Theoretically Speaking – Music Theory – part 1

Ok. So today’s post (and the next) might be a little like being back at school (settle down at the back).

We’re going to look at some music theory. Don’t get scared; I’ll be gentle.  I’m starting pretty much at the beginning here so feel free to skip ahead if I start too basic.

And don’t panic if you can’t follow some of the later stuff. It’s not essential for most people. It’s just to help your understanding of what your ear probably tells you anyway. And ultimately ears and hearts are the best judge. But when we get to some later posts about chord sequences it may prove useful.

Note names

Notes are named using the letters A – G

After G, you start again from A. From A to the then next A (up or down) are an octave (8 notes) apart. This applies to all other neighbouring notes of the same name e.g. F – F, B – B, C – C.


Above: The white note to the left of the two black notes (blue on this diagram) grouped together is C. The white note to the left of the three black notes grouped together is F. All other letters follow on, on the white keys, from left to right in alphabetical order.  This pattern is repeated for each octave of the keyboard.

The black notes in between are what’s known as flats () or sharps ().

Here is the same thing on a guitar


Below you can see how these notes relate to the written notes on the stave when writing music.


Tones and Semitones

semitone is the smallest note interval used in modern music. It corresponds to the space between two consecutive notes (including both white and black notes) on a keyboard or two consecutive frets on a guitar/bass (e.g. C – C, C – D, etc.).

tone is double the distance of a semi tone. This corresponds to the distance between two notes (again including both white and black notes) on a keyboard or two frets on a guitar/bass (e.g. C – D, D – E, F – G)


 – sharp – raises a note one semitone

 – flat – lowers a note one semitone

 – natural – cancels a preceding sharp or flat

Accidentals appear BEFORE the note to which they apply on the same line/space as shown below

bar lines

They apply to all notes in bar (the space between the regular, vertical lines above separating the notes into groups of 4 (4/4 time in this case)) unless cancelled using a natural ().

They are automatically cancelled in next bar (unless they are part of key signature – used to identify the key of the music – I’ll cover these in a future post).

More next time. 🙂




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  1. Pingback: Major Keys | MusicBizHow2

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