I am beginner to learn violin and I need to understand the basic note.

Below's two lines of notes from suzuki violin book1

I'd like to understand:

  1. Am I right that 3 # means A major?
  2. What is the C in the start of second line? why the C is not in the first line?
  3. Why use 1 #, 2 # or 3# to mark different major, is this the exactly same as piano/keyboard notes?


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  1. Yes, 3 sharps is the key signature for A Major

  2. The second line changes Time Signature. The "C" is an abbreviation for 4/4 time, also known as Common time, now having 4 counts in the measure and 4 counts in a whole note. The first line has the time signature written out as 3/4 time, with 3 counts in each measure.

  3. Key signatures are independent of instruments and are the same in all cases, so yes, the same as the keyboard notes. Having no sharps puts you in A minor/ C major (all letter notes/white keys), and the key moves up a 5th every time a sharp is added.

When the first sharp is added you have moved up to G major. The second sharp moves you to D major, and the third sharp puts you in A major.

The Suzuki books have Piano accompaniment for the exercises. The key signature is added to the exercise even though you aren't playing anything specific to A major so it matches what the piano is playing.

  • Many people assume "the letter C" stands for "Common time," but actually it originated before the modern concept of "time signatures" and "bar lines" even existed in western music. It was originally just a broken circle (to distinguish it from a complete circle) and the modern "cut time" symbol was a just a broken circle with a vertical line across it. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mensural_notation#Mensurations for the original (and complicated) system of dividing notes into 2 or 3 equal parts, as compared with the modern system of only dividing into 2 (half notes, quarters, 8ths, etc). – user19146 Jul 27 '17 at 3:25
  • 1
    yes, thank you for the full explanation. I didn't go into it because someone starting with book 1 of suzuki probably doesn't need the history at this point. Using "Common Time" as a mnemonic for the C being 4/4 is useful, even if it isn't exactly what it means. I also tell my students that they will get in "treble" if they don't remember what the other name of the G clef is... en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_signature – Alphonso Balvenie Jul 27 '17 at 4:53
  • @AlphonsoBalvenie The name for the other clef is fairly bass-ic, really. – marcellothearcane Jul 28 '17 at 20:01
  • @Alphonso Balvenie, sorry I just couldn't find how to mark your answer the correct one like stackoverflow. It's my first post in music channel. – Stephen Cheng Jul 29 '17 at 6:25

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