Music Theory Part 1 – Notes, Tones And Semitones.

October 29, 2013 5:14 pm Published by 2 Comments

Welcome to the first blog in our series on Music Theory!

Before we can get into chords, keys, scales and modes, we need to understand the very basic components – Notes, and the distances, or “intervals” between them.

1) There are 12 notes in music.
They are:    C     C#/Db     D     D#/Eb     E     F     F#/Gb     G     G#/Ab     A     A#/Bb      B

“#” means “sharp”  and “b” means “flat”  –  e.g. C#/Db is one note, that is called either “C sharp” or “D flat” depending on various factors which aren’t important at this stage.  Just be aware that there are two different names for the same thing.

2) Semitones
A Semitone is the distance between any consecutive two of these notes.  e.g.   C to C#, E to F, or A to Bb
On the guitar, this is the distance of one fret.  So to move a note on the 7th fret up a semitone, you would move it to the 8th.  To move it down a semitone, you would move it to the 6th.

3) Tones
A Tone is a distance of two semitones.  e.g.  C to D,  E to F#, or A to B.
On the guitar, this is the distance of two frets.  So, starting with a note on the 7th fret, you would move up a tone to fret 9, or down a tone to fret 5.

Key Points To Take From This :

  • Be aware that a C# and Db are two different names for the same note, similarly D# and Eb, F# and Gb etc etc.
  • Note that there is no B# or Cb and no E# or Fb
  • Remember that a semitone is the distance of 1 fret and a tone is the distance of 2 frets 
  • If you haven’t already, start learning the notes on the fretboard, taking it one string at a time, or for example learning “all the E notes” then “all the F notes” and so on.


Coming Soon – Part 2, on The Major scale and how it is formed.



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This post was written by Alex


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