• How To Figure Out The First Note In the Melody Of A Song Using Stable Tones

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    I’ll be showing you an easier way to determine the first note in the melody of a song using stable tones in this lesson.

    For the beginners, one of the most challenging things may not be to play chords, runs, passing chords and so on. One of the most challenging things to them is the ability to figure out or determine the first note of the melody of a song.

    Here’s the story of my life:

    As a beginner, my first few weeks of playing the piano were the most challenging. I had the melodies of folk and gospel songs that I wanted to play on the piano. However, each time I want to, it was frustrating because I never knew where the first note of the melody was on the piano. Although after trying hard to find that first note, determining the rest of the notes was also challenging, but not as challenging as finding the first note.

    Although this lesson is tailored for beginners who would want to know how to figure out the first note of any given melody using a simple, well-tested, and reliable strategy, advanced players and teachers can also benefit.

    But before we get started, let’s take a look at what melody is.

    An Overview Of Melody

    There are two kinds of relationship that can exists between notes. The first relationship exists when the notes are heard separately while the second relationship exists when the notes are heard together.

    The former is called melody and the later is called harmony.

    Melody is the relationship between notes that are heard separately. The relationship between C, E, and G:

    …when heard separately on the piano is reminiscent of the classic “Kum Ba Yah” melody.

    Kum:

    Ba:

    Yah:

    Although there’s no musical or scientific explanation to what a good melody is, our ears appreciate good melodies when they are played.

    The melody of a song is called its tune and is known to music scholars as an air. It is the recognizable part of the song that can be played with single notes and is usually accompanied with bass lines, chords, and other harmonic and rhythmic accompaniment.

    We’ll be taking this study to the next level by learning an easier way to figure out the melody of a song using stable tones.

    “What Are Stable Tones?”

    The traditional scale of the major key is the natural major scale, and it has eight degrees.In the C major scale:

    C is the first

    D is the second

    E is the third

    F is the fourth

    G is the fifth

    A is the sixth

    B is the seventh

    C is the eighth

    These eight notes are the only notes in the key of C major and they are divided into two groups – active and stable tones.

    “Let’s Take A Closer Look At Stable Tones…”

    Stable tones are notes that are in the tonic triad. The tonic triad is a triad that is built in the first degree of the scale (aka – “the tonic”.)

    The tonic triad in the key of C major:

    …is the C major triad:

    …which consists of the first, third and fifth tones of the C major scale, which are C:

    …E:

    …and G:

    …respectively.

    Let me reiterate that stable tones are related to the tonic triad of the key. Therefore, if the tonic triad is the C major chord:

    …then the stable tones are C:

    …E:

    …and G:

    Here are the stable tones in all twelve keys…

    C major:

    Db major:

    D major:

    Eb major:

    E major:

    F major:

    Gb major:

    G major:

    Ab major:

    A major:

    Bb major:

    B major:

    If you’re familiar with the major triad in all twelve keys, then you already have the stable tones at your fingertips.

    Melody Determination Using Stable Tones

    Stable tones are in direct relationship with the key because they are the constituents of theĀ  most important chord in the key – the tonic chord.

    Consequently, there is a sense of resolution and feeling of repose when they are played and this explains why most songs either start or end on these stable tones. If you want to figure out the first note in the melody of a song, the top options to consider are the stable tones

    In this segment, I’ll be showing you step-by-step, how you can determine the melody of a song using stable tones. To illustrate this, I’ll be using a worship song and a hymn.

    “Check it out!”

    Here’s how to determine the first note in the melody of song in three simple steps…

    Step 1. Play the tonic chord to establish the key you want to play the song in.

    Step 2. Sing or hum the first note in the melody aloud.

    Step 3. Find out the stable tone that has the same pitch with the first note of the melody which can either be the first, third, fifth, [or eighth] tone of the scale.

    Let’s check out two examples…

    Example #1 – “You Deserve The Glory” In The Key Of C

    In the song “You Deserve The Glory”, you can determine the first note of the melody following these steps…

    Step 1. “Play the tonic chord to establish the key you want to play the song in.”

    In this case, we’ll be using the key of C major:

    …and the tonic chord is the C major triad:

    Playing this tonic chord should put you in the key of C.

    Step 2. “Sing or hum the first note in the melody aloud.”

    The text that has the first note in the melody is “you.” Sing or hum it against the tonic chord.

    Step 3. “Find out the stable tone that has the same pitch with the first note of the melody which can either be the first, third, fifth, [or eighth] tone of the scale.”

    There are basically four options to consider, and they are the first, third, fifth, and eighth tone of the scale. At this point, we are trying to determine the stable tone that sounds like ‘you.’

    The note of the text ‘you’ does not sound like the first chord tone (C):

    …rather it sounds like the third chord tone (which is E):

    Therefore the first note in the melody of the song “You Deserve The Glory” in the key of C:

    …is E:

    Example #2 – “Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior” In The Key Of Ab

    Our second example is a hymn song “Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior”, and we can figure out the first note in its melody following these three simple steps…

    Step 1. “Play the tonic chord to establish the key you want to play the song in.”

    In this case, we’ll be using the key of Ab major:

    …and the tonic chord is the Ab major triad:

    Playing this tonic chord should put you in the key of C and also give you an idea of the stable tones.

    Step 2. “Sing or hum the first note in the melody aloud.”

    The text that has the first note in the melody is “pass.” Sing or hum it against the tonic chord.

    Step 3. “Find out the stable tone that has the same pitch with the first note of the melody which can either be the first, third, fifth, [or eighth] tone of the scale.”

    At this point, we are trying to determine the stable tone that sounds like ‘pass.’

    Which of the stable tones does note of the text ‘pass’ sound like?

    Does it sound like Ab?:

    …no!

    How about C?:

    …the answer is yes!

    The first note in the melody of the song “Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior” in the key of Ab major:

    …is C:

    Final Words

    At this point, I’m sure you can try figuring out the first note in the melody of any known song using those three simple steps and I guarantee that you’ll succeed most of the time.

    It is also important for me to say that there are songs out there that start on other scale tones like the second, fourth, sixth, and seventh. You’ll be learning how such songs are approached in a subsequent lesson.

    Until then, make the most of what we’ve learned today.

     

    P.S.

    If you are already acquainted with the determination of melodies and can play any melody on the piano with little or no effort, kindly check out our new “Basic Harmonization Guide” that will provide you with a reliable method that can help you harmonize melodies in all twelve keys.

    Yes! I’m Interested In The Basic Harmonization Guide.

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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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    { 1 comment… read it below or add one }

    1 Onyema joshua

    Great…..i really enjoy every bit of lessons i”ve gotten from this place….thanks jermaine griggs

    Reply

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