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Learning Notes, Harmonics, Perfect Pitch

This chapter describes the ways in which Virtualoso Guitar teaches and tests you on notes, natural harmonics and perfect pitch. The basic idea is that you are given either, sound in the case of perfect pitch, or sound and music notation in the case of the learning notes and harmonics. You must then enter the corresponding fret for this sound or notation into the Virtualoso Guitar fretboard window.

When you first start learning these concepts, make sure to set the key signature to "C Major...a minor". As one of your first goals, you should learn all of the notes on the Guitar up to fret XII in C Major. This is accomplished via the "Learn Notes" Mode, under the "Mode" menu item. (If you don't want to hear the sound associated with the notation, you can turn sound off via the Virtualoso Guitar fretboard window's "Sound" menu.) When you are done with this mode, you can thoroughly drill yourself on the equivalent locations of notes on the fretboard via the "Play Tunes Anywhere" mode, found in the chapter on "Learning to Master the Fretboard".

Learning the natural harmonics on the guitar is done with the "Learn Harmonics" mode. (If you'd like to work on perfect pitch with natural harmonics as well, simply minimize the notation window, or move it somewhere on your screen where you can't see it.) You may use any key signature with this testing. Learning the natural harmonics up and down the length of the fretboard completes your mastery of pitch notation.

Perfect pitch is the ability to hear a single pitch, and determine its corresponding equivalent representations as per Chapter I. Perfect pitch is something that we believe all people can develop with training. It can be intimidating at first. If you just keep working on it, eventually you will hear notes, regardless of their octave, as having a certain "feel" or "color". Basically, it has to do with forming a "memory" of the pitches, similar to memorizing the name "red" for something that we see as being red. Since there are only 12 different notes in an octave, you essentially only have to learn 12 different colors. If you are trying to learn perfect pitch, we find that it is critical to tune your guitar to concert pitch (A above middle C=440Hz) every time before you play. (Remember that the guitar is a transposed instrument, with all sheet music notation being transposed up an octave so that it fits nicely onto a single staff. Therefore the A we are mentioning is on the first string at the fifth fret.)

Perfect pitch has advantages and disadvantages over what is known as "Relative Pitch". People that rely exclusively on perfect pitch can be rather difficult to play with, since they think everything sounds "bad" unless tuned to concert pitch (A=440). We believe that it is actually more important to have and rely on "Relative Pitch", i.e., given a note, the ability to perceive another note a relative interval away. With tonal music, the main pitch that the other notes relate to is the tonic of the key that you are playing in, the music travels away from and returns to this central note. In college level music theory courses in the United States, you actually sing (in front of the whole class), the scale degrees of the notes on the sheet music, e.g., "One Three Five One Four Six Five Sev Two Four One...", etc., where "One" corresponds to the tonic and the other numbers are sung with a relatively higher or lower pitch. In Europe, an absolute system is used whereby the note names are used in singing, as opposed to the relative scale degrees. No matter what you're thinking about when you play or sing a note, the most important thing is the sound that you produce.

Getting Started

Use the Mode Menu and select the Learn Notes or Learn Harmonics or Perfect Pitch.

You may also click on the "Show Lesson" button, in order to see what notes you are going to be tested on and where they are on the Sheet Music and Virtualoso Guitar fretboard windows. The software doesn't keep track of your answers until you select "QUIZ..." on all six strings at once. Select the "Progress Report..." menu item under the "File" menu to review your progress.

Menus

Position
This menu determines the group of frets that you are allowed to enter your responses into via the mouse. By selecting a different area, you eventually cover the entire fretboard.
String
This menu determines the actual string or strings that you will be tested on.
Accidentals
This menu determines the type of accidentals that you will be tested on.
Key Signature
This menu allows you to change the key signature that is associated with this test. By changing the key signature, and testing over the same position on the guitar, you exercise a different group of notes. Your "Progress Report" keeps track of the key signatures that you work with for all QUIZ types.

Buttons

More or Less Info
This button shows or hides the graphical text in the mode window.
Show Lesson
This steps through the notes that you are about to be tested on.
Replay
This button plays the last note that you were queried on.

Fields

Note Name Field
This field shows the name of the correct note after you enter an answer.
Done Bar
This bar fills to the right. When the bar is completely filled you are "Done" with this test.

Table of Contents

Next: Learning Relative Pitch and Intervals

Previous: Chords