When some people start learning music theory, they just get taught how things are, but they don’t actually learn why. If you are just getting started with music theory, or you’ve studied it for a while, there are probably a few things you are wondering about. That’s why we’re here to help! Here are the answers to some of the most common music theory questions.
Why are there different clefs?
Are you struggling to learn how to read both the treble and the bass clefs, especially at the same time? You are not alone. You might even be one of the thousands, if not millions of musicians, who just don’t get why we need to have different clefs. Is this just to make things more difficult?
You might be surprised to learn that different clefs are there to make things easier! Take, for example, sheet music for the piano. The left hand can play very low notes, and the right hand can play very high notes. If you would only have a treble clef, you would have to write many, many ledger lines to write the low notes. And if you only had a bass clef, you would need many ledger lines for the high notes.
Here is a picture of the same notes written in the bass clef and the treble clef. As you can see, the low notes are much easier to read in the bass clef, while the high notes are much easier in the treble clef!
What does ‘C’ stand for?
Sometimes in sheet music, you will see that there is a C instead of 4/4. What does that C stand for? Many people believe it stands for ‘common time’, but it actually doesn’t! This symbol has been around for centuries and was originally a full circle, representing the trinity. 4/4 was considered a complete meter and therefore the full circle was appropriate. Over the years, the circle changed a little bit and became a C. The same thing happened with the treble clef, that used to be the letter G, and the bass clef, that used to be the letter F.
What’s the difference between a chord and a triad?
There are people who find speaking of chords and triads confusing. Let’s set things straight. A triad consists of three notes, as the name implies. But as you might know, a chord can have more than three notes. It might, for example, have an added 7. Because of this, you could say that all triads are chords. But a chord is not necessarily a triad, even though it could contain more notes.
How come some intervals are the same?
Music theory students who pay attention will notice that some intervals can be called different things. A minor third is, for example, an augmented second. The reason for this is that even though it’s the same notes, for example C and Eb/D#, they are spelled differently. If it’s written as C and Eb, it’s a minor third. If it’s written as C and D#, it’s an augmented second. The spelling is determined by the context, for example which key signature the song is in.
Would you like to learn more about music theory? We are happy to announce that our popular book Music Theory for Beginners has now been revised. It contains a lot more interesting information, exercises, and pictures that will help you grasp the fundamentals of music theory! We are very excited to share it with you and look forward to hearing what you think about it!