How did you tackle music theory?

  1. 6 years ago

    I personally always enjoy knowing the "whys" of any thing I'm learning so I was determined to learn at least basic music theory. There are plenty videos and sites that explain it but most times the basic parts are drowned in alot if terms and things "newbies" have never heard of. I spent Weeks searching trying to find basic theory for a super slow learner like myself without success.
    Finally I found "music theory for noobs" on forum and after reading it like a million times, some theo.ry finally started to trickle into my thick skull.

  2. thongar

    13 Aug 2012 Moderator

    "shugabella" I personally always enjoy knowing the "whys" of any thing I'm learning so I was determined to learn at least basic music theory. There are plenty videos and sites that explain it but most times the basic parts are drowned in alot if terms and things "newbies" have never heard of. I spent Weeks searching trying to find basic theory for a super slow learner like myself without success.
    Finally I found "music theory for noobs" on forum and after reading it like a million times, some theo.ry finally started to trickle into my thick skull.

    What kind of 'basic' music theory did you want to learn? Do you mean in general? Or something specific?

    When I learned theory in music class, I found it easier to learn independently from reading and completing exercises from a book, rather than listening to my teacher talk. (Maybe I just had a bad music teacher haha). It also helps if you have a friend who knows their music theory, because if there's something you don't understand/know how to figure out (e.g. how to write specific types of chords [diminished, major, minor etc]), a friend is one of the best options to explain it to you - that's if the teacher option doesn't help/you don't have access to a teacher. Otherwise, I'd suggest buying a music theory book. There's tons out there!

    Or looking at this website-> http://www.musictheory.net/lessons

    If there's anything you want to clarify/understand better, just send me a message and I'll try my best to help you out.

  3. "shugabella" Finally I found "music theory for noobs" on forum and after reading it like a million times, some theo.ry finally started to trickle into my thick skull.

    Linky linx, pleeez

  4. "pootsie"

    "shugabella" Finally I found "music theory for noobs" on forum and after reading it like a million times, some theo.ry finally started to trickle into my thick skull.

    Linky linx, pleeez

    Probably would not have put it that way, but yes, please give a link.

  5. Wai iz u no lykes my LOLcat-speek?

  6. http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum ... -for-noobs

    This is the link I used. I've read it like a million time!

  7. "shugabella" http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/showthread.php?11264-ukulele-theory-for-noobs

    This is the link I used. I've read it like a million time!

    Thank you, shugabella!

    Sorry, pootsie! No offense meant! LOLcat-speak all you want. I just don't partake in that.

  8. Just by doing it, really. I started with music when I was younger and just built on that over time. It's something you just have to learn. However, that doesn't mean you can't learn it quickly. Let me try to lay some groundwork for you. I reserve the right to lie to you if something is exceedingly technical or there are unnecessary details to basic understanding. I'll tell you when I lie, but don't get caught up on it. It's not important unless you want to get deeper into theory. Vocab words are in bold. Knowing them makes talking music a lot easier.

    MOST BASIC OF BASICS OF MUSIC THEORY

    There are twelve (12) total notes (lie): A, A♯/B♭, B/C♭, C, C♯/D♭, D, D♯/E♭, E/F♭, F, F♯/G♭, G, G♯/A♭. These notes make up every single scale (lie), major, minor, pentatonic, blues, chromatic, etc.

    A ♯ symbol means the note has been raised by half a step, or moved one note upwards in the twelve (12) notes. A ♭ symbol means the opposite, the note has been lowered by half a step. Take note that if you take two adjacent whole notes and flat (lower) the higher one and sharp (raise) the lower one, you will reach the same note (with a few exceptions).

    There are two primary different types of scales (lie): major and minor. Both contain eight (8) notes.

    If you pick a random note, the intervals between notes of a major scale (there are seven intervals, making the scale eight (8) notes) would be a whole step, a whole step, a half step, a whole step, a whole step, whole step, and a half step. This can be written as W-W-H-W-W-W-H. For our purposes, a whole step is two frets and a half step is one fret. If you have a piano, start on middle C and play every white key until you hit another C. This is a C-major scale.

    A minor scale is a major scale, but with flatted (lowered) third (3rd), sixth (6th), and seventh (7th) notes. That means, using our notation from before, a minor scale would be written as W-H-W-W-H-W-W. Go to your piano again and find an A. Now play every white note between that and the other A. This is what's called a natural minor scale. Natural because it is the same exact notes as its relative major scale.

    If you've been paying attention, you'll notice that A natural minor and C major are the same scale, just started on a different note. This is what it means to be relative to one another. C is the relative major to A natural minor, and A natural minor is the relative minor to C major. Every major has a relative minor. If you look at the circle of fifths (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circle_of_fifths ) the inner circle is the relative minor of the outer circle.

    Now besides the natural minor, there're a few variations. Take a minor scale and sharp the seventh (7th) note. This is what's called the Harmonic minor, and sounds very 'eastern' (think snake charmers). The next type of minor scale (Melodic) changes depending on whether you're ascending or descending the scale. If you're ascending, then both the sixth (6th) and seventh (7th) notes are sharped (raised). If you're descending, they're both untouched. Descending Melodic is the same as a natural minor scale.

    There's also chromatic scale, which is every single note played one after another (it has 12 notes). It's meaningless to assign this to a single note/key, because every single key would consist of the same notes.

    Enough about scales. Let's talk chords.

    Look at a C scale (because it's simple and doesn't have any sharps or flats):

    C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C

    Make a standard chord (1-3-5 (it looks like a snowman on paper)) out of every single one of those notes on the scale.

    C-E-G
    d-f-a
    e-g-g
    F-A-C
    G-B-D
    a-c-e
    b-d-f
    C-E-G

    "But Hats" you ask, "Why are some of the scales capitalized and some of them lowercase? And one of them is ITALICIZED! What's up with that?"

    Funny you should ask that, astute and inquisitive reader! The reason some are different is because they are different types of chords. If you make a basic chord (using notes from the scale) out of every note of the scale, some of the chords will be major, some will be minor, and some (one) will even be diminished! This is a natural result of notes in a scale, and what it means when someone says that chords are in a key. Every single one of those chords is in the key of C-major, and could be played if you were playing a song in C-major without sounding really bad (although it might not sound great, the order is important). They are in the key of C-major because every note in the chord is in a C-major scale. If we were to assign a roman numeral to every chord we just made, it would look like this:

    C-E-G I
    d-f-a ii
    e-g-g iii
    F-A-C IV
    G-B-D V
    a-c-e vi
    b-d-f vii[size=50]o[/size] (I don't know how to superscript, and for that I apologize. This symbol ([size=50]o[/size]) should be in the top right)
    C-E-G I

    If you've ever looked at a generic chord progression, you should be hit with a wave of understanding right about now. This is the meat of songwriting: chord progressions. The roman numerals represent the same exact thing in every single (major) key. How you write a song is by relating the different chords to each other, and there are certain short patterns (called cadences) that work remarkably well. For example, play V-I (G-C in the key of C) right now. Hear how the V sounds like it's leading into the I? This is what's called a Perfect Authentic Cadence. It sounds heavy and final, and people love it. Pay attention to how many songs end like that, particularly in classical music. It's pretty common.

    Now the same roman numerals in a minor key:

    i
    ii[size=50]o[/size]
    III
    iv
    v
    VI
    VII
    i

    It should be noted that the fifth is often made major, although this is not a hard and fast rule. You're free to do that or not do that as you wish.

    Now for a short explanation of what makes a chord a chord, just to help you solidify what's going on here. Definition: a chord is a collection of notes played at the same time.

    A major chord is a minor third (a whole step and a half step/three half steps between notes) stacked on top of a major third (two whole steps/four half steps between notes). It generally consists of three notes, although you can repeat those three notes as many times as you want without changing the chord.

    A minor chord is the opposite: a major third on top of a minor third. It sounds sad/pensive/thoughtful/angsty.

    A good rule to remember: If you take the middle note of a major chord and flat it, it becomes a minor chord. If you take the middle note of a minor chord and sharp it, it becomes a major chord.

    A diminished chord is two minor thirds put on top of each other. It is very suspenseful.

    An augmented chord is two major thirds stacked on top of each other. This chord never appears naturally except in harmonic minor key. Otherwise, you have to consciously change something to get this.

    So that's a pretty solid (I think) basis of music theory for songwriters, starting from the ground up. Using this, you can make any chord in any key, and can get a head start on writing your own progressions. The wiki page on progressions is a good place to get started on how to write a good progression, and with a little luck you'll be able to understand it (I don't get parts of it myself): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chord_progression . Moving on from here you can branch into a lot of different types of theory.

    I am sorry for the essay. Hopefully it is moderately helpful.

  9. Hokey Pete, IEnjoyFancyHats!!!!! When you post, you don't mess around!

    This is great and I've already copied it and put it on my iPad.

    BTW< to superscript something in HTML the code is <sup>your item</sup>. Sorry, I'm a web designer and that junk sticks in my head.

  10. The funny thing is most of this isn't even true. It's how lower level theory is understood, but it isn't technically accurate. For example, A♯ and B♭ (and all the equivalences I listed) are actually different notes, with the A being higher than the B. Most instruments are actually tuned out of pitch to limit the number of possible notes. Some electric keyboards can be tuned to a specific key, and when you do that playing in a key a half tone away makes it obvious how much of a difference there is. That's part of the reason I have so much respect for people who play fretless stringed instruments, because their pitch has to be exact without the delineated semitones that frets give. So while we can hit pretty much anywhere in a fret and get the same note, a violinist would get any number of notes in a 1 inch range.

  11. "IEnjoyFancyHats" The funny thing is most of this isn't even true. It's how lower level theory is understood, but it isn't technically accurate. For example, A♯ and B♭ (and all the equivalences I listed) are actually different notes, with the A being higher than the B. Most instruments are actually tuned out of pitch to limit the number of possible notes. Some electric keyboards can be tuned to a specific key, and when you do that playing in a key a half tone away makes it obvious how much of a difference there is. That's part of the reason I have so much respect for people who play fretless stringed instruments, because their pitch has to be exact without the delineated semitones that frets give. So while we can hit pretty much anywhere in a fret and get the same note, a violinist would get any number of notes in a 1 inch range.

    Whoops I'm confused again....

  12. "shugabella" Whoops I'm confused again....

    Music theory is a strange and confusing beast. All stems from physics, interestingly enough.

  13. "IEnjoyFancyHats" All stems from physics, interestingly enough.

    if it comes from physics... then im not surprised im confused.

  14. "IEnjoyFancyHats" Music theory is a strange and confusing beast.

    I can recite color theory no problem, but music theory make me cry if attempted.

  15. "shugabella" if it comes from physics... then im not surprised im confused.

    Physics isn't that complicated, really. It just requires a slightly different way of thinking. With a little effort it can be fun, and being able to understand the how and why of pretty much anything is amazing. Take music, for example. Music is just vibrations of different frequencies that happen to have their wavelengths go together very well. Like if you take a perfect fifth, the fifth is the frequency of the tonic multiplied by 1.5 or divided by 2/3. Play any string open and then play the fifth (7th fret). If you take a look, you're shortening the vibrating part of the string by a third, leaving 2/3 still vibrating. In fact you can find the frequency of any note in relation to its tonic by using the same math. An octave is twice the frequency of a tonic. Play the twelfth fret. It's cutting the effective area in half, doubling the frequency. Isn't that awesome? Every note is just a function of the length of the string, its tension, and its thickness, and the thickness is standard. You get to make music by just futzing around with the physical properties of taut strings or (if you're a woodwind/brass player) columns of air. I actually ended up writing an essay about the philosophy of music as a physical science. It was a good time.

    "sjhilbel" I can recite color theory no problem, but music theory make me cry if attempted.

    They're actually just two expressions of waves, one in light and the other in air (sound). If you understand the physics of it it's pretty simple to back into understanding of theory. You may not get the nomenclature down at the beginning, but understanding of why certain things sound good together and lead into each other fall into place pretty quickly.

  16. Well the first thing to do is learn how the chromatic scale works so you can understand every other scale, then learn the chords and how they are affected by scales, then learn about how they all work when transitioning in music and how they sound and what chords in different church modes sound and the feeling they create, and how it all sounds together. Also, it helps to be able to read sheet music, it does not have to be well enough to read and play at the same time, but just enough to understand it and know what it says at least the names of the notes and accidentals, then you can write things down to break them down and understand them. hopefully, somewhere in there, you'll fall in love with the whole process of learning about it and from there you just go with what interests you in learning and you'll have all you need.

  17. 3 weeks ago

    Piano keyboards are great for figuring out music theory The math makes sense why chords have their names.

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