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The Secret Life of Notes


jeremy c

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(Caution: long post ahead. You can also read or download this post as a Word file at: http://members.aol.com/jeremyzone1/Notes.doc )

 

The Secret Life of Notes

 

If you really want to know how to use a knowledge of theory to help you play, you should learn the meaning of every note.

 

For instance, take the note C for example. It is the note that all theory and harmony textbooks begin with. It is the root of the first scale that most people learn irregardless of instrument.

 

So what is this note, C? What does it mean?

 

If we were to take one specific instance of the note we could start with the note which is sometimes called C3. It has a frequency of approximately 130.8 hertz. This note is one octave below middle C. In music written for the bass it is notated one ledger line above the staff.

http://members.aol.com/jeremyzone1/middleC.JPG

On the bass we can play this note on the 5th fret on the G string, the 10th fret on the D string, the 15th fret on the A string and the 20th fret on the E string.

 

We could use any of our four left hand fingers to fret this note on any of the four strings.

 

So there are a few choices available.

 

The choice of string or finger is dependent on what kind of tone we would like our note to have and what other notes we plan on playing immediately before and after this note.

 

Obviously you are going to need to know the position of every note on the neck of your bass so you will be able to continue this process with other notes.

 

Now that we are able to play the note, C, in any position we need to know why we might want to play the note. This is where we get into the meaning of the note.

 

Lets talk about the notes harmonic meaning first.

 

C can be

1. The root of a C chord. This C chord could be:

a. C Major

b. C Minor

c. Cº (Diminished)

d. C+ (Augmented)

e. C6

f. C7

g. Cm7

h. CMaj7

i. Cº7

j. Cø7

k. C9

l. Cm9

m. CMaj9

n. C7b9

o. C7#9

p. C+7

q. C6/9

r. Csus4

s. C13

t. etc., etc., etc.

 

You know all of these, right?

 

C can also be:

 

2. The flatted ninth of a B7b9 chord

3. The second of a Bbsus2 chord

4. The ninth of a Bb9 chord (or a Bb add9 chord)

5. The third of an Ab major chord

6. The third of an A minor chord or an Aº, Aº7or an Aø7 chord

7. The suspended 4th of a Gsus4 chord

8. The flatted fifth of an F#º chord, an F#º7 or an F#ø7

9. The fifth of an F chord (major or minor)

10. The sixth of an Eb chord (or the thirteenth of an Eb13 chord)

11. The diminished seventh of an Ebº7 chord

12. The flatted seventh of a D7 or Dm7 chord

13. The seventh of a DbMaj7 chord

 

14. C could also be a note in a scale. We could have a:

a. C major scale

b. C natural minor scale

c. C melodic minor scale

d. C harmonic minor scale

e. C Dorian scale

f. C Phrygian scale

g. C Lydian scale

h. C Mixolydian scale

i. C Aeolian scale (another name for the natural minor)

j. C Locrian scale

k. C Blues scale

l. C pentatonic major scale

m. C pentatonic minor scale

n. C whole tone scale

o. C diminished scale (half step/whole step)

p. C diminished scale (whole step/half step)

q. C altered scale (also known as C super locrian and C whole tone diminished)

r. etc., etc., etc.

 

15. Our C could be in a different scale as well. It could be:

a. The second in a Bb scale

b. The third in an Ab scale

c. The fourth in a G scale

d. The fifth in an F scale

e. The sixth in an Eb scale

f. The seventh in a Db scale.

 

16. Obviously we could start listing all the scales above starting on various notes and determine what part of the scale the C would be.

 

Now the process becomes simple. We merely repeat the process for the other eleven notes in the chromatic scale.

 

We can assume that while you are working on learning the meaning of the notes, you will also be listening to music. The next time you hear someone play a C, your job is determine not merely to hear what note they are playing, that they are indeed playing the C, but you will be trying to determine the meaning of that particular C.

 

When you can do this with every note, the universe will open up and reveal its secrets to you.

 

Have fun!

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Jeremyc, Don't ever leave us. We would literally wilt and die. :D Thanks for the info. :thu:

Let your speech be better than silence, or be silent.

 

For those who believe, no explanation is necessary. For those who do not, none will suffice.

 

"Rindase!"

"Rendirme? Que se rinda su abuela, *#@!^$"

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Originally posted by jeremyc lugosi:

When you can do this with every note, the universe will open up and reveal its secrets to you.

What, that's all there is to it? And I thought it'd be difficult :freak:

 

On a C-rious note ( :D ) cool info, I think I'll download and save it, along with that theory thread of yours (if I can find it again) and start working on that aspect of my training ...

"I'm a work in progress." Micky Barnes

 

The Ross Brown Shirt World Tour

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j. Cø7
I guess I fail. :D What is that?

 

Very tasty food for thought, JC. I personally need to spend more time tasting many of the scales and chords you describe. Knowing what they mean theory wise is onething, but knowing what they taste like is another. Thats where I'm deficient.

 

I'm hungry. :D

Together all sing their different songs in union - the Uni-verse.

My Current Project

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Whoah! Both the content and the download.

:cool:

 

Wish more people posted links to word docs.

What we need now are "applause Graemlins".

Until then, visualize the applause from at least a hundred of your peers...

:D

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Originally posted by jeremyc lugosi:

Originally posted by Frankenbroni:

j. Cø7
I guess I fail. :D What is that?

 

:D

It's called a C half-diminished seventh chord.

 

C Eb Gb Bb or 1 b3 b5 b7

 

It could also be called a Cm7b5

so THATS what it means. was confusing me a bit. my book of chords lists it like in j. but my other books call it Cm7b5.

 

And just when I start to think that i'm getting a good start on learning theory, Jeremy has to throw a wrench in the works :)

downloaded and saved for future study.

 

OK, now I have a question, and it sorta fits the topic. actually more clarification of my thinking.

 

dim7 as R b3 b5 bb7

Say Cdim7

the bb7 would actually be played as a A?

and the chord is written that way as it fits "mathmatically" but tone requires the double flat?

 

Anyways thats what I think. books dont give feedback or correct you if wrong :)

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Originally posted by EddiePlaysBass:

 

On a C-rious note ( :D ) cool info, I think I'll download and save it, along with that theory thread of yours (if I can find it again) and start working on that aspect of my training ...

You mean this post?

 

http://www.musicplayer.com/ubb/ultimatebb.php?ubb=get_topic;f=5;t=004159

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Originally posted by Whacked:

the bb7 would actually be played as a A?

and the chord is written that way as it fits "mathmatically" but tone requires the double flat?

It's the same reason why you'd see a Fx (double sharp) or a B#; which are fretted G and C respectively. A person who has insanely good pitch, and I'm talking in cents here, could technically play you the difference between a C and a B#. Most people can't hear the difference. I know I certainly can't.

 

A really, really obscure side to that is in the movie "Goonies". The scene where the girl is reading the music on the organ she says something about "I can't tell if it's a Bb or an A#"... yeah... same note on an organ, you don't have much choice in the matter.

 

Excellent post, Jeremy.

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Originally posted by Bumpcity:

A person who has insanely good pitch, and I'm talking in cents here, could technically play you the difference between a C and a B#. Most people can't hear the difference. I know I certainly can't.

Sitar masters do it all the time. I can barely hear the difference so at times I listen to ragas and try to practice playing along on fretless bass. Helluva exercise, both for the mind and hands!
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Jeremy,

 

Many thanks for this!

 

A hand shoots up at the back of the class - "Please Mr Cohen sir..."

 

I've started an ear training and theory evening class and last week we were going through basic triads.

 

The tutor referred to 1 b3 b5 as a diminished triad. Cdim was the example discussed.

 

You call 1 b3 b5 7 a 'half-diminished seventh'.

 

Why is it only half-diminished? And what would a 'diminished 7' be:

 

C Eb Gb A? (1 b3 b5 bb7?)

 

Cheers

 

Graham

www.talkingstrawberries.com - for rocking' blues, raw and fresh!
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Originally posted by Bumpcity:

A person who has insanely good pitch, and I'm talking in cents here, could technically play you the difference between a C and a B#.

...if the instrument were not tuned with equal temperance. But all guitars, pianos, brass (barring trombones) and wind instruments are equally tempered. So it's only string/fretless/slide players and vocalists who can make a C and B# sound different. But then once you're out of equal temperance, every C has a slightly different pitch depending on the key in which you're playing.

 

Fortunately we don't get to enjoy that can of worms because basses and guitars are never totally in tune or properly tempered.

 

Alex

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To answer Graham,

 

1 b3 b5 bb7 is called a diminished seventh chord.

It's been called this for centuries.

 

1 b3 b5 b7 is called a half-diminished seventh chord. This is a relatively new name for this chord. I never heard this name when I was growing up but I see it all the time now.

 

How did the chord get this name? Beats me.

 

I tell my students that it is because the seventh in a half-diminished seventh has half as many flats as the seventh in a diminished seventh. ;)

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Another important thing I learned about "C" when I was just a kid.

 

It's for cookie, and that's good enough for me.

 

Even Tom will groan when he reads this one...

\m/

Erik

"To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting."

--Sun Tzu

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Another important thing I learned about "C" when I was just a kid.

 

It's for cookie, and that's good enough for me

That just made my day!

"You look hopefully for an idea and then you're humble when you find it and you wish your skills were better. To have even a half-baked touch of creativity is an honor."

-- Ernie Stires, composer

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Originally posted by C. Alexander Claber:

Originally posted by Bumpcity:

A person who has insanely good pitch, and I'm talking in cents here, could technically play you the difference between a C and a B#.

...if the instrument were not tuned with equal temperance. But all guitars, pianos, brass (barring trombones) and wind instruments are equally tempered. So it's only string/fretless/slide players and vocalists who can make a C and B# sound different. But then once you're out of equal temperance, every C has a slightly different pitch depending on the key in which you're playing.

 

Fortunately we don't get to enjoy that can of worms because basses and guitars are never totally in tune or properly tempered.

 

Alex

Actually, I find students begin to differentiate on string instruments between 7th and 8th grade.

 

Virtually all college level players are accomplished at adjusting out of tempered intonation.

 

On fretted instruments, I also regularily bend certain notes (most importantly, the leading tones) to leave tempered tuning behind.

 

Our best trumpet player as a senior in HS was bumped out of first chair last year (an amazing, all state player) because he was playing to a tempered tuner and the band director wanted him to alter his pitch away from the tuner to a more pure intonation.

 

So I guess I could say that the "Secret life of C" is a slippery slope, because many of it's roles require it to change pitch slightly!!!!!

"Let's raise the level of this conversation" -- Jeremy Cohen, in the Picasso Thread.

 

Still spendin' that political capital far faster than I can earn it...stretched way out on a limb here and looking for a better interest rate.

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Originally posted by C. Alexander Claber:

.. brass (barring trombones) and wind instruments are equally tempered. So it's only string/fretless/slide players and vocalists who can make a C and B# sound different.

Any good wind instrument player can bend the pitch to the correct one on an equally tempered instrument. I can finger any note on trumpet and bend the pitch up/down a full half step; and I'm hardly what I'd call a good trumpet player.
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Somewhere I have some epic posts* on temperament and tuning systems. If I spelled it right I may be able to dig them up ;}

 

At one point electronic music departments at the average college/university knew so much more about this than anyone in the band or orchestra departments that it wasn't even funny.

 

*Epic==typed until fingers realized the chimp had no furthere thoughts on the subject

.
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Somewhat related thread in guitar player forum recently: the truth about theory in your words .

 

I'm shocked that some guys almost seem to argue as luddites on the benefits of ignorance and while using a medium like the w-w-web ; }

 

EDIT: Watch out for the bandwidth sucking power of the guitar forum however. Many of these chuckleheads have avatars that will eat your ISP and your modem and spit it out distressed and confuzed.

.
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Originally posted by greenboy:

EDIT: Watch out for the bandwidth sucking power of the guitar forum however. Many of these chuckleheads have avatars that will eat your ISP and your modem and spit it out distressed and confuzed.

I still can't get with this avatars thing but fortunately you can switch them off. Though it can get quite confusing when everyone changes their name for halloween...

 

Alex

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I love C. It's relative to everything. In fact it's the only note I ever use. When someone complains that my lines are boring, I glare at them and tell them that they are obviously incapable of appreciating the nuance and intricacy of jazz. :D
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Wow.

 

Thanks so much for posting this Jeremy. I WISH I had read something like this when I first started playing, because just your paragraphs up to the "harmonic meanings" section would have been so great to know.

 

For instance, I totally didn't know ANYTHING about notes on a stringed instrument. I totally didn't know the part about the same note being in several places.

 

THAT still is weird for me, but I'm starting to like it now that I am getting to be a little bit better player, and I am looking for alternate fingerings.

 

I was used to playing piano. If you played a "C" in a different spot on the keyboard, you were in another octave.

 

I had played acoustic guitar, but only knew about 6 chords, and all of them were in the what I think is called the first position (closest to the head).

 

So this info is so interesting to read!

 

Thanks for your greatness! :thu:

 

... connie z

"Change comes from within." - Jeremy Cohen

 

The definition of LUCK: When Preparation meets Opportunity!

 

http://www.cybergumbo.com

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m'sieur cohen: niiiiiiiiiiiiiice! i'm gonna copy that down and give it to the not-so-trailblazing keyboard player i have to deal with these days...

:):):)

he don't get it that i got work to do hyar.

also...yer wonderful essay didn't even touch upon the rhythmic or stylistic elements of playing bass, which i won't even begin to allude to, because it would be cheap imitation, and terribly less erudite and accurate.

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