Seven Ideas For One Sound – by Mike Overly

December 16, 2014

Do Re MiLet’s state the case simply, symbolic music is complex. By symbolic music, I mean the written symbols and signs of music and guitar that are needed to produce one sound. This lesson will present seven ideas needed to play a melody. Harmony uses additional symbols and signs and will be presented later in a different lesson. So, stay tuned.

Symbolic music on guitar is complicated because it takes seven ideas to make one sound: 1. key letter, 2. time signature, 3. tempo, 4. dynamic, 5. tone number, 6. note or rest, and 7. strum. Before we go any further, let’s ask a simple question: What is the difference between a thought and an idea? For many, this question may seem a bit esoteric, but really it isn’t. Think of it this way. A thought is an energy that moves in time through the space of the mind to find an idea to bring back to the thinker. Here’s an example. Consider this question as a thought: How much is 1 + 1? Now, consider the answer as an idea: more than 1. Easy enough, the thought question found the answer idea and brought it back to the thinker. Let’s continue. I’m sure you noticed that I didn’t answer the question the way you were probably expecting me too. This is because all that is needed to answer the question, how much is 1 + 1, is the concept of “oneness.” In other words, 1 + 1 is more than 1. Or, said a different way, how much more than one is 1 + 1? The answer is again 1. The point is, we don’t need to learn or know anything new to answer the question… 1 is all we need!This “1 + 1 is more than 1” example is analogous to Russian Nesting Dolls. By that I mean, after we know that 1 + 1 is 1 more than 1, we can “nest” the concept of “one more than one” into a new word… two. In other words, after all that thinking about 1 + 1, we can now simply say the number 2!I can hear you asking, “What does all this have to do with playing music on the guitar?” Well, here’s what. Consider this thought question: How do I make one sound on the guitar? And it’s idea answer: “nest” seven ideas. Let’s say it again, symbolic music is complex because it takes seven ideas just to play one sound! To help organize these seven ideas, we’ll divide them into two groups.

In the first group, before you play, there are three ideas needed: key letter, time signature and tempo. In the second group, as you play, there are four ideas needed: dynamic, tone number, note or rest, and strum. Let’s look at each of these seven ideas one at a time.

The first idea is key. Key is simply the letter of tone 1, and is symbolized by a letter in a circle. Let’s compare this with the “key-signature” of traditional staff-notation.

Traditional staff-notation uses a 5 line staff, a clef and a key signature which limits you to playing a song in only one key! In contrast, the revolutionary Tone Note® Music Method does not utilize a staff, a clef or a key signature. By eliminating these elements, you can play any song in any key! This is impossible with traditional staff-notation. Here’s why. The key signature represents the unseen letters of the staff, and when you change the key signature, all the unseen staff-note letters change. This is not the case with the Tone Note® Music Method, because when you change the key, all the tone numbers remain the same, and only the letter of tone 1 changes. Let’s proceed.

After the key letter is known, the second idea is the time signature. The Tone Note® Music Method uses the same stacked meter and value time-signature as traditional staff-notation.

The third idea is tempo, the rate of speed of the steady beat. The Tone Note® Music Method uses the same beats-per-minute sign as traditional staff-notation.

Now, let’s review the three ideas needed before you play “nested” into one thought: key, time signature and tempo.

Next, let’s present the four ideas that are needed as you play. The first idea is the dynamic sign, which tells you how quiet or loud to play a sound. The Tone Note® Music Method uses the same dynamic signs as traditional staff-notation, for example: piano (quiet), forte (loud), mezzo-piano (medium quiet), and mezzo-forte (medium loud). It’s interesting to note that traditional staff-notation does not use mezzo (medium) by itself, but only as a qualifier to piano and forte. I find that curious.

And here’s something strange. Traditional staff-notation defines the dynamic sign piano as soft, and forte as loud. This doesn’t make any sense. Here’s why. Ask your child this question: What is the opposite of loud? I’m sure they said quiet and not soft. So, how did traditional staff-notation get the dynamics of acoustics wrong? In other words, why does traditional staff-notation teach loud and soft, but never quiet and hard? The simple answer is, they confused force with dynamic. It helps to think of it this way. While it’s true that on an acoustic instrument a hard force is necessary to produce a loud sound, and a soft force is needed to produce a quiet sound, force and dynamics are not the same and should not be used interchangeably.

Okay, now that we know that dynamics is quiet and loud, the second idea is pitch as tone number. In traditional staff-notation a tone number is called a scale-degree. Simply stated, tone 1 is the key letter and is the first sound of any scale.

The third idea is rhythm, and it has two components: the note of sound, and the rest of silence. The Tone Note® Music Method uses the same notes and rests as traditional staff-notation, for example: quarter, half, dotted-half, and whole. The fourth idea is not a music idea, but rather a guitar idea: strum. Four strums are needed to play guitar efficiently: two strokes: down and up, and two ghosts: down and up. A stroke is a strum which produces a sound and a ghost is a strum that produces no sound. Now, let’s review the four ideas needed as you play into one thought: dynamic, tone number, note or rest and strum.Okay, let’s end this lesson by “nesting” the seven ideas needed to play one sound into one recapitulated thought: 1. key, 2. time signature, 3. tempo,4. dynamic, 5. tone number, 6. note or rest, and 7. strum.

’til next time, have some thought and idea fun… I’ll be listening!

image © 2014 SkinnyCorp LLC

Mother Nature + Father Time = Rhythm – by Mike Overly

June 27, 2014

RhythmSimply stated, rhythm is time, or when something happens. That sounds easy enough, but what is time? To the ancient Greeks, rhythmos meant motion measured. Again, that sounds simple enough, but it’s a little more complex than it appears to our ears – especially since it is time that is both moving and being measured!

Time is the period or interval between two events during which something happens. In other words, time is a duration, a length which can be measured. To oversimplify, time is when and for how long something happens. As you will see, time may be irregular and unpredictable like Mother Nature, or regular and predictable like Father Time.

To Mother Nature, a cycle is a recurring series of changes or events that do not have a precise measurement. The Greeks called it Kyklos, a cycle, or circle. Kyklos was thought to be a recurring period of time within which a defined number of events was completed. In nature, there are many Mother Nature cycles, here are a few: the Earth traveling around the Sun in about 365 days, the Summer Season lasting about 90 days, the Moon orbiting the Earth in about 28 days. As we can see, these natural cycles of Mother Nature are irregular and imprecise and do not occur at exactly the same time within the cycle. In other words, they have an unpredictable pulse.

Pulse means to beat or strike, like the beating of our heart. Again, this beating may be irregular, uneven and unpredictable like the dripping of water from the roof of a cave, or the tides of the ocean, or, they may be regular, even and predictable like the tick-tock of Father Time’s clock. Let’s explore further into the clock’s predictability.

To Father Time, a clock is an instrument of technology for the measurement of time by the steady and even motion of its parts. And whether this motion is the shadow of a stick in the ground tracking the movement of the Sun, or a cuckoo clock, or an atomic clock — the function of each is the same — to know the Now, so as to be able to predict the future! Here’s an interesting example, a complete Cycle of the Sun spans a period of 28 years, at the end of which, the days of the month will fall upon the same days of the week. In other words, April 15, 2011 will not again fall upon Friday until April 15, 2039! Meet you there… Now, let’s continue.

Meter means to measure. And in music, we measure time by steadily counting the meter and then grouping these counted beats into even 2 beat, or odd 3 beat bars. These even or odd units of musical measure are symbolized by the meter, which is the top number of the time signature. The meter indicates how many beats to measure and group. Remember, even and odd beats can be combined, multiplied or divided to create a virtually endless number of rhythmic patterns, known by such names as: shuffle, tango, disco, ska, bossa nova, swing, reggae, trance, mambo, techno, rumba, house, acid, dub… you get the idea.

In the language of music, tempo is the number of steady beats counted in one minute. Said a different way, tempo is the rate of speed of the steady beat. For example, the standard household clock ticks one beat per second, in other words, it only has one tempo setting: 60 beats per minute (bpm). Therefore, a clock’s musical application is very limited. However, a metronome, which is a clock with a variable tempo setting, has virtually unlimited musical applications. It’s interesting to note that in ancient Greece, Metron (metro) meant to measure and Nomos (nome) was a form of musical composition.

Let’s concluded this lesson by applying what we have learned about rhythm to two simple songs: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, and Pop Goes the Weasel.

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star is in meter 2, and this two beat meter is counted: 1, 2, 1, 2, and so on. The two beat meter is known as a March rhythm. In contrast, Pop Goes the Weasel is in meter 3, and this three beat meter is counted: 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, and so on. The three beat meter is known as a Waltz rhythm.

Be sure to stay tuned and learn how the simple meters of March 2 and Waltz 3, lead us to two very different genres of music and rhythm: Rock and Blues.

‘Til next time, stay in time and on time, no matter what rhythm ~ I’ll be listening . . .

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