Time and Sound

For group lessons, I went to the piano and played an interval of two notes. I asked my students to name the higher sounding pitch. They were accurate in determining whether the pitch moved up or down. I got to thinking about the basic components of music and so, here I am sharing on sound from a huge resource that I often refer to when teaching young students, Basic Materials in Music Theory. I hope you will be blessed by this short scientific study of sound.

Paul Harder says, "The sensation of sound is produced by compressive waves in the atmosphere emanating from a vibrating body. Because time is required for the transmission of even a single wave, sound cannot be experienced except within a period of time." So, time and sound are the basic materials of music. Let's talk about the properties of sound.

  1. SoundA vibrating body is the source of sound.
  2. Ear or Listener - Sound waves transmit energy from the vibrating body to the ear.
  3. Sound Waves - The atmosphere transmits vibrational disturbances called sound waves.
  4. Ears - Our perception of sound results from sound waves transmitted from the vibrating body to our ear.
  5. Highness or Lowness - Pitch is a technical term which expresses the highness or lowness of a sound.
  6. Pitch - Frequency of vibration determines the pitch of a sound.
  7. Lower - The slower the vibrating body is caused to vibrate, the lower the pitch.
  8. Frequency - The pitch of a sound is determined by the frequency of vibration.
  9.  Pitch or Frequency - High and Low are subjective descriptions of the pitch of a sound.
  10. Lower - When the frequency of a pitch is halved, the resulting tone will be an Octave lower.

I remember as a child what fun it was to take a large piece of wax paper and place it inside my old upright piano between the mallets and the strings. What a delight to change the pitch to sound like more of a kazoo rather than an acoustic piano... Fun times, for sure!

  • Intensity - Loud and soft are subjective and relative terms. They refer to the intensity of a sound.
  • Timbre - The ear is capable of distinguishing not only differences in pitch and intensity but also differences in the quality of sounds. This is called Timbre. The property of sound which enables us to tell one musical instrument from another is called Timbre.
  • Duration - Sounds not only have pitch, intensity, and timbre, but also duration. (The length of tones).
To wrap it up, just remember the 4 properties of sound, which are a vital concern for musicians. Pitch is the high or low sound and varies according to the frequency of vibration. Each time the frequency is doubled, the pitch is raised one octave. Intensity is a loud or soft sound and is the result of the amplitude of the sound wave. The quality of a sound is called timbre and results, in part, from the number, relative intensity, and distribution of the harmonics present. Duration is especially important for musicians because it is concerned with rhythm, one of the basic elements of music.

Remember to take a look at Paul Harder Course. You may be interested in this comprehensive ear training Pitch Software.

Happy Sounds and all the best to you!

-- LadyD

 "The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King

Easy Play Method

Easy Method for Piano Playing

I'm back to teaching piano lessons this new semester. I like many methods of teaching. One approach I've been using is from Carol Tornquist. More specifically, her easy play method is about:

  1. Notation - eventually reading 4 octaves (including sharps, flats and ledger lines)
  2. Theory - necessary for a full understanding of making music (emphasis on intervals, chords, keys, and harmony)
  3. Melody - beginning on 3 black keys (L.H. and R.H.), then moving to C position (5 fingers) and other key groups.
  4. Rhythm - beginning with a simple meter (2/4, 3/4, 4/4) and an introduction of a compound meter 6/8.
  5. Chords - introduced I, V7, eventually using major, minor, diminished, augmented chords (block and broken)
  6. Keys - use of all major and minor key signatures, the order of sharps and flats.
  7. Accompaniment - Use harmonic intervals, then 3 note chords.
  8. Creativity - writing melodies, "questions"/"answers", harmonies for melodies.
  9. Transposition - encouraged to help students think in "keys"
  10. Technique - ear training exercises.
Happy Boy Plays Piano

By Level 1 and 2, my students know some music definitions. Here's just a few:

  1. D.C. al Fine - To go back to the beginning and play until Fine.
  2. Forte - Loud
  3. Transpose - To play in a different key
  4. Mezzo Piano - Medium Soft
Many boys and girls have learned some Italian words to describe TEMPO. For example:

  1. Fast - Allegro
  2. Medium Tempo - Moderato
  3. Andante - Slow
Level 1 Fundamentals

Introducing Patriotic songs for Level 1 students helps them to hear the interval distance. For example in the Key of F when they play America the Beautiful, students hear the first melodic interval, which is a 6th, from Middle C up to A.

So, kids have learned that an Interval is a DISTANCE between one note and another and that there are two kinds on Intervals: Learn Intervals

  • Melodic: 2nd (C to D), 3rd (C to E), 4th (C to F), and 5th (C to G)
  • Harmonic 2nd (C and D together), 3rd (C and E together), 4th (C and F together), and (C and G together).
  • An interval of a 7th is either: line to line (G to F) or space to space (F to E).
Boy Learning Half Steps

When students learn about half steps and whole steps, they start listening to tones. Many enjoy playing the Chromatic Scale at this time.

  • Half Steps - A Half Step is the shortest melodic interval there is on the keyboard. In other words, it's the distance from one key to the next... black or white... up or down. For example G to F#, E to F. C to C#, and E to Eb.
  • Whole Steps - A Whole step is a distance from one key to another, with just one key between them. For example G down to F, E to F#, C to D, and E down to D.
All ages on different levels like to practice scales, especially the C Major Scale. Every Major Scale has 8 notes grouped into a "pattern" of half steps and whole steps. Sliding your thumb under your 3rd finger on "F", play the C Major Scale from C to C (ascending). Then try it going down (descending) crossing your 3 rd finger over your thumb on E. One of the most well-known Christmas carols begins with the Major Scale descending, and that is "Joy to the World" by George F. Handel.

Many junior high students are writing their own songs using broken chords. In the Key of C, you  play 3 major chords:

C Major (I) = C-E-G
F Major (IV) = F-A-C
G Major (V) = G-B-D

Children and adults enjoy listening to seventh chords, hearing how they are alike or different. Many play 3 Dominant Seventh Chords in Level 1. History of Seventh Chords

G7 (C Major) - BFG
D7 (G Major) - F#CD
C7 (F Major) - EBbC

When a chord changes from one to another, it's called a Chord Progression. To help with more improv skills, one must learn left-hand patterns and chord inversions.

Remember that the I chord is also known as the Tonic. C root position = CEG
Also, the IV chord is called the Subdominant. (FAC)
And that the V chord is also known as the DOMINANT. (GBD)

Subdominant Chord Inversions

Root = FAC
1st = ACF
2nd = CFA
Root = FAC

Dominant Chord Inversions

Root = GBD
1st = BDG
2nd = DGB
Root = GBD

The Dominant Seventh chord is formed by adding the "7th" above the "root." (GBDF)
Since the Dominant Seventh chord has 4 notes in it, you may leave out 1 note and still have a triad:

Hope this helps. Keep practicing... I know I will!


-- LadyD

 "The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King
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