01 -An introduction to the Musical Alphabet

The Musical Alphabet

The Musical Alphabet -jay bryan sandifer
The Musical Alphabet -jay bryan sandifer


The Music Teacher

I am a teacher. Teachers give assignments. I am a father too. I teach my children. I give my students and children assignments.

So at the end of this short lesson and each of the following lessons, you will have an opportunity to test your knowledge and understanding of some basic and fundamental music theory ideas.

One time I gave them the following assignment as we were talking about building a music business on the way to school. I asked my oldest son Ezekiel and my middle daughter Jaylia to survey their friends and teachers with this question:

“What do you remember about your first lesson?” and “If you have never had a music lesson before, what would you want to learn during your first lesson?”

The response…overwhelmingly? notes. the notes. The people remember most that they learned the notes or they thought it might be best for them to learn the notes first.

Before we get into those ‘musical notes’, I want to cover something really important. If you would like to skip to the musical alphabet test, click the link. Otherwise, let’s talk a little about what music is. First. Before anything.

What is Music?

What is Music- Music is a language of written symbols. Jay Bryan Sandifer
What is Music- Music is a language of written symbols. Jay Bryan Sandifer

Music is a language. Music is a language of emotion and culture. Every emotion has a sound. Every culture has a sound.

Music is a language of written symbols. Think for a moment. If the English language is to be read by others, a system of written symbols must be available. The period. The question mark. The comma, The letter ‘R‘ or ‘S‘. Upper case. Lower case, etc…

It is the same with the language of music. If someone is to be able to read music, a written system of symbols must be available.  Are you able to name any music symbols?

whole note? staff? note? rest? repeat sign? how about this one…..fermata!

This Musical Symbol is called a fermata. Jay Bryan Sandifer
This Musical Symbol is called a fermata. Jay Bryan Sandifer

Doesn’t that sound fun? FURRRRR MAHHH TAAAAAAAAAH

Like most languages, it could be said there are also many dialects or accents to this language of music. Depending on the style, mood, and culture, music can be expressed in a variety of different ways through the spectrum of emotion. Take a moment and think about one of your favorite songs. Why do you like the song?

I’m not sure about you, but it’s hard for me to think of my favorite song.

In all honesty, there are so many great, great, great songs I could list off (and I’m certain you could too)..and the list would change each day, week or month…right?

So, for this lesson, check out one of *the* basic building blocks to the written language of music: The Musical Alphabet!

Ready? simply read the following letters:






Did you start from the top and read down? Great. Now take a second and re-read starting from the bottom. This idea of going up and down is important in music …very important, and we will learn more about this later.

Begin with the End in Mind

We started with the letter ‘G’ because this is where the musical alphabet ends.

Visionaries ‘begin with the end in mind’, so let’s be visionaries today! Once we know the end we can begin with confidence. Right? Ready? A B C D E F G.

So, what comes after ‘G’?

If you said ‘H’, you are either (1) trying to be really funny or (2) or internationally credited (in Germany the Bb is still referred to as B, while the B is known as H…yep)

But in western cultures, there are no ‘H’s, no ‘I’s, no ‘J’s, etc. in the musical alphabet. Just ABCDEFG!

What comes after ‘G’? you start over with ‘A’ again (one octave higher), then ‘B’, then ‘C’…until you get to ‘G’. Then what? another ‘A’, then ‘B’, then ‘C’….and so on. So, how many letters are there in the Musical Alphabet?

Study the Diagram Below

abc keyboard 1

Here is a great little exercise for you. Your goal should be to get 15/15 correct in one minutes time. 100%.

Before you start, study the diagram above. Do you see the ‘C’? Do you see the ‘D’?

This next question will be very important in helping you be able to identify any letter of the musical alphabet on any keyboard in the world. Notice that the ‘D’ is located between the TWO black key group. Is there a ‘D’ to be found anywhere between the THREE black key grouping?_____

Notice the ‘D’ is located between the TWO black key group. Do you see it?question: Is there a ‘D’ to be found anywhere between the THREE black key grouping?_____ (no)

The ‘D’ is found between the TWO black keys. Always.

Now its Test Time

Use this exercise to test your knowledge and understanding of the musical alphabet of the keyboard. Remember, your goal should be to get 15/15 correct in one minutes time. 100%. Click the image below to test your skills. 🙂

Musical Alphabet Test -Keyboard
Musical Alphabet Test -Keyboard

Get to Know the Basics of Music Theory

In all practical and common senses, these seven letters are used as a standard to represent certain pitches played on just about any musical instrument you can name and think of.

Next Lesson?


13 -Pitch This


Pitch is one of the most necessary ingredients to melody. Personally, I can’t think of a melody which exists without pitch. Can you?

What is pitch? In simple terms, pitch is the measurable difference between tones. Obviously, if we dig a little further we can uncover a treasure of math and science behind this simple definition, but we may save that adventure for later.

Pitch can be sung with your voice, played on just about any instrument, and recognized (and analyzed) from any sound producing source….even those beyond our scope of natural hearing. In other words, you can sing different pitches with your voice, play different pitches with any instrument and recognize (and analyze) different pitches from any sound producing source.

Pitch is a building block to most music. If you want to sing or play an instrument, it would be a great idea to understand pitch.

Lets play the musical matching game:

Press play and then as you hear the pitch try singing that pitch inside your head so no one else can hear you.

If you need help:


NEXT LESSON: an introduction to the musical staff



05 -What is a Musical Interval (an introduction)?


The easiest definition for musical interval is simply: the space between

The Space Between

Think of a measuring cup. What is the distance between 1/4 cup and 3/4 cup?

Think of a ruler or tape measure. What is the distance from one end to the other?

Think of the ticking second-hand of an old clock. What is the amount of time called between each ‘tick’?

Think of a tall building. What is the distance from the first floor to the top floor? Are there any floors in between?

…or, best example yet: Think of a ladder with 12 rungs (those are the things you step on to get up and down the ladder).

Did you know? The word used for the musical ‘scale‘ in the English language comes from the Latin word ‘scala’. This Latin word means ladder!


Do you see the 12 numbers? Think of each of those numbers as a type of step. Do you remember the names of the two types of steps you’ve learned so far?

Think of each ‘step’ on the ladder as a way to move up (or down) to the next step, right? Would you like to go up or down? Have you ever climbed a ladder and skipped a rung (or two)?

There are twelve ladder rungs used in this diagram because in western music, there are twelve half steps between any given octave on the keyboard.

Did you know? One of the technical and fancy words for ‘half step’ is: semi-tone. (wow……, right?)

It really helps to understand the ideas of distance and space when learning about musical intervals. Why? Because some intervals are ‘bigger’ than others. In other words, some intervals have more distance between them than do others…like skipping steps on the ladder…

There is more distance between A and E than there is between A and B.

Take a look at the diagram once again. Do you see the red dotted line? What would happen if we tipped the ladder over to the right?

Think about this:

< low pitch – – – – high pitch >

Going up? -or is it down?

Your next free online music lesson?