Pop Music Theory


3: Pitch & Keyboard

Detailed Contents

Lesson 3: Pitch & Keyboard

A note's pitch is how "high" or "low" it sounds. Pitches are the main thing that make one melody different from another melody (the other "thing" is rhythm), and pitches are the only thing that make one chord different from another chord.

Between the lowest bass note and the highest treble tinkle, there are about 90-95 different named pitches (the 88 keys on a piano span almost this entire range). The gray "pitch stack" on the left (<—) shows just a section of this pitch range.

Click the gray pitch boxes, starting at the bottom and going up, to play a chromatic scale. The chromatic scale is a scale which includes every pitch, not skipping any. It doesn't sound very "musical"; actual musical scales usually skip some pitches.

Next, we'll see how this chromatic sequence of pitches is arranged on the piano keyboard. On the right (—>) is the same chromatic pitch stack, but now we've colored the pitches white or black, like the keys on a piano. This white-and-black pattern will be key to learning the pitches' names. For now, notice these things:
  • Black pitches always have one or two white pitches between them; there are never two black pitches in a row.
  • White pitches often have a black pitch between them, but sometimes there are two white pitches in a row.

Next, on the left (<—), is the black-and-white pitch stack again; we've just shifted the boxes left and right to make separate black and white columns. This is starting to look more like a piano keyboard.

If you click just the white boxes (bottom to top), you'll hear a major scale, a very common musical scale.

If you click just the black boxes, you'll hear a pentatonic scale, another musical scale.

Finally, on the right (—>) again, we've taken the above-left pitch stack and squeezed the rows together. This finally looks like a piano. Squeezing the pitches together also makes room to show a larger section (37 pitches) of that ~90-pitch pitch range.

Now you can see the repeating groups of black pitches: 2, then 3, then 2, then 3, etc. This pattern is key to learning the pitches' names, which is what you'll learn in the next lesson, Lesson 4: Pitch Names.

For the curious, if you're wondering:

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1: Introduction
2: Teaching Yourself
3: Pitch & Keyboard
4: Pitch Names
5: Letters Game
6: Sharps & Flats
7: Half-Steps
8: Whole-Steps
9: Steps Game
10: Scales
11: Major Scale 1-2-3
12: Major 1-2-3 Games
13: Major Scale 1-5
14: Major 1-5 Games
15: Chords: Major Triads
16: Major Triad Games
17: Minor Triads
18: Minor Triad Games
19: Major Scale 1-8
20: Major Scale Games
21: Scales Above 8
22: What Next
23: Keys
24: Roman Numeral Chords
25: Diatonic Triads
26: Using Diatonics
27: Treble Staff
28: Treble Staff Game
29: Pitch & Frequency

© 2018 Conrad Albrecht. All rights reserved.