What Is The Musical Alphabet In Order?Posted by Mike Schuck
When musicians refer to music as an alphabet, they are referring to the way that musical notes make up our sound spectrum. Just like the natural language we speak, there are certain sounds or letters that are used more frequently than others. These frequent letters form patterns and sequences which influence how people perceive and compose music.
Some of these sequences are universal rules that anyone can understand and use when composing music. For example, every song starts with an introduction followed by a verse, then a chorus, and finally a conclusion. This pattern is called the ABABC structure and it applies to many songs!
Other recurring patterns are not as well known but still important for developing your knowledge of music. The most common one is referred to as the scale. We will go into much greater detail about this concept later in this article.
There are several different ways to organize music according to the sequence of these repeated units. Two of the most popular organization systems are directoire and tonic sol-fa. Directoire groups all the same letter notes together while tonic sol-fa arranges them hierarchically depending on their major/minor quality and position within the octave.
This article will focus on directoire music theory. While both directoire and tonal sol-fa organize music by grouping similar tones together, directoire also gives special attention to intervals such as thirds and sixths.
The letter B
Let’s look at the letter B, for example. The musical note that corresponds to this letter is called the bass clef.
The bass clef looks like an “L” with a line drawn through it. This means that there are two lines instead of one. One solid line represents the treble part of the pitch, and the other is the bass part.
When you play the notes within the bass clef, they go down as written but then continue up as either the sharp or natural tone of the next higher note. For instance, if the highest note in the music is A-flat major (A flat being one half step away from A), then when you play the A in the bass clef, it will become the A-sharp tonal level.
Then, the musician moving up the scale would normally write out the A-natural, which is one full step above A-sharp. In our case, that would be the A-major note!
This process happens twice more, starting on the D-clef and going up to the E-clef and so on until all twelve letters have been identified.
The letter C
The letter C is one of the five main letters in music that we refer to as the consonantal note, or chord. A chord is a group of notes that sound harmonious together.
The first example of a chord using the letter C is the second tone (or sometimes called half-tone) of the octave. This is the middle note of the string set up for playing piano. Most musicians call this the “middle C” because it is usually the most commonly used middle note.
Other examples of chords are typically found by taking any two adjacent notes and combining them into one. For instance, the third degree of the major scale is made with the note B and D together. These two notes combine into one larger space so they form an additional interval within the octave.
This concept can be extended beyond just whole numbers such as thirds to include approximate fractions such as halves or quarters.
The letter D
Let’s look at the letter “D” for some definitions and examples. The word definition is derived from the Latin root dēbī, meaning to praise or commend.
The bolded part of the paragraph and bullet point is set as a run-on sentence to create more flow and emphasis.
So how do we use this powerful word? To emphasize something about someone or something, you can say “Dedicate time to them,” “Give your all to help them succeed,” or even “Do what you promise!”
This applies particularly well when it comes to parents looking out for their kids’ best interests.
The letter E
In music theory, the first letter is called the tonic or root note. The tonal center of any song is where all the notes of the melody are centered around. Most songs have at least one tonic chord, which is usually either the major, minor, or natural (or neutral) chord.
The next most common note is the second scale degree, also known as the mediant. A mediant will typically be a half step up or down from the tonic. For example, if the tonic is an F-major chord, then the mediant would be G-sharp major.
Lastly, the third scale degree is the dominant. This is always a whole step away from the tonic. So, after our earlier example, the dominant for this song would be D-natural.
There are eight other letters in order that we can identify when listening to music. These include the octave, perfect fifth, suspended fourth, tritone, augmented, diminished, submediant, and supertonic. All but the last two begin with the note immediately below the tonic. The latter two go one full step higher or lower than the tonic.
The letter F
Let’s look at the first letter of our musical alphabet, which is also one of the most popular letters to use when composing music! The first letter we will discuss is the familiar F.
The note that begins the word “Finger” is called the index finger tone. This can be used as an accompaniment pattern for any song you want to learn how to play by ear.
To play this index finger tone melodically, start with a root position chord (the very first state your hand makes before moving onto other positions). Then add the middle finger along the top string while keeping your ring and pinky fingers down. Finally, pick up the index finger and press it against the side of the bass drum.
After this initial hit, pull back off the stick slightly and let the index finger trail off the edge of the drum. When the song reaches its final chorus or verse, repeat what I mentioned above but instead of lifting the index finger off the bass drum, move it forward towards the head of the drum.
The letter G
The next letter is arguably one of the most important ones when it comes to musical literacy. This is pretty obvious if you think about it – what music are we listening to? If we don’t know any songs that start with the note G, then we are really limiting our exposure to great music!
The first note of the g-string is actually notated as A natural major third above the notes D sharp (A) and E flat (E). To play this note correctly, add an extra quarter tone making B natural major third (G).
The letter H
The next letter is something that many people are not familiar with when it comes to music. This is the harmonic alphabet, or sometimes called the octave circle. It’s an easy way to remember the other letters of the musical alphabet because they order according to the same principle- ascending whole steps and descending half steps.
The first letter in this sequence is the harmonic seventh. Like we talked about before, the major third is made up of two notes one step apart. The second note is a half step lower than the first which creates the minor third. Therefore, the harmonic seventh is just like the minor third but one more step.
This also applies to the tritone (also known as the augmented fourth). When you add a half tone above a tonic note, you get an augmented fourth. The harmonic ninth is the same thing except a full step higher. Because a whole step is 2 frets, it is usually referred to as an octave plus 2 strings.
The letter I
The first letter of the musical alphabet is called the tonic note or root note. This is typically the highest pitched, most significant tone in any song you are listening to. For example, if your music has a melody with notes A B D# G, then the tonic would be A.
The reason this is important is because it ties into our second topic!
Key is just like having a house – without it, there’s no use for the building. In music theory, the key is the place where you want the listener to focus on what sounds good and fits well together. Typically, the composer will pick one note that they consider to be “home base” and work from there. (A natural choice might be the tonic.
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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