Monday, July 5, 2010

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.