Saturday, March 21, 2009

Music Basics Guide for the Beginning Musician

Hello! Welcome to the wonderful world of music. Have you always dreamed of being able to learn to READ MUSIC and play the piano, keyboard, guitar or any other instrument? Well, your dream is just about to come true with this Beginning Music Course.

This is not rocket science but it does take a genuine commitment on your part to read all this Music Course in order to learn the music fundamentals that will apply to any instrument. Be sure to STICK WITH IT!

Did you know that pianos in some form have been around for over 500 years? Some of the first instruments of this kind were called clavichords. They had a very light, metallic sound because the small hand-pounded 'hammers' were made of very light weight metal-like material. These hammers struck strings of varying lengths to create different tones or pitches. The next cousin to the clavichord was the harpsichord invented by Cristofori in Italy around 1450 A.D. This keyboard instrument had a mechanism in it called the plecktrum which 'plucked' the strings and produced a slightly stronger sound than its predecessor.

Whether you are playing an acoustic instrument, which is the closest relative to the history just mentioned, or an electronic keyboard, you are now participating in a centuries old musical art form.

MUSICAL TERMS Let's begin our musical study with a review of the main musical terms you will need to be familiar with to proceed with your music education.

  • BAR LINE - A vertical line which separates notes into groups
  • DOUBLE BAR LINE - A set of two (2) vertical lines which stand for the end of a piece of music
  • REPEAT SIGN - Double bar with two dots at the end of a section or piece of music which indicates that section is to be played twice.
  • MEASURE - The distance between two bar lines.
  • TREBLE CLEF - The S-shaped symbol which stands for notes played with the right hand.
  • BASS CLEF - The reversed C-shaped symbol which stand for notes played with the left hand.
  • STAFF - The five lines and four spaces of both the bass and treble clefs.
  • QUARTER NOTE - Musical symbol with solid note head and stem which gets one count.
  • QUARTER REST - Musical symbol resembling a sideways W which gets one count.
  • HALF NOTE - Musical symbol with hollow note head and stem which gets two counts.
  • HALF REST - Solid half block sitting on third line of the staff which gets two counts of silence.
  • DOTTED HALF NOTE - Musical symbol with hollow note head, dot and stem which gets three counts.
  • WHOLE NOTE - Musical symbol resembling a circle on the staff which gets four counts.
  • WHOLE REST - Solid half block hanging from the second line on the staff which gets four counts of silence.
  • CHORD - Two or more notes played together.
  • BLOCKED CHORD - Two or more notes played at the same time
  • BROKEN CHORD - Two or more notes from the same chord played in sequence
  • INTERVALS - The distance between two notes on the musical staff 


There are only seven (7) letter names used on the piano:
It is interesting to note here that no matter what instrument you play, whether it is piano, tuba or violin, ONLY the seven letter names above are used in the entire realm of music!

There are two very easy ways to visualize and remember the names of the white keys on your piano and keyboard. Remember, the note names on an electronic keyboard are the same as on the acoustic piano.
Since it is not possible to include a graphic in this format, simply remember that the 'CDE' note groups in always located directly underneath the two black note group. The letter name 'D' in the white key always located directly inbetween the two black key note groups. ANY TWO BLACK NOTE GROUP on the piano has the letter name 'D' as the white key located in between them.

Go to your keyboard NOW and start to play all of the C-D-E groups from the lowest (bottom left) to the highest (top right) on your keyboard. Say C - D - E as you play each key.

Now we will learn about the F - G - A - B note groups. Simply located any three black note group on your piano or keyboard and realize that the F-G-A-B white keys are located directly beneath them. Directly outside of the three black note groups are 'F' on the left hand side of the three black note group and 'B' on the right hand side of the three black note group. Just fill in the outer 'F' and 'B' with G and A and you are done!
Go to your piano or keyboard NOW and find all of the F-G-A-G white keys underneath each three black note group. As above, play slowly and evenly saying the letter names as you play the F-G-A-B groups from the bottom of the piano or keyboard (low left hand end) to the top of your piano or keyboard (top right hand end).

Congratulations! You now know ALL of the white key names on the piano!

The vehicle for expression in music comes through the context of dynamic markings. Since the Italians were the ones to first write marks of expression in their music as well as print the first music manuscripts on paper, all of the marks of expression or dynamics are from Italian words.

Piano - Italian word for soft. symbol used in music: p
Pianissimo - Very soft; symbold used: pp
Mezzo Forte - Medium Loud; symbol used: mf
Forte - Loud; symbol used: f
Fortissimo - Very Loud; symbol used: ff

Now that you have learned the Basics of Music by learning the note names, learning the note values and exploring music dynamics, you are ready to progress to the next level, that of learning to actually READ MUSIC.

About The Author

Jan Durrant creates music learning resources for new musicians of all ages.
Regardless of your current musical skill level, you will find wonderful multil media music learning resources for the whole family at email

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Top 10 Common English Faults by Web Authors

by: Kempton Smith

In reviewing and browsing web sites over the years, I have compiled a list of the most common misuses of English by web authors. Here they are in Letterman (reverse) order.

10. Who, which or that?
"Who" (or "whom") refers to persons. "Which" refers to animals or things, never to persons. "That" can refer to either persons or things.
The girl who was hungry.
The dog that wagged its tail.
The software which I wrote.

9. Anyone vs any one
"Anyone" means "any person," not necessarily any specific person. It could refer to multiple people simultaneously.
As two words, "any one" refers to a single person.
Anyone can download my software. But the software can only be used by any one user at a time.

8. Commonly misspelled words
All right

7. Don't put punctuation at the end of a URL
While not technically an English grammatical error, don't put a period or anything immediately after a URL reference. Doing so will usually invalidate the URL. You might call this an internet grammatical rule.
Notice the lack of a period in the following sentence. My URL is
6. Software not softwares
"Software" can be singular or plural. Never use "softwares."

5. Do the quotes go after or before the period?
Put quotes after a period or comma. Put quotes before a colon. Put quotes after a question mark unless the entire sentence is a question. This is a US English standard. British English usage can differ.
He asked, "Are you hungry?"
She replied, "Yes, I am hungry."
Did she say, "Yes"?

4. There, their, or they're
"There" is used in two ways. It can specify a place. It can also be used as an expletive or empty word to start a sentence.
"Their" is used as a possessive form of "they".
"They're" is short for "they are."
I live there, not here.
There are nine planets in the solar system.
The two boys raced their bikes.
They're both tired after walking up the stairs.

3. Powerful
Too many developers describe their software as, "XXX Software is a powerful, easy-to-use, ... ." I searched and found 2149 descriptions or titles of software containing the word "powerful." Powerful has many meanings, most referring to how effectively something is performed, as in muscular. A car with 450 horsepower is clearly more powerful than one with only 200 horsepower. But what is powerful software? If you mean feature-rich (like Adobe Photoshop), then say so. If your software does only one thing, but it does it completely or thoroughly (like CounterSpy), then say so. But please, no more powerful software.

2. Site or sight
A "site" is a place.
"Sight" refers to your sense of vision.
A web site is a place on the internet that you visit with your browser.
A beautiful sunset is a marvellous sight.

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1. Its or It's
Use "it's" only when it means "it is." Unless you can replace "it's" with "it is," use "its." Never use "its'."
It's raining today.
The dog wagged its tail.

English is very difficult for persons whose native language is not English. It is also difficult for many English-speaking authors.
Unfortunately, most of the common grammatical errors will not be caught by a spell checker, so you have to manually check your writing for them.
An excellent reference is the short and timeless book, The Elements of Style, by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White. A free online version of this book is available at
I hope that web authors can use this article to recognize and correct some of the most common grammatical blunders that abound on the internet.

About The Author

Kempton Smith helps internet businesses promote their products or services online by ghostwriting affordable, unique, keyword-rich articles for them. Email him now at for a free article for your online business, no obligation. Or for a free report on how to use articles to promote your product or service, visit

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Voices in Your Head; Constructing Dialogues in Writing

Are you struggling with your story’s dialogue? If so, you’re not alone. Dialogue is tough for many writers. Fortunately, by learning to listen, you can make your fictional dialogue much stronger. So let’s begin by looking at a quick dialogue exchange, from a short story I’ve been working on.
Her eyes finally met mine. “This isn’t right, Neil. You felt it out there. I know it.”
I nodded. “But it’s free floating. It doesn’t cling to the water and it really isn’t a part of the tank. And there’s no body. A spirit just circles the site.”
“A broken circle,” she said gravely. “Pieces missing…death. Someone died out there.”
“So you’re saying this is a murder?”
“Maybe. Don’t know. No body. But the evil...the dark spirit. It’s still there.”
I had learned over the years that Kathy might be wrong about events and timing, but rarely about feelings. To her, the evil we felt meant death.
“Look,” I told her. “We’ll never know what happened out there. I say we just send the spirit away and go home.”
She shook her head. “It won’t leave…not now, anyway. Isn’t settled…”
Although you’re coming into the story somewhere in the middle, without really knowing the characters, you still get a “feel” for each of them simply by reading this short passage of dialogue. One character is more analytical, trying to make sense of what they’ve seen. The other relies mostly on feeling and instinct, taking a more direct approach to the situation. Two distinct individuals.

But the question is, “How do we know this?” Certainly there’s a bit of narrative here, but not much. Most of what we know we learn from the spoken words. And I’m not talking about the information here. Instead, I’m referring to way these characters speak. For example, notice how the analytical character speaks in complete sentences, in larger concepts. The woman, on the other hand, speaks in short bursts, using clipped sentences and fragments. Each of these speech patterns relates directly to the characters and who they are.

People are unique in their physical characteristics, the way they dress, and how they view the world. We use these things to paint portraits of people in fiction and nonfiction. But it’s important to remember that people also speak in unique ways. And those speech patterns tell readers just as much about that person as anything else you write. In fact, a unique method of speech often creates a deeper portrait. The readers actually hear the person, as well as seeing your visual description. And that can be a powerful tool.

To achieve this, start listening to the way people speak, paying particular attention to some of the following aspects of speech.

1. Wordiness—Some people will use many words, in many long sentences. Others (like our character above) may speak in short bursts and fragments. This can tell readers a lot about the character’s approach to life. It may even hint at some sort of agenda. Wordiness, for example, may be tool for evasion, helping the person avoid answering a question.

2. Tempo—People speak slowly or at high speed and again, that’s a clue to who they are and how they live their lives. Listen to tempo in speech. Listen for pauses, especially those that might stem from caution or lack of an answer. The rate at which a person offers words can be a great character-building tool.

3. Slang—People and characters will often use slang, helping readers determine their age, economic background, ethnicity, and career. Remember that a simple slang word speaks volumes about a person. Make sure it’s telling readers what you want them to know.

4. Vocal Habits—One person may always clear his/her throat before speaking. Another may overuse a certain word or phrase. Another might be liberal with short sounds, like “uh.” Each of these identifies the person for readers and when they see him/her again, they’re able to immediately grasp that unique character. And that helps keep the story moving.

One very helpful exercise for developing dialogue is to use your friends, relatives and acquaintances. Take a line of dialogue from a short story or a quote from a nonfiction article you’re working on. Then imagine each of your friends saying that line. How would your best friend say it? Your mother? Your boss? You should be able to hear differences just by imagining how others would tackle a particular line of dialogue.
Once you have that firmly in your mind, practicing writing it so that it sounds different to readers with each new speaker. You’ll soon find your dialogue skills (and your ear for speech) improving.

Best of luck with all your writing.

©  by Mike Foley

About The Author

Mike Foley is editor of Dream Merchant Magazine and author of more than 700 published stories and articles. He also teaches fiction and nonfiction writing in the extension program at UC-Riverside. Since 1986, Mike has operated the Writer’s Review critique/editing service, helping hundreds of aspiring writers improve their fiction and nonfiction projects.For information on Mike’s critique or coaching services, visit his website: email