What’s The Musical Alphabet?Posted by Mike Schumacher
When people talk about music they usually refer to two things, songs and melodies. Songs are sets of lyrics with a narrative structure and a rhythm that can be heard or played back again. Melodies are also called notes but not all musical notes have a definition as either tone or pitch.
Tones are sounds we recognize as being a note, for example, the sound of a violin string when plucked or struck. However, there is no standard number of tones in any one song or scale. An octave has eight different tones, which makes it very easy to repeat a melody or riff up or down an interval. Some intervals, like a major third or perfect fourth, use more than just two tones whereas others, like a minor ninth, require three!
Scales are ordered groups of whole steps (one full tonic), half steps (one-half step away from the next higher or lower tone) and/or double drops (two consecutive half steps). A major scale has one tone, one full step, one half step, and two double drops. The five most common scales in western music are natural, harmonic, blues, lydian and chromatic. Natural is gotoscheme, harmonically related to the major scale, blues uses the same notes as the minor scale, lydian includes both modes at once, and chromatically means changing quickly between notes of the same name.
Chords are one of the most fundamental building blocks in music. There are twelve notes in an octave, which is the range of sounds you can make with your voice or instrument. A chord is any grouping of three or more adjacent notes.
A song is made up of sequences of alternating tonal (or key) areas and chords. For example, the first half of The Beatles’ Let It Be album is anchored by the tonality A major, and then B minor before returning to A for the second verse.
The word chord comes from the Greek khoron, meaning “to tie together” or “key piece”. Before the Renaissance, people didn’t have access to many consonantally-vocalized instruments, so they used the natural harmonics found in human voices as their source of sound. By adding these overtones to the root note of a syllable, they could create new tones that fit into the harmonic structure of the song!
Since we’re talking about musical keys here, let’s take a look at some examples. When writing our paragraph, use either the letter c to refer to a specific chord, or the term chord name to describe the notes making up the chord.
Practice makes perfect – learning the names of chords is like learning someone else‘s language! Luckily, there aren’t too many types of chords, and figuring out what part of the chart a particular chord belongs to isn’t difficult.
Rhyme is a type of verse that contains an interesting pattern or structure of words. A little bit of rhyming goes a long way, which is why it’s such a powerful tool for writers.
In music, there are instances where rhymes play a significant part in determining how well something sounds. For example, when a song has a repeated melody, it becomes more memorable and appealing because you keep singing the same notes over and over.
When songs contain lyrics that use rhyme, it adds another level to the experience. It becomes more engaging and fun to listen to, like watching a movie with lots of action.
There are many types of rhythmic patterns used in music. Some examples include: meter (time signatures), pulse (rhythm section), accented and unaccented beats, etc.
But what makes a good rhythmic pattern is not necessarily about having lots of them – some songs only have one! It comes down to whether the individual parts of the song sound natural and flow nicely together.
This article will go into detail about musical rhythms and how they can be applied to writing.
Tempo is the speed at which music is played or conducted. There are two main types of tempos in music: slow and fast!
A normal, natural rhythm like walking or running is considered a slow tempo. A very quick rhythm is a faster tempo. For example, a song that has a steady beat is its own tempo.
Some songs have deliberate lurches in their beats that create a quicker rhythmic feel. These are called syncopated rhythms. Syncope means to drop off the beat completely and then re-establish it. Some examples of this include “Happy Birthday” with the last half rhyming on the word day and the initial part not, or “The Wheels On The Bus” where the second to last line does not end in a full stop but rather a short dash.
Songs with lots of quick pulses can sometimes be referred to as having a pulsing or percussive sound.
Now that you have learned your alphabet, it is time to move onto the next letter of music! The first major category we will look at are musical keys.
Music comes from the sounds of nature. Birds sing, whales sound, and pianos play. By studying these natural sounds, we can learn how to make music ourselves!
A key part of making music is knowing what note each instrument is playing. A note is just like any other word; it has a sound or body (what it is composed of) and then a composer adds another element to describe it more clearly.
This second element is called the accentor which usually relates back to the note itself. For example, the notes G, F, and E all begin with the same consonant g, so their accents are also the same – an extra short syllable attached to the root. This gives them the same feel as the starting point.
The notes D, A, and R all start with the vowel o, so they have an accented o after the root. These songs start with the same base as do those mentioned before! This is why musicians call this basic structure a scale.
A song is more than just a series of notes! There are many parts to a song, including lyrics, music, and what order those components come in. These are called song structures.
Music comes first in a song’s structure with what is referred to as the pre-chorus or intro. This is typically one or two chords that set up the main body of the song. The chorus is then an expression of happiness or desire for the rest of the song.
The bridge is another section that can be considered a transition if it connects one part of the song to the next. Sometimes there will be a short break here, making it separate entity. A true bridge will always connect one thing to the next.
The final part of a song is the outro which is usually the same style as the chorus but shorter. It sometimes reprises or repeats part of the song you already listened to.
There are several types of bridges and outros depending on how they relate to the other sections, but all have something in common — they try to repeat or bring back what you have before them.
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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