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Tutor profile: Quin F.

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Quin F.
Pianist of 16 years and pursuing BM at Eastman School of Music
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Questions

Subject: Music Theory

TutorMe
Question:

How do I know what key a piece of music is in?

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Quin F.
Answer:

When looking at sheet music we should first look at the beginning of the first measure to the right of the clef. There we will find a number of either sharps (look like #) or flats (look like the letter b). These are collectively called our key signature. Each sharp or flat (accidental as they are called) affects the note on which line or space it is placed. If we think of C Major, we have no accidentals in the key signature and thus no #'s or b's at the beginning of the first measure. This means that we would not alter any of the notes on the staff and if we are playing on keyboard, we would only be using white keys unless otherwise specified. However, once we add a # to the key signature, our key will change. To find what key we have moved to, we like to use a tool called the "circle of fifths". If we think of C Major as being at the top of the circle, going to the right, adding one # will bring us to G Major. We have moved the interval of a fifth up from C to bring us to our new key (thus the name). Every # we add will move us up another fifth and conversely, every b we add will move us down a fifth. This continues to a maximum of 6 sharps or flats as any more would create keys that we have already encountered. For example, we cannot have an Fb Major as that would be using the same keys that we have in the key of E Major. Usually located inside the circle are our minor keys. Each Major key has what is called a "relative minor" key related to it. Both of these keys share the same amount of sharps or flats but sound different based on where the tonic note is located. Every relative minor key's tonic is a minor third interval below its respective major key. If we have C Major for example, we go down a minor third to A to find our relative minor key. The notes contained in the key are the same but the starting position and orientation give us a completely different mood or feeling.

Subject: Music

TutorMe
Question:

How do I play a B Major scale on the piano?

Inactive
Quin F.
Answer:

First to begin the scale, we have to decide what note we will start on. As mentioned in the question the key of the scale will be B Major. In this instance the piano key of B is what is called our tonic or first scale degree, the most stable note in the scale. This is our starting point. For this scale we will start with the thumb of the right hand on the tonic and the fourth finger of the left hand on the same tonic note but moved an octave lower on the keyboard. This creates a comfortable starting position and sets up our hands for the rest of the scale. Now where to next? Again another common practice in scales is to ascend through the scale (moving right on the keyboard) before descending (moving left on the keyboard) after reaching the tonic again higher up on the keyboard. Also, you have mentioned that the key signature is B Major. In scales, the note we play next is determined by what we call "steps". These are either "whole" or "half" steps. These are the closest we can move physically on the keyboard. A half step is from one key to the next key adjacent to it while a whole step would be two keys apart. Every major scale will follow the pattern of whole-whole-half-whole-whole-whole-half until the cycle repeats. If we take a look at the keyboard, starting from B, that pattern will end up as: B to C# (whole), C# to D# (whole), D# to E (half), E to F# (whole), F# to G# (whole), G# to A# (whole), and finally A# back to B (half). As you can see there are a lot of accidentals in this key so there are a lot of black keys to play. We want to make the smoothest fingering possible and avoid tangling our fingers. So ascending with the left hand the pattern would be 4-3-2-1-4-3-2-1 and until reaching the top tonic note. Descending, starting from B the tonic, the left hand fingering will be 1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4. The last note in the pattern will change to 1 if you want to continue the scale downwards. In the right hand, ascending from the tonic the fingering pattern is 1-2-3-1-2-3-4-5. If you wish to continue ascending, the last note will change to 1. These changes with the right hand ascending and left hand descending are to allow you to smoothly continue in the desired direction without breaking the pattern. Lastly, I would like to draw attention to the fact that we are avoiding using the thumb of either hand on the black keys. This is because using the thumb on black keys is usually less stable than other fingers and more prone to tangling up your hands or creating uneven tone when encountering scalar or more quicker passages in pieces.

Subject: English

TutorMe
Question:

What order do subjects and predicates come in?

Inactive
Quin F.
Answer:

Each sentence contains two parts, including the subject and predicate. The subject is the main object of the phrase. The predicate is the action relating to the subject. To find the subject we should usually look near the beginning of the sentence for nouns, "whos" or "whats". In the case of the phrase "John sits in the living room", the focus of the sentence is John and so we will use him as the subject. To find the predicate it's usually good to look for verbs. What is John doing? He's sitting (the verb) in the living room. So now we can see the phrase divided into two parts: "John" the subject and "sits in the living room" the predicate. In most instances the subject will come before the predicate. There are some exceptions though. For example, in an imperative sentence the subject will be implied. If someone tells you "Clean your dishes" for example, the subject of the sentence is implied as being you yourself.

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