6 Music Theory Ideas (You Can Understand Today!)

Major/Minor Tonality

The first and easiest way to hear the difference between major and minor is to consider the emotion their sounds evoke – major keys have a bright, happy, and cheerful sound; while minor keys sound more melancholy, sad or unsettled.

A good example of a major sound is the classic party tune, Happy Birthday. 

A good example of a minor sound is Mad World by Gary Jules. 

Time Signatures

A time signature tells you how the music is counted. The time signature is written at the start of the music after the clef and key signature.

Time signatures consist of two numbers written on top of each other (like a fraction).

The top number of the time signature tells you how many beats to count. This could be any number. Most often the number of beats will fall between 2 and 12. The most common one is 4.

The bottom number tells you what kind of note to count. That is, whether to count the beats as quarter notes, eighth notes, or sixteenth notes. So the only numbers you will see as the bottom number (the denominator) will correspond to note values:

  • 1 = Semibreve (you’ll never see this)
  • 2 = Minim
  • 4 = Crotchet
  • 8 = Quaver
  • 16 = Semiquaver

Clefs

As a piano has 88 notes, we could never fit all 88 notes onto one staff. There would be far too many notes or it to be easily readable. Hence, we use clefs to break these notes up. The two most common clefs are the treble clef and bass clef. 

The Treble Clef

The treble clef is also called the “G clef” because the symbol at the beginning of the staff circles the second line of the staff, indicating that line to be G. It is the most commonly used clef and is usually the first clef that musicians learn on their music theory journey. On a piano, it is what the right hand plays, or the higher notes. Among the instruments that use the treble clef are the violin, saxophone and recorder. 

The Bass Clef

The bass clef is also called an F clef because it wraps around the highest F note on the bass staff. It’s usually the second clef that musicians learn after treble. On a piano, it is used to represent what the left hand plays. Instruments that also use the bass clef are the bass guitar, double bass and trombone.  

To find out about Scales, Tones & Semitones & Octaves, just click here to listen to the full episode on The Primary Music Show!

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