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May 2, 2015 - 1:19:18 PM
like this

Rellyk

Canada

1 posts since 8/4/2014

Sherry,

Thank you so much! Your booklet, this thread and the discussion it has generated has been a huge help. I have been learning for about 10 months now and this has answered a lot of questions that I was struggling to find answers too.

May 2, 2015 - 1:24:44 PM
likes this
Players Union Member

Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

29823 posts since 8/3/2003

You're very welcome.  Glad I could be of help to you. 

Jun 15, 2016 - 3:41:54 AM

2 posts since 6/15/2016

Thanks for the info Sherry, it was really helpful smiley

Jun 15, 2016 - 11:06:45 AM
Players Union Member

Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

29823 posts since 8/3/2003

 You are very welcome.  Glad it helped you.  

Aug 27, 2016 - 1:50:03 AM

MaxtheGreat

Sweden

1 posts since 8/27/2016

Just got my Artisan and this is gold!

Aug 28, 2016 - 4:51:55 AM
Players Union Member

Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

29823 posts since 8/3/2003

Thanks.   Glad it will be of help to you. 

Jan 22, 2018 - 9:09:07 AM

62 posts since 3/2/2016

I just discovered this Sherry. Thank you so much for making it available!

Oct 22, 2018 - 9:35:39 AM

jwltx

USA

31 posts since 4/7/2007

why are there 8 notes in an octave and not 12? sorry if I missed something - this has always been "fuzzy' for me. Also thank you for laying out the theory so simple.

Oct 22, 2018 - 10:00:44 AM

740 posts since 8/14/2018

quote:
Originally posted by jwltx

why are there 8 notes in an octave and not 12? 


It's . . . complicated, but the overly simplified version is that in Ye Olde Dayes (i.e., medieval church music) music composition in Europe was chiefly consonant intervals of whole notes, which came to be noted by letter names. Over time, changes in musical practice (including the adoption of equal temperment) allowed greater use of flat and sharp semitones, which were notated by their symbols.

Oct 22, 2018 - 12:42:57 PM
like this

2504 posts since 2/16/2017

Technically, an octave can have an infinite number of notes in it (just ask a trombone player).

Most music today is written using the tonal system, and the most commonly used scales in that system use 8 notes, the last note being the same pitch as the first note, except it is either twice or half the frequency of the first note (depending on whether you are going up or down the scale).

That’s what an octave actually is…the span between 2 notes where the higher note is double the frequency of the lower note.

There are many types of scales and unique scale patterns that determine the type of scale you are playing, and a scale does not have to have 8 notes. For instance, it can have 13 notes, in which you are playing all 12 keys on a piano keyboard between the 2 notes that form an octave (called a chromatic scale).

If you want to go a bit deeper, here is a link to a lesson that shows you how to construct a major scale (use the little directional arrows at the bottom of the page to advance through the lesson).

https://www.musictheory.net/lessons/21

That should give you some further context.  This whole website is great, in fact, and is well worth the time spent surfing around on it.

Edited by - FlyinEagle on 10/22/2018 12:50:21

Oct 22, 2018 - 1:36:25 PM
Players Union Member

Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

29823 posts since 8/3/2003

quote:
Originally posted by jwltx

why are there 8 notes in an octave and not 12? sorry if I missed something - this has always been "fuzzy' for me. Also thank you for laying out the theory so simple.

 

Actually, to really simplify it, if you count the sharps/flats, there are 12; i.e., C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G# A, A# B.  There are 8 "notes" without any sharp or flats.  Look at any piano keyboard and it will be a lot easier to understand.  

Oct 22, 2018 - 3:34:32 PM

5256 posts since 5/8/2014

Technically, Jeff is correct:  An octave is the space between a frequency f and its first prime multiple, 2f.  This is true whether or not the frequency is audible.  Likewise, a decade is the space between f and 10f.  

How one musically subdivides an octave (or a decade) is another matter entirely.  Consider, for instance, the work of Harry Partch, who proposed and worked with a microtonal scale of 43 (unequal!) intervals within the octave.

Edited by - Rawhide Creek on 10/22/2018 15:36:21

Oct 22, 2018 - 3:45:13 PM

3842 posts since 10/17/2009

quote:
Originally posted by jwltx

why are there 8 notes in an octave and not 12? sorry if I missed something - this has always been "fuzzy' for me. Also thank you for laying out the theory so simple.


An octave in western equal temperament has 12 notes, equal spaced. (the next, 13th repeats the series an octave away)

Musical scales are different, involve harmonic relationship of notes. Typical western music scales are 7 notes (the 8th repeats series away, hence the name octave). The scales can be described as series of whole steps (W) and half steps (H). Diatonic/Major scale, the do-re-mi... is WWHWWWH, and repeats. In other words scales use 7 of the 12, 5 not used.

Edited by - banjoak on 10/22/2018 15:47:34

Oct 22, 2018 - 3:54:45 PM

3842 posts since 10/17/2009

quote:
Originally posted by Rawhide Creek

Technically, Jeff is correct:  An octave is the space between a frequency f and its first prime multiple, 2f.  This is true whether or not the frequency is audible.  Likewise, a decade is the space between f and 10f.  

How one musically subdivides an octave (or a decade) is another matter entirely.  Consider, for instance, the work of Harry Partch, who proposed and worked with a microtonal scale of 43 (unequal!) intervals within the octave.


Hmmm... part of the problem lies in terminology.  Decade refers to 10.  Octave... refers to 8, like the 8th note (technically not 2f); based on when the term was coined; just the 8th note. However, we now  use octave to mean 2f, regardless of steps.

Oct 22, 2018 - 4:37:02 PM

5256 posts since 5/8/2014

quote:
Originally posted by banjoak
quote:
Originally posted by Rawhide Creek

Technically, Jeff is correct:  An octave is the space between a frequency f and its first prime multiple, 2f.  This is true whether or not the frequency is audible.  Likewise, a decade is the space between f and 10f.  

How one musically subdivides an octave (or a decade) is another matter entirely.  Consider, for instance, the work of Harry Partch, who proposed and worked with a microtonal scale of 43 (unequal!) intervals within the octave.


Hmmm... part of the problem lies in terminology.  Decade refers to 10.  Octave... refers to 8, like the 8th note (technically not 2f); based on when the term was coined; just the 8th note. However, we now  use octave to mean 2f, regardless of steps.

 


Good point; and shame on me.  I’m using engineering terminology.  “Octave” is common to both music and engineering; “decade” is not.

An octave is the “space” or distance between f and 2f.  You’ll run into this especially when you get into measuring and analysis of noise and sound pressure; the “bands” are most often defined by octaves—decades cover too much territory to be assimilated.  (A decade is the “space” or distance between f and 10f.)

Consider, by way of comparison, the octave from A440 to A880 versus the decade from A440 to 4400 Hz, a little short of a very high C#.

Edited by - Rawhide Creek on 10/22/2018 16:51:18

Dec 10, 2018 - 10:15:23 PM

woof

USA

4 posts since 12/10/2018

Thanks so much!

Dec 12, 2018 - 9:32:01 AM

179 posts since 11/13/2018

I'm still experimenting with how much whiskey I have to drink to keep my head from exploding while trying to digest this info.

Dec 12, 2018 - 1:23:26 PM

5256 posts since 5/8/2014

quote:
Originally posted by Trailryder42

I'm still experimenting with how much whiskey I have to drink to keep my head from exploding while trying to digest this info.


You’ll have good luck with Old Weller 101.

Jul 14, 2022 - 12:17:41 PM

1376 posts since 11/9/2012

I just discovered this old thread. Thank you TexasBanjo! I am going back to banjo basics, as I have spent a lifetime trying to play banjo with a head full of banjo-misinformation. I never learned proper chord progression nor the various scales.

Now where is my banjo? Time to get my learn on. This thread is exactly what I should be learning. One is never too old to learn how to crawl...imho.

Thanks for this.

Jul 17, 2023 - 12:28:49 PM

22 posts since 7/5/2023

quote:
Originally posted by Texasbanjo

Several people have asked if I would post my Beginning Banjo Theory lessons somewhere easy to access (so they wouldn't have to contact me off line). 

Here's the entire booklet -- feel free to copy and use it as you wish.
 

I now have a copy of the e-book which was lost in a computer crash.  It is now an attachment at the bottom of this page.   Feel free to download.


Everyone cringes at the words "Music Theory", but this is mainly banjo related and very important to learning how to play.
VOL. 1, #1
BLUEGRASS MUSIC THEORY 101
What is a scale?
A scale is an ascending and descending, ordered collection of notes that spans an interval of an
octave. (Say that again in English) A scale is a group of notes spanning 7 notes and the
beginning note again an octave higher.
Example: G Scale: G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, G (octave)
All major scales are made up of 7 notes ranging from A to G. The D scale begins on D and goes
as follows: D, E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D.
What is an octave?
An octave encompasses all notes from a given note to its next repetition. (What did she just
say?) An octave is 8 notes starting on C and ending on C.
Example: C Scale: C D E F G A B C (octave)
A scale is made of up whole steps and half steps. In the G Major scale you have the following
steps: whole step, whole step , half step , whole step, whole step , whole step, half step.
(This is supposed to mean something to me?) Hang on, it will.
Example: Let's take the 3rd string on the banjo — open G.
Let's walk down that string and see what happens.
Open G
1st fret G#
2nd fret A
3rd fret A#
4th fret B
5th fret C
6th fret C#
7th fret D
8th fret D#
9th fret E
10th fret F
11th fret F#
12th fret G (octave)
-------------------------------------------------------
-------------------------------------------------------
1--2--3--4--5--6--7--8--9--10--11-12--------
-------------------------------------------------------
------------------------------------------------------- Each Fret is a HALF STEP on your banjo. To make a G scale on the 3rd string, you fret as
follows: open, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11 & 12. Try it on your banjo, it works. (notice that there are 2 frets
between each note EXCEPT B) and C and F# and G — this is why you need to know the whole
and half steps. There are NO sharps and flats between B and C and E and F.
-------------------------------------------
-------------------------------------------
0--2--4--5--7--8--11--12------------
-------------------------------------------
-------------------------------------------
Why do you need to know this?
As you learn songs, you need to know what notes to play in what scale or key. If you are playing
a song in the key of G, you normally start out in G and then as the song progresses, you may go
to a D or a C. You need to know the G, D and C scales so you'll know which notes to play and
better yet, which notes NOT to play. When you start playing chromatic or melodic, this
information is invaluable.
Try this and see how it works for you:
Take the 1st string of your banjo, it's the D string.
Go down the string fretting each fret and see how it sounds.
You've got a D chromatic.
Now, fret open, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11 & 12.
You've got a D scale.
0 -2--4--5--7--9--11--12------------
--------------------------------------------
--------------------------------------------
--------------------------------------------
--------------------------------------------
Now, if you think this isn't going to help you play the banjo, think again. It's teaching you where
the notes are on your fretboard. Next time we'll go into how to play a scale using different open
notes and fretted strings -- and how to make hot licks out of those notes.
NOTE: There are several notes in common in the D and G scales — what are they?
Let me know what you think and if you want more of this!
Vol. 1, #2
BLUEGRASS MUSIC THEORY 101
Okay, gang, here's the 2nd installment of music theory. This one will show you a couple of hot
licks you can use in your picking. Enjoy.
Did you figure out what notes the G and D scales had in common?
Did you see which notes were different? Let's see if you figured as I do:
G Scale: G, A, B, C, D, E, F#, G
D Scale: D, E, F#, G, A, B, C#, D
Common notes: G, A, B, D, E
Different notes: C - C#,
So, the basic difference in these two scales is one note - a C or a C#. Play these two notes
together and you'll see that they sound awful.
Now, you're never going to play a scale like that on a banjo, right? So, why did I even bother?
You need to know your fretboard. This is a great way to learn it and will help you later on when
you're playing chromatic/melodic licks.
Let's see if we can make it simpler to play on the banjo. Let's take a G scale and make it
playable. (If you have tab paper, you can tab it out and it'll be a whole lot easier).
G Scale
3rd string, open
4th string, 7th fret
2nd string, open
3rd string, 5th fret
1st string, open
2ndstring, 5th fret
1st string, 4th fret
5th string, open
You have just played G, A, B, C, D, E, F# and G on the banjo. You can actually use this scale in
as a hot lick on some songs.
You will use the scale tones to form licks. Many licks can be formed from this basic scale. Let's
try a simple G lick:
3rd string, open
1st string, open
3rd string, 2nd fret, slide to 4th fret
1st string, open
5th string, open
2nd string, 5th fret
1st string, 4th fret
1st string, open
This is a 4 beat lick with the final G being the 1st note/beat of the next bar.
It is counted 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and 1. Each note is an 8th note and counts as ½ beat.
Now, does everyone understand how to count in music? 4/4, 3/4, 2/4, 2/2 6/8 etc.? No, we'll get
to that later.
Another easy G lick that uses the scale
3rd string, open
4th string, 7th fret
2nd string, open
3rd string, 5th fret
1st string, open
2nd string, 5th fret
1st string, 4th fret
3rd string, open
It is counted as follows: 1, 2 and 3 and 4 and 1, next measure. In this lick the first note gets a full
beat, the rest get ½ beat.
Okay, students, here's another music theory lesson on the C and D scales and licks. Some really
neat licks in this one, try them, you'll like them!!
VOL. 1, #3
BLUEGRASS MUSIC THEORY 101
D SCALE AND LICKS
How did you do with the two G licks I wrote out? Ready for more?
Let's take a look at the D scale. You can do it chromatically using the 1st fret and going down:
D 1st open
D# 1st fret
E 2nd fret
F 3rd fret
F# 4th fret and so on.
D scale on 1st string: 1 open, 2, 4, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12
D scale using all 5 strings:
1st string, open
3rd string, 9th fret
2nd string, 7th fret
5th string, open
2nd string, 10th fret
1st string, 9th fret
5th string, 11th fret
1st string, 12th fret
Let's look at a couple of D licks. Again, these use the notes of the D scale.
(And we're just going to say 3 open or 2 fret 3 instead of 3rd string open, 2nd string fret 3
because it saves time and is easier to do). Again, if you have tab paper, you can tab it out.)
3 open, 2 fret 2, hammer 3, 5 open, 2 fret 3, 1 open, 5 open.
This is counted: 1, 2 and 3 and 4 and. The first 3 open gets a full beat and everything else gets
½ beat.
1 fret 7, 5 open, 1 fret 4, 2 fret 5, 1 open, 3 fret 5, 2 open, 4 fret 7.
This is counted 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and with each note getting ½ beat.
What I've done on these licks is give you a Scruggs type lick and a melodic lick.
Now, are you ready to tackle the C Scale?
C SCALE
Again, we'll look at our fretboard. You can start with the 2nd string, first fret and go chromatic C,
C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B, C. (Note there are no #s between E and F and B and C —
this is a given)
Now the scale in C is: 2nd string, fret 1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13.The easy way to play it on the banjo:
3 fret 5, 1 open, 2 fret 5, 1 fret 3, 5 open, 2 fret 10, 1 fret 9 and 5 fret 10 (yes, you can fret the 5th
string).
Two C licks:
2 fret 1, 1 fret 1, 5 open, 2 fret 1, 1 fret 2, 2 fret 1, 3 fret 2, 1 fret 2.
1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and
3 open, 1 open, 2 fret 5, 1 fret 3, 5 open, 2 fret 10, 1 fret 9.
1, 2 and 3 and 4 and.
Now do you begin to see why you need to know scales?
Okay, group, here's #5 of Vol. 1 and it starts with chords and how they are formed. I've also
included two graphics that show you the F and D positions on the banjo. I've always called them
#1 and #2 because it's easier to remember and not so confusing when you tell someone to make
the F position C chord -- do what? Anyway the #1 position C chord is much easier to remember.
Hope you enjoy. Let me know if you have any questions.
VOL. 1, #5
BLUEGRASSS MUSIC THEORY 101
CHORDS
We've gone through the G, C and D scales, told you what notes were in each and gave you
examples of scales and licks.
Now, let's see how those scales make chords and why.
A Chord is made up of 3 notes. These notes are the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes of the scale (ah,
there's that scale again). These notes harmonize or sound good when played as a group.
In the key of G you have the following chords: G, Am, Bm, C, D, Em F#dim and G (octave). This
is supposed to mean something to me? It will, trust me!
To make a G chord on the banjo, just strum open, that's a G chord. But I'm strumming 4 notes,
not 3! Yes, but you're strumming D, B, G and another D -- that's 3 notes with the D notes being
an octave apart.
You can also make a G closed chord (no open notes) as follows: 2nd string, 3rd fret (index
finger), 3rd string, 4th fret (middle finger), 4th string, 5th fret (ring finger) and 1st string 5th fret
(pinkie). (This is called the 1st or F position on a banjo and you can make many, many chords
using this position.) Again you have D, B, G, G.
A C chord is C, E, G -- which can be made several ways on the banjo. The first C Chord on the
banjo is as follows: 2nd string, 1st fret (index finger), 1st string 2nd fret (ring finger) and 4thstring
2nd fret (middle finger). This makes a complete C chord - C, E, G and C. (Note: the G (3rd string)
is picked open)
A D chord is D, F#, A and can also be made several ways on the banjo. The first D chord on the
banjo is made as follows: 3rd string, 2nd fret (index), 2nd string, 3rd fret (middle), 1st string 4thfret
(pinkie) and 4th string, 4th fret (ring). (This is called the 2nd or D position and also makes many
chords). You have notes A, D, F#, F#.
We'll get into the why of minor chords later if anyone is interested. Right now, just note that they
are made up of 3 notes -- the 1st, 3rd and 5th, just like a major chord, but the inversion is different
(no, you aren't supposed to understand that now, just take it at face value).
So, all the chords in the G scale are as follows:
G: G, B, D
Am: A, C, E
Bm: B, D, F#
C: C, E, G
D: D, F#, A
Em: E, G, B
F#dim: F#, A, C# (You'll probably never need to know this one -- it's seldom used in bluegrass,
it's just for information).
And back to G which starts it all over. NOTE:that the pitch of the fretted first string and forth strings will indicate the Major chord name.
This chord shape is a really useful one when used in backup. In many tunes the forth string is not
actually played so many players don't fret the forth string but it is best practice to learn the chord
on all four strings so that it can be played at all fret positions as a closed chord


Let's Pick!
Texas Banjo


Sherry, thanks so much for this.  You just have no idea how much I appreciate and needed this material.  Hopefully that will let me get up this neck.   

Jul 17, 2023 - 2:10:52 PM
Players Union Member

Texasbanjo (Moderator)

USA

29823 posts since 8/3/2003

quote:
Originally posted by Bluedog2
quote:
Originally posted by Texasbanjo -- (snipped forbrevity)

Several people have asked if I would post my Beginning Banjo Theory lessons somewhere easy to access (so they wouldn't have to contact me off line). 

Here's the entire booklet -- feel free to copy and use it as you wish.

I now have a copy of the e-book which was lost in a computer crash.  It is now an attachment at the bottom of this page.   Feel free to download.



Sherry, thanks so much for this.  You just have no idea how much I appreciate and needed this material.  Hopefully that will let me get up this neck.   


Glad I could be of help to  you.

If you want to learn to pick up the neck, may I recommend Janet Davis' Up the Neck and Splittin' the Licks books.  Both have a wealth of information and should help you understand going up the neck. 

Sep 20, 2023 - 3:06:14 AM

Tomkel

Denmark

3 posts since 9/20/2023

It doesn't sound easy=) But anyway, If you combine theory with practice it really works. Thank you for sharing.

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