We are looking forward to the upcoming DevouGrass Festival on October 7! Held at the beautiful Devou Park Bandshell in Covington, KY, the festivities start at noon with some lively bluegrass music by Vernon McIntyre’s Appalachian Grass. Other musical performances by fine regional bands are scattered throughout the afternoon. I always enjoy browsing the interesting hand-made crafts and the fine food booths. Some folks prefer to kick back on their lawn chairs and just enjoy the shows.
One of my personal favorite things about the Festival is the Circus Mojo. These guys (and gals) put on a top notch mini-circus complete with clowns, juggling, and even a trapeze artist. However, the BEST thing to me is that, at the end of the show, the kids in the audience get to try out some of the acts! It is a hoot to watch!
DevouGrass Festival is a fundraiser for the Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky. Come enjoy the day with us and support a good cause at the same time!
NAMING the WHITE KEYS on PIANO
Although your interest is probably NOT in piano music, I am going to use the piano keyboard for this lesson in Seat-of-the-Pants Music Theory because the musical patterns I want to discuss are so visually obvious on piano. These same patterns are also true on stringed instruments, but are not as neatly laid out in front of you. So let’s start with some visual patterns on piano.
Notice the repeating visual pattern going left to right.
First, there is a set of 2 black keys with a white key between the pair. Then there are two adjacent white keys with no black keys between them. Next comes a set of 3 black keys alternating with white keys. Then there are two adjacent white keys with no black keys between them.
The pattern then repeats, starting again with the set of 2 black keys, then a pair of adjacent white keys, then a set of 3 black keys, and finally a pair of adjacent white keys. This pattern runs across the full width of whatever keyboard you may have. Counting both black and white keys, a full size piano has 88 keys. Some smaller electronic keyboards may have as few as 25. But, they all will have the pattern of black and white keys I have described.
Now, let’s put names to the keys.
In this lesson, I am going to deal with note names for the white keys only. I will deal with names for the black keys in a later lesson. The white keys are named with letters in a repeating sequence of A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. When you get to G, the next white key is called A and the pattern repeats.
Further, when you go from any letter to the next occurrence of the same letter, that interval is called an octave. Here are the note names applied to my keyboard diagram; I have marked two octaves of C with red letters.
Notice the pattern of where each letter falls:
‘C’ is always immediately to the left of the pair of black keys
‘D’ is always the next white key to the right of C and there is a black key between them.
‘E’ is always the next white key to the right of ‘D’ and there is a black key between them.
‘F’ is always next white key to the right of ‘E’ and is adjacent to the ‘E’
(no black key between them)
alternatively, you can view F as immediately to left of three black keys
‘G’ is always the next white key to the right of ‘F’ and there is a black key between them.
‘A’ is always the next white key to the right of ‘G’ and there is a black key between them.
‘B’ is always the next white key to the right of ‘A’ and there is a black key between them.
‘C’ is always the next white key to the right of ‘B’ and is adjacent to the ‘B’
(no black key between them)
Although you can’t tell without hearing the note played, the sound (pitch) of the note will be progressively higher and higher as you move from left to right.
To test your understanding of these patterns, here are a several quiz questions. Check yourself against my diagram AFTER you fill out yours. Here is the blank diagram for you to use in answering the quiz questions.
And here are the questions:
- Fill in all the notes named C
- Fill in all the notes named A
- Fill in all the notes named E
- Fill in all the notes named G
- Fill in all the notes named F
- Fill in all the notes named D
- Fill in all the notes named B
I had never heard of bluegrass music until 1974 when my brother Andy took me to Kings Row, a neighborhood bar featuring nightly performances by ‘The Appalachian Grass’. Andy was taking banjo lessons at the time and wanted me to convert my classical violin training to bluegrass fiddling. I listened to Paul Warren kick-off the Martha White Theme on Flatt and Scruggs Carnegie Hall album. I listened and listened. I didn’t get it. It wasn’t written in music notation; I couldn’t play it if it wasn’t written down. Andy slowed the record down to half speed and I listened and listened again. I still didn’t get it. So much for my career as a bluegrass fiddler.
Vernon McIntyre played banjo with the Appalachian Grass. He was excellent. As ignorant as I was about bluegrass, Vernon’s fierce concentration and almost frantic attack on his banjo captivated me. I was too shy at the time to speak to him or any other band members; in my eyes, they were ‘bigger-than-life stars’.
I moved away from Cincinnati and lost track of Vernon McIntyre and of the Appalachian Grass for several years. During this time, Vernon started playing guitar instead of banjo and became lead singer in the band. He kept picking and singing for nightclubs, festivals, colleges, fairs, and private parties all across the U.S. and Canada. He built a good reputation as a banjoist, guitarist, singer, and all-round entertainer. I still hadn’t met the man and I still couldn’t play the Martha White Theme.
In 1981, I settled back in Cincinnati and Andy finally introduced me to Vernon and the rest of the band. Vernon asked Andy for my phone number, but Andy said, ‘Lord, no, you’re not going out with my sister!’ Andy was then called out of town on business, so I grabbed the opportunity and I gave Vernon the number.
We spent a lot of time together that summer, and finally, I started learning some bluegrass fiddle. Vernon can’t play a fiddle; anyone who has heard him will testify to that. But, he can hear how it should be played. He spent hours singing melodies for me, showing me notes on the guitar and helping me find them on the fiddle. He encouraged me and told me I could get really good someday. I thought he was nuts. But, I had already made up my mind I wanted to be with him and wanted to be part of the band and the travelling. So I kept plugging away learning the play the fiddle.
My first show with the Appalachian Grass was in 1983. I was terrified. My knees were knocking and my fingers started shaking; I could barely play what little stuff I did know. All the guys in the band were very patient and supportive and for that I thank them all.
Vernon’s lifelong love and my new-found love of bluegrass have totally changed the course of my life. Through bluegrass music, I found Vernon who is now my husband; I have been encouraged to try things and think about things I never tried or thought about before; I have met people who have welcomed me into their homes and fed me like one of their own even though I had never met them before. After a childhood in the suburbs, I finally discovered the joy of biscuits and gravy, fried ‘taters, and Martha White cornbread.