Interval Inversions

Quick, what’s the interval between A and C?

Ok, it’s a trick question. The answer is it depends on which octaves the notes are in, and specifically which note is higher. That’s the concept of interval inversions that I will talk about here. I suggest reviewing my lessons on The Musical Alphabet and Intervals.

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Pythagoras and Me

As someone who is interested in both music and science, I find myself fascinated with the concept of scales. Why are they the way they are? If music is so mathematical, why does it seem so arbitrary. There are 12 notes in an octave, but what’s so special about this number 12? Then the major scale is formed from seven of those notes, which is strange. If the major scale is so nice and melodious and all that, why aren’t the notes evenly spaced? Well, I set out to find some answers. I spent hours scouring the internet, visiting the library, reading books, scratching figures in a notebook. You don’t have to do that, because here’s what I found out, all nicely summarized.

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Basic Chords

Categories: Music theory, Chords

Level: Beginner

From the previous lessons, you now hopefully understand how notes and intervals are named. Here I will cover the construction and naming of some simple chords. We already know that the space between two notes is called an interval. If we play the notes one after the other, it's called a melodic interval, because it's as if you're playing a melody. If we play them at the same time, it's called a harmonic interval, because it's, you know, a harmony. Now if we take a harmonic interval, and add a third different note, we have a chord. That was easy, right? After that, we can keep adding more notes to make more and more complicated chords, but for this lesson let's stick with three-note chords, also called triads, for all you Latin-speakers. By the way, does anybody else remember the old game Rise of the Triad? Back in I think '95 or '96, I think it was. Somewhere between Doom and Duke Nukem 3-D, it was my favorite game. Anyway, that's irrelevant. Where were we? Oh yeah, so basically, the definition of a chord is just any three different notes played at the same time. The intervals between these three notes define what the chord sounds like. There are a lot of different possible combinations of intervals, but only a few that are commonly used. Continue reading Basic Chords

Music Theory Lesson: Intervals

Category: Music theory

Level: Beginner

In the last lesson, we talked about the musical alphabet, and how notes are named. We discussed that the distance between two adjacent notes is called a half-step, and that two half steps is called a whole-step. Very exciting, I'm sure.

The generic term for the distance between two notes - any two notes - is an interval. Turns out there are names for lots of intervals, not just the half-step and whole-step. And some of these intervals have more than one name. Remember how I said that much of music theory is giving fancy names to things you may already understand? Well, here is a perfect example. Intervals are something we get instinctively. It's when they get names like "diminished seventh" that people run for the hills. Don't. In this lesson, you can listen to them, hear them in context, and see where they are used in real life, and not just read about them abstractly.

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Music Theory: The Musical Alphabet

Music Theory

Level: Beginner

This article presents an introduction to the way musical notes are named and referred to. If you already know even a little music theory, this may seem pretty basic for you, so you may want to skip ahead or come back for more advanced lessons. If you’re a “play by ear” musician, you may not see the need to learn any theory at all. In many ways, music theory is giving names and complicated explanations to things we already know instinctively. Still, the next time you’re jamming and someone asks you to play an A sharp, it would be good to understand what that means. In addition, this lesson provides a base for later, more interesting, lessons. Continue reading Music Theory: The Musical Alphabet