Mu­sic read­ing

Join Rockschool’s Char­lie Grif­fiths as he con­tin­ues in his quest to de­mys­tify the art of read­ing mu­sic. This is­sue: how to spot and deal with ‘ac­ci­den­tals’.

Guitar Techniques - - News - NEXT MONTH: Char­lie looks at Leger Lines above and be­low the stave

Char­lie Grif­fiths con­tin­ues his 14-part se­ries on read­ing mu­sic no­ta­tion. This is­sue: Ac­ci­den­tals.

SO FAR IN in this se­ries, we have stud­ied the five lines of the stave and learnt that they rep­re­sent the notes ‘E G B D F’ from low to high, and that the four spa­ces in­be­tween in­di­cate the notes ‘F A C E’. We also lo­cated th­ese notes on the gui­tar by plac­ing the notes into three groups (E F G), (A B C) and (D E F), then lo­cat­ing each trio of notes on a dif­fer­ent string. If you play all of th­ese notes as a scale, it ef­fec­tively sounds like the E Phry­gian mode – you don’t nec­es­sar­ily have to think of it as such, but some might find it a use­ful sound to re­mem­ber.

If we ar­range th­ese notes start­ing on the C (C D E F G A B), it is clearer that all th­ese notes be­long to the key of C ma­jor. This gives us seven of the 12 pos­si­ble semi­tones avail­able on the gui­tar; the re­main­ing five notes are called ‘ac­ci­den­tals’. Ac­ci­den­tals are spelt us­ing the same let­ter names, but b) are pre­fixed with the sharp (#) and flat ( sym­bols, which ef­fec­tively move the writ­ten note up or down a semi­tone; the equiv­a­lent of one fret. If we take the note D for ex­am­ple, plac­ing a # af­ter it makes it D# (D sharp), which is a semi­tone, b or one fret, higher. b Like­wise, a pre­ced­ing the note makes it D (D flat), which is one semi­tone, or one fret,

n) lower. To re­turn the note to its orig­i­nal sta­tus the nat­u­ral sym­bol ( is used.

Ac­ci­den­tals can be spelt in two dif­fer­ent ways, since they can be ar­rived at from two dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions. We pre­vi­ously moved from D to D# by mov­ing up a semi­tone, but we could also start from b; E and move down a semi­tone to ar­rive at E ei­ther way, we have ar­rived at the same fret on the gui­tar. When a note has two dif­fer­ent names, but they both sound the same, we call them ‘en­har­monic’. Al­most ev­ery note can be flat­tened and sharp­ened, and the re­sult­ing ac­ci­den­tals can be spelt in one of the two ways men­tioned - ie, sharp or flat. Ex­cep­tions are E and F, and B and C, b’, which are al­ready a semi­tone apart – so ‘F for ex­am­ple, would more eas­ily be ex­pressed as ‘E’. It is unusual, but not

Play the ex­am­ples with a metronome at a very slow tempo - you should have enough time to name each note be­fore you play it.

un­heard of, to see ‘E sharp’ and ‘F flat’ notes; the same is true of ‘B sharp’ and ‘C flat’ notes; but this usu­ally de­pends on the key in which you are play­ing.

In the fol­low­ing ex­er­cises we’ll build on the skills you’ll have ac­quired in the two pre­vi­ous lessons, and use the same ‘three-notes-per-string’ scale frag­ments as be­fore, but you will now add two or three ex­tra notes per string, ei­ther by adding an ex­tra fin­ger, or by shift­ing your hand up or down one fret. For best re­sults, play the ex­am­ples with a metronome start­ing at a very slow tempo – a good gauge for what tempo to prac­tise at is that you should have enough time to name the note be­fore you ac­tu­ally play it.

I hope you per­se­vere with th­ese ar­ti­cles. Any­one can learn to read mu­sic, and no­tions of dif­fi­culty are dis­pelled once you break it down as we are do­ing here. If you missed lessons 1 and 2, you can get them in back is­sues from­favouritemagazines.; or down­load them to an iPad, from itunes.ap­ – good luck!

Use a one-fin­ger­per-fret ap­proach to play the ex­am­ples

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