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