Music Theory – 0006

I’ve thrown a lot at you up to this point. Articles 3-6 were packed with information, showing you how to use a music processor called NotePad, showing you every note on the grand staff including multiple ledger lines, and then rhythmic values for notes starting with a whole note and suggesting there are divisions going beyond the 64th note. That is a lot. It is time to look at simple melodies and I will repeat what you need to know from previous articles for the time being. This is hard until it becomes second nature and I understand that. I have a habit of showing the overall picture and then backing off and showing simpler and more limited examples. Let’s start by looking at a base melody:


There are eight half notes in the staff above. The notes, in order, are:

|C – G | A – G | F – E | D – C ||

There is only one jump, in the first measure from Middle C to the G above. The rest of the notes go to a note in the C Major Scale right next to it. That is the general rule in a melody, that you stick to the notes in the Key you are in. We are in the Key of C Major, using the C Major Scale, which is comprised of all the white keys on the piano and which are any note on the staff that is not sharped or flatted (essentially black keys on the piano).

From this base melody comes a very famous melody, one that many composers have used including Mozart who did a rather famous Theme and Variations with. It is most commonly known today as follows. I will repeat the base melody, and I will follow that immediately with the common nursery rhyme:



The important difference in the two examples above is the addition of rhythm. There are extra notes but they do not change pitch from the original.

In the first measure, the first half-note Middle C is replaced by two quarter-note Middle Cs. Two quarter notes are sounded in the same time as one half note. The pattern continues with most of the half notes replaced by two quarter notes, providing a more animated feel.

Now I will show “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” again and below that present two other nursery rhyme melodies:




In all three examples the pitches and rhythm in the first measure is identical, but the words are different. In the second measure in the middle example the two A quarter-notes were replaced with eighth notes. Two eighth notes together last the same amount of time as one quarter note. The third measure in each example is identical except for the lyrics. And in the last measure only The Alphabet Song is different, replacing two D quarter-notes with four eighth notes.

We can change a song and make it our own by altering it. These all sound very similar to each other. I will close by creating my own melody from Twinkle, changing both rhythm and pitch. I will exclusively use the C Major Scale and your assignment is to enter it into NotePad and listen to it. You should hear the similarity while at the same time realize it is something fairly different.


See you next time.

4 thoughts on “Music Theory – 0006

    • I expect people to fall behind and catch up, and to come along and start back at the beginning. I expect you in particular to get immersed in coding for days and weeks at a time. Just so Comic Zeal keeps working, I’m happy.

  1. This is a very interesting lesson Jim! As it goes over the same notes time and time again, entering them into Notion was also a great exercise in reading the staff. At the start I kept on refering to your note list at the top of the page, towards the end I was a lot more proficient at just reading the ‘letter’ of the note from the notation.

    The repetition was also great for working out which notes are where on the keyboard the notes actually are. I’m really liking Notion’s music entry system.

    • When you get to the lesson where I say to use the trumpet in C, that won’t work in Notion because it only has a trumpet in Bb. You can just use piano. A Bb trumpet will play one whole step lower than what is notated, so when you hit C on the keyboard, Notion will enter D, so when the trumpet player plays D, it will sound a C note. I don’t think you need that confusion.

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