Not guitar related, really, but I have a question about reading and sight-singing.

So key signatures. I was in my sight singing class the other day and got REALLY confused. I'm really inexperienced with music and reading, and we just got into reading melodies. I guess it's assumed you have to know some of this stuff so my teacher didn't go into it, and I did ask but he explained something that had nothing to do with my confusion. Here's an example of what my confusion is.

Don't have a picture so I'll just describe. Treble Clef, key signatures are flatting E's, B's, and A's (which I assume that is the only thing it does). Time signature is in 4/4, and the tonic is on the bottom E line. My confusion lies here. The first note (on a pick up on the 4th beat) is a quarter note on the G line, however we're working on sol-fege and right under that first note (that should be a G) is written down as Mi (which is an E). Can anyone explain me this?

My teacher told me something about using the 5th of a note (and using the FCGDAEB pattern). I understood so but I didn't why you use the fifth of the note as the tonic, how do you do so, and ow do you know at what moment this should be done?

(I'll post a pic of the entire example later).
it's because it's movable do. you're probably used to fixed do. in movable do the tonic is do, even if it's not c.
Last edited by sopranoman1771 at Sep 22, 2009,
You are in Eb major, so the tonic is Eb. G is the third in the major scale, so it is the solfege syllable Mi(Do=Eb Re=F Mi=G). I'm not really sure what you mean about using the fifth; after you post the example I may be able to help you out more.

EDIT: It sounds like the thing that will help you the most would be learning how key signatures work, and what key signatures denote what keys. The poster above me is correct about Do moving from C. This is because the example that you refer to is in the key of Eb Major. C major has no sharps or flats in its key signature, F major has one flat(B), Bb major has two(B and E), Eb major has three(B,E,A). For an in depth review of key signatures, go here:

http://www.musictheory.net/lessons/html/id24_en.html

This site also has lots of excellent lessons, from elementary theory to more complex topics, as well as an excellent ear training program for intervals(which will help you a lot with sight singing). Good luck!
Last edited by metallifan3091 at Sep 22, 2009,
Alright here's the example. If it's not much bother could you go in a little more in depth with that movable Do thing?

Sure thing. "Do" refers to the tonic, or first note of the major scale. So, in C major, C is Do. Because this is example is not in the key of C, the Do syllable moves to the tonic of the given key, which, in this case, is Eb major. Now Eb is Do, F is Re, G is Mi, Ab is Fa, and so on and so forth. The Do syllable moves because the root of the scale on which the key is based moves. Does that make sense?
Ok, I think I got it, but correct me if I'm wrong.

To figure out the key of anything, you count the order and number of flats/sharps in the key signature. And regardless of the actual key the song is, the tonic would be do, right? (but in that case, for a melody that, unlike the one I gave you, that does not show the tonic nor any other notes names, how do I know which note is the tonic? because I know that there's some times in which the tonic is not the first, nor the lowest note in the scale from which the melody is based off).

Edit: And wouldn't that make that melody I posted in the key of A major? Since A has 3 flats.

Edit2: Actually my bad, I mixed up sharp counting with flat counting. So it's in Eb Major.
Last edited by TheSound at Sep 22, 2009,
that is where you look at the 'tonal centre' what notes come up the most? what notes do the phrases end on?
in the example you put down, there are a lot of Gs, As and Bbs. These are the fifth, fourth, and third scale degrees and generally help you with it.

also look at the key signature.. at your level it will probably be the most halpful thing. learn your circle of fifths

Edit: A Major has 3 sharps. Eb Major has 3 flats..
Last edited by mdwallin at Sep 22, 2009,
If the tonic isn't distinctly given in the melody(which is won't be, typically), you must identify the key based on the key signature. There are many cases when a melody will start on a different pitch than the tonic, but when this occurs, it will usually still start on a diatonic pitch, so identifying the key with the key signature should be possible. The only time that key signatures can really be at all confusing is when you don't know whether the composition is in a major or minor key, but this can usually be figured out by knowing the key signatures of both major and minor keys, and looking for commonly occurring pitches. Notes that occur very commonly in the melody often fit in the tonic chord, making it easier to identify the tonic and key.
I didn't really get that, but I'll ask my teacher tommorow.

Anyways, is there like any easier way to find the key of a melody? Or it just gets to counting the flats and the sharps?
With a little practice, you'll learn to look at the key signature and know what key you're in without having to count the flats and sharps. It will eventually become second nature. For now, count them and try to associate certain numbers of flats or sharps with certain keys in your head. Also, looking at the note which the piece ends on and starts on can be helpful, as many songs have cadences that resolve to the tonic. Keep in mind that first and last notes aren't always the tonic, and make sure to check using your key signature.
Definitely learn the circle of fifths. Its one of the most useful tools in music theory.
Yeah I sort of know the circle of fifths. But anyways, I need to practice it more.

So...a question about that example, although, for example, that first note which is written as a G, is represented as E, do I sing it as a E or a G? (pitchwise)
Quote by TheSound
Yeah I sort of know the circle of fifths. But anyways, I need to practice it more.

So...a question about that example, although, for example, that first note which is written as a G, is represented as E, do I sing it as a E or a G? (pitchwise)

That note is not E, and does not represent E; it is G and you sing it as such
It would only be E if the song was in the key of C (no flats, no sharps)

The "do" note is just another name for the tonic which is another name for the first note of the scale, the note off of which the key is based
They're all the same thing

The song you're playing in has three flats and is therefore in Eb major (I'm just assuming it's major right now)

That means that the tonic / "do" note / first note of the scale is Eb

The notes in the Eb major scale are: Eb (Do), F (Re), G (Mi), Ab (Fa), Bb (Sol), C (La), D (Ti)

"Mi" means the same thing as the third note of the scale
The third note of the Eb major scale is G
So you sing G

Quote by TheSound
Ok, I think I got it, but correct me if I'm wrong.

To figure out the key of anything, you count the order and number of flats/sharps in the key signature. And regardless of the actual key the song is, the tonic would be do, right? (but in that case, for a melody that, unlike the one I gave you, that does not show the tonic nor any other notes names, how do I know which note is the tonic? because I know that there's some times in which the tonic is not the first, nor the lowest note in the scale from which the melody is based off).

The tonic is the keynote (the note off of which the key is based)

Whether it happens to be the first, last, or lowest note of the song doesn't affect whether its the tonic / keynote / first note of the scale / do note

If the key sig had two flats the song would be in the key of Bb and Do would be Bb; Mi would be D
(Because the scale goes: Bb, C, D)

If the key sig had one flat it would be in the key of F and Do would be F; Mi would be A
(Because the scale goes: F, G, A)

Hope that helped clear things up for you!
Last edited by The Horror! at Sep 22, 2009,
Ohh, so, you write the note as Do, but it is still an Eb and sounds like an Eb, right?
I think I'm getting this, now.
Thanks all of you
Not trying to hijack the thread, but I have met a lot of Europeans, in the last few months (deployed to Afghanistan), that believe in the standard Do=C and is not movable, really threw me for a loop the first time I jammed with them. I was always taught, what was stated ealier, that Do represents the tonic of whatever key you are in.
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yes in europe it is do is always C. It's a little odd, because there are different words for sharps?

it also differes in greece were its REALLY weird.

that's why I butted out of this convo.. it can get quite confusing.
The tonic is normally fairly easy to find in a piece since it's the note it resolves to. you should find that one note will just sound 'right' at the end for a 'proper' finish that is almost certainly the tonic. the scale is then defined as a pattern of intervals from there. the do-re-mi way of notating music is designed for those without perfect pitch and to help describe songs irrespective of the tuning of the backing instruments is the way in understand it
Quote by zoomy74
Not trying to hijack the thread, but I have met a lot of Europeans, in the last few months (deployed to Afghanistan), that believe in the standard Do=C and is not movable, really threw me for a loop the first time I jammed with them. I was always taught, what was stated ealier, that Do represents the tonic of whatever key you are in.

That's what's been confusing me. I was always taught ever since I was in second grade that Do isn't movable. Do is just C, and nothing else. So pretty much I'm thrown into the same loop you as you.
Quote by mdwallin
yes in europe it is do is always C. It's a little odd, because there are different words for sharps?

it also differes in greece were its REALLY weird.

that's why I butted out of this convo.. it can get quite confusing.

That's weird, I never knew that
I just looked it up on Wikipedia: "There are two methods of applying solfege, the movable do used in countries influenced by Britain and in Germany, and the fixed do used in Latin countries as well as in Russia and China; both have adherents in the United States"

In truth, I'm not a singer so I don't really know anything about solfège
yeah we have an italian girl in our class, here on exchange. She was having trouble understanding intervals (she's brlliant on piano though, amazing. dunno how she missed the theory part of it)

so we tried to explain it three ways, one just counting tones/semitiones (which she kept losing count), one where you look at the key and realte the notes to that (didn't know her keysigs) and the last was solfege which she did different to us.
With fixed do, you would have to start on soh, and go soh, fa, ma, etc. Essentially, in Eb, your tonic is ma. For me, being used to movable do, that would make me insane. I have a hard time hearing those 'in between' intervals in relation to each other. "me, ra, do" is SO much more intuitive than "soh, fa, ma" even though the intervals are identical.

Those "in between" intervals can be found here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solf%C3%A8ge

(which strangely seems to discredit my answer, though it suggests that G, F, Eb would still be so, fa, me..... weird, because the intervals are wrong.....)

CT
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