Basic Music Theory Lesson 1: The Basics

The following information must be understood before going on to the various subjects discussed in this study. Work at your own pace to memorize these next pieces of information.

Semitone: (also called a half step)
The distance between any note and the 1st note right after it on your instrument.

Tone: (also called a whole tone or full step)
The distance between any note and the 2nd note right after it on your instrument.

Symbols: # Sharp
When this symbol is placed next to a note, that note is raised (sharpened) one semitone.

Symbols: b Flat
When this symbol is placed next to a note, that note is lowered (flattened) one semitone.

Musical Alphabet:

Look at the picture of the piano keyboard below.

The keyboard has white keys and black keys. They are in a sequence that repeats itself every 12 notes. The white keys are all natural notes which means that in our musical alphabet, they are named as follows:

A  B  C  D  E  F  G

If we name all of the keys, the keyboard looks like this:

The black notes are either # notes or b notes. If you look at the keys, you will notice that there are no black notes between B and C or between E and F. With that in mind, using sharps, we can spell the musical alphabet as follows:

A   A#   B   C   C#   D   D#   E   F   F#   G   G#
Memorize: There is no B# or E# in the musical alphabet.

And using flats it spells out like this:

A   Bb B   C   Db D   Eb E   F   Gb G  Ab
Memorize: There is no Cb or Fb in the musical alphabet.

You may be wondering why there are 2 names for the same note. For example, A# and Bb are in fact the same note. So are C# and Db. The reason for this will be explained in the following lessons.


A tetrachord is any sequence of notes that conforms to the following order.

Tone Tone Semitone

For example: C  D  E  F  is a tetrachord.

Other examples of tetrachords are:
G A B C        or       Bb C D Eb or       A B C# D

That’s it for lesson 1. Be sure you study, understand and have memorized:

What is a semitone?
What is a tone?
What is a sharp?
What is a flat?
What is a Tetrachord?
Recite the Musical Alphabet


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