# Music Theory Grade 1, part 2

ren
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Joined: 02/03/05
Posts: 1,985
04/13/2009 4:18 pm
Music Theory – Grade 1, pt 2.

Welcome back to Music Theory grade 1, thanks for sticking with it!

Last month, I introduced the stave, time signatures and note types appropriate for grade 1. If you missed it or need a refresher, you can check out part one here.

This month we will build on part 1 and add key signatures, major scale construction and sharps and flats.

Key Signatures

The key signature appears on the stave before the time signature – most of you will have seen one before, a collection of sharp or flat signs immediately after the clef that possibly until now you thought just made the piece look impressive! It actually lets us know which key a piece is in by telling us which notes in the piece are sharp or flat as standard. Without key signatures music notation can get messy and confusing as every altered (sharp or flat) note in the piece would need the appropriate sign next to it.

For grade 1 we only need to go as far as two sharps or one flat, as below:

C Major - No sharps or flats
G Major - 1 sharp (F)
D Major - 2 sharps (F & C)

F Major - 1 flat (B)

So if for inctance you play a piece of music in the key of D major, every time you play an F or C, you'd actually play an F# or C# unless otherwise directed. Likewise a piece in F major would require all B notes to be played as Bb.

Here is an example showing the 4 key signatures above on the treble clef:

Note that the sharp and flat signs appear at the position on the stave for the notes that have been altered, review part 1 for a recap on the stave. Play a G major scale (if you're not sure on this, read on and return). It has a G, A, B, C, D, E, F# and then back to G. If a piece of music has only one sharp in the key signature, it is in the key of G major. The same logic applies to the other scales listed above, so a D major scale is D, E, F#, G, A, B, C# and back to D. I use a mnemonic to help me remember the order that sharp notes appear in key signatures which hopefully will help you too:

Father Charles Goes Down And Ends Battle

You can already see this falling in to place with the G and D major scales above. Also notice that in sharp scales, the last sharp in the list is a half-step down from the root note of the scale. Following the mnemonic, you can probably PM me which scale has a 3 sharp key signature, right? Free Drinks to every correct respondent. *

Unfortunately you're on your own with remembering that the C major scale has no sharps or flats!

You can reverse the mnemonic to get the order that flats appear in the stave:

Battle Ends And Down Goes Charles' Father

Major Scale Construction

All major scales follow the pattern below. The distance between the 1st fret of the 6th String (F) to the 3rd Fret (G) is 2 frets, but musically it is called a 'Whole Step' or 'Whole Tone' depending on where in the world you are, likewise a single fret movement is a 'Half Step' or 'Semi Tone' depending on where you are. For the purposes of this piece, I'll stick with 'Tone'. Every major scale uses the progression below where 'W' is a whole tone or 2 frets and 'H' is a half tone or 1 fret.

W,W,H,W,W,W,H

Which in G major would give us G (W) A (W) B (H) C (W) D (W) E (W) F# (H) G

Try playing a G major scale using the progression above on the 6th string of your guitar. Start at the third fret and following the above you should find another G at the 15th fret. Each new note must have a new letter so in G major the seventh note is always an F sharp rather than a G flat. This also explains why F has a B flat rather than an A sharp, and therefore becomes a flat key with a key signature of one flat. Using the progression above you should be able to figure out what the notes of any major scale are, and whether any notes are sharp or flat.

And that brings part 2 to a close. In part 3 we'll wrap up grade 1 music theory with a discussion of triads, intervals and scale degrees as well as some commonly used musical directions and a little quiz to check that the 3 parts are beginning to come together. As before, take the time to review the material above a couple of times and refer to part 1 as necessary. Feel free to ask me any questions, and I'll see you all next month...

Hopefully the mist around music theory is gradually lifting.

*Free Drinks only available in the London UK area by appointment... :)

Check out my music, video, lessons & backing tracks here![br]https://www.renhimself.com

umarkhan
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Joined: 04/08/06
Posts: 1
04/17/2009 3:15 pm
Awesome stuff here... keep posting-i'm learning so much (...when I should be revising for exams)
dfaris
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Joined: 04/20/09
Posts: 18
06/12/2009 1:49 pm
Thanks.
Bumped for forum accessibility.
jjc00ll
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Joined: 10/27/08
Posts: 12
06/17/2009 5:38 pm
good stuff so far, in my opinion it's stuff every guitarist should know. I'm a little bit confused about what your saying in the music key part... any help??
ren
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Joined: 02/03/05
Posts: 1,985
06/19/2009 3:47 pm
I've responded to the private message you sent me. Hope it helped, and if you have any more questions please come back to me.

If anyone else has any questions, please send me a private message... :cool:

Check out my music, video, lessons & backing tracks here![br]https://www.renhimself.com

tonyklontz
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Joined: 10/04/05
Posts: 1
04/22/2010 11:31 pm
You do not make the reasoning clear, why, in the key of G major the seventh is stated as an F sharp as opposed to G flat. Or why in the key of F there is a B flat and Not an A sharp. Is there a rule to this that you did not mention, or are we supposed to infere this out of thin air. Or are we just supposed to accept what you say verbatim. If the latter is the case, then you better describe all the other major keys.
ren
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Joined: 02/03/05
Posts: 1,985
04/27/2010 12:30 pm
Hi Tony,

Sadly music theory is a huge subject, and I am doing my best to cut it in to pieces and offer it up to you guys in hopefully manageable chunks. There is some truth in both sides of your observation - there is a rule I am not mentioning, and you are expected to take what I say without question ;)

Seriously, the reason that in the key of G major you have an F# and not a G flat is that no letters are ever repeated, so you'd have G A B C D E F# G not G A B C D E Gb G. The only exception to this rule would be in a blues scale for instance where with the flat fifth added you end up with 3 notes in the scale a semitone apart and some repetition cannot be avoided.

So that's the simple answer - each note/letter only appears once in a key or scale. When writing music this also helps avoid having to write masses of incidentals.

I hope that helps, but please PM me back if I'm not being clear.

Check out my music, video, lessons & backing tracks here![br]https://www.renhimself.com