Archive for March, 2009


How do the keys on a piano correspond to the strings on a guitar?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009
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A guitarist plays notes either by playing one of the six open strings on the guitar, or by pressing down one of the six strings at a certain point (fret) on the neck of the guitar. A pianist

presses (strikes) the piano’s keys in different places on the keyboard to create notes. Both musicians can play a wide variety of notes including all naturals, sharps, and flats. Thinking of the

difference in octaves, a piano has 88 keys (notes) in over eight octaves, where a typical guitar (and its six strings) is capable of four and-a-half octaves.
The strings of the guitar are tuned to E, A, D, G, B, E, low to high, and have corresponding notes on the piano. Middle C (the note C) on the piano is the same as the 5th string, third fret on the

guitar. Thus the guitarist’s lowest note, E, corresponds to the E below middle C on the piano. Some say notes to be played can be easier seen on the piano, while others claim finding the same notes

on guitar as being the easier task.
You may ask the question, can a guitarist play music written for the piano? Or can a pianist play music written for the guitar? The answer is yes with the following caveats. It can be quite a

challenge for a guitarist to play music written for the piano. Whereas a piano player can play 10 notes simultaneously (ten fingers), a guitarist can play only six notes at the same time (strumming

the six strings of the guitar). However, an experienced guitarist can “arrange” piano music into a recognizable form that can be played on guitar. 
To further define the differences between piano and guitar, it might be helpful to think of the bottom three strings of the guitar (the lowest sounding, or bass strings) as corresponding to what

the left hand plays on the piano, and the top three strings of the guitar (the three thinnest strings) as what the right hand plays. This is a very general statement (and is not proven in fact or

practice) but helps separate and define the two instruments. The root of a chord on guitar is usually played on one of the bottom three strings with the remaining strings used to complete the

chord. And as a general rule, the left hand of the piano is used to play the root of a chord with the remaining fingers (in both the left and right hand) used to complete the chord.
A guitar and piano can easily play in unison, showing that all the strings of the guitar have corresponding strings on the piano. Both are capable of complex and full-sounding music on their own

and also can be played to beautifully compliment each other.
A final difference is that single notes on the piano are created by the hammer in the piano action striking two or three strings (depending on where the notes are played on the keyboard), while the

same note on a guitar is generated by one string only. (Please note these are generalities to view the overall picture of the relationship between the two instruments and not hard-and-fast facts.)

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Sight Reading Music: How Can I Speed Up My Sight Reading?

Sunday, March 29th, 2009
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Sight reading means that after seeing it written a musician can play the music on his or her instrument with some degree of accuracy. It does not mean that one plays it perfectly, but at least adequately. Some display this ability by humming or singing the written music without the aid of an instrument. Others, by being able to play the music without having to first analyze it, break it down, or practice individual passages. It’s more about recognizing intervals, chords and chord shapes, and groups of notes (phrases) than individual notes. Sight reading is taught (or learned by) most musicians and is often used to measure a musician’s level of musicianship.
Sight reading (sometimes called sight singing or sight playing) is very advantageous for the musician. Having the ability to hear the notes before they are played makes for more accurate playing and learning new pieces in shorter amounts of time.
One of the best ways to speed up the process of sight reading is studying music theory. Knowing the structure and mathematics of music brings about a better understanding of how it is written (displayed on the page). Studying the relationships between notes and chords brings about visual cues that can be used to sight read. And having a good understanding of time and key signatures helps a great deal when seeing a piece of music (and sight reading it) for the very first time. Time and key signatures tell you, in advance, what to expect. For example, knowing a piece of music is in the key of D (two sharps) tells you that whenever the notes F and C appear, they are played as sharps. And knowing a piece is in 3/4 time gives the musician a great understanding of the time values of notes and rests.
Looking for patterns in music is another great way to learn to sight read more quickly. Being able to recognize passages that are repeated allows the musician to look forward and concentrate on other parts of the piece (e.g., knowing that a certain melody line appears many times in a piece of music allows the musician to concern themselves with the music before and after the repeated passage). Written music also has a degree of symmetry and understanding this can help with an overall sense of music structure.
Having recordings of a variety of different kinds of written music is another great way to quickly develop sight reading skills. Carefully and accurately following the recording (with its sheet music) goes a long way in being able to recognize melodies, chords, bass lines and the basic “road maps” of written music.
Most of those who teach sight reading agree that it’s very important to not stop to correct mistakes. They say to never go back to a previous section—complete the sight reading in one “pass”). In other words, think of yourself as sight reading a piece with other musicians as in a performance, and you have to “keep up” with them. Though this might be frustrating for the present, it will speed up the overall process.
Finally, we all learn by doing, so the more your practice the skill, the sooner you’ll be able to master it.

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How To Read Music: The Basics for Beginners

Saturday, March 28th, 2009
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 Music is written in notation that includes a staff  (five horizontal lines), ledger lines, time and key signatures, and other symbols that tell what notes are to be played and how long they are to be played. In addition to notes, rests of varying lengths are used. They are represented by certain symbols, and appear in measures when needed. It’s very common to have both notes and rests in a single measure. Measures and bar lines (the vertical lines separating and defining a measure) give written music its structure.
Placement of notes occur on the staff of five lines and the four spaces between them. Notes that occur above or below the staff are marked with ledger lines. It’s this placement that determines the note’s name (pitch). For example, the note on the top line of the staff (treble clef) is the note F. The note in the second space of the staff is the note A. Notes of three or more played together are called chords and they appear as notes “stacked” on top of each other.
The notes used in modern notation are either “natural,” “sharp,” and “flat.” These words refer to the pitch of a note. For example, the notes Db (flat), D, and D # (sharp) are different notes (tones) from each other.  On piano, for example, the three notes are played in adjacent keys, left to right.
A musician must not only know how to play the notes displayed (such as the pressing the corresponding keys on a piano, or pressing the proper valves on a trumpet), but how long (duration) the note is to be played. Notes are measured in note values (length of time) using a system of ovals, dots, stems, and flags.
The time signature of a piece of music appears at the beginning of each line. Common time signatures include 4/4, 3/4, 2/4, and 6/8. The first, or top number, represents beats per measure. The second, or  bottom number, tells the musician what kind of note gets one beat. In other words, 3/4 time means there are three beats to a measure and a quarter note receives one beat. 6/8 time means there are six beats per measure and an eighth note receives one beat.
A number of different clefs are used to indicate how the music should be read. These include the G or treble clef, the C or alto clef, and the F or bass clef. These clefs tell the musician on which lines, spaces, or ledger lines the notes will appear. For example, in the treble clef, the first line of the staff is the note C. In the bass clef, the note on the first line is G. Most piano music is written for both clefs with the left hand playing (in general) the notes of the bass clef and the right hand playing the notes of the treble clef.
Music’s rhythm and tempo are determined by beats per minute (bpm) and the use of various words and phrases that define the style of the music. Other terms such as pianissimo and forte tell the musician how loudly or softly to play a note or passage. Also, there are markings that direct the musician to repeat a section, go back to the beginning of the piece, or to jump ahead to a certain point in the composition.

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What are major scales? Minor scales? Modal scales? Whole tone scales? Chromatic scales?

Friday, March 27th, 2009
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A scale is a series of notes in ordered intervals (distances between notes). The notes of a scale appear (and are thought of) as “steps” (tones). Perhaps the best way to understand scales is to

first understand a major scale (Do, Re, Me, Fa, So, La, Ti, Do). The steps of a major scale are: Beginning note – whole step – whole step – half step – whole step – whole  step – whole step – half

step. In the case of a C major scale, the notes would be: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C with a half step (semitone) between E and F, and B and C. In the case of a G major scale, the notes would be: G-A-B-C-D-E-

F#-G with a half step between B and C, and F# and G. (Another way to “call out” a G major scale would be to say it’s a major scale beginning with the note G.)

A scale’s name is determined by the notes in the scale and their relationship to each other (and is almost always named by the first note of the scale). For example, a minor scale is different than

a major scale in that there is a half step (one piano key up or down) between the second and third notes of the scale, and a whole step (two piano keys up or down) between the third and fourth

notes (as shown in the paragraph above).

Compare this C minor scale with the C major scale above. The C minor scale: C-D-Eb-F-G-A-B-C (the note E is now Eb, a half step or one key lower). And compare this G minor scale with the G major

scale: G-A-Bb-C-D-E-F#-G (the note B is now Bb, a half step or one key lower). (Another way to “call out” a G minor scale would be to say it’s a minor scale beginning with the note G.)

The term “scale” also refers to the type of scale such as chromatic, whole tone, and diminished scales.

A chromatic scale consists of only half steps (semitones). At the piano, you would play every key in succession (up or down—ascending or descending). Here are the notes of a G chromatic scale: G-

G#-A-A#-B-C-C#-D-D#-E-F-F#-G. (Notice that there are no black keys between the notes B and C and E and F. On the piano, these notes are represented by two white keys being next to each other).

Although a chromatic scale always consists of the same notes in the same order, it is named by the note used to begin the scale.
 
A whole tone scale is a scale where each note is separated from another by a whole step. There are only two whole note scales: C, D, E, F#, G#, A#, C and B, Db, Eb, F, G, A, B. Each contains six

notes and are often called hexatonic scales.

Each tone of a diminished scale is one and a half steps apart.

The term modal refers to scale names such as Lydian, Ionian, and Dorian that tell the musician which notes are in the scale. We’ll define those fully at a different time.

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Piano Styles: Double the melody in your left hand for a smoother sound (watch video)

Thursday, March 26th, 2009
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Double the melody in your left hand for a smoother sound

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