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Music Notation

Understanding The Circle of Fifths

by Tania Gleaves on July 18, 2014

The circle of fifths, introduced by Johann David Heinichen in 1728, is a visual arrangement of related keys. Although its name gives the impression that it’s a difficult concept to grasp, it’s really just an easy way to remember the number of sharps and flats in a key signature and the major and minor key relationships.

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Sharps and Flats

If you can imagine a clock for a moment, where each hour represents a particular key, you can identify that key’s sharps and flats. Let’s say that:

  • 12:00 or “0:00” represents the C Major key (or the A Minor key)…
  • 1:00 represents the G Major key (or the E Minor key)…
  • 2:00 represents the D Major key (or the B Minor key)…
  • 3:00 represents the A Major key (or the F# Minor key)…
  • 4:00 represents the E Major key (or the C# Minor key)…
  • 5:00 represents the B Major key (or the G# Minor key)…
  • 6:00 represents the F# Major key (or the Eb Minor key)…
  • 7:00 represents the Db Major key (or the Db Minor key)…
  • 8:00 represents the Ab Major key (or the F Minor key)…
  • 9:00 represents the Eb Major key (or the C Minor key)…
  • 10:00 represents the Bb Major key (or the G Minor key), and
  • 11:00 represents the F Major key (or the D Minor key).

Perfect Fifths

If you’ll notice, each hour (or key) is separated by a perfect fifth (moving clockwise). A perfect fifth is an interval made up of three whole steps and one half step. For example, A perfect fifth above C is G, and a perfect fifth above E is B. This is where the pattern gets its name . It follows a unique pattern on our imaginary clock where:

  • … the perfect fifth of the C Major key is G.
  • … the perfect fifth of the G Major key is D.
  • … the perfect fifth of the D Major key is A.
  • … the perfect fifth of the A Major key is E.
  • … the perfect fifth of the E Major key is B.
  • … the perfect fifth of the B Major key is F#.
  • … the perfect fifth of the F# Major key is C#.
  • … the perfect fifth of the C# Major key is G#.
  • … the perfect fifth of the G# Major key is D#.
  • … the perfect fifth of the D# Major key is A#.
  • … the perfect fifth of the A# Major key is F.
  • … the perfect fifth of the F Major key is C.

This pattern helps us determine the sharps and flats of a signature because they’re always a perfect fifth away (moving clockwise). Just remember that sharps increase in the clockwise direction while flats increase in the counter-clockwise direction (note: when you move counter-clockwise, each hour- or key- is separated by a perfect fourth).

Related Keys

As an example, the C Major and A Minor keys are related because they both lack sharps and flats. Based on the circle of fifths, we discover that a single flat relates the F major key to the D minor key while a single sharp relates the G major key to the E minor key as well. Two flats relate the Bb major key to the G minor key while two sharps relate the D major key to the B minor key too. Three flats relate the Eb major key to the C minor key while three sharps relate the A major key to F# minor key. Starting to see a pattern? The concept is of course easier to understand with a visual.

circle of fifths Understanding The Circle of Fifthscircle of fifths chart

The Enharmonic Notes

The 5:00, 6:00, and 7:00 hours are unique in that they help you identify different notes with the same pitch. These notes are said to be enharmonic to each other:

  • “5:00″ can either be B Major (G# Minor) with five sharps (from the clockwise perspective) or Cb Major (Ab Minor) with seven flats (from the counter-clockwise perspective).
  • “6:00″ can either be F# Major (D# Minor) with six sharps (from the clockwise perspective) or Gb Major (Eb Minor) with six flats (from the counter-clockwise perspective).
  • Lastly, “7:00″ can either be C# Major (A# Minor) with seven sharps (from the clockwise perspective) or Db Major (Bb Minor) with five flats (from the counter-clockwise perspective).

Click Here And Finally Learn What Circle Fifths Are All About!

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Music Bar Lines

by Tania Gleaves on July 17, 2014

Introducing the Bar

In order to represent pitch and tone, music notes need a staff. If you’ll remember from our other lessons, the music staff is a system of five horizontal lines and it provides a foundation for all the beautiful music that we hear. Notes sit on, above, between, and below these lines. But there’s another kind of line that you’ll find in sheet music, and it’s the bar line. This *vertical* line also sits on the staff but it doesn’t indicate pitch or tone. It instead, indicates measures or groups of notes. Measures and music bar lines make sheet music easier to write and read.

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To understand the role of the bar line, you can compare it to any type of punctuation that ends a sentence. Imagine for a moment, a paragraph of four or five sentences that doesn’t use any periods, question marks, or exclamation points. As you can see, this paragraph would look more like a gigantic run-on sentence than it would look like a group of complete statements. Punctuation lets us know when its specific parts start and finish. This is similar to what music bars do. Music bars let us know when specific parts of a song start and finish.

Like with our paragraph analogy above, music without bar lines would look as though it played continuously without any indications of rhythm or rest. It would also be difficult to reference because quite often, a conductor, tutor, or music book will ask us to play from “measure five” or “measure eight.” That doesn’t mean that “bar-less” music doesn’t exist or isn’t purposeful. Creative types like to reference such music as unmeasured, where music moves freely without a steady beat.

What’s in a Measure?

The measure usually divides notes into three to four beats each, depending on a song’s signature. If the signature of a song indicates 3/4 time for example, each of its measures will contain three beats. Measures of a song played in 4/4 time then contain four beats each. All of this is of course, applicable to the single bar line. The double bar line and thin double bar line indicate other things.

There’s More Than One Bar

Take the double bar line for instance. Two lines make up the double bar line. One line is thin and it sits in front of a second, thick line. This double bar line sits at the very end of a song’s movement and/or completion. The thin double bar line one the other hand, is made of two thin lines only, and it’s used to indicate sections. Like measures, sections are frequently referenced in practice mode. But when a number sits atop a double bar line, it means its section has changed key or meter.

Another kind of bar line is the repeat bar. Music between a double bar that sits in _front_ of two dots — and a double bar that sits _behind_ two dots (the repeat bar) — is played twice. In complicated pieces, you may find repeat bars *and* repeat endings with accompanying numbers. These numbers tell musicians that there’s more than one ending in a song, and that each successive play ends with a corresponding ending.

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Music Theory Key Signature – The Basics

July 13, 2014

You have been hearing about the music theory key signature during your first piano lesson but do you know what they are made of? Key signatures are actually one of the basic foundations of playing the piano. These music fundamentals guide you in “tuning” the music pieces you are playing. Music theory key signature can […]

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Playing Beginner Piano – An Introduction

July 10, 2014

It isn’t hard at all to learn beginner piano and once you learn the basics, you’ll discover that the rest of your journey is a straightforward process. Learning can be intimidating to people who have no experience with piano music at all, but it can even intimidate musicians who are used to playing a different […]

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Beginner Lessons For Piano – Helpful Tips

July 9, 2014

Beginner lessons for piano will take you far in your quest. But supplementing your lessons with some ‘outside’ or unconventional training will shorten the time it takes to become an expert pianist. It goes without saying that practice makes perfect. However, there are a few additional things that you can do to improve the quality […]

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How to Read Music – Definitions to Help You Learn

July 2, 2014

L earning how to read music is like learning another language. It has its own letters, syntax and grammar. Whether you are learning to play the piano through the classic method or the chord method, you’ll have to be familiar with how to read music. A page of music has a lot of symbols and […]

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Classical Piano Music – Still King in the World of Piano

June 20, 2014

Classical piano music is an enigma in a world full of techno-laden pop slop. A capsule of a bygone era, the music style lives on with ferocious tenacity. The legacy lives on. Generally speaking the age of this style of music spans between 1750 and 1820. During this time master composers such as Bach, Beethoven, […]

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Musically Notes With Dots – Understanding Staccato and Dotted Notes

June 7, 2014

Dotted Notes Dotted notes are the exact opposite of flagged notes. The small flag that follows a note decreases that note’s duration by half, whereas a small dot that follows a note increases that note’s duration by half. A dotted half note would therefore become three quarter notes (one half note equals two quarter notes). […]

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Music Time Signatures – What Are They?

June 2, 2014

When you start studying piano lessons, you will learn the basic knowledge of music which also includes music time signatures. Time signatures are composed of two numbers in the form of a fraction which tells you the number of notes and the kind of note receiving one beat in each measure. Say what?! That might […]

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Use Sight Reading Music To Your Advantage

May 27, 2014

There are some basic steps on how to develop sight reading music. Sight read music simply means easily reading a music piece and putting it into action right away without exerting much thinking effort because the music flows naturally from your sight to your fingers. This skill can be acquired and enhanced by every pianist […]

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