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Theory of Music (4)

Updated on September 10, 2014

Another Step in Theory of Music

On with our look at music theory . We will have a deeper look at intervals, look at some more scales and arpeggios and look at all key signatures in two separate blocks of sharps and flats. Also we will begin to look at time signatures. If you are totally mystified by this you need to find my first three lenses on music theory and look at those first.

All photos on this hub are mine.

Music theory - The Time Signature

This is shown as two figures one above the other after the clef and key signature. Take a look at the picture below. This is not a fraction, there is no horizontal line between the numbers. The top figure tells you how many beats there are in a bar. A bar is the distance between one vertical bar line and the next. The lower figure tells what value one beat is. There are lots more time signatures to learn later on, but these are the three simplest. The lower figure four denotes a crotchet beat.

Some simple time signatures

Music Theory - Sharp Key Signatures

Below is a picture of the sharp key signatures. You may need to zoom in to see them properly. These tell you which black notes to use. If you remember that C major and A minor have no shaps or flats you can then move up five notes (including the note you start on) and add a sharp. To help you remember the order sharps appear in there is a helpful phrase "Five Cats Go Down An Empty Barrel" You take the first letter of each word. So the order is FCGDAEB. You need to pratise writing the sharp sign correctly on each line or space. If you are taking exams it is really worth writing the sharps out on the paper over and over so that you can go into an exam and be able to write this out from memory. It will then make it easier for you to refer to the chart as you need it.

Flower power just to cheer you on

Music theory - Another look at intervals

In Music Theory 3 I introduced you to intervals. This is the way of describing distances between notes. There are different thirds and we will look at major and minor. These are Latin words. Major means big and minor means little. See below, first on the piano and then in written notes. Actually you can only be sure how to describe an interval if you see it written. It depends how it relates to other notes in a piece. Just as an A flat on the piano might be a G # so what looks like a third might not be!! Don't worry about it just concentrate on the written interval.

A major third - Contains four semitones

Two different thirds

Here are the notes F and A. There are three notes distance between them, F,G and A. Three notes involved so the interval is a third, but what sort of third? It is the third which you find in the scale of F major. Always treat the bottom note of the interval as if it is the first note of the scale, then look at the second note to see if that fits the scale too. So this is a major third. When we change the A to A flat we have made the interval smaller by one semitone and so it is called a minor third. Of course these two intervals sound very different. We tend to think of the major third as bright and the minor third as sad. You may perceive them some other way so find your own description to tell the difference.

Major third and minor third - The minor third has only three semitones

F to A flat, a minor third

Another major third

This time the third is made up of a G and a B. There are three notes involved between them, G,A and B so again we have a third. This is a major third. If you want a minor third instead you will need G and B flat.

Let's try a different interval

A fourth

The interval above is a fourth between C and F. I expect you want to know if it is a major our a minor interval. Well it is neither. You cannot have a major or a minor fourth. But you can have and must have a perfect fourth. There are other sorts of fourth but never major or minor. We will leave the other sorts for another time. The perfect fourth is the one that happens in both the major and the minor scale. Later we will talk about diminished and augmented fourths, but it is best to find out about these things slowly.

A fifth

C,D,E,F,G five notes so it's a fifth. Fifths have something in common with fourths, They cannot be major or minor, they are perfect. So here we have a perfect fifth. Let me tell you unisons and octaves are also perfect. They also all can be diminished or augmented. Remember it like a date 1458, these are the ones that are perfect.

And now for a quiz

How many can you get right?

1. Which clef is used?

2. What key is the piece in? (It's a major key)

3. How many beats are there in a bar?

4. What is the interval between the second note and the third note?

5. What is the time name of note seven?

6. What is the letter name of note ten and eleven?

7. How many bar lines are there?

8. What is the name of the piece?

Some of the answers can be found by reading this page, for others you will need to go to my earlier pages.

Then when you are really ready my answers are at the very bottom of this page.

Coming soon

The flat key signatures.

More complicated intervals.

More time signatures

More music with questions.

The answers to the quiz

1. The treble clef

2. D major. Look at the chart of key signatures.

3. Four (the upper figure of the time signature.)

4. A perfect fifth

5. A minim or a half note.

6. F#. Did you remember the sharp from the key signature?

7. Four

8. Twinkle, twinkle little star.

How did you do?

Tell me is there anything you don't understand? - Use the contact button to e-mail me

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    • mellex lm profile image

      mellex lm 

      7 years ago from Australia

      An amazing series of lenses! You've done so incredibly well to explain something quite complex in such easy to understand lenses :-)

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Hey Liz just have to say another great music theory of you...added it to my

    • LizMac60 profile imageAUTHOR

      Liz Mackay 

      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      @JoyfulPamela2: Thanks Pamela. Good to hear from you again.

    • LizMac60 profile imageAUTHOR

      Liz Mackay 

      8 years ago from United Kingdom

      @CCGAL: Thanks CC. It's something I know about, so I write about it.

    • CCGAL profile image


      8 years ago

      Wow - you are doing a wonderful job here - I applaud you for bringing this to Squidoo.

    • JoyfulPamela2 profile image


      8 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      Awesome next lesson! I'm adding it with your others on my "Reading Music" lens. :-D


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