Music Theory #2 – Half Steps & Whole Steps

The next step in understanding the musical alphabet is learning the full order of the 12 notes in order:

They are as follows

going up in pitch:

A A# B C C# D D# E F F# G G# | A A# B C …

going down in pitch:

A Ab G Gb F E Eb D Db C B Bb | A Ab G Gb …

Each sharp/flat key is the same sound with 2 possible names. We will learn when to call it a sharp or flat in the next lesson.

Piano diagram for music theory for piano lessons and guitar lessons.

Most songs focus on groups of notes to make their musical recipe. For example, a rock guitar solo might be built with only A C D E and G notes.

The two most important types of recipes for the musician to understand and use are SCALES and CHORDS.

SCALES are large a series of notes that sound good together over time but not all at once.

CHORDS are a smaller group of notes that sound good played together or over a short period of time.

To begin our investigation of these 2 fundamental concepts we must first learn about musical distance. How do we describe the number of sounds the music travels between different notes for a singer or piano?

The answer is with music INTERVALS. Every amount of musical distance has a fancy name but we will learn just the first two to get started.

A HALF-STEP is the distance between any sound and its closest neighbor. B & C are neighbors on the keyboard and the distance between them is called a HALF-STEP. Similarly, F# & G are a HALF-STEP apart. They name comes from the fact that it is a very subtle shift in sound.

A WHOLE-STEP is more noticeable to your ear and is the distance from a starting note up or down two sounds. C & D are a WHOLE STEP apart. Eb and F are a WHOLE STEP apart too.

In our next lesson we will explore the MAJOR SCALES and build them using HALF STEPS and WHOLE STEPS. The MAJOR SCALES are the building block of music theory and once we understand them, we will be break the code on a number of cool sounds and concepts.