• Notation Systems: A Lesson On The Different Ways Of Writing Musical Notes

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    If you’re interested in learning the different ways of writing musical notes, this lesson is for you.

    Musical notes can be named and represented using alphabets, sound syllables, and numbers.

    The use of these alphabets, sound, and numbers to name and represent notes also helps in terms of distinguishing one note from the other and in music notation.

    There are three systems of music notation that are important to this study and they are:

    The letter system. In this system, the first seven alphabets (A, B, C, D, E, F, and G) are used to name and represent notes.

    The sol-fa system. In this system, seven sound syllables (do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, and ti) are used to name and represent notes.

    The number system. In this system, the first seven numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7) are used to name and represent notes.

    Attention: There are twelve notes on the keyboard: seven white notes and five black notes. White notes (seven of them) are directly named from the seven letters, sound syllables, and numbers, while black notes are named using pitch-modifiers like sharps and flats (and we’ll talk about them in a future lesson).

    “Let’s Take A Look At How The Letter System Works…”

    The letter system features the use of alphabets and we’re basically using the first seven alphabets:

    A, B, C, D, E, F, and G

    The note below is C:

    …followed by D:

    …and E:

    …then F:

    …G:

    …A:

    …and B:

    “…Then The Sol-fa System”

    In the sol-fa system, notes are represented using sound syllables that were derived from an old hymn to St. John and time would not permit me to take you way back into the history.

    But, here are the syllables:

    do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, and ti

    …seven of them!

    The do sound syllable is assigned to C:

    The re sound syllable is assigned to D:

    The mi sound syllable is assigned to E:

    The fa sound syllable is assigned to F:

    The sol sound syllable is assigned to G:

    The la sound syllable is assigned to A:

    The ti sound syllable is assigned to B:

    There are sol-fa names for black notes and they are also derived from the seven sol-fa names you already learned.

    We’ll be getting back to these other sol-fa names in subsequent lessons. But for now, we’ll just focus on do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, and ti.

    “Finally, The Number System”

    In the number system, the first seven numerals are used to represent notes:

    1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7

    The 1 is C:

    The 2 is D:

    The 3 is E:

    The 4 is F:

    The 5 is G:

    The 6 is A:

    The 7 is B:

    “Let’s Reconcile These Naming Systems…”

    Knowing the relationship between these naming systems is not rocket science; I guarantee you that if you give a few minutes to studying and thinking, you’ll figure out the following:

    C is do and 1
    D is re and 2
    E is mi and 3
    F is fa and 4
    G is sol and 5
    A is la and 6
    B is ti and 7

    Depending on the musicians you hang around with, you’ll come across people who use any of these naming systems and if you’re familiar with the number system and you’re provided with information written on the sol-fa system, you’ll find it challenging to flow.

    But if you know all three systems, it doesn’t matter what you’re told, you’ll comprehend that from D to G is from the 2 to the 5 (aka – “the 2-5 progression”) and also from re to sol.

    Final Words

    These notation systems might take sometime to memorize. However, I guarantee you that knowing all these naming systems will give you an edge over other musicians who just know one of the naming systems.

    See you in the next lesson.

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as the head of education, music consultant, and chief content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with hundreds of thousands of musicians across the world.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.




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