Music Theory - Half Steps & Whole Steps/The Chromatic Scale

By: Steve Gorenberg & John McCarthy

Have you ever wanted to totally understand where all music comes from? Well I'm here to make it real simple for you "all music no matter if it's the most complicated classical compisition or the most simple Punk Rock song is made of only 12 different notes" Thats right there are only 12 notes that are combined to make up all music....pretty cool ha. Here is the Chromatic Scale made of 12 half steps.

Half Steps & Whole Steps
The distance in pitch between any two musical notes is called an interval. An interval is how much higher or lower one note sounds from another, or the space in between the notes. The smallest interval on the guitar is from a fretted note to the fret next to it on the same string. This distance is called a half step. Twice the distance, or the distance of two frets, is called a whole step.
The musical alphabet uses the letters A through G. The distance from one letter or note to the next is usually a whole step (two frets), with two exceptions: there is only a half step between the notes B and C and between the notes E and F.
After counting up from A to G, we get to a higher sounding A and can continue to count up higher through the alphabet again from there. The distance from that first A to the next A (higher or lower) is called an octave.
The Chromatic Scale
Counting up or down the musical alphabet in half steps (or frets) is called a chromatic scale. The regular letters of the alphabet are called natural notes. Where there is a whole step between two natural notes, the note that falls in between them is a sharp (#) or flat (b) note. The # next to a note makes the note a half step higher. The b lowers the note a half step. For example, the note in between A and B can be called either an A# or a Bb since it’s actually the same note with two different names. Whether you call a note sharp or flat depends on what key you’re playing in or what the context is. The half steps that occur between B and C and between E and F (where there aren’t other notes between them) are referred to as natural half steps. If you memorize where these two natural half steps occur you can use that knowledge to find any note on the guitar. Just start with any open string and count up in half steps.
Ascending Chromatic Scale
The following is an exercise that goes up through the chromatic scale in the 1st position of the guitar. Notice that when playing up the scale there are only twelve different notes until you reach an octave and start over with the same letters. These are the twelve notes that make up all music. The name of each note is written above the tab staff.

Descending Chromatic Scale
Here’s the first position chromatic scale in reverse, descending from highest to lowest note using all flats. Practice both the ascending and descending chromatic scales using the metronome to build up speed and coordination.

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1 comment:

jerry dykman said...

Why does the brain interpret the half steps between e and f and b
and c as a whole step? I cannot undertand why a half value sounds like a whole value