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music theory

Key Signatures – A Beginner’s Lesson…

by Tania Gleaves on October 19, 2014

What Determines The Quality And Quantity Of A Song’s Notes

When watching musicians play piano, you may see them refer to a piece of music in the key of “A” or “C.” These letters refer to the key that the music is played in or its key signature. Key signatures are what determines the quality and quantity of a song’s sharps and flats, and if you’ve spent any time playing scales, then you have a pretty good idea of what we’re talking about.

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When you’re asked to play a “C sharp” chord or “G flat” chord for example, you’re being asked to play a group of notes in a particular key. The root key is what determines the remaining keys in a chord and so it is with music. The key signature of a piece of music may be “C sharp” or “G flat” (or any other pitch) and that signature determines the remaining pitches throughout the entire song.

All Key Signatures Contain Sharps And Flats

Now except for the C Major key, all key signatures contain sharps and flats. Because music notation can be rather intricate and confusing — especially in difficult pieces — you won’t see the sharp or flat indicator next to each individual note. This would make sheet music difficult to write and read. Instead, writers use the key signature to indicate the sharps or flats of a note and it’s up to the pianist to know (memorize) those sharps and flats.

Those with Sharps:

  • The sharp in a G key signature is F#.
  • The sharps in a D key signature is F# and C#.
  • In an A key signature, they’re F#, C#, and G#.
  • In the key of E, they’re F#, C#, G#, and D#.
  • F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, and E# are played in an F# key signature
  • In the key of B, F#, C#, G#, D#, A#
  • While the entire group of F#, C#, G#, D#, A#, E#, and B# are played in a C# key signature.

key signature example 1 Key Signatures   A Beginners Lesson...

Csharp Key Signatures   A Beginners Lesson... Key Signature example on the Treble Staff…Apply to the same notes on the Bass staff

Those with Flats:

  • The flat in an F key signature is Bb.
  • The flats in a Bb key signature is Bb and Eb.
  • In an Eb key signature, they’re Bb, Eb, and Ab.
  • In the key of Ab, they’re Bb, Eb, Ab, and Db.
  • Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, and Gb are played in an Db key signature
  • While the entire group of Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, and Cb are played in a Gb key signature.
  • Can you tell what notes the Cb key signature indicates? Pat yourself on the back if you said Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb, Cb, and Fb.

key signature example 2 Key Signatures   A Beginners Lesson...

Cflat Key Signatures   A Beginners Lesson... Key Signature example on the Treble Staff…Apply to the same notes on the Bass staff

Position = Pitch

You can find the key signature of a song near the beginning of its notation — right after the clef. Pay close attention to where the sharp and flat signs are located because their positions indicate the proper tones of particular pitches. If you see a sharp sign in the space where the D note is played, that means that the D key will be a sharp D all throughout a song. If you see a flat sign on the line where the B key is played, that means the B key will be a flat B throughout the song as well. This pattern is of course repeated for each and every note.

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Learn To Read Music – A Gentle Introduction…

by Tania Gleaves on October 18, 2014

Figuring out how to learn to read music may seem intimidating — especially if you’ve never paid any attention to sheet music before. But once you learn the basics, you’ll discover a whole new world that paves a road of confusing symbols with a coat of comfortable, natural, and perfect logic. This article serves as a quick primer for what you’re about to encounter in music notation. And once you’ve finished reading, you’ll discover that it isn’t so intimidating after all!

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The Setting

Every piece of sheet music contains a set of staff lines. Stafftreble clef Learn To Read Music   A Gentle Introduction... lines are groups of five lines and four spaces that hold the notes you’ll see and play. Also known as ledgers, they also hold the Clef symbol which indicates which hand you’ll play with. The Treble Clef (S-Shaped) indicates right hand work while the Bass Clef (C-Shaped) indicates left hand work. To make music legible, notes are separated by bar lines. Bar lines divide notes into measures which also make music legible. It’s much easier to read music that’s separated into parts than it is to read music that isn’t — much like the way it’s easier to read an article that’s separated into paragraphs.

The Music

Earlier we mentioned that staffs hold the notes that you’ll encounter. Notes, which can look like solid and hollow circles, sit right on top of a line or right in the middle of two lines. The placement of these notes corresponds to a particular pitch and each pitch corresponds to a piano key – and more…

Notes not only represent pitch, they also represent rhythm. A solid circled note for example, can represent a quarter or a whole beat while a hollow note can represent two beats or four whole beats at once. If you see a small dot next to a note, it means that note should be played a little longer.

Learn To Read Music Timing

While figuring out how to learn to read music, you’ll see other symbols that teach you when to play the notes we’ve been talking about. If a dot sits next to a quarter note for example, the quarter note (which is normally played for one beat) is then played for two beats. If you see an arc type shape that appears to connect two notes beneath or above it, it indicates that those two notes should be played as one.

Other symbols include rests and time signatures. Some rests look like little black hats whereas time signatures look like fractions. You’ll find a song’s time signature on the first staff. It tells musicians the number of beats that are in each measure and it describes kind of note counts as one beat. You’ll find rests all over the place however and since they’re the only shapes that look like squares, they’re fairly easy to locate. Try to remember that a solid “hat” on the second line of a staff indicates that you should stop playing for four whole beats. Half of a hat on the third line indicates that you should rest for two beats.

Two kinds of rests don’t look like hats at all. They look like lazy W’s (Ws pointing to the left) instead and if you see one, it means you should rest for only one beat.

Get a more thorough lesson on How To read music here

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Understanding The Circle of Fifths

October 3, 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 […]

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Beginner Lessons For Piano – Helpful Tips

September 25, 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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Top 5 Myths About Learning To Play Piano

September 17, 2014

You have to be born with natural ability. As one of the top 5 myths about learning to play piano, this myth may have you condemned before you even start! Everyone and anyone can learn to play piano as long as they exercise the required amount of patience and practice. The piano in fact, is […]

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Various Notes

September 13, 2014

Beaming Notes Music beams are lines that seemingly connect a series of various notes. Since they’re thick and horizontal (as opposed to thin and vertical), they’re more noticeable and intimidating to beginners. Rest assured that beams are nothing to fear – even when sheet music is plastered with them. Music beams actually make notation easier […]

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How to Read Music – Definitions to Help You Learn

September 11, 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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Piano Lessons Made Easier – How To Read Music Notes

August 24, 2014

One of the basic lessons of learning to play the piano involves how to read music notes. Reading music notes is like learning your ABC’s. Effectively reading music notes requires you to learn the basic parts of a music sheet; sometimes they call this song sheet. If you look at the music sheet, you will […]

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Music Bar Lines

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 […]

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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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