View Full Version : Music Theory from a different angle

06-10-2009, 09:43 AM
Basic Music Theory for Ukulele

Intended to complement NukeDoc's great tutorials (http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?t=11264) by presenting some concepts in a slightly different style

Part 1: Tones, Semitones and the Major Scale

1) Tones and semitones - practical units for describing changes in pitch

The notes in music are separated by units called "tones" and "semitones". If you look at the G string on your uke as an example you'll see it pass over the frets. Well, for each fret you go up when playing that string, you hear the pitch of the note go up a little. The amount it goes up with each fret (i.e. how much difference there is between one fretted note and the next) is called a semitone - which means a half tone (just like a semicircle is half a circle). If you were to play a note and then move up 2 frets, you would have gone up 2 semitones, which makes a whole tone.

1 fret movement = a semitone (or half tone). 2 frets movement = a tone (or whole tone)

The same is true descending. Go down one fret and that's a semitone drop. Down 2 frets means you've gone down a tone.

Try it on your uke. Notice the difference in sound between the one-fret jump of a semitone and the two-fret jump of a tone.

Different people use different terms for the same things, therefore:

Semitone = half tone = half step... and... Tone = whole tone = whole step.

Just different ways of referring to the two basic units. You may encounter them all at some time.

2) The Major scale

At some point you'll probably hear people talking about playing a song in a certain key the key of G also known as G Major, or C also called C Major... or some other key. What that means is that the notes that make up that tune are played using the notes in the key in question.

Once you learn a G scale, for example, it suddenly gets much easier to figure out the notes to a tune in the key of G.

Whether you know it or not, it is very likely that you are familiar with the Major scale. If you know the "tune" that goes with Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do then you know a Major scale, because that "tune" is just that, a Major scale. If you start it on a C note and sing that tune going up then you are singing a C Major scale. Start on G and make sure it's the same tune - hey, there y' go... a G Major scale. The same principle applies to all the other notes: whatever note you start on, Do, Re, Mi etc gives you the Major scale named afer that starting note.

3) How to find the notes of the Major scale

Well, the simplest way is to do it by ear. Try this:

Using your open G string (which is a G note, obviously) as the "Do" starting note, sing the entire Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti, Do scale/tune. Now do it again, but as you sing, find that note on the fretboard by sliding your fretting finger up that same string until you find the note. Continue the same way for all notes until you reach the high "Do" note.

If you did it right that high "Do" should be at the 12th fret, and you'll have just played a G Major scale. Well done! If it didn't go quite right, try it again!

You will notice that when you seek out the notes of the Major scale you sometimes have to go up one fret (one semitone) to find the next note, and sometimes you have o go up two frets (a tone).

That pattern works out as shown below. The letters underneath the fret numbers are T for tone (2-fret gap) and S for semitone (1-fret gap).

Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do

Fret = 0 - 2 - 4 - 5 - 7 - 9 - 11 - 12


If you start on any note and apply that formula of: T T S T T T S from the first note, you will play a Major scale.

Try it and see.


Next time: Part 2: Scale patterns and An Introduction to intervals

06-12-2009, 08:13 PM
Great job!

Thank for sharing :shaka:

06-13-2009, 03:48 PM
Thanks for your input. Sometimes (for me) hearing, seeing, or reading something presented in a different manner makes the light go on. Much appreciated! :music:

06-13-2009, 04:41 PM
Thanks Buddhu! That was very easy to understand and helpful.

06-13-2009, 09:33 PM
Buddhu you are one of the most generous and helpful members of this friendly board!

06-14-2009, 08:27 AM
Thanks for that post .

As a newbie with no musical knowledge - practical or theoretical - this is really helpful