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Thread: More elementary theory stuff

  1. Default More elementary theory stuff

    So, after pondering college music courses, the cost scared me into a Plan B. I got a special 1 month offer from ArtistWorks that allows me access to their theory lessons, as well as the Bryan Sutton Bluegrass/Fiddle tunes area. The only downside is that the 1 month trial doesn't include the ability to submit videos for teacher appraisal, but that can come later. I don't have a webcam, anyway! I have chugged my way through the presentation OK, until I hit Clefs. I understand that different instruments have different registers, so clefs are used to get the written notes into (or at least close) to the standard musical staff. But, the explanation of which clef does what, and how to determine which is appropriate to find the right octave, etc, is as clear as mud to me. Can anyone provide a "Clefs for Dummies" explanation to me? It also presented something I hadn't thought of, namely, that a keyboard is a much easier device for visualizing scales and modes. Only, I don't have one. Any recommendations on one that wouldn't break the bank, but that would also be more than a toy and could be used in my home recording efforts, which I assume means MIDI capabilities. Any explanations that might make the light bulb come on would be much appreciated!! Thanks in advance!!

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    The only clefs you really need to worry about are the treble and bass clefs. When you see them together, they are known as the "grand staff":

    Grand Staff.jpg

    Middle C is the common denominator between the two staffs. On a guitar middle C would be the lowest C (on the A string). On a bass, it would the 5th fret of the "G" string. Almost all guitar music is written on the treble clef, while all bass parts are written on the bass clef.

    Uncommon clefs such as the alto clef are used for instruments in which the notes are somewhat split between the two. A viola uses an alto clef:

    alto-clef.png

    The pointy bit points to middle C. It lies between the treble and bass clef, and could be pictured like this:

    grand-staff-alto-clef_guitar061016s5ubt.jpg

    It's used sometimes for baritone guitar parts, but it's not a common sight.
    Mike
    Militant Left Hander

  3. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by mcarp555 View Post
    The only clefs you really need to worry about are the treble and bass clefs. When you see them together, they are known as the "grand staff":

    Grand Staff.jpg

    Middle C is the common denominator between the two staffs. On a guitar middle C would be the lowest C (on the A string). On a bass, it would the 5th fret of the "G" string. Almost all guitar music is written on the treble clef, while all bass parts are written on the bass clef.

    Uncommon clefs such as the alto clef are used for instruments in which the notes are somewhat split between the two. A viola uses an alto clef:

    alto-clef.png

    The pointy bit points to middle C. It lies between the treble and bass clef, and could be pictured like this:

    grand-staff-alto-clef_guitar061016s5ubt.jpg

    It's used sometimes for baritone guitar parts, but it's not a common sight.
    Mike,

    Thanks. The treble clef explanation follows the explanation of music notation I thought I remembered from my foggy 3rd grade piano lessons back in the middle of the last century. It follows the E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F I remember from lower line to upper line (ie. the Every good boy does fine and FACE mnemonic). What is throwing me is that if I follow the bass notes down from the C note that is G string fifth fret, when you get through an octave to the next lower C, that note is the second space from the bottom, which, I thought, made it an A. Obviously, the assumption that the the lines and spaces are sancrosanct is an misconception on my part and everything is relative to where middle C is? Does this mean that the moveable clef (alto clef) in your explanation, might be, say somewhere higher than the F in the treble clef example? I'm trying to keep my head above water here, but I'm foundering a bit

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    The notes that correspond to the lines and spaces in the Treble clef are not the same when you get to the bass clef. So you would be correct, the "C" an octave below middle C is on the second space.

    Treble clef lines: E G B D F
    Treble clef spaces: F A C E

    Bass clef lines: G B D F A
    Bass clef spaces: A C E G

    And just for fun...

    Alto clef lines: F A C E G
    Alto clef spaces: G B D F

    I think your confusion comes from being taught mainly the notes from the treble clef. It follows the F-A-C-E and "Every Good Boy Does Fine" rules, but the other clefs don't. The notes are always in the same order, but as you can see by my listings of them here, they don't start on the same notes (E and F, respectively).

    For Bass clef, you would need new mnemonics, such as "Good Boys Do Fine, Always" and "ACE-G". Sometimes it can take a second to mentally switch gears ("Is that space a C or A?"), but with practice, it will come. If you played bass, or as you suggested, use a keyboard, you could begin to mentally map the notes as written to actual playable notes, and that could make it easier.

    Believe it or not, this is the easy part. If you progress enough into theory, you'll find yourself coming up against the brass and woodwind instruments that are not written or played in concert pitch. Here's an example of a typical page from an orchestral score. Note the different key signatures and clefs used. All of these instruments are playing in the same key (which appears to be A minor, based upon the chord in the first few measures; can you name the various notes used for each part in the first chord?).:

    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by mcarp555; 07-23-2017 at 09:25 AM.
    Mike
    Militant Left Hander

  5. Default

    Thank you, it makes a tad more sense now. On the thought about brass and woodwind instruments, let me take a stab (Swing and a miss!!). The violin part starts with a c. The clarinet, being tuned to Bb, one full step below C, starts on a D note. The two sharps have it playing in D? My head hurts.....

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    Actually, I meant the very first measure, before the clarinets and first violin come in. But I will tell you that since you mentioned it, the clarinet and first violin are playing the same notes.
    Mike
    Militant Left Hander

  7. Default

    Quote Originally Posted by mcarp555 View Post
    Actually, I meant the very first measure, before the clarinets and first violin come in. But I will tell you that since you mentioned it, the clarinet and first violin are playing the same notes.
    Therein lies the root of my frustration. When you stress "the same notes", do you mean that the violin, in concert pitch, plays the written note C, while the clarinet, being in Bb, plays the written note D, although, in terms of the actual frequency of the note, they are playing the same thing? I hope so, because, otherwise, I still am having trouble grasping it

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    Exactly. The Clarinet is pitched two half-steps down (Bb) from concert pitch (C), so music for it must be written two half-steps higher (D) to compensate. A half-step is one note as visualized on the keyboard, so from C to Bb is 'C-B-Bb' and C to D is 'C-C#-D'. Thus when the clarinet plays a written D, what you hear is a C. There are also Eb Saxophones.

    But what I want to stress Mark, is that while this is very interesting, if confusing information, it's not going to be particularly relevant to you unless you plan on writing orchestral scores or parts for clarinets and/or saxophones. Even the Alto clef is something you'll never encounter much as a guitarist, if ever. You need to know the treble clef, and it's good if you can learn to navigate through the bass clef. Otherwise the rest is about as useful as knowing that Sitars play microintervals.

    Anyway, the first chord of the piece is A minor:

    Second Violins: E
    Violas: C (above) E (below)
    Cellos & upright Bass: A

    If the C note played by the Violas were one line higher, it would be the same pitch as the Violins. If it were one line lower, it would be the same pitch as the Cellos & Basses.
    Last edited by mcarp555; 07-24-2017 at 08:32 AM.
    Mike
    Militant Left Hander

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    Quote Originally Posted by mcarp555 View Post
    Exactly. The Clarinet is pitched two half-steps down (Bb) from concert pitch (C), so music for it must be written two half-steps higher (D) to compensate. A half-step is one note as visualized on the keyboard, so from C to Bb is 'C-B-Bb' and C to D is 'C-C#-D'. Thus when the clarinet plays a written D, what you hear is a C. There are also Eb Saxophones.

    But what I want to stress Mark, is that while this is very interesting, if confusing information, it's not going to be particularly relevant to you unless you plan on writing orchestral scores or parts for clarinets and/or saxophones. Even the Alto clef is something you'll never encounter much as a guitarist, if ever. You need to know the treble clef, and it's good if you can learn to navigate through the bass clef. Otherwise the rest is about as useful as knowing that Sitars play microintervals.

    Anyway, the first chord of the piece is A minor:

    Second Violins: E
    Violas: C (above) E (below)
    Cellos & upright Bass: A

    If the C note played by the Violas were one line higher, it would be the same pitch as the Violins. If it were one line lower, it would be the same pitch as the Cellos & Basses.
    I don't envision myself orchestrating a piece of music that includes brass, woodwinds, etc, but, standard notation, especially as relates to the guitar, never really sunk in for me. It is a part of my quest to become musically less ignorant. I'm hoping there are things that will help me, especially chord theory, to progress a little better. I feel musically "stuck in amber". I just hope some of the information sticks. Of course, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing!!

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    Theory is a great subject to study, but you have to work at it. My first year at it (in high school), I was completely dumfounded on a constant basis. I forgot about it over the Summer, and when I went to junior college in the fall (as a music major), I found that it had sunk in. I had a good working grasp of it, at least on paper. I couldn't sight-sing and my sense of rhythm was rough, but I could analyze a score and feel confident in it.

    You need to focus your attention on learning and understanding the notes on the treble & bass clefs. That's where all the understanding of chord theory is played out, so if you can't decipher the alphabet, you'll never be able to read.
    Mike
    Militant Left Hander

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