• The Genesis Of Music

    in Beginners,Piano,Theory

    genesis of music

    The most basic thing to learn in music is notes.

    In most piano lessons for beginners, this is the shortest segment. This is because so many instructors would rather invest their energy in other subjects like scales, intervals, chords, chord progressions, and songs.

    Even though these other subjects are important, it is crucial to start out properly with notes as this affects how well you’ll cope with scales, intervals, chords, and even chord progressions.

    I realize this looks like a post solely for beginners. However, before you zone out, I have an activity for you:

    How fast can you find the notes B#, Fb, Abb on the piano?

    I’ll talk about those towards the end. But if those through you for a loop, keep reading. Let me share a few things on note knowledge that will spur you to invest time and resource into learning more about notes.

    The Genesis of Music

    Whatever it is you want to do on the piano – and I don’t care what it is – it all begins with notes.

    In terms of a computer, it is the computer keyboard that is used to make inputs. What you input is what you receive (“garbage in, garbage out”).

    The notes on the piano, the fretboard on the bass and guitar, the keys of the saxophone, the valves of the trumpet, etc., are similar to the computer keyboard in function.

    These parts of the instruments (notes, fretboard, keys, valves, etc.,) can be pressed separately to produce a melody or together to produce harmony.

    Pretty much, everything you’ll want to learn will fall under melody and harmony and this is because they are the elements of music.

    Let me Digress a little…

    The first time I truly understood what the word element meant was in a chemistry class.

    Elements of alchemy (primitive chemistry) are earth, water, wind, and fire. It is said that everything in the world is a product of one, some, or all of these elements.

    In chemistry, there are 104 known elements that everything can be broken down to. Heck, even the water we drink can be broken down to H2O (Hydrogen and Oxygen).

    Welcome back…

    Melody and harmony are elements of music. Ideas in music are baked from one or both of them. However, neither melody nor harmony can be formed without notes.

    Another element of music is rhythm, and in rhythm, there are notes too. However, these notes are said to be “neutral” in pitch.

    Everything in music can be broken down and spelled, note for note, the same way water is spelled “H2O” in chemistry.

    Before I give you my final words, let me share a few more things with you.

    A Short Note on “Notes”

    A note is a musical sound of a definite pitch.

    Not all the sounds around you are notes. Think of car screeches, noise from power plants, etc.. They are sounds, however, they don’t belong to the set of twelve pitch classes in music.

    Permit me to define pitch at this point as the level of lowness or highness of a sound. In music, we have 12 classes of pitch that are ordered from the lowest to the highest.

    The musicality of a sound depends on if it belongs to these 12 pitch class sets or not. Sounds that are not part of these 12 pitch class sets are considered non-musical (even though they can be used for musical purposes like a “clap” of the hand).

    There are many notes on the piano, 88 notes precisely. However, these 88 notes can be categorized into these 12 pitch class sets.

    This makes it easier to get conversant with the piano keyboard than the computer keyboard. Think of it, 12 (piano keyboard) vs 26 (computer keyboard).

    Owing to the ease, a vast majority of musicians sweep note knowledge under the carpet and jump right into playing scales and chords and this is inappropriate in my opinion.

    The chemist knows all element, their symbols, atomic and mass number.

    The biologist knows the characteristic differences between plant and animal cells.

    You can read because you can form words from alphabet letters (which are like elements in language).

    Therefore, musicians should endeavor to learn about notes, too. A note is like a cell in biology, an atom in chemistry, etc.

    Final Words

    The very foundation of music foundation itself is notes.

    How fast can you find the notes B#, Fb, Abb on the piano?

    If you’re sad that after putting in so much time and effort, all you came up with is the classic, award-winning C major triad:

    …then you need to do something about note knowledge. Something that will make you consider B# and C (or E and Fb) the same way you’d consider C# and Db.

    That will be all for now.

    See you next time.


    We’ve put together a course on all you need to know about notes with emphasis on the following areas…

    • Visual Keyboard Properties like color, shapes, layout, design, pattern, etc.,
    • Musical Keyboard Properties like direction, melodic and harmonic relationships, etc.,
    • Sound, frequency, and pitch.
    • Pitch class sets (0-11).
    • Naming systems like letter, sol-fa, and interval systems.
    • Melodic progressions like semitone, whole tone, sesquitone, ditone, diatessaron, and tritone.
    • Pitch modification.
    • Enharmonic Equivalence and lots more.
    Yes! Add me to the early bird list
    The following two tabs change content below.
    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku (aka - "Dr. Pokey") is a Nigerian musicologist, pianist, and author. Inspired by his role model (Jermaine Griggs) who has become his mentor, what he started off as teaching musicians in his Aba-Nigeria neighborhood in April 2005 eventually morphed into an international career that has helped hundreds of thousands of musicians all around the world. Onye lives in Dubai and is currently the Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group and the music consultant of the Gospel Music Training Center, all in California, USA.

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


    { 3 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Thomas L. Mitchell

    Very interesting blog. The first and most basic in music is sound. Everything after that correlates with sound frequencies, wavelengths, time and duration.


    2 Jermaine Griggs

    Agreed! The author touches a lot on sound and how not all sounds are classifiable pitches. But when they align with one of the 12 pitch classes, they become notes and it is from this origin that he begins this post. But, yes, we can back up even more and get into sound frequencies, wavelengths, etc. Good to see you back around here Dr. Mitchell! :-)


    3 Yemi

    Very true. The first thing I learnt in music was the notes. And as you rightly said, without the notes you can’t form chords, play melodies or harmonies. Time and duration are also important, especially in sheet music where you have to play at a certain speed and factor in the ‘rests’ if there are any.


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