Friday, July 16, 2010

How to memorize key signatures easily using mnemonics?

This guide is teaching you on how to memorize key signatures very easily using mnemonics. Mnemonics are memory aid and should help you to memorize items faster and even in a longer period of time.

There are two common key signatures used in music, these are:

a. Sharp major key signatures with their corresponding sharp minor key signatures
b. Flat major key signatures with its equivalent flat minor keys also.

All in all, there are 2 major key signatures (# and b) and 2 equivalent minors.

If you are a songwriter, musician and a singer, then memorizing these sorts of things can be definitely helpful in your music career.

So if you asked me, what are the things that need to be memorized? You need at least to memorize the following:

Check item 1. The complete names of the # (sharp) major key signatures.
Check item 2. The complete names of the b (flat) major key signatures.
Check item 3. The equivalent list of # (sharp) minor key signatures.
Check item 4. The equivalent list of b (flat) minor key signatures.
Check item 5. The notes affected of the # (sharp) key signatures (major and minor)
Check item 6. The notes affected of the b (flat) key signatures (major and minor also).
Check item 7. The triads of the both major # and minor key signatures
Check item 8. The triads of both major b and minor key signatures.

All in all there are 8 check items to be memorized! If you are music major, you should memorize all of these within the first year of college.

Let’s discuss these items one by one, so as not to drown you with too much information in a limited amount of time. I highly recommend self-evaluating yourself using the 8 above checklist above and compare your answers in this blog to see if you made some progress.

If you are ready lets get started:

Check Item 1 &2: The complete names of the # (sharp) major key signatures and b (flat) major key signatures.

This is already been discussed here:, kindly look at Step 2 on that post.

Check Item 3 & 4: The complete names of the # (sharp) minor key signatures and b (flat) minor key signatures.

This is also discussed in the music theory for singers. You can read that in Step 3 of that post.

The complete screenshot guide are shown below:

The rest of the check items will be discussed in the future tutorials.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Get the timing right when singing

How many times did you experienced singing without proper timing or having seen one? It will not sound good. It is because you are singing “off the beat” and violates the music rhythm.

So how one can you avoid off beat singing and improves timing during any vocal performance? The following tips below will be surely helpful:

Step1: Get a metronome. Metronome is a musical device that will be very helpful for singers or even musicians (like guitarists, violinist, pianists, etc) to have their performance in timing or synchronization with music.

Step2: If you do not know what is a metronome and you have a personal computer. You can try many online solutions for metronome, they are free such as here:

Step3: Check the “on” button of the metronome and it will start playing ticks.The default I think starts with 92 beats per minute.

Step4: Now get your music that you would like to sing in timing. Play the music and determine the number of beats per minute of the song:

Step5: Once you have calculated the number of beats per minute, adjust the metronome to provide that clicking sound tempo.

Step6: Using your multi-player, adjust the music so that it will fit directly with the beats of the song. Example if your music drum hits, you need to synchronize the beats of the drum with the metronome beats.

You also need to pay attention to the vocals to see if it fits with sense with the metronome beat.

Step7: Once you have get the exact metronome tempo after some adjustments. Turn off the music and let the metronome to play only.

Step8: Sing acapella with the metronome ticks in the background.

Step9: If you are singing acapella previously and also be criticized for being an out of timing singer. It is now your time to improve because you will most likely correct those timing difficulty with a metronome.

Hint and more tips:

If you are reading or interpreting a song directly from a music sheet. They already include the beat per minute or any information relating to the song tempo (placed on the top portion fo the music sheet, page 1)

So this means, you can directly adjust the metronome to play the desired tempo without following the procedures stated on Step 4 of this tutorial.

You might as well search the music sheet of the song in Google like "name of the song" "music sheet" keywords. Good luck!

Do not be an Out of Tune Singer

One of the most serious problem in singing is to be out of tune. There is nothing annoying that an out of tune vocal. Much worse if it is so severe that not only you will be annoyed but it now appears to be funny (most of you will probably laugh on this case).

The good news is that, being out of tune is not inborn, hereditary or incorrigible. If you are an out of tune singer, you can follow the steps below to transform you in order to become a “perfect” pitch singer- “professional” level.

Principle of improvement: Unlike other instruments such as a guitar or violin which has a peg or tuning keys that can be used to correct an out of tune instrument immediately; there is NONE for the vocals.

It is why the only way to overcome for being an out of tune singer is PRACTICE a LOT by listening and singing the correct musical pitch.

My recommended approach to become a perfect pitch singer is to:

Step1: You need to have at least a standard tuned instrument like a piano or a guitar. This instrument can be tuned using guitar tuner. If you do not have one, it is highly recommended at least to purchase one instrument. You will not only be using it for in-pitch/tune practicing but you might as well using it for singing performance and in songwriting.

Step2: You will also need a tuner for your vocals. But I recommend that in order to save money on buying chromatic based tuners. You will need to buy only one for both your guitar and vocals. I am currently using Matrix Chromatic Tuner

Step3: Now practice singing the standard notes in C major: do – re – mi – fa – so -la – ti – do. Of course, since this is your first time; you will not be able to sing it correctly at the proper pitch. In this case, you need guidance from a standard musical instrument to speed up this process. For example play the note “do” and listen to it carefully, the same with the rest of the notes.

Step4: To evaluate yourself how you are getting close in getting the correct pitch, sing all the notes ( do – re – mi – fa – so -la – ti – do) without the aid of a musical instrument.

Step5: Check if you sing the notes at the correct pitch by looking at the chromatic tuner. If you sing do or C note, the chromatic tuner should also reflect at the center you are singing the do or C note. IF not, then you are still singing out of tune.

Step6. Do this frequently and on a daily basis unti you are well versed with the C major pitch.

Step7. Proceed to a much more difficult chromatic (singing the sharps and flats), do- do#- re- re#, etc.

Step8. For more advanced practice, you might consider singing the scale of common key signatures like G major, D major, etc, with the aid of a musical instrument at first then evaluate your pitch using a a tuner.

If you do this consistently, you can now notice quickly and easily if you are singing out of tune or even detect an out of tune vocal performance by other singers.

Monday, July 5, 2010

How to Identify Minor Key Signatures|The Solfeggio-Chromatic Scale

In the tutorial regarding Music Theory for Singers, I have introduced the major and minor key signatures but the presentation is too theoretical. In Part 2, I will give a series of examples on how to illustrate using those principles in actual musical notation with a music sheet.

Exercise Number 1: Identify the key signature of this music:

Since there are 3 sharps, according to the table in the music theory for singers, it is A major, hey wait…but the 1st note is fa # or F#, so it should be the minor. The final answer is that the key signature of the above screen shot is F sharp minor.

Exercise Number 2: Identify again the key signature of the music shown below:

Well, since there are no sharp or flats. By principle it should be a C major key. You may asked, how I know the minor of C major. The minor of C major is A minor. A minor like its major does NOT also have sharp or flats.

A minor can be identified if the first note is La (A note) and there are no sharp or flats in the staff.

Exercise Number 3: What is the key signature below?

The first note is re (D note) and there is one flat. It is a D minor key signature.

Exercise Number 4: Is it in E minor or a G major key signature?

It is not an E minor key because the first note is not “mi” (E note). So since there is one sharp in the staff and it is not starting in mi note, therefore the above key signature is in G major.

The Solfeggio-Chromatic Scale Equivalent in Musical Notation:

Chromatic scale is using letters (A, B, C, etc) while the solfeggio notation is not. I highly recommend you will memorize this one for easier interpretation of musical notations:

Chromatic in sharp progression – Solfeggio Equivalent:
A – la
A#- la#
B- ti
C- do
C# - do sharp
D- re
D#- re sharp
E – mi
F – fa
F# - fa sharp
G – so
G# - so sharp
A – la

Chromatic in flat progression (pitch the same as above, but presented in flat rather than sharp)
A –la
Bb – ti flat
B – ti
C- do
Db- re flat
D – re
Eb – mi flat
E – mi
F – fa
Gb – so flat
G – so
Ab – la flat
A – la

Therefore with the above given progression, we can say that the following is just the same, or in equivalent pitch:

A# - Bb = la sharp or ti flat
C# - Db = do sharp or re flat
D#- Eb = re sharp or mi flat
F#- Gb = fa sharp or so flat
G# - Ab = so sharp or la flat

If you play a chromatic progression in the piano, the sharp or flats are using the black color keys of the piano.

Music Theory for Singers Part1: Piano notes and Key Signature

If you are a singer, you will be required sometime in your career to read and sing musical notes from music sheets. This might sound scary as it looks difficult for first timers. Record producers are expecting professional singers to sing directly from the musical sheet without even using a piano. This needs a thorough training on the music theory.

The strategy is to be familiar with the pitch first by playing the piano, then gradually memorizing the key signatures, notes affected etc.; until you can sing independently.

By following this guide, it will speed up the note reading process which you can implement when you play piano and singing those notes. Let’s get started:

STEP1. Be familiar with the notes on the piano and its equivalent placement on the musical staff. The notes on the piano are as follows:

Shown in the screenshot is just one octave of voice ranges – from Low D (or low “re” note) to High D (but it actually shows more than that up to high G note). If you are playing on a multi-octave piano, the notes will still be the same, just follow the pattern as shown above. Standard piano has around 7 octaves, so imagine that the above screenshot has been replicated 7 times in a row.

Tips for further improvement: Practice ear training by memorizing the standard pitch of the piano (whole octave including sharp or flats) and mimic it by singing. In this way, even without the use of a piano, you can sing the notes at the correct pitch. If you do not have a piano, you can start practicing here:

STEP2. Identify the key signature of the music sheets. The key signature defines the sound of the music sheet you are going to interpret by singing. It tells you what notes needs to raised half step (#) or low step (flat). You can determine the key signature by counting the number of sharp (#) or flats (b).

Flat major scale mnemonics:

Fat – F major scale – one flat
Boy – Bb major scale – two flats
Eats – Eb major scale – three flats
Apple – Ab major scale – four flats
During – Db major scale – five flats
Good -Gb major scale – six flats
Christmas – Cb major scale – seven flats

Sharp major scale mnemonics:

Go – G major scale – one sharp
Down – D major scale – two sharps
And – A major scale – three sharps
Eat – E major scale – four sharps
Before - B major scale – five sharps
Father – F# major scale - six sharps
Comes – C# major scale – seven sharps

The number of sharps or flats can be found right in the beginning of the musical sheet. You will need to memorize the above table for convenience.

STEP3. Identify whether the music you are playing is a MINOR of the major scale above. You can determine this by identifying the FIRST NOTE in the music sheet:

Flat major scale and its equivalent minor with minor notes

F major scale – D minorre
Bb major scale – G minor- so
Eb major scale – C minordo
Ab major scale – F minorfa
Db major scale – Bb minor - ti
Gb major scale – Eb minormi flat
Cb major scale – Ab minorla flat

Sharp major scale and its equivalent minor key with minor notes

G major scale – E minor = mi
D major scale – B minor = ti
A major scale – F sharp minor = fa sharp
E major scale – C sharp minor = do sharp
B major scale – G sharp minor = so sharp
F# major scale – D sharp minor = re sharp
C# major scale – A sharp minor = la sharp

Refer to the part 2 of this tutorial: How to Identify Minor Key Signatures|The Solfeggio-Chromatic Scale.