01 -The Language of Music (an introduction to the Musical Alphabet)

Music Teacher

abc-musical alphabetI am a teacher. Teachers give assignments. I am a father too. I teach my children. I give my children assignments.

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.

But…. before we get into those notes, let’s talk about something really first. Let’s talk what music is. First. Before anything.


First, it is a language of emotion and culture.

Second, it is a language of written symbols. If a language is to be read by others, a system of symbols must be available.  Are you able to name any music symbols?

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

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, as of this writing I’m listening to a song rolling thru my playlist entitled Better is One Day by Matt Redman.

Actually, the first song title that comes to mind is King Solomons Marbles by The Grateful Dead…..

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 your first lesson, let’s introduce to you 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.

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’, then you are either (1) trying to be really funny or (2) just don’t know the musical alphabet yet….(actually, in Germany the Bb is still referred to as B, while the B is known as H…yep)

abc keyboard 1

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? ________

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.

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