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Term 1 Theory Lessons & Quiz

Term 1 Theory Lessons & Quiz

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Course: Music 8
Book: Term 1 Theory Lessons & Quiz
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Date: Saturday, 16 February 2019, 8:13 AM

1 Ledger Lines

More Than Eleven Notes

The musical staff, in any clef, is limited to only 5 lines and 4 spaces. If you count putting a note on top of the staff or below the staff, that is only 11 possible notes. Musicians needed a way to write down notes that did not fall within the small range, so they created ledger lines.

ledger line is a small line that is added to the staff, above or below, to make it possible to write higher and lower notes. A ledger line is slightly longer than the width of a note and is placed parallel to the existing staff. In addition, it is spaced no wider than a written note. You can also have multiple ledger lines; you just need to ensure that the spacing is correct.

The Treble Staff

On the treble staff, you can have ledger lines above or below the main staff.

The same rules apply for writing ledger lines below the staff. To name the notes, you just follow the musical alphabet: Line - space - line - space.

The Bass Staff

On the bass staff, you can have ledger lines above or below the main staff.

As in treble clef, notes can be named by simply following the musical alphabet.

Here is an exercise to help you practice naming ledger line notes in treble and bass clef.

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2 Dotted Notes and Ties

The Dot

dot can be used to change the duration of a note or rest. A dot adds half of the value of the note it is attached to. For example, a quarter note (in common time) is worth one beat. If we make it a dotted quarter note, half of the value of the quarter note (which is an eighth note) is added to the quarter note's value. Look at the example:

This same logic applies to any note with a dot.

A half note is worth 2 beats. The dot adds half of that value (1 beat). Therefore, a dotted half note is worth 3 beats.

A whole note is worth 4 beats. The dot adds half of that value (2 beats). Therefore, a dotted whole note is worth 6 beats.

An eighth note is worth 1/2 a beat. The dot adds half of that value (1/4 beat). Therefore, a dotted eighth note is worth 3/4 of a beat.

The Tie

tie is a line that is drawn to connect two (or more) of the same note. It indicates that the note should be held for the full value of the tied notes. You do not rearticulate. Usually it's used if a note needs to be held over a barline. Ties generally only connect 2 notes, but if the note is to be sustained for a long time, it may be shown as several whole notes tied over as many bars as necessary.

The tie is often confused with the slur. A slur is an articulation marking that indicates you should move between the notes included in the slur as smoothly as possible. A slur connects notes that are different and can be drawn over a whole line or musical phrase. This is different from a tie which only connects notes that are the same.

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3 Time Signatures


A time signature will tell you how the beats are grouped in a measure. The top number tells us how many beats there are in a each measure. When there is a 4 on the top, there are 4 beats in each measure. The bottom number tells us what kind of note represents the beat. When there is a 4 on the bottom, the quarter note receives the beat.

Simple Meter

Time signatures are grouped together based on the meter. Simple meter means that the beats are broken or subdivided into two notes. Time signatures can also be dupletriple, or quadruple depending on how many strong beats there are in a bar. A time signature in simple meter will always have a 2, 3 or 4 for the top number.

is a simple duple meter. Simple means that the beats are subdivided into two notes. Duple means that there are 2 strong beats in each bar.

is a simple triple meter. We know what simple means. Triple means that there are 3 strong beats in each bar.

or common time is simple quadruple meter. It is quadruple because there are 4 beats in each bar.

Compound Meter

While beats in simple meter are subdivided into groups of two, beats in compound meter are subdivided into groups of three. Songs in compound time have a really distinctive sound because the beat moves along in a lilting 3 pattern. Think of "The Farmer in the Dell" or "Irish Washerwoman" or "Sailor's Hornpipe." To demonstrate how this is written, we will examine 6/8 time. In this time signature, the bottom number 8 tells us than an eighth note receives one beat. The top number 6 tells us there are 6 beats in each bar.

The six eighth notes are divided into 2 groups of three, as represented by the red tie below the note. Since there are 3 eighth notes per beat, you could say that a dotted quarter note is equal to one beat, since 3 eighth notes equal 1 dotted quarter. This makes 6/8 a compound duple time signature. There are 2 big beats in the bar (duple) and each big beat has 3 subdivisions (compound). Any time signature with a 6 on the top is compound duple.

9/8 time is compound triple because there are 9 eighth notes in each bar, and you divide that into groups of 3. Any time signature with a 9 on the top is compound triple.

Finally, 12/8 is a compound quadruple meter because there are 12 eighth notes in each bar, and it's divided into 4 groups of 3 eighth notes. Any time signature with 12 on the top is compound triple.

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4 The Major Scale

What is a scale?

scale is a selection of certain notes within one octave. There are many different kinds of scales. Western music scales are a pattern of tones and semitones based on the 12 tone model. Scales in non-Western music often include quarter tones Click on the scale to hear it play.

Aeolian Mode (also known as natural minor scale)

Pentatonic Scale

Blues Scale

In Grade 8, we will only be learning about major scales.

The Major Scale

Writing a major scale is easy if you know the right formula. It can be written by following a certain pattern of tones and semitones - or whole steps and half steps, if you prefer. This is something that you need to memorize. The pattern is:

Tone - Tone - Semitone - Tone - Tone - Tone - Semitone

Knowing the layout of a piano keyboard and how to follow it to find tones and semitones will be really helpful when writing scales. Even if you do not play the piano, the visual reference is handy.

C Major Scale

Scales are named by the note that they start on. The C major scale starts on the note C. To build a C major scale we start on C and write down our patterns of tones and semitones. The following images use Whole and half steps, but it means the same thing.

Tone - Tone - Semitone - Tone - Tone - Tone - Semitone

Whole - Whole - Half - Whole - Whole - Whole - Half

Our second note is a whole step away. A whole step up from C is D.

The third note is another whole step. From D, the next whole step is E.

The fourth note is a half step up. Remember that a half step (semitone) is the closest distance between two notes. From E, the closest note is F.

The fifth note is a whole step up from F to G.

The sixth note is a whole step up from G to A.

The seventh note the last whole step from A to B.

To finish off, we have a half step. From B to C is a half step and that is the end of our major scale. You will know that the scale is complete when every line and space is filled in from the lower C to the upper C.

Other Major Scales

There are 12 major scales in Western music. C major is the easiest one to remember because it is only the white keys on the keyboard. It does not contain any sharp or flat accidentals. If following the pattern of white keys on the piano does not create the correct pattern of tones and semitones, you can add a sharp to a note to make a semitone into a tone, or add a flat to a note to make a tone into a semitone.

A proper major scale needs to include every letter name within that octave. The notes can be altered with sharps or flats, but the letter names need to stay consistent. For example, this G major scale below has the notes G - A - B - C - D - E - F# - G. The F has been altered with a sharp, but you can see that it follows the musical alphabet as you go up. The note F# and Gb are enharmonic equivalents for the exact same note. However, you can not write a G major scale with a Gb in it. You would end up with a scale that looks like this: G - A - B - C - D - E - Gb - G. You can see that we skipped F entirely and have G written twice. Be careful of which spelling of a note you need to use to correctly write your scale!

The G major scale contains one sharp: F#. When you start on G and just follow up the white keys of the keyboard, they all line up with the correct tones and semitones until you get to F. The distance required for that note is a tone, but from E to F is only a semitone. To increase the distance, a sharp is added. The distance between E and F# is a tone and then the scale can be finished correctly.

The F major scale contains one flat: Bb. Just like in the G scale, we have one of the notes that does not match up with the pattern. The distance required for the third note of a major scale is a semitone, but from A to B the distance is a tone. To shorten the distance, a flat is added. Now we can measure A to Bb as a semitone and continue the scale.

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5 Term 1 Theory Quiz

Before you attempt this quiz:

1. Ensure you review the written lessons in this lesson book.

2. Use the exercises (click on the green "try this" image) to help you practice your skills.

Term 1 Theory Quiz

This quiz consists of 20 questions that review the concepts you have learned so far.

You may not use any books, websites, papers, or any outside assistance to complete it. You may use a printout or picture of a piano keyboard to help you, if you want.

You have 15 minutes to complete the quiz.

After the first attempt, look through the test and see where your mistakes are. You have 2 attempts on this quiz.

Click on the image below to complete the Term 1 Theory Quiz.