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Notes and clefs
To represent the different pitches of sound that you can make when you play
music, you have to write notes. Also, related to pitches and notes there are the
different kinds of frequencies that would be represented by the sound waves.
To write notes, you need the staff lines and there you can show the pitch of any
sound. Notes can be called in two ways: C, D, E, F, G, A and B, or do, re, mi, fa, sol, la
and ti. They can be written on the stave on the lines and the spaces. And you can
add the ledger lines when you’re out of the staves.
The different clefs are used to write notes in different ranges. It depends on the
pitch that you’re interested in writing. For example, the treble clef is for instruments
or voices that play or sing in a high pitch, and the bass clef is for instruments or
voices that play or sing in a low pitch.
The treble clef is the most used because is the best clef for melodic instruments.
Most notes can be written on the stave, often without the need for ledger lines. In
the treble clef, on the first line is the note E (mi), and the other notes can be put
following the scale and alternating lines and spaces. On the first space is the note F
(fa), on the second line is the note G (sol), on the second space is the note A (la), and
so on.
On the other hand, the bass clef is the most used to write notes for a low pitch
instrument. On the fourth line is the note F (fa). This note is one octave lower than
the note F of the first space in the treble clef. The two clefs are used for the piano
scores, one clef for the right hand (treble clef) and the another one (bass clef) for
the left hand.
A scale is a kind of melodic structure. There are many scales and their structures
depend on the number of notes and the distances or intervals between these notes.
They are used in different kinds of music styles and in different situations. They are
chosen because of the melodic atmosphere which they create.
The simplest scales are the pentatonic scales. They have five different notes or
degrees. Other scales are the diatonic scales, like the major and minor scale, or the
cromatic scale, which have the twelve different notes of equal temperament.
The name of the scale depends on the first degree of the scale. For example, in the C
major scale, the first degree is the note C (do), and this is the most important
degree. All the movement of the melody goes around this degree. In fact, in this
case, the most important chord would be the chord built over the note C: the C
major chord. From this, the second degree of the C major scale would be the note D
(re), the third degree would be the note E (mi), and so on.
The keyboard is a good help to see the distance between notes. The smallest
distance between keys is one semitone. So, between the white keys of C (do) and D
(re) you have one tone because you have another key between both keys. This black
key is the sharp C or flat D (therefore, you could call one sound with two different
names). On the other hand, between the keys of E (mi) and F (fa) you have one
semitone because there isn’t any key between both keys.
The most used scales in the western music are the major and the minor scales.
Both scales have seven notes and they are different because of the distance
between their notes or degrees. In the major scale, you have one tone of distance
between the first and second degree, the second and third, the fourth and fifth, the
fifth and sixth and the sixth and seventh degree. On the other hand, you have one
semitone between the third and fourth degree and the seventh and first (eighth)
In the minor scale you always have one tone of distance between the consecutive
degrees except between the second and third degree and the fifth and sixth degree.
The differences between the minor and the major scales are the distances between
their degrees, and because of these distances, you have a different character or
atmosphere in the melodies that you can create with each scale. The major scale
would suggest a clear, positive and happy character, and the minor scale would
suggest a more dark and melancholic character.
Using the scales of C major or A minor you wouldn’t need any sharp or flat, but
using another major or minor scale (D major, B minor, etc.) you would need the
sharps and the flats to fix the right distances between the degrees of any scale.