To understand music and music theory it is important to know how to count and in which order notes are organized. It's important to know how this works if you want to understand music, play an instrument, write songs, compose or read music.
Counting and notes in music
First Example: the A minor scale
Lets for example take the A minor scale. Which consists of the following notes.
A B C D E F G A
Every note in music is transcribed by a note A to G, try to think of them as names, and then simply starts over again with the A so you could go up or go down and you would get:
... F G A B C D E F G A B C D E F G A B C D E F G ...
But this is a scale and does not use all the notes available. It uses both half notes and whole notes in a certain order. To understand this we have to look at all the notes available and have to wonder about what is in between the notes. Some might think this is a deep ocean and are afraid to dive in. Well this certainly is not the case. After this lesson you should be able to understand how this works and it should make all the music theory lessons available sooooooooooo much easier.
In western music notes next to each other are a half note apart. If you would take the C-D interval these notes would be one whole note (two halves) apart because there is a note in between them.
But since there is no name for this in the alphabet we have to use symbols to describe the notes in between. There are two symbols used to do this, the sharp notated as # and the flat written as b.
The sharp symbol: #
The sharp symbol is defined as the symbol that "increases" the note by a half
# means: play half note higher ( +half )
This means that every time you want the describe the note one half high you would write a sharp symbol (#) behind it.
So if you would have a C# it would mean you would have the note which is an half note higher than the C. So now you could write the note in between the C and the D as C#
Try to think of this note in two ways.
1) C# = (C sharp) name for the note in between the C and the D
2) C# = the C note moved up an half ending up at the note in between the C and D
But there is also another way to describe or name this note
The flat symbol: b
The sharp symbol is defined as the symbol that "decreases" the note by a half. The symbol looks like a small en italic b letter.
b means: play half note lower ( -½ )
Every time you want the describe the note one half lower than a certain note you would write a flat symbol (b) behind it.
So if you would have a Db you would mean the note one half lower than the D. So you also could write the note in between the C and the D as the Db which would give us:
As with the sharp try to think of this note in two ways:
1) Db (D flat) name for the note in between the C and the D
2) Db: the D note moved down an half ending up at the note in between the C and D
There are two exceptions. The E - F and the B - C. There are no notes in between these notes! So remember these!
B - C = ½
E - F = ½
Don't even try to understand this, it is simply defined this way. If you would normally count numbers this way 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 -6 you also wont think why something is called a 2 or a 5. You simply understand the logic behind it and that there are halves between them.
In music it is a little bit more difficult and certain notes have simply been given a name A to G and back to A again. As I said before try to think in names and not in numbers. So for some reason the notes next to each other and only an half apart are named B and C.
Just to mention a few things you might come across and so you won't wonder if you are reading it right. What do you think this means?:
No, it's not a typo, but it could have been. Confused?
Lets try to remember the basic rule of the sharp symbol:
# means: play half note higher ( +½ )
And now you have two of those sharps. So if you remember how this works you simply move up two halves and you end up at the D again.
Why would anyone want to do this you ask? Some people like to make life difficult I guess. Another explanation would be that sometimes certain notes have to be written in a way that it is clear that a certain note is moved up a half.
If you would write "D" you would only know which note it would be. If you would write "C##" you would now this is a C# moved up a half.
Don't be two worried by this and don't loose a good nights sleep over it, it just a way of notation. Of course it works the other way around to, a Dbb would be a D moved down two halves and you would end up at the C again.
Now if you do want to loose a good nights sleep try to figure this one out ;)