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Music (Part 2)

Introducing "The Dots"

Article from Sound International, June 1978

Dave Stewart matches the dots to frets, keys and the like.

In last month's issue Dave Stewart, keyboardist with National Health told you the names of the notes and where they were written on the treble and bass staves. Here they are again to refresh your memories:

As you read from left to right we're starting off with low notes on the bass staff and ending up with high ones on the treble.

Now you should work out where to find these notes on your instruments. Let's start with the piano keyboard:

You see that the black notes are divided into alternate groups of two and three. To find a note of C on the piano, pick one of the [left image below] type groups and play the white note just to the left, ie:

This is the note of C. It doesn't matter which end of the piano you play it, it's still a C! The note we call Middle C is usually found near the lock of the piano lid, and as you recall, is written:

If we work upwards from C we arrive at D, E, F and G like this:

The remaining two notes in the octave are A and B:

So on the piano (or any other keyboard instrument) the white notes are each represented by a letter.

The black notes are the sharps and flats, which we'll get on to in a while.

Over to Phil Miller (National Health guitarist) for a brief explanation of note positions on the guitar.

The six strings of the guitar are tuned (from the bottom up) to the notes of E, A, D, G, B and E. If we represent these diagrammatically as


is the note of C. It can also be played:

(and a couple of other ways too!) The other 'white' notes are:

Of course there are other ways of playing these notes, ie:

One slightly confusing thing about the guitar is that guitar music is written up one octave. This is to enable the whole range of the guitar to be written on the treble staff; so although the lowest note on the guitar (the bottom E string) sounds:

when played, in guitar music it will always be written:

which is one octave above its actual pitch. This saves the lucky guitarist from having to bother with the nasty bass clef. Not so the unfortunate bass guitarist however, whose four strings are tuned (from the bottom up) E, A, D and G. These are written:

but they actually sound like this:

so again you see that music for bass guitar has to be written one octave above its actual pitch. (It's just as well really, because notes with lots of leger lines like

are a bit awkward to read).

To find the seven principal notes on bass guitar it is necessary to follow these cunning diagrams:

Now you know where A, B, C, D, E, F, and G are on your respective instruments. This really gives you all the notes you'll ever need except for the trifling matter of sharps and flats which we'll clear up in an instant. # means sharp, b means flat. 'Sharp' means raised in pitch, higher. 'Flat' means lowered in pitch. If a note is a flat, say for example a B flat, it means a B lowered in pitch by one semi-tone. (A semi-tone is the smallest interval you can use on a piano or a guitar. On the piano it is the distance between one key and its immediate neighbour(s) and on the guitar it is one fret's worth of distance.) So we arrive at B flat like this on the piano and on the guitar:

Similarly Ab is an A lowered in pitch by one semi-tone.

See? [left image below] Gb is a lowered G, Eb is a lowered E, and Db is a lowered D. Here are the flats:

Similarly a sharp raises the pitch of any note a semitone. C sharp is a raised C, Dd is a raised D:

Simple, innit? Stands to reason, dunnit? Fd is a raised F, Gd is a raised G and Ad is a raised A. Voila les sharps:

It may have occurred to some of you that F# and Gb are the same note. You're right. There are times when it's more apt to say F# than Gb but it's difficult to explain exactly why at this stage. Suffice it to say that it's a matter of context... similarly you may have noticed that Bb and A# are one and the same. It's true. Masters of disguise, these sharps and flats. It is also possible that you might come up against an Fb one day. This is simply E by another name. And Cb is plain old B. E# is F, and B# is C. Try not to let this confuse you! Even if you're not a keyboard player, it's worth having a look at the lay-out of the piano keyboard at this point, as it makes the flats and sharps picture fairly clear.

Here are the seven principal notes again:

Here are the flats and here are the sharps:

I'll leave you with some imposing looking diagrams to puzzle over. They show the names of the notes on each individual string of the guitar and bass guitar, and how to write these notes in notation form... also a summary of the positions of all the notes on the piano. Try to memorise as much of this as possible, as it's probably the key to the whole skill of reading and writing music.

Fret/note relationship for six-string guitar

Key/note relationship for keyboard

Fret/note relationship for bass guitar


Rhythm. The effect of bongos on white women. Plus: irritatingly simple melodies and the beginnings of a more hopeful musical future.

Series - "Music"

Read the next part in this series:

Music (Part 3)
(SI Aug 78)

All parts in this series:

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

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Tape Machines Survey

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The Producers

Publisher: Sound International - Link House Publications

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Sound International - Jun 1978

Donated & scanned by: Mike Gorman


Music Theory



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

Feature by Dave Stewart

Previous article in this issue:

> Tape Machines Survey

Next article in this issue:

> The Producers

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