The Basics

The Basics
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Whole/Half Tones
Common Chords
Simple Tunes
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On this page I am going to explain to you some of the fundamental pieces of knowledge that you must have before you can play a piece of music. If you already know this stuff then feel free to skip ahead. These will be divided into the following sections. If you dont already know this stuff then I have some bad news, this is the stuff that *must* be memorized and learnt. Dont worry its fiarly simple stuff and you will be playing your first song very soon!

The Keyboard - Note names and positions

Chords and Scales - What are they


The Keyboard

Ok the first thing you need to do is learn the names of the keys on the keyboard, this is not as difficult a task as it sounds, there are only 12 unique keys on the keyboard. The musical alphabet goes from A through to G, so every white key on any keyboard will take one of these letter names(forget about the black keys for the moment).

Now if we look at the keyboard below all the unique white keys have their letters written under them. Notice that the black keys come in a group of two followed by a group of three, this is what we can use to identify the white keys. For example, the white key immedately to the left of a group of the two black keys is called C. The white key in the middle of the two black keys is D, the white key to the left of the three black keys group is F and so on. The note names repeat after every 8 white keys as can be seen on the keyboard below. You only need to learn the positionsn and names of the seven unique white keys, this allows you to name any white key on the keyboard.

So go on, learn the positions of the white keys now, spend a little while on it, its best to do it in front of a real keyboard. Once you think you know them fairly well, try closing your eyes, pressing a white key at random, opening your eyes and trying to name what key it is.

The unique white keys on a keyboard

Ok, I've focused on the white keys so far, and thats because the black keys are easy to learn once you know your white keys. In fact the names of the black keys are based on the white keys near them. There are only 5 unique black keys on the keyboard, these have been named and shown below.

I must explain to you what sharp and flat means before you can understand the black key names. Basically sharpening a note means raising it to the next note immidately to the right of it. So if we find the F key (its to the left of the three black keys) and sharpen it, the note immidiately to the right of it is a black key and is called F sharp or F#. Similarly the note immidiately to the right of G is the black key G# and so on.

The black keys on the keyboard in terms of sharps

One little thing I must explain before moving on is that each black key has two names, this is because of the flat operator. The flat operator is the opposite of the sharp operator, instead of going up to the next note above, you go down to the next note immidiately below. Lets look at the next graphic to see this in action.

The black keys on the keyboard in terms of flats

So the black key immidiately below G becomes G flat or Gb, the black key below A becomes Ab and so on. It is important to learn and remember both the names for each black key (the sharp and the flat name) because both names are used in music.

This should be your next task, to learn both the names for each of the black keys on the keyboard. Spend a little bit of time on this to get it right, because you are going to be using it all the time throughout this webpage as well as any piece of music you may decide to play.


Chords and Scales

Ok, you've come this far, let me just explain a couple of terms used commonly by musicians all over the world.

A chord is a group of notes played at the same time. Yes its that simple! Ok it gets a bit more complicated, because the exact notes that are being played determine the type of chord. Common chords are usually played with 2, 3, 4, 5 or indeed any number of notes that people can possibly play with their hands. The chord is the basic building block of all modern rock and pop music. In a piece of music the melody is usually based on the chord being played at that time, we'll see exactly how this works a little later on.

A scale is basically a sequence of notes, it might be best to demonstrate with an example. The most popular scale is the C Major scale, you can play this yourself right now. Start at the note C and play every white note in succession until you get to the C above the one on which you started. You'll notice this scale as you've no doubt heard it many times before.

Listen to this scale here

Now this is just one possible scale, there are hundreds of different types of musical scales, thankfully we will only need to know a couple to be able to play rock and pop music.

Dont worry you're doing well, you almost know enough to play your first song!

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