~Music Theory Basics, Explained Enjo's Way~

Discussion in 'Guitar Lessons' started by EnjoGuitar, Jul 11, 2011.

  1. EnjoGuitar

    EnjoGuitar Senior Member

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    BEFORE YOU READ:

    Sean makes a good point. My pace is a little quick in my explanation, and it's based on my style(hence Enjo's Way in the title).

    That being said, if ANYTHING confuses you, ask me about it with your specific questions, or PM me. I will answer all of them to the best of my abilities. I'm not even a music theory wiz by any means, but the intention of this thread is to get the reader to the point where they understand major, minor, modes, scales, keys, and how they relate to each other, hence the basics(with a few other items thrown in the mix).

    Again, I encourage anyone to ask questions so I can rephrase what I said to your likings. Writing this online is not at all like face-to-face, so I speak based on my own experience and terms. If you ask questions it makes it easier for me to dial into how you want to hear it and how it'll make sense to you, which is how I'd like to answer you.

    Thanks!


    ----------------------------------



    I'm going to update this thread in several large posts, focusing on a couple topics at a time, and then linking them together as the thread continues. Not sure if this is gonna contend with some of the great threads around here, but if I've helped anyone at all with this, then I'm doing good. I'm gonna start by explaining some dynamics of music theory as if the reader I'm addressing has never heard any of it.

    Here goes nothin'.


    -------------------------------------------------

    Well, let's start by listing all the notes, every single one of them. In music, there are a total of 12 different notes. These are the notes:

    [​IMG]


    You might be thinking, "I counted 17 of them, why are you saying there are 12?"

    Well, the ones that have a '#' or a 'b' beside them are the same thing. I'll get to that in a second.

    The notes start on A, and and on Ab(A flat). From one note to the next is one space, also called a semitone or half-step apart.

    So from A, to A#/Bb, that's one half-step.

    Now how can it be A# and Bb at the same time?

    Well, think of it this way. From A to B in music, there is a note in the middle. It is called A sharp(A#) because it's one tone higher, or sharper than A. It is at the same time called B flat(Bb) because it's one tone lower(or flat) from B.

    That would be like counting from 1 to 3 like this:

    1, 1+1/3-1, 3

    Instead of:

    1, 2, 3

    This is because 2 is one number lower than three, yet one number higher than one.

    In music, it's easier to just call the notes in between sharps AND flats, because the notes have lettered names.







    Now let's talk about keys. Well what, exactly, is a key?

    A key is named after a specific note that a scale is centered around, and a scale is simply a series of notes, arranged in such a way that they sound musical. The key's name will ALWAYS be the name of the root note, which is exactly the note that a key is centered around.

    Notice how in Do Re Mi Fa So La Ti Do, Do is the beginning and the ending note. Well, it repeats because Do is the main note, or the root note with which the scale is centered around.

    The root note is what any scale starts on. It is also what determines the name of the key. Since a scale is a series of notes that are arranged musically, a key is simply what notes those happen to be, and the root is the main note.

    In all of the main scales, there are 7 different notes altogether, with the root note repeating itself as the 8th note.

    To our ears, whatever note we hear first becomes the most important, or the one that is always behind all of the other notes, holding them up.

    Think of a scale like this:

    You're holding 7 pebbles in your hand, but one pebble is bigger and made of lead. The big, lead pebble is the root note, and no matter which pebbles you focus on, you feel the weight of the big pebble in your hand the most, over all else. This is just like music. You can hear a song, but the main chord or most powerful note always hangs in the back of your mind, subconsciously. This is why whenever you hear the note again, it sounds "right."







    So, for this first part, we've learned the following:

    -There are twelve musical notes total
    -Notes arranged musically form a scale
    -Scales fall into keys, which are what notes in the scale
    -Keys are named after roots, which are the beginning notes of the scale, and the ones that weigh the most musically
    -There are 7 different notes in a typical scale
    -Sharps and flats are the same



    -----------------------------------------


    That's all for this post, but I'll post A LOT more in the next few over the course of the next few days. I hope this helps someone at least a little bit. I try to include good analogies that I think of, as I feel it makes things more interesting and easier to comprehend. When I really get into detail about things like modes, I'll do so in a way that it's a piece of cake(I promise :)).

    Again, I hope this is useful!!!


    Cheers! :thumb:
     
  2. jason_mazzy

    jason_mazzy V.I.P. Member

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  3. EnjoGuitar

    EnjoGuitar Senior Member

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    Thanks a ton, man!

    It'll really start getting better once I get into actually listing the scales, commenting on relative majors and minors, and modes. That way I can actually help people who already know the stuff in my first post with more complex stuff they might not know if they're looking to learn it. I have my own simplistic understanding of music theory that I want to one day teach to guitar students, so I thought I'd share it here first.

    I wrote a music theory notebook after I got frustrated at my teacher for not wanting to work with my learning style, where I simplified music theory into my own understanding as a mentioned. It made modes, scales, and all that ridiculously simple, where as it's relatively intimidating to a lot of guitar players.

    If anything, maybe some people that teach guitar will use some of my analogies or explanations with their students. I'd be EXTREMELY honored to hear about that and certainly would love to if anyone deemed my methods good enough. :D

    Thanks again, and I hope to update this thread with another good post tomorrow. :)
     
  4. EnjoGuitar

    EnjoGuitar Senior Member

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    PART 2

    -------------------------------------

    In the first post, I covered the most basic of basics. In this post, I'm going to elaborate on moving from note to note. In the part following this, I will explain the patterns that make up scales, and I will list those scales. This part is short, due to the next part being huge.

    Before I write this next part, I'd like to talk about the Chromatic scale. The Chromatic scale is the only non-musical scale. Instead of saying all of the musical notes, when I mention the Chromatic scale, that's what I mean.

    If I'm speaking about music chromatically, it means that you aren't moving in musical intervals, or skipping notes. You're playing one note right after the next. Just to reiterate, if I mention going from one note to the next Chromatically, it means with no musical pattern at all, just from A to A#/Bb to B to C, etc...






    We learned that if you were to go from A to A#/Bb, you'd be counting one half-step. If one note to the next note chromatically is a half-step, then two notes should be a whole-step, right? Correct.

    If you skip A#/Bb and go straight to B, you've just moved a whole-step.

    When listing the notes, you might have noticed that there appears to be no B# or E#. The notes just seem to go from B to C, and from E to F.

    So are the sharps hidden, and those are really whole-steps apart? No. It's just the way the notes were named. Technically speaking, the note 'C' is B#, but we call it C anyways. The same thing with F. It's technically E#, but it's named F.

    So from that we've gathered that from one note to the very next possible note is a half-step, and from one note to the next note two notes away is a whole-step.

    To put this into perspective, a half-step would be like plucking a string on a guitar, and sliding one fret over. A whole-step would be sliding two frets over.

    On the piano, a half step is playing a key, and playing a key next to it(like a white key and then the black one next to it, or in the spot where two white keys are next to each other with no black key in between). A whole step is simply playing a key and then playing another key two keys away.
     
  5. Thumpalumpacus

    Thumpalumpacus Senior Member

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    Intervals are everything.
     
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  6. EnjoGuitar

    EnjoGuitar Senior Member

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    That they are. I'm going to get into that heavily within my next few theory posts. Modes, keys, and diatonic scales are what I'm going to primarily focus on, and I'm going to list how the pentatonic scale can turn into the blues scale or the diatonic scale on a dime, and the patterns betwen major and minor scales, and all that.

    All I hope is that I help someone, even if it's just that one person.
     
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  7. Benguitar

    Benguitar Senior Member

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    Thank you for this thread, I've really been having a bit of trouble getting down an understanding of music theory, so I'm really looking forward to this helping a great deal.
     
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  8. EnjoGuitar

    EnjoGuitar Senior Member

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    That means a ton, man. Ever since I wrote my music theory notebook and simplified it all for me, I've been eager to pass it on to everyone that was struggling even in the slightest bit.

    I urge you to PM me with any specific questions that have been bothering you, and I'll make a big post addressing all of your questions in this thread. I'd really like to hear from you so I can specifically erase your concerns with theory.

    Thanks again! :thumb:
     
  9. huw

    huw V.I.P. Member

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    Tip of the iceberg! :)

    I like your style of explanation so far, but a key is not a note. A key is named after the root note, but they ain't the same thing. A note cannot be "major" or "minor" but keys can.

    That might seem like a small thing to some people but it's a really important distinction, so I hope you don't mind me putting it in there - I'm not trying to hijack your thread! :thumb: (FWIW there isn't a single decent complete definition of everything that is entailed by "key" to be found online - at least not that I've found, and I have looked).

    Looking forward to the next installment.
     
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  10. EnjoGuitar

    EnjoGuitar Senior Member

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    I'm confused as to why you said that... :hmm:

    I'm not even being sarcastic. In the part you quoted bold, I said the key was named after a specific note(implying the root note). I didn't say the key WAS the note.

    Again, not sarcastic, just confused. Did I miss something? :(

    I plan on going into WAAAAY better detail, actually, so thanks for your last words. :D
     
  11. Sean0913

    Sean0913 Member

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    I find it a little bit awkward. Take this with a grain of salt. I am posting raw initial thoughts as I read them, as if I were a beginner:

    1. Application of the knowledge. All of the concepts at this stage feel abstract and I cannot tie into where this is going, or what benefit I will derive from it.

    2. Transition to math from vocal sounds of do, re, me...if someone has an aversion to math, you could lose them. (I follow exactly what you're doing, but I'm thinking as if I didn't as I read this). Where would I feel lost? I speak of this one from experience. There is a section in one of my courses, where I developed it as simple match - "Just add 2". Simple enough, right? Early on in my testing of this, I found it slowed everyone down. I took that feedback, and went back and developed a staircase diagram, and suddenly, everyone got it. I found mach was abstract and the staircase worked great. The thing is, they were still doing math, but had no problem with it.

    (as an aside...take your method and refine it through teaching others, there's no better way. I call my first students 8-9 years ago...my guinea pigs because I made every possible mistake in the book, and they helped challenge me to improve upon reaching them with the right message. When people come to me now and compliment my teaching, I think, yeah well if you teach the same thing to more than 600 people, you're bound to eventually get it right :) )

    3. Big black hole at the abstractness of enharmonics. Explaining what they are but not why.

    So, as someone that's not familiar with this, I have a collection of singing, math and abstract ideas that are in a state of suspense, and I'm really not sure where they are going, if they will continue to be abstract, how much time this will take, or when I'll make the transition to putting it into practice.

    As an instructor, I think your analogy of the stones was quite good. I think overall you are progressing through things too fast from notes to scales to enharmonics to keys.

    I say all that to say this: You are dead on correct about different learning styles, and I think that you are writing in such a way that makes the most sense to you, and consequentially may reach people that think and learn similarly. As a teacher I have had to learn to adapt for the different learning styles.

    As a bit of advice, based upon a bias, and that bias is that "stating the facts of something isn't teaching". Teaching acknowledges the audience, and anticipates the places where it may be confusing and adapting that strategy to reach them and overcome that. I see a bit of that, in your analogy of the stones. Its a good start and I would encourage you to keep thinking in terms of that. If possible try to avoid leaving ideas abstract. If needed, slowly develop them in smaller pieces, one of which builds upon the other. Define the needs of the reader that you are hoping to reach, and consider ways to reach more of them, with a payoff at the conclusion of each lesson.

    Hope this helps!

    Best,

    Sean
     
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  12. EnjoGuitar

    EnjoGuitar Senior Member

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    PART 3

    -------------------------------------

    Now that we know what whole-steps and half steps are, we can begin looking at the patterns that make up scales.

    The good thing about music theory is that a lot of it is just the same rules with different notes. In other words, if you figure out a pattern, you can apply the same pattern starting with a different note and it'll fall into the same category but sound different. Neat huh? :)


    I'm sure you've heard someone mention major and minor before, but what are they?

    Well, those are the two most common scales. Major is a scale that typically sounds happy, or cheerful. Minor is a scale that typically sounds sad, or darker.

    What's the difference? Patterns. The patterns used to make up each scale are how they're different.

    If you start on the A note, and write down the notes following a major pattern until you reach A again, you will have written down the A major scale. If you start on A and write down the notes following a minor pattern until you've reached A again, you will have written down the A minor scale.

    Remember how I said that key was named after what note a scale follows? Well, the A minor scale is in the key of A minor, whereas the A major scale is in the key of A major. This is because each scale is written so that it starts on A, but it follows different patterns. Despite each scale having a different sound to it, the note A is still the root, and thus each scale falls into the key of A(major and minor are just different patterns in that key).

    So now that I've spoken so much of major and minor, let's talk about the exact patterns that form them. I'll start with major.

    All you need to know about writing down major scales is the pattern, and then you can write down every possible major scale there is(which I'll be doing in my next post).

    It just so happens that many years ago, someone figured out that playing notes in a specific pattern sounded good, and so they kept that pattern and named it major. Same with any other. The only thing that makes it major is the pattern of the notes, there isn't any reason, it's just named major because each pattern has to be distinguishable from the next.

    After all that talk, here, finally, is the major pattern:

    Whole | Whole | Half | Whole | Whole | Whole | Half

    If you saw all the whole's and half's and immediately thought "step" after each one, then you'd be exactly right.

    This is what that pattern means.

    If you start on ANY note, and count two notes away, you have a whole step. This is the first step in the pattern. To determine the key you want this scale to be in, simply choose the first note, and then write down the next notes that would appear in the pattern.

    So let's say we would like a major scale in the key of A(resulting in the key: A major).

    We would write down A, and then apply the major pattern.

    Here, once again, is all of the notes, so you can write them down with me if you'd like:

    [​IMG]




    This is the scale, taken one new note at a time:


    A

    A | B

    A | B | C#

    A | B | C# | D

    A | B | C# | D | E

    A | B | C# | D | E | F#

    A | B | C# | D | E | F# | G#

    A | B | C# | D | E | F# | G# | A


    ------------------------------------------

    That is the full A major scale. Notice how I said there are only 7 notes in the scale. Well, this is true for all major and minor scales. When you count 8 the last time, there are two A's, because the scale repeats when it completes the pattern for the first time. When it starts at A and finishes on A, it's just reached an octave. An octave is simply the same note at the next pitch, either higher or lower in sound. Chromatically speaking, and octave is 13 notes, because there are 12 notes total, and the 13 is where it would repeat no matter which note you start on. In musical scales, however, and octave is 8 notes apart. So when A major starts on A and ends on A, it spans an octave apart.

    In my next post, I'll apply the minor pattern to A instead, and then proceed to write out all of the possible minor and major scales.
     
  13. EnjoGuitar

    EnjoGuitar Senior Member

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    Thanks a ton for the input!

    I explain this differently to an individual that's actually there. I may be moving to quickly, but you're right, this is from my point of view. It's not personally established because I'm speaking generally, which may or may not be a good thing, I suppose. Another reason I'm moving rather quickly is because most of the people on this site are already familiar with everything in Part 1. In person, with a real student(I've had a few people), I take the time to listen to what everyone's saying and how they want to hear it. I suppose I'm much better in person, but what teacher isn't?

    I thank you again for your input. I may edit the first post over time to allow for a bit of a bigger space between each part or to explain things thoroughly.

    I shouldn't have relied on the Do Re Mi stuff so much in part one. I'm saving that for my explanation on modes(my modes explanation should impress you, though. I'm extremely proud of that one :D).

    Take a look at Part 3 and tell me if you think it's any better. :thumb:
     
  14. huw

    huw V.I.P. Member

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    Sorry, but you did:

    That's why I posted: because you said the key "...is the name for a specific note..." NOT "...named after a specific note..."

    That has a very different meaning.

    I'm sure it was just a typo, but that is what you said.

    :)
     
  15. EnjoGuitar

    EnjoGuitar Senior Member

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    OOOOOOH, sorry I didn't see that earlier. Will edit right away.



    Thanks! :thumb:

    I totally meant that though. :laugh2:
     
  16. huw

    huw V.I.P. Member

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    :thumb:
     
  17. AngryHatter

    AngryHatter Senior Member

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    Solfège
     
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  18. EnjoGuitar

    EnjoGuitar Senior Member

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    Indeed, good sir. I use that a lot, but it works. Depending on the type of person I'm addressing, I may not use it at all.

    In fact, I might consider editing it out, though, because it doesn't flow as well as I'd like, and Sean made a few good points about it. :hmm:

    EDIT:

    I've removed all but one or two examples of the solfege, and I think it flows better now.

    It's still fast-paced, but that's why I encourage people to ask questions. For anyone that already knows the stuff in parts 1 and 2, but not 3, I think three is the most helpful so far. Part four will be me writing out all of the scales of major and minor. Part five will be me relating the above discussed things to guitar, and part 6 will be modes. :thumb:
     
  19. Sean0913

    Sean0913 Member

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    There are a few things that aren't made clear. One is that in a Major scale ALL Notes (letters of the alphabet) must be accounted for. I think that is a critical point of understanding. I can't count how many people butcher their scale degrees from simply not picking up on this idea.

    Towards that end I'd advise that "students" write out and submit every Major scale from A to G (All naturals, no sharps and flats, because of the obvious train wrecks in wait if you try to get them to write something like A# Major!)

    Two, I really think you get into muddy when you bring in the ideas of B# early on, because context dictates everything. E augmented for example, G# Major for another...

    I think the whole point of the major scales should be made clear to the student as the absolute basis of music theory and understanding most concepts. (Diatonic Harmony, Analysis and Function, etc). Conversely I think introducing the chromatic scale is almost as useless as the Circle of Fifths (in the beginning stages of music theory). So, yeah I'm opinionated but at least you know I'm biased and where :)

    I am somewhat concerned at the prospect of bringing modes into it, anytime soon, as I tend to see a sophisticated level of understanding the basics as absolutely neccesary. By that I mean scales triads, extended chords, cadences, harmonization, intervals, modulation, transposition etc....solid. Then introduce the concept of tonal harmony.

    Unless you are simply going to introduce the concept as an extension of the Major/Minor scales, and not of application in tonality. In general, I think Modes are generally an appeasement for those who don't know and have it in their heads feel that having Modes is akin to rubbing a genie lamp where you have instant transformation and access to a wonderland of melodic ideas and novel approaches to music. I think music marketers have taken a death grip on that notion in an attempt to promote their approach.

    As romantic as that notion might sound, it simply doesn't exist; I cannot count how many times I find people with a minute understanding find themselves impotent to make meaningful use of it. So, I will be interested to see your approach, even though I know you have no marketing ambitions attached to it.

    You asked me about the other lessons:

    In looking at your lessons overall I found them too long for most people to digest though the content was solid. To get away with that long a lesson, and keep it fresh (from drying out in the wall of words and letters), the content has got to grab the reader absolutely and relate to things they already know. A lot of it might be related to the formatting and the all bold words. The irony of me pointing this out, isn't lost on me, because my posts on average are larger than any single one of your lessons have been to date ;)

    I hope these thoughts and observations help. It is not my intent to bash your intentions or efforts, but to give you food for thought. I'm a bit of a straight talker being here in Texas, its part of the culture here, so if anything seems harsh, it's not intended to be that way.

    Best,

    Sean
     
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  20. AngryHatter

    AngryHatter Senior Member

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    AC#E
    BD#F#
    CEG
    DF#A
    EG#B
    FAC
    GBD

    I only went so far as triads - I used to hum it to myself.
    And as far as your lessons "flowing better"...I'd point out that "do re mi" forms the basis for most ear training.
    It is fundamental to a good grasp of intervals.

    And what some people forget is it does not need be a dry subject - tying intervals to song the students know make it very easy for them to remember.
    The wedding march being one in my day.
    I guess now, pull the first two notes from something Slash related.
     
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