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Music Theory

Lesson #1




Just like English is written in a sentence using an alphabet, music is written on lines called a staff using symbols.

A few of the basic symbols we'll mention today are the staff, cleff signs, lines and spaces, and notes.

This is a treble cleff sign:


This is a bass cleff sign:


Music in the Western World is based on a 12-note scale of half steps. You'll learn more about this later. For now you just need to know that a scale is a sequence of notes that are played in order using a system of steps and half steps. The notes go from A to G and start over again. So, if you want to know what is above a C, it would be a D. If you want to know what is above a G, it would be an A.. We're going to study the major scale.

A C scale starts on a C and goes C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C

It looks like this on a staff:



or it looks like this on a staff:



It looks like this on a piano:



Treble Cleff

The lines of the treble cleff are:



They look like this on a piano:



and can be remembered by Every Good Boy Does Fine.

The spaces of the treble cleff are:



and can be remembered by F A C E

Bass Cleff

The lines of the bass cleff are:



They look like this on a piano:



and can be remembered by the saying Good Boys Do Fine Always

The spaces of the bass cleff are:



They look like this on a piano:



and can be remembered by the saying All Cows Eat Grass

Now, before continuing, I'd like for you to be pretty familiar with the information above. Please go back to the beginning of lesson #1 and review the cleff symbols lines and spaces. Once you feel familiar with them, go back and review them again.

A grand staff is where the treble cleff and the bass cleff staff are connected. Both are used for piano, choral works, etc.

Grand Staff

If you put them together they look like:



You can notice that there are some missing notes between the two staves. We can represent those notes too.

Since the top line on the bass cleff is an A, we can write a B like this:



Since the bottom note on the treble cleff is an E, we can write a D like this:



Notes in theory are infinite (although we humans can only hear a certain range and other animals can hear a different range) and can be written below or above any staff. This is done by adding staff lines to each note that is off the staff. For example, if I want to add a C above the bass staff, it would look like:



If we wanted to write an A above the treble cleff, it would look like:



Since we can represent any note using this method, let's try write all the notes from the low E below the bass cleff to the high A above the treble cleff. It looks like:



Now, I want you to make sure you can't see the labeled staves above so we can start practicing. If you have to think real hard these and feel like you're guessing, then go back and study the notes again before continuing. If you can't recognize the note by looking, but know how to figure it out using the sayings, you're on the right track. When you don't have to use the sayings anymore, but recognize the note just by looking at it, you're ready to move on to lesson #2. Write down from 1-60 on your paper and write the note beside the number. You can check your answers at the end of the lesson.

Write down the name of the notes:
(tip: Don't be thrown off by the staves. Look at them first before figuring out the note)

Examples:

1)


2)

3)


1) D

2) F

3) C

Section 1
Problems:



1)


2)

3)


4)


5)

6)


7)


8)

9)


10)


11)

12)


13)


14)

15)


16)


17)

18)


19)


20)

21)


22)


23)

24)


25)


26)

27)


28)


29)

30)


31)


32)

33)


34)


35)

36)


37)


38)

39)


40)


41)

42)


43)


44)

45)


46)


47)

48)


49)


50)

51)


52)


53)

54)


55)


56)

57)


58)


59)

60)


That was a lot of work. If you weren't sure about some of the answers, go back to the beginning of the lesson and review the staffs and notes.

Now I want you to get out your staff paper, draw a grand staff and write three notes for each problem. You can put the problem number above the three notes so it will be easier to check at the end of the lesson. You can either use music paper that is already lined with a staff, or you can just draw a five-line staff many times on a sheet of paper and use that.

Example:

1)


2)

3)


That was a lot of work. If you weren't sure about some of the answers, go back to the beginning of the lesson and review the staffs and notes.

Now I want you to get out your staff paper, draw a grand staff and write three notes for each problem. You can put the problem number above the three notes so it will be easier to check at the end of the lesson. You can either use music paper that is already lined with a staff, or you can just draw a five-line staff many times on a sheet of paper and use that.

Example:

1) A

1)


Section 2
Problems:



61) C


64) E


67) G


62) F


65) A


63) B


66) D


I hope you feel more comfortable recognizing and writing notes. Now I'd like for you to practice drawing the bass symbol at least five times starting the symbol on the F line. Now practice drawing the treble symbol at least five times starting the symbol on the G line.

Check your answers
Section 1:

1) G


2) D


3) E


4) C


5) A


6) G


7) F


8) C


9) F


10) D


11) D


12) A


13) C


14) E


15) A


16) B


17) E


18) A


19) C


20) E


21) E


22) F


23) F


24) D


25) E


26) C


27) A


28) E


29) B


30) C


31) G


32) A


33) C


34) E


35) G


36) E


37) F


38) A


39) D


40) C


41) G


42) D


43) F


44) B


45) A


46) C


47) E


48) G


49) E


50) F


51) B


52) C


53) G


54) E


55) C


56) B


57) B


58) B


59) D


60) F


Section 2
You should have three notes in each of the following:

61)



64)



67)



62)



65)



63)



66)



How did you do? If you missed some, go back and review the lesson and try again. If you did well, you may want to try again in a few days to make sure you remembered everything.

If you are really motivated, you can find an old songbook, pick out a few songs you know, and label all of the notes on the page. Then compare them to the lesson to see if you got them right.

You've done a great job of making it this far into music theory. When you're ready (within a week), go on to lesson #2.

See you then,

Dana Lumley





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dana@danalumley.com


2003 Dana Lumley