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Making Notes (Part 1)

Treble & Bass explained

Article from Electronics & Music Maker, December 1981

This month we start a new workshop that goes right back to the basics of reading music. Written by Brenda Hayward, authoress of several music books including the very popular 'Organ Master' tutors, for the aspiring musician. Its direct approach is aimed at all our readers who have not had the chance to get to grips with music notation.

My 'Making Notes' articles are a challenge to many musicians who say, 'I can't get interested in or understand the boring subject of Music Theory'. I prefer to call my method of teaching Musical Interpretation, meaning: Simplicity in learning the principles devoted to creating and understanding music.

The term Musical Interpretation also represents a modern approach to a very ancient subject. As an alternative to the words 'Work, Practice' and 'I won't bother', think of the three P's: Pleasure, Playing and Perseverance, and psychologically the effect will be stimulating.

I must obviously start at the very beginning, so join me this month to see if I dispel some of the 'cobwebs' surrounding keyboard or manuals, reading the Treble and Bass stave and identifying the Bass Pedal notes.

The Keyboard or Manual is arranged in sequences of black and white notes. The white notes are named in a repetitive alphabetical sequence of 'A' to 'G'. Each note of 'C' is located to the left of two black notes and each note of 'F is located to the left of three black notes.

Figure 1.

The Black notes, which are 'Sharpened' or 'Flattened' white notes, each have two names for which the musical term is 'Enharmonic'. To SHARPEN a note is to raise or higher its pitch or sound and is indicated by the sign #. To FLATTEN a note is to lower its pitch or sound and is indicated by the sign b. (See Figure 1.) The easiest way of remembering is Sharps to the RIGHT and Flats to the LEFT of the keyboard. Not always easy I know, as the first problem can be finding the actual note which has to be sharpened or flattened!

When first studying a keyboard the task of trying to remember 44 notes, more or less, can seem impossible. The solution is to identify one section of the keyboard only, 'C' to 'C' which is then repeated up and down the keyboard. (See Figure 2.) Unless you are one of the gifted people who can start to create music by hearing a melody and playing it, even with one finger, the time spent on learning to relate 'the dots' on manuscript (musical notation) to the keyboard is invaluable.

Figure 2.

I will assume that you are familiar with a Treble Stave, headed by a Treble Clef, which circles around the line of 'G' and is also known as the 'G' Clef. I understand that at one time the Treble Clef was written as a capital 'G'.

The five lines, E-G-B-D-F and the four spaces, F-A-C-E combine to complete the Treble Stave, which most of us learnt at school with a 'jingle', such as 'Every Good Boy Deserves Favours' and the word 'FACE' to describe the four spaces. The notes on the Treble Stave are MELODY NOTES and are played with the right hand. I have included the notes of 'C' and 'D' in the following illustration. LEDGER LINES are used when notes to be played are too high or too low to be written on the stave. MIDDLE 'C' is written on the first Ledger Line below the stave and the note of 'D' occupies the first space below the stave. (See Figure 3.)

To simplify relating the 'dots' to the keyboard, I suggest that the lower note of 'E' is located first, as it is the starting lower line of the Treble Stave. By then playing every white note to the right, one after the other, the same sequence will occur as in the illustration: E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F.

Figure 3.

Emphasis is normally placed upon locating the Middle 'C', which is fine if you need to know the correct sitting position for playing the Electronic Organ, Piano or the link between the Treble and Bass Staves, but when initially reading the 'dots' locate the 'E' note on the first line instead of the Middle 'C' note, which is sitting "somewhere in space", and proceed to play the sequence as described. Other electronic keyboards (synthesisers in particular) can often select their keyboard octave range by changing the pitch selector to 16', 8', 4' etc. Nevertheless, it is still best to assume a Middle 'C' at your keyboard centre for reading music.

A 'Notefinder' can be placed on the keyboard to simplify locating the 'dots'. This can be a great aid when first starting to play but it must be removed as soon as possible so that the bad habit of looking down at the keyboard is not established. Feel for the notes and judge their spacing after playing the sequence 'E' to 'F' in the previous illustration a few times. The odd wrong note will not only sound wrong but will also feel wrong.

Figure 4.

Another aid when starting to play is the inclusion of note names in the manuscript, which are either placed inside large melody notes or are written beside them on the stave. (See Figure 4.) The problem which can occur when relying for too long upon this method of reading the manuscript, is that the habit of naming a note each time it is played can detract from learning or feeling for the position of the note on the keyboard. However, both methods are acceptable for the starter musician.

In both the above illustrations the Treble Stave is divided by BAR LINES, to group the notes into the correct Time Value of the music. I will be explaining these in next month's article.

I will assume that you are also familiar with a Bass Stave, headed by a BASS CLEF, which is also known as an 'F' Clef. The position of the two dots either side of the 'F' Line fixes its pitch or name. I understand this sign was originally written as a capital 'F'.

The five lines, named: G-B-D-F-A, and the four spaces: A-C-E-G combine to complete the Bass Stave. See Figure 5.

Figure 5.

The note of Middle 'C' does not appear on the Bass Stave, but will be sitting on the first ledger line above it, as in the above illustration. The note of 'B' occupies the first space above the Bass Stave. The middle 'C' Note forms the link and joins the notes in an alphabetical sequence between the Treble and Bass Staves. See Figure 6.

Figure 6.

Ledger Lines will also be used if the notes extend above the top line of the Treble Stave and below the bottom line of the Bass Stave. The note names will maintain their alphabetical sequence.

Figure 7.

The notes written on the Bass Stave are normally played with the left hand and can include a Bass Note. On a two manual electronic organ, or synthesiser such as the Yamaha SK50D, the left hand notes could be grouped together and played as a 'Chord' and the Bass Note would be played on the Bass Pedal Board. (See Figure 7.)

Figure 8.

The thirteen note Pedal Board often used on the home or portable electronic organ (and now appearing as an optional extra on some synthesisers) is identical to the section of the keyboard, 'C' to 'C' illustrated earlier in the article. The Bass Pedal notes are played with the toe of the left foot and the correct sitting position will ensure freedom of the left leg to move easily over the pedalboard. The pedal action has to become automatic as it is virtually impossible for the player to constantly look down at the pedal board, play the correct melody, the accompanying chords and read the manuscript at the same time. (See Figure 8.)

Adhesive pedal labels naming the 'C', 'F' and 'G' pedal notes, which are normally the first to be played, are available as a starting aid. Again, the aim is to remove them as soon as possible!

I suggest using a manuscript book for 'Making Notes' of the snippets of information you have found useful. The act of physically writing helps to create a mental photograph which can be reviewed at will.

Join me next month for my article on Note Values, Timing, Time Signatures and Fingering — most important!

Series - "Making Notes"

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Part 1 (Viewing) | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11

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Publisher: Electronics & Music Maker - Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

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Electronics & Music Maker - Dec 1981


Music Theory


Making Notes

Part 1 (Viewing) | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11

Feature by Brenda Hayward

Previous article in this issue:

> Organ Talk

Next article in this issue:

> Hi-Fi

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