Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Voyage to the Bottom of the Staff - Part 2

The Grand Staff is the standard system for written piano music. As a guitarist you may want to be able to read music written this way. If you already read guitar notation, you are used to reading in treble clef. You are also used to playing pitches an octave lower than their standard pitch because guitar music is written an octave higher than it sounds. So, reading in standard pitch, as you'll have do when reading music written for piano or voice, requires a change of attitude.

The diagram above shows all the notes on the grand staff in a symmetrical pattern. We use symmetry in the Fretography method because it strengthens cognition. When you study the note-pairs in the symmetry you'll be able to see connections between notes even when they are far apart in pitch. This is useful whether you are reading in standard pitch, or – more typically for guitar – transposed in treble clef.

The symmetries of the individual treble and bass clefs have been explored in previous posts. Now we are looking at the overall symmetry of the combined bass and treble staves. Pay special attention to the notes of the open strings on the staff as indicated at the right of the diagram. Of course these same pitches are found in various places on the fretboard. Learn to associate the each note on the staff with all of its fretboard positions starting with the notes of the open strings, then adding C and F.

Notice that C is the central note within the grand staff, and that middle C can be written one leger line below the treble staff and/or one leger line above the bass staff. Also note that the positions of B and D are mirrored between the two staves, as are E - A, and F - G.

Below is a comparison of the positions of middle C on the fretboard, the grand staff (standard pitch) and transposed for guitar on the treble staff;
We should mention that there actually is a special treble clef – the octave-down or octave-dropped treble clef – which serves the purpose of indicating that the notation is transposed;
The little 8 hanging from the bottom of the clef indicates that the notes on the staff are played an octave lower than written. You will occasionally see this clef used for guitar music, though the transposition is usually assumed even when a standard treble clef is used.

The more familiar you are with the positions of notes on the fretboard, the easier it will be to transpose.

Try playing melodies you already know in different octaves. One difficulty is that you may need to employ different fingerings when playing the same melody in a different octave. If you take a systematic approach, this will be less of an issue. The usual reason for fingering changes is that in one octave range, the melody may be within the four lower strings, and when it's transposed it crosses the 2nd and 3rd strings (what I call the 3rd rail.), thus requiring an adjustment to compensate for the different relative tuning between those strings.

Here's a simple rule; When you are ascending from the 3rd to the 2nd string, you must shift up one fret to maintain the same interval pattern of the lower 4 strings. When you are descending from the 2nd to the 3rd string, you must shift down one fret. In other words; when you go up you add a fret ... when you go down you subtract a fret.

We'll look at the shift between the 2nd and 3rd strings in greater detail in a future post.

All contents of this blog are © Mark Newstetter

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