Friday, March 11, 2016

Intro to Writing Music: How To Read Music, Day 5!

Hello all,

Welcome to Day 5 of the article series on “How to Read Music” in order to write your own! Today we are discussing the topic of accidentals, intervals, and the black keys to the piano! 

Here we go:


What are the Black Keys Named on the Piano?

Note that the black keys on the piano do not have any letter names to themselves, but are thought of in relation to the white keys. The black keys on the piano are in-between the white key letter names, and they are indicated with Sharps (#) and Flats (b) added to the letter names, such as A# or Db.

The symbol for a sharp and flat are called accidentals. The reason why they are called accidentals is a more complex topic, for now, just remember that these notes do not have their own letter names.

Sharps raise a pitch a half-step, while flats lower a pitch a half-step. 

What’s a half-step?

Look at this piano again, focus on the A. Notice the black key just to the right of it. That key is either A# or Bb, depending on how it is written in the music, but it sounds the same in terms of pitch.

A half-step is a term to describe a specific distance (an interval) between two notes.

The distance of a half-step is a very small distance: it’s one note/key on the piano to the next closest possible note/key in pitch where no other notes are physically in-between the two notes/keys.

Looking again above at the piano, we can see that the black note to the right of the A is both the closest note in pitch and physically in space. This key is a half-step up from the A, but it is also a half-step below B. 

A to A# = half-step
B to Bb = half-step 

Remember, sharps raise a pitch a half-step, while flats lower a pitch a half-step.


The black key next to the  A on the piano is both: A# (A Sharp) and Bb (B Flat), as shown above.


Looking at the piano below, can you find a F#, a C#, what about an Eb or Db?

Answer Key:
F# = left key in the group of three black keys
C# = left key of the group of two black keys
Eb = right key of the group of two black keys
Db = (same key as C#) left key of the group of two black keys

On the Staff

On the staff, the sharp and flat symbols are added BEFORE any pitch to modify it—not after, we say the accidental after when speaking, but when we write it on the staff we put the accidental BEFORE the note we are changing! 

Again, a sharp raises the pitch one half-step, while the flat lowers the pitch one half-step. Here are few examples of notes with accidentals (sharps and flats) added. Can you read these notes? Can you find them on the piano? The answers will be at the bottom of today’s post! 

Thinking again about the piano, did you notice that there are half-steps that naturally occur between adjacent white notes? Take a look below: B to C and E to F are the closest possible in pitch, but they also do not have any notes in-between. These are white note half-steps!  

This means that Fb is the note E, and E# is the note F - the same goes for B and C.  

Double Sharps (x) and Double Flats (bb) are possible in music (raising and lowering a note two half-steps [whole-step], respectively), but these are less common.

Dbb = C

Gx = A

(Note that these notes are read the same way as the filled in black notes on the staff. How they are different will be discussed next time! A double flat or sharp can be placed on any kind of note, including the filled in black notes we have seen in the other examples!)  


Today, we covered the topic of accidentals in music and learned about sharps and flats (the black keys on the piano). We learned the that black keys do not have letter names themselves, but are thought about in relation to the white keys with the addition of the accidental symbols. During this process, we also touched on the concept of intervals (distances between notes) and went over the smallest interval: the half-step!

I hope that you found this article to be easy to follow, informative and interesting! We have a few articles to go, but are quickly approaching discussing “How to Write you Own Music!” In the end, the preparatory information will be beneficial as a quick and handy reference we get into the engaging process of music composition itself. I am enjoying sharing my musical knowledge with you all, and I look forward to the creative fruition of this article series! Hang in there; we are making good progress!

PS. If you have any questions regarding the information provided in this article or would like clarification for any of the above ideas, please don hesitate to ask questions in the comment section below! I am happy to answer all of your questions! 

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