The Facts of Music, Part 1

acoustic guitar

Because I play strings I will use the guitar as a primary teaching tool. Any fretted instrument will work.

Get a guitar, mandolin, etc. Pluck an "open" string. Find the tuning peg for that string; pluck the string and turn the peg. One way makes the note higher in pitch, or sharper, the other way makes it lower, or flatter.

Another way to get a note higher in pitch is to shorten the string: that's what frets are for. Place a finger near a fret, any fret, on the same string, and pluck again. The working length of the string is now shorter, and the new pitch is higher.

Place a finger between the 4th and 5th fret of any string, closer to the 5th fret. Pluck the string. Next move the finger to a place between the 5th and 6th fret, and pluck.



The "half-step" is the smallest unit of Western music, and a travel of one fret-space, anywhere, up or down, is always a half-step, or "semi-tone". Even thought the frets get closer together as you go up in pitch, the musical distance between them is always the same- a "semi tone."

Quiz: how many frets would you have to travel to get a "whole tone"?

2014 Tony Mates