Learning The Musical AlphabetPosted by Mike Schuck
Music is a beautiful form of expression that has limitless potential to express all sorts of things – from messages to emotions, stories, and fun!
But there’s a lot going on in music, so it can be hard for even very experienced musicians to identify what everything means.
That’s why you have to learn the musical alphabet. The first letter of the alphabet is actually G. It’s called the tonic note or root note.
The second letter is C, which some call the cardinal (or major) chord. A cardinal chord is made up of a root, third, and fifth degree notes. Most songs use at least one cardinal chord as a theme, if not more.
Next comes E, also known as the perfect fourth interval. This is a nice tone most people are familiar with because it appears in many popular melodies and chords.
Then B, the mediant. And finally, the final letter is M, the minor chord. Just like a cardinal chord, a minor chord contains a root, third, and fifth degree notes, but they are replaced by their opposite sides — the major scale degrees.
By learning these seven letters of the musical alphabet, you will know how to write several basic song structures such as preludes, introductions, themes, and crescendos/diminuendos.
Learn all the musical notes
The next step in developing your music listening skills is to learn how to recognize and name every note that makes up a song. This is called naming the notes of a song!
Most songs are made up of seven different notes, which we refer to as scales. A scale has a name, like Aeolian or Dorian, and it contains the same number of notes. For example, the Aeolian Scale has five notes, but it can be said to go “zero-five” because it starts with a zero (the first tone) and then goes one, two, three, four, and five.
The easiest way to identify a note is by its name. Each letter represents a unique pitch, so if you know the name of a note, you will know what pitch it is. It is very common to hear people talk about familiar notes, so let us try this with the famous song "Happy Birthday"!
Music theory tells us that the word birthday is an interval, which means there is a gap between two other notes. In this case, it is an octave, which is one full stop more than a whole note. Happy Birthday thus consists of a C, an E, and an O, making it a CEO chord. These are referred to as the chord tones, and they always appear in a music theory lesson at some point.
Find musical notes on your keyboard
The next step in becoming a musician is learning how to read music. There are many ways to do this, but one of the most common routes is using the piano as an instrument. On a piano, every note has a letter that it corresponds with.
The easiest way to remember these letters is by thinking about the keys on the piano. For example, the first key on a piano is the tonic (or root) key, which stands for “tonight”. Then, the second key is the mediant, which means “medium”. This word is made up from the middle two numbers of the scale we discussed earlier.
So, the third key is the submediant, which is like the mediator between night and day. You can think of the sub- as meaning “under�” or “less than” because it is smaller than the medium it follows.
That leaves the supermediant, which is just plain old mediator. All three of those words mean something close to what they sound like! Now you have learned some basic vocabulary. Music theory isn’t too difficult once you get the basics down.
Make a list of common musical instruments
The next step in becoming a musician is choosing to learn your instrument. Most musicians have at least one specialty, like playing the guitar or piano, but many are very specialized — they play only the bass, for example, or their special instrument is the violin!
There are over 5,000 different types of music-making equipment out there, so deciding what size category you want to fit into is important.
This article will help you choose which instrument to focus on first by offering tips on each type of instrument. Then, we’ll look at some easy ways to learn how to play your new favorite tool.
Learn to sing all the letter names
The next step in becoming a great singer is learning how to name each of the notes that make up your songs. These note names are called alphabet music because they go from A through G, making a total of seven letters.
The easiest way to learn the song note names is by singing them as you read them here for the first few letters then moving onto the second set of letters.
For example, if you were reading “My Favorite Song” starting at the word favorite, you would sang the first two notes as an A and B which are both natural notes. Then you would move on to the word start with an E, and so on until you got to the last three steps where you sing the final words of the verse as a D, a G, and a C.
This process works because most people naturally know these notes already! Most people can recognize the sounds of the A-B-A-C pattern we mentioned earlier and also know some version of the same pattern for the other major chords (D-E-F-G).
Practice this method with low, medium, and high pitched notes and you’re sure to progress quickly. Here are some easy songs you can practice with to strengthen your voice and knowledge of the musical alphabet.
Learn to sing all the musical notes
The next stage of singing is learning how to sing music! This includes identifying the tonal center of a song, picking out note names you know (like A or do), and then figuring out which notes go with each other to make a sound or melody.
Singing tones are one of the most important parts of singing because they help tell the story of the song. For example, if I sang the word “ball”, my voice would stay in the same tone for the entire length of the word. But if I replaced the final syllable from “ball” with the letter B, my voice would become higher at the end.
That extra oooh before the ball makes it more exciting! If I were to do that with a song like “Mary had a little lamb”, then the last part would be missing the D-note. It would feel kind of boring instead of playful.
By being able to identify different pitches, you will also learn what key a song is in and whether a song is ascending or descending. Ascending songs get higher as you listen to them, while descents go down.
There are many ways to learn about pitch. You can learn through natural means such as listening to music or talking about it, looking up definitions for terms related to pitching, and practicing using your own voice or someone else’s.
Learn some popular songs using the musical alphabet
In music theory, you will learn how to identify and describe every single note of a song by its letter name. This is called identifying the notes of a song or learning your musical alphabet!
Most musicians are not professionals at this stage of music theory, but they do know many songs very well and can recognize most notes in a song. By learning the names of the different notes in a song, you will be able to compare those notes with the notes that other people have identified and thus solidify your knowledge of music theory.
There are several strategies for memorizing the names of the notes in a song. Some use tenses (past, present, future) while others don’t. Some organize the song by rhythm while others organize it by melody. What matters isn’t necessarily which method works best for you, but what works best for you.
The easiest way to start organizing the notes into their proper place is to organize them by the melody. So once you have learned the first few notes of a song, you could work backwards and learn the rest of the song from the melody.
Learn to read music
Now that you have learned some of the musical notes, it is time to move onto another fundamental part of music - reading! You will learn how to do this by learning some basic songs.
Songs are sets of notes that tell a story or make a statement. The songwriter creates the lyrics first, then adds in the melodies and chords to create the sound. Their job is making the listener feel something for the song and its content.
Music has powerful effects on us. It can motivate us to work hard, keep ourselves safe, and even help us deal with difficult situations. That’s why it is such an integral part of our culture.
Reading a song is starting at the second stage of the musical alphabet — Melody. This means determining what the note sounds like and where it goes within the song.
Next comes Lyrics which are what people usually pay attention to. Even if you don’t understand the words, you can still appreciate the melody and rhythm.
Practice using the musical alphabet
Now that you have learned some of the letters, it is time to practice putting them together! There are two ways to do this depending on your level.
You can either start with easy songs or advanced songs. Either one will work! The easiest way to learn the music letter patterns is by learning each individual note as a song. For example, if you were trying to figure out what chord the first half of a song was, you would look at the notes in the song and try to match them up with the chords.
The hard part comes when you need to combine more than just one note into a new chord. This is where practicing using the musical alphabet comes in handy. You can pick any word from the musical alphabet and use it to create a whole new sound. For instance, the word “ball” has an F sharp in it, so you could make the F sharp be the root of the new chord.
This method works great for creating natural sounding melodies and bass lines. If you want to play faster melodies or jazzier rhythms, this technique does not work well.
The Jam Addict team is a revolving door of writers who care about music, its effects on culture, and giving aspiring artists tools and knowledge to be inspired and keep on creating.
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