Using The Lessons
People that come to these pages through search engines enter on different pages. I
would recommend that to get the full benefit of these music lessons, especially if you are
a beginner, you visit every page at least once. This is a totally new approach to learning
music. The focus is on "How Music Works". That page that you miss could be the one
that contains the key information, that you need. These pages are full of music tips and
music info that you probably won't find anywhere else.
How Music Works
Building G Major
Lets start building a major scale on the natural tone g. Looking at our musical keyboard
you can see that the note series follows the major scale formula. We use natural notes,
almost to the end. We have our two required whole steps to start off and then our
required half step between the 3rd and 4th note, b and c. But you can see that if we let
the f stay natural our final half step would be in the wrong place. We need to open up a
whole step after e to have our three required whole steps and have a final half step to g.
Using an f sharp instead of an f natural does this. Do you remember a while ago, we
asked, when do you call the in between note a sharp and when do you call it a flat. Now
you can see. Here, we call it f sharp and not g flat because we had to raise it to make the
scale correct. Look at your keyboard. Make sure that you understand that it follows the
major scale formula of two whole steps, a half step, three more whole steps and a final
half step. Look at the music for the G major scale. The sharp symbol is part of the key
signature, between the treble clef sign and the time fraction. It is on the top f line of the
staff, but as it is in the key signature it applies to every f in the music. The midi sound
sample is from g above middle c. Play the scale on your piano or keyboard. Play it while
you look at the music. Try to be aware of not only the letters but how the letters relate to
do, re me, fa so, la, ti, do. Notice how, even though it sounds higher, you have the same
major scale melody. You can try to sing along but you may find it hard to sing the top
notes. The range is not good for singing the scale. But when you look at our song "Tom
Dooley" later on in this lesson, you will understand one reason why we need different
The same fingering that is used to
play a C scale is used to play a G
scale. Starting with our thumb on g
instead of c, we get our major scale
melody. Notice that we have to play
the black f sharp key instead of the
white f key on our music keyboard.
This puts the half steps and whole
steps in the right place.
The Other Keys
We have now looked at the three simplest major keys, C, F and G. The key of F is a flat
key and the only one that starts on a natural note. All the other flat keys start on flat
notes. This makes the fingering a bit complicated We will look at some of these in the
next lesson. G, D, A, and E are the most common sharp keys. Also, they all use the same
fingering for major scales on the keyboard as C and G. This is because the thumb
always ends up on a white key, while the longer fingers can reach out for the shorter
black keys. We will look at these in the next lesson. The flat keys are more difficult on
keyboards and very difficult on guitar. Why would we need to learn them. Flat keys are
easy for horns and reed instruments. Many of the old standards from the big band era
and show tunes are written in flat keys.
©2004 - 2009
|Scales , Steps And Melody
|What is common to the major scale in any key? It always has the melody do, re, me, fa,
so, la, ti, do. Some tones are sharped in the sharp keys or flatted in the flat keys to keep
the spaces between the tones the same. It's the spaces between the notes that
create what you hear as music not the particular notes you are using. When we
learn or look at songs in terms of do, re, mi, fa, la, ti, do, the same thing is true. They
becomes universal. They're not tied to any key. Being able to sing a song based on
basic scale tones is called solfeggio. It's a valuable music skill, but even if you never
develop it, you need to be aware of your songs in this basic way. In free piano lesson 1,
"Easy Piano" you learned "Five Finger Folk" in three keys. "Five Finger Folk" is a medley
of two folk songs "Some Folks Do" and "Skip To My Lou". You began to learn how to
transpose a song from one key to another. The song sounds higher or lower as you
change key but it's the same melody. That is because the spaces between the tones are
the same. You will understand this better, as we explore different major scales and songs
in different keys in this and future lessons.
|This sounds like a simple folk song. It's an old song that became popular again
in the folk revival of the 50's. People can sing it and play it simply by hearing it.
Yet musically it's a more complicated then it seems. The melody is syncopated.
Melody is syncopated, when a word comes in on an up beat without any word
on the proceeding down beat. This song also uses a pentatonic scale. A
pentatonic scale uses only five notes but some notes in the major scale are
skipped. This arrangement uses the typical folk trio instruments with lead and
rhythm guitars and bass. It is played with a shuffle beat rhythm. We will begin to
study this songs in this lesson and with more detail in future lessons. Tom
Dooley will play once. Click on the player below to play it again.
The Free Piano Lesson Series
The free piano lesson series is going to use music the way many musicians use music.
One way to use music is to play from full arrangements, with every note that you play
specified on the treble and base clefs. This requires a high level of music reading skill
and restricts you to playing the song the way the arranger wrote it. An easier and more
creative way that gives you the freedom to play it your way is to play from lead sheets.
Playing from lead sheets with a full understanding of how music works makes music
easy. Before you do the free piano lessons series, you should have mastered the
material in the free music lesson series. There are nine free music lessons. Free music
lessons one through five starting with "Music Is Easy" reveal the secrets of how music
works and teach you how to play some songs without reading music. Free music
lessons six through eight starting with "Reading Music Is Easy" introduce the
fundamentals of reading music. Free music lesson nine "Piano Guitar Voice" compares
music written for piano with music written for guitar. It also gives you the vocal range of
all the different types of male and female voices.
Navigating The Lessons
The navigation bar to the right will take you to any lesson. The navigation bar will be
repeated all the way down the page so you can easily and quickly navigate to any
lesson. All lessons will have the same navigation bar system, so that you can easily get
back to the lesson that you are working on. In addition links to suggested lessons for
study or review will be right in the paragraphs, when appropriate. But remember, you
can go to any lesson with the navigation bar links.
When we talk about the difference between notes, we don't talk about changes in
frequency, even though that is what actually happens. Instead we use the word step. The
smallest frequency change that we use in our musical culture is called a half step. There
are cultures that go down to a quarter step. Are our seven natural tones all the same
distance apart? No some are a whole step apart and some are a half step apart. Look at
the keyboard. Can you tell which ones are a whole step apart? All the ones that have a
black key in between of course. Then if you go from a white key to a black key, up or
down, you are changing by a half step. Which of the natural tones are a half step apart?
The e to f and the b to c because as you can see they are right next to each other.
There is no black key or other note in between. The fact is if you go from any key, black
or white to the very next key, up or down, you are changing by a half step. Any time you
skip one key it's a whole step.
A musical keyboard is built so that playing
from c to c on the white keys, puts the whole
steps and half steps in the right place to
give you a major scale, That scale puts you
in the key of C major. For any other major
scale, you will need to substitute one or
more of the musical keyboard's black keys
for a white key. Look at the fingering.
Ascending the scale, when you get to finger
3, swing finger 1, your thumb, under the
fingers to the f key. Descending, when you
get to the thumb on f, swing finger 3 over
the thumb to the e.
C Major Steps
Now lets examine closely the distance between the notes in the C major scale. There is a
half step between the 3rd and 4th note e to f and a half step between the 7th and 8th
note b to c. All the other notes have a note in between and are a whole step apart. If we
wrote out a formula for the C major scale in terms of it's spaces, we would have:
whole step, whole step,half step,
whole step, whole step , whole step, half step.
But as you will soon find out this is not only the formula for C major. It is the formula for
every major scale. As we said before, Sounds in music depend on the spaces
between tones not the tones themselves. Start on any note and keep the spaces
between the notes the same as the major scale formula and you will be playing the major
scale that has the name of that note.
The C Major Scale
Below we have the C major scale on a keyboard, on a music lead sheet, and as a midi the
white keys of the keyboard gives us the major scale melody because all the whole steps
and half steps are in the right place. This is because pianos and other keyboard
instruments were designed that way. The musical facts come first and then the design of
instruments to play that music. In the music lead sheet we see all natural tones. We will
see, as we look at other major keys, that if we start on any other note but c, we will need
some sharps or flats to put the half steps in the right place to have a major scale. The
midi sound sample starts on middle c. Female voices should be able to sing right to the
exact pitch. Male voices would sing an octave lower. We have the fingering for playing the
scale on the keyboard and above the notes on the lead sheets. Play the C major scale on
your keyboard as you look at the music. Sing the scale as you look at the music.
Remember a male voice will sing an octave lower than the sound sample.
|Click on th player to activate
|Click on the player to activate
Building F Major
Because we don't want to use our
thumb on a short black key, the F
scale cannot use the same fingering
as our other scales that start on
natural tones. Starting with our thumb
on f, we get our major scale melody,
if we play the black b flat key instead
of the white b key on our music
keyboard. We play this with our 4th
finger and then swing our thumb,
finger 1, under to the white key c. On
the way down when the thumb, finger
1, gets to c, finger 4 swings over to
short flat b flat key.
Lets start building a scale on the natural tone f. Looking at our musical keyboard you can
see that the note series follows the major scale formula. We have our two whole steps at
the beginning. But if we leave the notes natural, we have a third whole step and the half
step next in the wrong place. We can see that if we use the black key in between a and b
instead of the white b key all this is fixed. In the key of G major, we had to raise the f so we
called it a sharp. In this case we are lowering the b so we call it a flat. We know that the
black keyboard key in between two white keyboard keys can be called a sharp or flat. Now
we can begin to see when we call it one or the other. As we continue up the scale, we see
that the formula for a major scale is followed, with the whole steps and the final half steps
in the right place. As you learn the rest of your major keys, you will learn that F is the only
flat key that starts on a natural note. All the other flat keys start on flats. As you build
major keys on the other natural notes you will find that they are all sharp keys. Look at
your keyboard. Make sure that you understand that it follows the major scale formula of
two whole steps, a half step, three more whole steps and a final half step. The midi
sample is from f above middle c. That's just one whole step lower than g and still fairly
high for the average singer. Play the scale on your piano or keyboard. Play it while you
look at the music. Try to be aware of not only the letters but how the letters relate to do,
re me, fa so, la, ti, do.
|Click on the player to activate
Learning Tom Dooley
Tom Dooley is different from the two songs that we have studied so far. "Some Folks Do"
uses the first five notes of the major scale, do, re, me, fa, so. "Skip To My Lou" does the
same, with the addition of the note ti below do. I would call them simple major scale songs.
"Tom Dooley" uses a five note scale called a major pentatonic scale. This scale is spread
out. It uses the notes do, re, me and then skips up to so, la. "Tom Dooley" starts on so
below do. If you look at the music, you can see that in the key of G major, you are starting
on d. This d is just one step above middle c. In the key of F major, the first note would be
middle c. Both of these keys put the song in a comfortable singing range. In the key of C
major, the first note would be g above middle c and the highest note would be e, still
singable but kind of high. So now you see one reason for using different major keys. The
range of notes in "Tom Dooley" make g or f a better key for it than c. The key board below
shows the fingering for the song in all three keys. Notice how fingers 1 and 2 play so and
la. Fingers 3, 4, and 5 stretch out to play do, re, me. The third finger is always playing the
note that is the name of the key. Below we have the music and midi for each key. Play in
each key looking at the music. Make sure you are not only aware of the notes as letters
but also as so, la, do, re, me. Also look at the song in one key and play it in the two other
keys. This will help you build your transposing skills
The keyboard to the left gives the
fingering and notes for "Tom Dooley"
in F, G and C. Fingers 1 and 2 play so
and la. Fingers 3, 4 and 5 play do, re
and me. Finger 3 or do is the name of
the key. This is a pentatonic scale.
Notice how it skips ti and fa. Since
these are the notes that would have
been black keys in F and G the notes
that you play are all natural.