• The Major Scale Revival Program [Week #2] — “Learning And Mastery Of The Number System”

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    Who else is interested in learning and mastery of the number system?

    If you belong to the league of musicians interested in the number system, what it is and how it works, and how it rules the world of music and so much more, then you’re welcome to the second week of the major scale revival program.

    For musicians who have already learned and mastered the number system, there’s still a few things I’m going to say in this lesson that you’ll love to share with musicians who look up to you. So, don’t leave this page, okay?

    Recommended: If you’re just joining us, please here’s an Overview Of The Major Scale Revival Program. Be sure to check it out and learn more about this program before you go any further.

    Let’s invest the next few minutes into reviewing the number system, before we talk about its importance, then I’ll show you how to master the number system in any key using the major scale.

    I’m already excited. Are you ready? Alright!

    A Quick Review On The Number System

    At the end of this segment, you should be able to do all of the following:

    1. Define the number system.
    2. Understand how it works.
    3. Know its importance in the world of music.

    Let’s get started with the first item on the list and that’s the definition of the number system.

    “So, What Is The Number System?”

    The number system features the use of numerals to represent musical tones and this dates back to the 1700s or even before then, when it was a common practice for tones to be notated using Roman numerals: I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, and vii.

    In the key of C major:

    C is the I
    D is the ii
    E is the iii
    F is the IV
    G is the V
    A is the vi
    B is the vii

    Around the 50s, what is called the Nashville Number System was developed; which is not very different from the traditional number system we just discussed. The only thing done differently in the Nashville Number System is that the tones are written using Arabic numerals: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.

    So, let’s replace the Roman numerals with Arabic numerals:

    C is the 1
    D is the 2
    E is the 3
    F is the 4
    G is the 5
    A is the 6
    B is the 7

    …and that’s the number system.

    “How Does The Number System Work?”

    In the number system, the tones of the major scale are numbered from one to seven; with each note getting its number from its distance from the first tone of the scale.

    In the C major scale:

    D is the 2:

    …because of its distance from the first tone of the scale (which is C):

    Also note that the number system is NOT fixed; it is moveable from key to key.

    So, when it comes to the number system, no particular key is the 1 all the time. The note-C:

    …is only the 1 in the key of C major:

    The moment we’re in in any other key, we’ll have a different 1, different 2, etc., and that’s what makes the number system challenging to learn and master.

    But don’t worry! Using the major scale and this comprehensive revival program, you’ll be able to master the number system in every single key.

    Top Secret: Numbers Rule The World Of Music

    Numbers rule the world of music and I’m sorry if this offends people who are like me (who don’t like Mathematics.)

    When you start learning about the major key, it’s all about numbers and every key has scale degrees that are distinguished with these numbers.

    In the key of C major:

    …all the notes, scales, intervals, chords, and progressions that are associated with fourth tone of the scale (which is F):

    …have something to do with the number “four.”

    The F-note is the fourth tone.

    The F major chord is the 4-chord.

    A chord progression from F major to C major is the “4-1” chord progression (and has to do with the 4.)

    Basically, music ideas in the major key are governed by these numbers. Playing the B diminished chord:

    …brings the number “seven” to mind and this is because the B diminished chord is the 7-chord in the key of C major:

    How To Learn The Number System Using The Major Scale

    The major scale is one of the resources that you can learn the number system with.

    After consistent repetition of the major scale over a given period of time, let’s say three to six months, you’ll get to that point where you no longer have to think about the tones of the major scale — rather, they’ll come to you naturally and at the speed of thought.

    Although there are many ways to learn the major scale and number system, I’ll be showing you two top ways that you (or anyone) can rely on and they are as follows:

    The Circular Approach

    I also love to call this approach the geometric approach and this is because we’re using a circular representation of notes and keys as a reference.

    Here’s the reference for the circular approach:

    …and it’s either known as the circle of fourths or the circle of fifths but that’s not even our focus in this lesson.

    You can start from the C major scale (with C at the 12 o’clock position):

    …and either go clockwise to G major scale:

    …D major scale:

    A major scale:

    …E major scale:

    …and so on.

    “You Can Also Go Counter-clockwise”

    It’s possible to progress counter-clockwise in the circle and that’s from C major:

    …to F major:

    …then Bb major:

    …and Eb major:

    …until C is reached.

    The Chromatic Approach

    In the chromatic approach to learning the major scale and mastering the number system, you learn and practice the major scale in chromatic order and that’s either by ascending in half-steps or descending in half-steps.

    In the chromatic approach, you can start from the C major scale:

    …and then progress in half-steps by ascending to the Db major scale:

    …the D major scale:

    …the Eb major scale:

    …the E major scale:

    …the F major scale:

    …and then you continue in that manner until C is reached.

    Final Words

    I’ve been able to put a few more tools (at your disposal) that can help you master the major scale and the number system.

    By now, your mind should be doing the mastery exercise in all keys. You should be asking yourself questions like “F# is the 3 in the key of ____________” and also be able to answer (in a second or less) that it’s in the key of D major:

    Some of you are going to be able to do this instantly, while others are going to think it through. But I promise you that after a while of doing this exercise, you’ll get used to it and most importantly, master the number system.

    Special thanks to Jermaine Griggs for the opportunity given to me to share this valuable information with you and don’t forget to share this lesson on all social media.

    All the best and 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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