hintsandthings.co.uk »Music Hall

Musical Mnemonics – Ways to work out and remember chords, fifths and other musical facts.




MUSICAL MNEMONICS AND NAMING THE SCALE

By Gerry Jones of Liverpool Country Dance Band


 

Naming the Scale; 
you
may hear musicians using very odd names for the
notes of a scale. We are so used to using do, re,
mi, fa… etc., but  music students soon find they
have to refer to the notes of the scale according to
the job that particular note does in the scale.

Doh is called the
TONIC; it is the “home” note of the scale, then
start and the finish; it provides the basic musical
sound from which all the other notes follow.

Soh is the “next
one”, believe it or not; it is called the DOMINANT,
as it is the nearest thing that a Scale has got to
having a “half-way-point”.

It is the second most important note in the scale
in ways I will explain later.  (That is why I  bring
it in straight after “Doh” )

A “FIFTH” comes next in our understanding.  Take
any note you like, and call it Doh (or TONIC) then
count up the alphabet five letters, inclusive and
the one you land on will be the Dominant, or Soh.  
This is why we say that the Doh and Soh  are “a
fifth apart” , and this gap is called an INTERVAL.


C  
D    E    F   
G
   A    B 
  C

1   2    3   
4    5     6    7    8 

 
In the scale
of C , the first and last notes (1 and 8) 
are the TONIC  (Doh)  Count up from C,
1,2,3,4,5.   and there you are on G, the
Dominant.

Counting up
from DOH through Five steps, inclusive, – do
re me fa so – brings you to the Dominant
e.g. C D
E F G
showing that C is the Tonic and G is the
Dominant of the scale of C.

(Very
technical and boring, but stick with it as
this can really help your understanding of
music!)

The next step is to count FIVE BACKWARDS
from the Tonic, downwards in pitch do ti la
so fa (8 7 6 5 4th note of the scale) e.g.
C B A G
F

Once again,
we have counted a FIFTH, so this must be a
Dominant.

But because
we already have a Dominant [G], and because
we are counting Downwards this note we
reach, the Fourth note of the scale, must be
called the SUBdominant


 

So now we have Tonic   
2     3    Subdominant 
Dominant   6     7    Tonic

                                
1       2     3              
4                    5          
6     7         8           


See below for an explanation of the other
notes and remember that this system will
make sense for you of every scale in the
book!



NAMING THE SCALE ; THE OTHER NOTES,

the second and seventh in the scale.

Now we have
-Tonic(1) 2 Mediant(3) Subdominant(4)
Dominant(5) submediant [6] 7 Tonic
(8)

These
“leftovers” have their uses, but they do not
figure in the Grand Scheme of Things but we
had better call them something, so here we
go;

Note Two is
ABOVE the Tonic – so we will call it the
SUPERtonic. (Sounds very grand)

Note Seven;
“Ti – a drink with jam and bread, that will
LEAD you back to Doh”

so we call
it The LEADING note, because that is what is
(almost) always does.
 

 

keyboard

 

NAMING THE
SCALE   ;  THE MEDIANT

;

this is an easy
one, and there is a clue in the name – it is in
the middle.

Tonic    2   
3     4   Dominant.   so note
3  (“mi”) is the absolute middle point between
Tonic and Dominant, so we call it the mediant.

 
But we have also
found “another dominant” – the downward-counting
SUBdominant.

So there must be a
“half-way” note there, another Mediant,     8  
7   6   5   4   

Tonic   7   
6      5    Subdominant.   


so note 6  (“la”) is the absolute middle point
between (upper)Tonic and SUBdominant, so we call
it the SUBmediant.

 

keyboard

 

“When Music teachers give out
100 Lines”

 
When I was teaching music in secondary schools,  the Lines I
used to to give were always one of  the following mnemonics and
was in itself the
most useful little item
I ever learned, for understanding written music
.
 
 

Father 
Charles Goes
Down And 
Ends Battle.”
  

or its reverse version

Battle  
Ends   And 
Down   Goes 
Charles  Father”

 
On a keyboard, all these letters are FIFTHS apart, and link so
many things together.   Here are some examples;
 

– B7 chord leads you home to E.  

– E7 chord leads you to  A.   

– A7 brings you do D. 

– D7 leads to C

– D7 leads to G (think; Down Goes)

– G7  leads to C (think;  Down Goes
Charles
…)

– C7 to F,   

– F7 to Bb,  

– Bb7 to Eb   etc. …

 


sheet music on a music stand
 
if your write the first line twice, above and below, offset by
two letters….

      F     C  G    D   A    E    B   F#   C#

             0  1    2    3    4    5    6     7
                 F    C    G    D    A   E     B
 

… you can see how many Sharps are used/need in any given sharp key
(Signature) and which sharps they are.

      e.g. The key of E major needs 4 sharps and they are  F 
C  G  D

 
–  a similar exercise with the “Battle Ends”  sequence will
sort out all your Flats for you.
 
–  this explains the left-hand buttons of a piano accordion,
which are laid out in “Father Charles “  order.

Each Letter has its own diagonal of Bass Notes, Major then
minor then 7th then diminished chords,

meaning that the PRIMARY CHORDS of each key are simply next door
to each other, either side of their Tonic.
(Row One is actually the Mediant notes, with the Tonics on Row
Two.)
 
Keep looking and digging,  and these two little mnemonics will
keep explaining more mysteries.

 

keyboard

Thinking of learning to play
the guitar?  Naomi, a professional music teacher,
and experienced Guitarist, thinks it’s an absolutely
wonderful instrument to learn although it takes
dedication and practice. Hopefully her guide

Beginner’s guide to the guitar
will help you decide whether it
is the instrument for you.