More Math of Music II – Frequency

I must confess that I’m a geek, and I love numbers. So much so that in a recent post I talked to you about the Math of Music – It’s A Numbers Game. In it I’ve come to realize that there’s a whole lot more to music than just stringing notes together. There’s a whole lot more that the music represents. So let’s dig into some of the more interesting numbers that surround music including some of your favorite instruments.

There are 88 Keys on a piano keyboard.
There are 3 valves on a trumpet.
There are usually 21-24 frets on a guitar.
The bass guitar and the ukulele USUALLY have 4 strings.
The typical guitar USUALLY will have 6 strings but can have more.

There are so many more numbers that are associate with music and here’s another interesting fact and I mentioned it in my previous post called “The Math of Music – It’s a numbers game.” One of the interesting things is that Octaves are exactly a 1:2 ratio in terms of the frequency or the pitch of the notes measured in Hertz. For example, the A above Middle C is 440 Hz. The A above it is 880 Hz, and the A below Middle C is 220 Hz.

The A above Middle C, A440 is the note that has become the standard pitch for tuning orchestra and other musical instruments in the United States and the United Kingdom and it’s territories. This standard was adopted by the International Organization for Standards in 1955 as reported by Wikipedia, and this was reaffirmed again in 1975. Fascinating!

While looking into this deeper on the Music Masterworks Website – Where Math Meets Music – I found this chart below that describes in detail what the ratios are between the notes in terms of the frequency in broad terms. The math also shows how some notes help to form consonant tones between each other.  For example G is 1.5 times the frequency of C and is a perfect 5th above where as E is 1.25 times C and is a Major 3rd above C.

Similarly, the ratio from C to C# is 18/17th and the sound waves don’t really meet up. So when they are played simultaneously their frequencies clash (in a manner of speaking) and they sound dissonant.

Note Perfect Ratio to C Actual Ratio to C Ratio off by Frequency in Hz
Middle C 261.6
D 9/8 or 1.125 1.1224 0.0026 293.7
E 5/4 or 1.25 1.2599 0.0099 329.6
F 4/3 or 1.333… 1.3348 0.0015 349.2
G 3/2 or 1.5 1.4983 0.0017 392.0
A 5/3 or 1.666… 1.6818 0.0152 440.0
B 17/9 or 1.888… 1.8877 0.0003 493.9

So that’s why when you play the C Major Chord with C-E-G in it you get a sound that’s pleasing to the ear. And also when you play C, C# and D altogether it sounds harsh. It’s all in the Math of Music. The math makes it easier to listen to the consonant and dissonant sounds and find new and improved ways to Play It By Ear!!!

When the Jaws of Life Have You


So on my way to work today, I saw this accident on the side of the road. There were police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances and first responders everywhere. I was able to take this picture while moving at a very slow crawl past the scene of the crime.

What I could notice, was that the top of the car was totally off the car – The Jaws Of Life had been used! The Jaws Of Life, as they are commonly called in rescue operations, usually refer to specialized Hydraulic Shears that are designed to cut through metal. That’s why they’re so useful in rescuing people who have been trapped in their cars.


This picture which was taken from the Wikipedia’s Hydraulic Rescue Tools website, shows the Hydraulic Shears commonly known as the Jaws of Life!

The Jaws Of Life can take unexpected turns in so many ways, and when they have you it could feel like everything will be OK! Or that everything is going completely awry! It all depends on your perspective. How you react is determines whether you gave a Glass Half Full or Glass Half Empty experience! For Example:

Glass Half Full –  Yay! I’m saved!
Glass Half Empty – Oh no! My car is ruined!

There’s only one way that I hope to be in IF the Jaws of Life make an appearance in my life. And that’s with a smile, because I know that if I’m alive and kicking will enjoy my family and friends as we get together to Play It By Ear!

The Math of Music – #ItsANumbersGame

The Math of Music - It's A Numbers Game...

It’s a numbers game?
Playing it by the numbers?
What ever are you talking about?

I’m talking about the major/minor scales and how they relate to each other and to the tonic note or KEY Note. It is important to NOTE (see what I did there) that the KEY note is the note from which the scale gets its name and because of the name it would have certain features or characteristics. The numbers are number from 1 to 7 and represent all the notes of the scale. You could see this in the diagram that I had for my recent post – I Need My Keys!

Each note in a scale is assigned a number. For example, in the major scale there are 8 notes, with the 8th ascending note  being exactly the same but exactly one octave (8) higher.  (It is also exactly double the frequency in Hertz (Hz – but I will talk about that in a later post). The main note of a scale is given the number 1. Each consecutive note as the scale gets higher and higher is assigned the next number until the 8th note which becomes 1 again.

So using the scale of C-Major we find the following:
C-1,   D-2,    E-3,    F-4,   G-5,   A-6,   B-7 and back to C, which becomes 1 again and it goes on and on. These numbers become important because they form the framework by which different musicians can play a song and know what to do based on the number that corresponds to the chord being played at that particular time.

So take time to explore the Math of Music and as always keep a smile going as you Play It By Ear!!!

To Teach or Not To Teach – Revisited

To Teach or Not To Teach? That is the Question!!!This is a re-post of a blog that I had earlier this year called – To Teach or not to Teach. I felt that it is worth mentioning again. There is even an update. So here it is:

To Teach or Not To Teach? That is the question. Well for some teachers its not even a question. It’s anathema to them. What am I talking about? Playing Music By Ear. It just is not done. I have had people come to me and tell me that they started experimenting with playing by ear and their music teacher forbade them from doing so. And so it is now that they “THINK” that they can’t play by ear so they don’t try.

I’ve wondered to myself, “Self! What is the reason for this kind of thinking by music teachers who insist on teaching ‘By The Book’?” And the answer is a simple “Lack of Understanding.” In my humble opinion and experience, people fear what they don’t understand and they can sometimes pass that fear on to their students. It is also true that you can’t effectively teach something that you don’t intimately know. Music is a performing art, and you have to be able to demonstrate the lesson as it happens.

One of the most important things that we  use as music teachers, students, and fans is the art of creative listening. Music is an auditory experience. We ‘hear’ music with our ears so we have to listen. As music teachers this is sometimes missed in the teaching. We don’t teach our students to listen critically to themselves, other artists and also to what the audience is saying. Always. Always. LISTEN.

There are people who say that playing by ear is just memorization of songs. And to a certain extent that is true. Playing by ear is more a matter of a coming together of a working knowledge of music theory, chord progressions, bass line movement, alternate harmonic anticipation and melodic interpretation. For some who have more experience playing by ear, you can utilize structures and chord progressions that may come from other songs and intersperse them into what they are playing as they are playing it. This is often seen in Jazz, Gospel, Country and other popular music genres of modern times.

So if you want to learn to play by ear does that mean you shouldn’t learn to read music as well? I answer that with an emphatic, “NO!” Learning to read music opens up a whole new world to the music performer and rounds out his or her education. It enables a musician to be more marketable and versatile when they can do both – Read Music and Play By Ear!!! Its quite interesting to note that musicians who can only read music look up to musicians who just play by ear. And musicians who only play by ear look up to musicians who only read music.

Oh for the day when musicians can be equally proficient in reading music and are also able to Play It By Ear!!

Sometimes I Feel…

Sometimes-I-feelSometimes I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing.
Sometimes I feel Inadequate.
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child.
Sometimes I feel like I feel like I’m floundering.
Going to and fro. Go to work. Go home. Go to the supermarket. Go Eat. Go to Sleep. Go to the gym. Always on the GO! When does it end? Why does it have to be this way? Is there something else out there? For me? For my family? For the world?

I say Yes! Emphatically Yes!

The answer is simply to stop and smell the roses. Yes! Smell the Roses! Take some time to just enjoy nature! Make time to tell your loved ones how much they mean to you. Send a text to a friend just because! Focus on someone else! There is a God who cares! You may not believe it, but its true.

I find that when I’m feeling down, I just have to sing a simple song and I feel a whole lot better. There is something about that sweet, simple song that just soothes the soul. There’s the old negro spiritual that says, “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child, a long way from home.” If you ever feel that way just remember there’s some One who cares. Take the time to day to tell someone you love them.

I Know I Will and I know I’ll also take the time to Play It (Music) By Ear!!!

Get Some Rest!!!

Get Some Rest...RESET!!!  Start Over!!! STOP!!! It can wait till tomorrow!!!

These are all words and phrases that I need to listen to. Why? Because it lengthens your life and contributes to overall health and general well being as reported in a recent article in Time Magazine. In this article it is refers to SLEEP as the new Health Frontier! Here’s an excerpt from the article that really struck home to me:

Researchers have known for some time that sleep is critical for weight maintenance and hormone balance. And too little sleep is linked to everything from diabetes to heart disease to depression. Recently, the research on sleep has been overwhelming, with mounting evidence that it plays a role in nearly every aspect of health. Beyond chronic illnesses, a child’s behavioral problems at school could be rooted in mild sleep apnea. And studies have shown children with ADHD are more likely to get insufficient sleep. A recent study published in the journal SLEEP found a link between older men with poor sleep quality and cognitive decline. Another study out this week shows sleep is essential in early childhood for development, learning, and the formation and retention of memories. Dr. Allan Rechtschaffen, a pioneer of sleep research at the University of Chicago, once said, “If sleep does not serve an absolutely vital function, then it is the biggest mistake the evolutionary process ever made.”

WOW! Too little sleep is linked to Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Depression, as well as ADHD in children. I know that when I get a good night’s sleep, I feel like I can conquer the world. It feels like there is nothing that I cannot do that day. And it is all because I had enough sleep the night before.

So my advice to you? Get Some Rest!!! I know I will and I know that I will also find the time to Play It By Ear!!!

I Need My Keys…

I-Need-My-Keys-Can-You (2)One of my piano students recently asked me, “How do you find the key of a song?” I looked at her and said, “That’s a very good question.” The answer is not that easy to find as well as not that easy to figure out unless you have more information about the song and the documentation surrounding it. But there are quick things that you can do to figure out what key a song is in or what key a song should be in.

The first method may be kinda silly but if you don’t know then ASK someone who does. Maybe someone has already played that song and you can ask them. This is especially true in a Band Setting, where you have to depend on the other people in the band in the first place.

Secondly you could use the key signature of the song or look on a repository like Ultimate Guitar and look for the chord chart. This most likely will have the key on it, and you could identify the key that way.

The third method is using the Major Chord Method. Each song will have 3 major chords in it. The 1, 4 and 5 chords are always MAJOR chords, while the 2, 3 and 6 chords are ALWAYS MINOR chords. If you can identify these 3 major chords, you can infer the KEY from that. For example if your song has A, D, and E as the major chords, then the song MUST be in A. And so on. Here’s a chart from Ultimate Guitar that shows this information:

Key  1   2   3   4   5   6    7     
C    C   Dm  Em  F   G   Am   B-dim 
D    D   Em  F#m G   A   Bm   C#-dim
E    E   F#m G#m A   B   C#m  D#-dim
F    F   Gm  Am  Bb  C   Dm   E-dim 
G    G   Am  Bm  C   D   Em   F#-dim
A    A   Bm  C#m D   E   F#m  G#-dim
B    B   C#m D#m E   F#  G#m  A#-dim

This chart is very helpful in determining the key of the song. Now I’ve mentioned Major and Minor chords, which I’ve discussed in a previous post. I’ll have to come back to it soon. But needless to say this chart needs to be looked at and memorized as it would help in easily identifying the key. I’ll revisit the differences in a Major and Minor Chord in a later post or see my recent post. Now when you find your key, just keep on playing and working it as you Play It By Ear!


Back In The Saddle – Again!!!

Back In The Saddle Again
Back In The Saddle Again – 28 Days To A New ME!!!

So I’m Back in the Saddle Again!!! It’s been a while since I posted something up to this blog. It’s not that I didn’t have anything to write about. I did. But I didn’t do anything about it. So recently my friend Robert Kennedy issued a challenge to me to start writing again for the month of May 2014.

So I took up the challenge to right about what’s going on in my life. A lot of it will deal with music, and more specifically Playing Music By Ear. Some of it will deal with health and fitness. I will let you know how I’m doing with 31 posts in 31 days. I’ve started this a few times and I’ve never quite finished the race. But this time I will complete this task.

There’s a lot that can be said about starting something new and sustaining it. The question remains how do you go about doing this? The answer? You COMMIT to it! No matter what it is, you have to stay committed to your task. You have to move forward in your endeavor and never waver. If you look at the lives of successful people you find that there’s a common thread in all their lives. They have a tenacious spirit that won’t quit. Even in the face of great obstacles they find a way to get it done.

So I’m back in the saddle again and I won’t give up! I won’t quit! Recently a friend of mine started on his journey to wellness and health. He has a mantra that I’ve come to adopt as well and it is: I Can, I Will, I Must! (#iCaniWilliMust)  There is no other option!

Yesterday you said Tomorrow. Today – What’s Your Excuse?

So I’m back in the saddle again, and I’m ready to:
Play It By Ear!!!