When playing music, we do need to keep in mind certain fundamentals. At TuCuatro we will touch upon this briefly so that you can have a working knowledge of what some of these theoretical concepts are and how they apply to the Venezuelan Cuatro. If you do find certain aspects about musical theory interesting then we recommend to researching this further, but for now we will focus on what musical theory means for the Cuatro, specifically with scales in this lesson.
What is a scale? A scale can be considered any set of notes ordered based on their frequency or pitch. To follow the scale of a specific note, we often need to follow a pattern which is specific to the type of scale. Before we do this, we must first understand that notes are separated by Tones and Half-Tones. This is referring to the distance between one note and another which can be reviewed in our lesson on natural notes. To give you an idea, the distance between C and D is 1 Tone and the distance between E and F is a Half Tone. Here is a brief graphical representation of this using the keys of a piano:
Note Distances: Piano Illustration
As you can see, there are only two notes where there is a halftone in between them being E & F as well as B & C. The other notes are separated by Tones. In this case we will be reviewing the pattern corresponding to a Major Scale. Major scales follow this pattern (T representing tones and sT representing halftones):
T – T – sT – T – T – T – sT
If we were to translate this scale to a specific note, say D then this would be the following notes which would need to be played for the C Major Scale. Take a closer look at how this is played on the Cuatro:
C – D – E – F – G – A – B
If we make use of the same scale but apply it to another note, then you will begin to see how this differs from note to note. Have a look at the E Major scale below and check out the video relating to it:
E – F# – G# – A – B – C# – D#
What is the importance of the scale? Well, with scales we are able to play melodies corresponding to songs. If you know the key to the song and you know the scale, you can play this. With the Cuatro this becomes increasingly important as we move into the world of more complex pieces as the Cuatro is able to harmonize songs using the chords and scales. Here is an example:
Basically what the soloist is doing is playing the song using chords in different positions and the slight modifications to the chords played is following the corresponding scale giving it an effect that the song is being sung with the Cuatro. A complicated technique, but you will get there!