This confusion may also arises in relation to concepts, thoughts and ideas. For example, melody is created when sounds are connected together and then played one at a time. Melody is often mislabeled by guitar players, but correctly identified by musicians playing guitar. For example, a guitar player will call playing a melody, lead guitar, while a musician playing guitar will correctly call it: melody guitar.
Here’s another example, harmony is the result of more than one sound heard at the same time. Confusion arises in this case because a guitar player will call this, rhythm guitar, while a musician playing guitar will correctly call it: harmony guitar. The idea of lead guitar may have started because, generally speaking, melody leads. But the idea of rhythm guitar doesn’t make much sense, since melody also has rhythm. In this lesson, we’ll focus on melody and leave harmony for later.
Let’s begin by reviewing the major scale the way Julie Andrews sang it to us in the Sound of Music, you know, Doe, a deer a female deer; Ray, a drop of golden sun; Me, a name I call myself; Far, a long, long way to run; Sew, needle pulling thread; La, a note to follow sew; Tea, a drink with jam and bread… Wow, the hills really are alive!
This do re mi fa so la ti method of symbolizing sound is known as Solfège. Solfège began in eleventh century Italy when Guido of Arezzo developed a six-note ascending scale that went: ut, re, mi, fa, sol, and la. Guido borrowed these syllables from the first verse of the Latin hymn: Ut Queant Laxis. Then, in 1600, Ut was changed to the open syllable Do, at the suggestion of Giovanni Battista Doni. A seventh syllable, si, was added soon after from the initials for Sancte Iohannes [Saint John] to complete the seven tone diatonic scale. By the nineteenth century, Anglo-Saxon countries had changed si to ti so that every syllable began with a different letter.
It’s interesting to note that Isaac Newton associated the 7 solfège syllables with the 7 colors of the rainbow and theorized that each color vibrated accordingly. Thus, red [the lowest sound] has the least amount of vibration while purple [the highest sound] vibrates the most. In other words, he believed this: C do Red; D re Orange; E mi Yellow; F fa Green; G so Blue; A la Indigo [Blue Violet] and B ti Purple [Red Violet].
Okay, now, let’s covert the solfège syllables into scale degree numbers which we’ll simplycall: tone numbers. In this transformation, Do becomes tone 1, Re becomes tone 2, Me is tone 3, Fa tone 4, So tone 5, La tone 6 and Ti tone 7. This simple tone number symbolization forms the basis of the Tone Note® Music Method for Guitar. In other words, by learning only seven tone numbers on your guitar, you may begin playing many songs. Tone Note® makes music and guitar so easy!
Practically speaking, there really are no songs to be played with only one tone number, tone 1. And there really aren’t any songs to be played with only two tones, tone 1 and tone 2. However, as soon as the third tone is added, tone 3, then, like magic, there are many songs that may be “spelled” with tone numbers and then played.
Let’s begin with a simple song, Merrily We Roll Along. Merrily may be played by using only three tone numbers, tone 1, tone 2 and tone 3. At this point, there is really no need to learn how to read and understand the rhythm symbols of music, notes. This is because you already know how to sing this song and therefore you can “imitate” its rhythm.
By adding one more tone, tone 4, we can play other songs. Here is a favorite Mother Goose song, Old King Cole. This song uses four tone numbers, tone 1, tone 2, tone 3 and tone 4. Remember, if you already know the song you can imitate the rhythm, however, if you don’t already know this song, then you would have to begin learning notes, the rhythmic duration symbol of music.
With the addition of tone 5, many more songs are possible. Here is one of them, Mary Had a Little Lamb. It’s important to note that Mary only uses four tone numbers, tone 1, tone 2, tone 3 and tone 5. She doesn’t use tone 4. This is just like spelling words in English, not all words contain all 26 letters. In fact, no one word contains all 26 letters! You probably already know Mary Had a Little Lamb and therefore can imitate her rhythm. Notice how similar Mary is to Merrily We Roll Along… there is only a one tone difference!
I found this interesting and perhaps you will too. The reason there are no 26 letter words in the dictionary is because the usual rules of English spelling outlaw consecutive triple letters. We put hyphens in words that contain three of the same letters in a row, so as to separate the letters. For example: bee-eater, bell-like, cross-section, cross-subsidize, shell-less and joss-stick [incense]. A person who flees is a fleer, not a fleeer, and someone who sees is a seer, not a seeer. Chaffinches used to be called chaff finches, but when the two words were merged, one of the letter ‘f’s was dropped. It should be noted that written representations of noises often contain triple letters, such as brrr, shhh, and zzz, but they don’t really count as proper words. Too bad!
Let’s continue. By adding tone 6, we can play Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Again, you probably already know this song and therefore can imitate the rhythm. Notice that Twinkle uses all six tone numbers, tone 1, tone 2, tone 3, tone 4, tone 5 and tone 6.
We’ll end this lesson by adding tone 7. By adding this final tone number of the major scale we can now play Jack Be Nimble. This song may be buried deep in your nursery school mind, so, once again, just like Old King Cole, you may have to learn the notes of rhythm. Notice that Jack uses all seven tone numbers, tone 1, tone 2, tone 3, tone 4, tone 5, tone 6 and tone 7.
It is my hope that this lesson has shown you how simple and easy music really is. Now, by continuing in this progressive connect-the-dots manner, from the beginning toward the end, I’m sure you’ll realize that with patience and practice, you will be able to play and enjoy music, and your guitar, at every stage of your life.
’til next time, have some Tone Note® Music Method fun… I’ll be listening!
Image by Nick Anthony Florenza