F Clef

1-2 bass clefThe Complete Idiot’s Guide tells us that the bass clef is used to notate music written below the treble clef. Its the clef that’s used in all bass music books, and is actually the notation I was learning in the Hal Leonard Bass Method. Its used to notate music written below middle C on a piano and is called the F clef because its two dots surround the 4th line, which is E.

Lower pitched instruments like trombones, tubas, basses and singers in the bass range read and notate music written in this clef.

Bass Guitar for Dummies explains that music notation spells out both the rhythm and notes in music and that low notes are written with the bass clef, which bassists learn to read and play from. It also says that bass sounds one octave lower than the written note and that when piano players read from the same sheet as a bass player, they play their notes an octave higher than the bass.


Coursera – FoMT Week 1 / Video 2 extra: Keys

There were a few concepts introduced in the 2nd video for Week 1 of Fundamentals of Music Theory that I wanted to expand on a little, for the sake of beginners who hear these words and don’t know what they mean. Some came from the video, and others from my own rambling about the video. As this is a bass-centric site, some of this information might be bass-specific. 

Keys

I think that I only have a basic understanding of what a key is. Right now, I think of it as the root note for most of a song. There might be more to it than that, because a lot is written about keys, and the Idiot’s Guide has a chapter called Major and Minor Keys, but I’m not too far into this end of theory yet.

Here are some notes that I pulled from the indexes though:

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music Theory:

  1. When a piece of music is based on a particular musical scale, we say that music is in the “key” of that scale. For example, a song based around the C Major scale is in the key of C Major. A song based around the B-flat Major scale is in the key of B-flat Major. (That sounds easy enough, until different parts start using different scales!)
  2. There are 15 major keys. They’re named C Major, C-sharp Major, D-flat Major, D Major, etc. It looks like every note on the fretboard has a major scale associated with it, which can also be used as a key.
  3. There are 15 minor keys as well. A minor, A-sharp minor, B-flat minor, etc. My assumption is that playing notes from a minor scale starting on any of the notes on the fretboard puts that piece/section in that key.
  4. When we assign a key signature to a piece of music, its assumed that all the following notes will correspond to that particular key.
  5. We can play outside of the key. Some musical styles regularly do this to achieve their sound.
  6. Notes that aren’t in the key are called accidentals or chromatic notes.
  7. Changing keys in a song is called modulating. We can modulate to any key, but the most common modulations are up a 1/2 step or up a 4th or 5th. (I think I get it – I think modulation is what’s used in a chord progression – that blues progression of I-IV-V is probably an example of this.)

1-2 key_signatures_chart (more…)


Coursera – FoMT Week 1 / Video 2 extra: Intervals

There were a few concepts introduced in the 2nd video for Week 1 of Fundamentals of Music Theory that I wanted to expand on a little, for the sake of beginners who hear these words and don’t know what they mean. Some came from the video, and others from my own rambling about the video. As this is a bass-centric site, some of this information might be bass-specific. 

Intervals

An interval is often described as the distance between two notes. Its not a physical count, like how many frets. piano keys or whatever your instrument uses you need to cross to arrive at the other note. Its a count based on the note’s distance in a scale. If a scale has 8 notes, and we call them 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8, its based on the distance between the notes from just those 8 notes. The notes themselves count as well.

So, if we move from 1 to 2, its called a 2nd, because we count the 1 and the 2. If we move from 1 to 5, its called a 5th. They’re easy if you start on the 1. If you start somewhere else though, then you have to do some math. Moving from 3 to 5 is a 3rd because we count 3, 4 and 5. Moving from 2 to 7 is a 6th because we count 6 notes (2-3-4-5-6-7) to get to the 7.

Later on, some of those notes get qualities that make them major or minor – which is tied in to counting (adding or subtracting, or as they say raising or lowering) frets. Don’t worry about that stuff for now though.

The important thing about intervals is that they’re used in ear training. There’s this concept called relative pitch in which a person can hear two notes and be able to determine their distance from each other based on sound. You can somewhat get the idea if you sing Do-Re-Mi-Fa-Sol-La-Ti-Do and listen to the way you move up in tone. Look at Do as 1, Re as 2, and so on. People who practice can identify this stuff by ear and can use it to figure out songs more quickly than those who don’t have much ear training.

1-2 intervals

(more…)


Coursera – FoMT Week 1 / Video 2 extra: Octaves

There were a few concepts introduced in the 2nd video for Week 1 of Fundamentals of Music Theory that I wanted to expand on a little, for the sake of beginners who hear these words and don’t know what they mean. Some came from the video, and others from my own rambling about the video. As this is a bass-centric site, some of this information might be bass-specific. 

Octaves

1-2 octaveThe word octave has a few meanings in music. The ones I’m familiar with are the following:

  1. A scale with 8 notes is called an octave
  2. The 8th note of a scale, which should be a repeat of the root note, is called the octave

Its basically a reoccurrence of a note either higher or lower on the fretboard, or on whatever a fretboard is called on a piano. So if you play an open E on your bass and then play the E on the 12th fret of the E-string, you’ve played an E and its octave. ANY E on the entire bass would be considered some kind of higher or lower octave.

Surprisingly, the word “octave” isn’t in the index in the Idiot’s Guide. Its mentioned throughout the text though. There’s a definition nested in the scale degrees section on page 20 that says “Two identical notes with the same name, played eight degrees apart, form an octave,” and “The word octave comes from the Latin word octo, for “eight” – because an octave is eight notes above the beginning note.”

In the chart on page 24, it shows how many 1/2 steps need to be spanned to arrive at a particular interval. An octave requires 12. So this means that, for bassists, if you count 12 frets up from any given note, you arrive at the same note either an octave higher or lower, depending on if you’re going up or down the neck, respectively.

Bass Guitar for Dummies offers the following notes:

  1. One complete scale is an octave.
  2. A scale is a series of notes (usually 7 different notes) starting with a tonal center (root) and ending with its octave, the 8th note, also the root. (The example given says that if we play a scale from C to the octave above or below it we’ve reached the next C, or octave.)
  3. Musicians also refer to the entire group of notes including the root and its octave as an octave, just to confuse beginners.
  4. A bassist will often play a groove in the lower octave and then add a riff in the higher octave to give a bassline variety and to keep listeners interested.

Coursera – FoMT Week 1 / Video 2 extra: Ledger lines

There were a few concepts introduced in the 2nd video for Week 1 of Fundamentals of Music Theory that I wanted to expand on a little, for the sake of beginners who hear these words and don’t know what they mean. Some came from the video, and others from my own rambling about the video. As this is a bass-centric site, some of this information might be bass-specific.

Ledger Lines

The Dummies book doesn’t mention ledger lines at all, although it says that musical staves are made up of lines and spaces when it talks about the bass and treble clefs.

The Idiot’s Guide does have a definition. It says that “The lines you add above or below a staff are called ledger lines.” This is interesting to me because I thought ALL of the lines on the musical staff were called ledger lines, but apparently, its just the ones above and below the regular ones that are added in to denote tones past what can be written on the regular lines & spaces.

1-2 ledger lines


Coursera – FoMT Week 1 / Video 2 extra: Treble Clef

There were a few concepts introduced in the 2nd video for Week 1 of Fundamentals of Music Theory that I wanted to expand on a little, for the sake of beginners who hear these words and don’t know what they mean. Some came from the video, and others from my own rambling about the video. As this is a bass-centric site, some of this information might be bass-specific.

Treble Clef/G Clef

1-2 treble clefBass Guitar for Dummies doesn’t offer any information about the treble clef. If does tell us that music notation is written on a musical staff and that the musical staff consists of 5 lines and 4 spaces, upon which notes are written. The clef shows whether the notes on the staff are low or high. Low notes are played on bass (or on the left side of a piano) and high notes are played on a guitar (or the right side of a piano).

The clef is the first symbol we see at the beginning of a musical staff. They look different from each other – and there are actually more than just bass and treble clefs, but they’re not seen as much. There’s an alto clef, which I’ve seen online, and there’s a drum clef as well. Notation written with the drum clef is unique. It doesn’t speak to pitched notes. Instead, each of its lines or spaces refer to a different drum, and the notation is more about rhythm.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music Theory tells us a little more about the treble clef. It says that the treble clef denotes music starting in the exact middle of a piano keyboard, just above middle C. It specifies where the note G is (the 2nd line of the musical staff) by encircling the 2nd line with the big, round part at the bottom. It also gives examples of higher-pitched instruments whose notation is written using the treble clef. These include trumpets, flutes, clarinets and guitars. Soprano, alto and tenor singers also follow notes written using it.


Coursera – FoMT Week 1 / Video 2 extra: Pitch

Just in case anyone was wondering, its really hard to write a blog post with a 3-year old sitting on your desk and talking you through the process. I had to leave out some information in my previous post because I couldn’t research, write and be a dad at the same time, so hopefully these next posts remedy some of that. On the plus side, I now know exactly what a keyboard, mouse, monitor and speakers look like.

There were a few concepts introduced in the 2nd video for Week 1 of Fundamentals of Music Theory that I wanted to expand on a little, for the sake of beginners who hear these words and don’t know what they mean. Some came from the video, and others from my own rambling about the video. As this is a bass-centric site, some of this information might be bass-specific.

Pitch

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Music Theory actually opens with Chapter 1: Pitches and Clefs, so it looks like this is ground floor material.

1-2 pitchPitch is basically how high or low a tone sounds. Its a relative concept – a sound is higher or lower than another sound based on direct comparison. In a more structured form, like a musical scale, pitches are actually named and organized based on their sound relative to a base tone called the root.

Here are some notes from a few books about pitch:

(more…)