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Music Theory Illustrated
Table of Contents:
Chapter 1 – What to Expect from this Text: 2
Chapter 2 – Know what to do: 3
Chapter 3 – Color Assignment: 4
Chapter 4 – Stickers: 4
Chapter 5 – Intervals: 5
Chapter 6 – Chords Quality: 5
Chapter 7 – The Major Scale: 6
Chapter 8 – Your Piano Major Scale: 6
Chapter 9 – Other Scales: 7
Chapter 10 – Melodic Progression: 8
Chapter 11 – Major Scale Progression: 10
Chapter 12 – Relative Minor Scale: 11
Chapter 13 – Modes: 12
Chapter 14 – Chord Progressions: 13
Chapter 15 – Transposing: 14
Chapter 16 – Modulation: 15
Chapter 17 – Key Signatures: 16
Chapter 18 – Your Piano Wormhole: 17
Chapter 19 – Chord Substitution: 17
Chapter 20 – Improvising: 17
Chapter 21 – Music likes to move in Thirds: 18
Chapter 21 – Call and Response: 18
Chapter 22 – Arpeggio Chords: 19
Chapter 23 – Rhythms: 19
Chapter 24 – Tempo: 20
Chapter 25 – Playing by Ear: 20
Chapter 26 – Playing Multiple Instruments: 21
Chapter 27 – Apps: 21
Chapter 28 – Congratulations 22
Chapter 1 – What to Expect from this Text:
My goal is to help beginners to play their instrument and to help more experienced musicians to understand the structure of music theory so that they can remember a song by its music theory structure.
If your goal is to play the Piano, learning the basics of music theory, not reading and writing music notation, will get you further, faster and you will have more fun.
This text is a companion to your illustrated Music Wormhole products. You do not have to read this text to use your Music Wormhole products but it will help you to understand them and give you additional insights into Music Theory.
Music Theory Illustrated is presented as if I were having a conversation with you. I will attempt to communicate the most important information to you in an easy to understand manner.
I use the term “Music Wormhole” as a generic term to refer to any of our colorfully illustrated products which have a cut out window in the front and a circular dial at the back which can be turned. The name Music Wormhole was chosen because these products are a “short cut to the musical universe”.
I will tell you the most commonly used Notes, Chords, Keys, Scales, Chord Progressions and methods of improvising in order to fast track your development.
Your illustrated Music Wormhole products increase in complexity as you progress through the series of products. The products in order of complexity are shown in the table below:
Product Name: Bundle:
Piano Chord Beginner
Piano I IV V Beginner
Piano Major Scale Advanced
Piano Wormhole Advanced
Wherever possible I will assist your learning process by referring you to the illustrations on your Music Wormhole products.
The first letter of important words are often Capitalized to assist you to learn new vocabulary. The musical word “flat” has been abbreviated with “b” and the musical word “sharp” has been abbreviated with the “#”symbol.
If you are a beginner, I highly recommend that you start with the beginner products and work you way through them until this information is familiar to you. Music Theory Illustrated for Beginners makes it easy for a beginner to get started with understanding the structure of music and it will lay a foundation for you to become a better musician.
Music Theory Illustrated: Advanced demonstrates the Major Scale in all the Keys of Western Music and show musicians how to improvise within a Key by making up your own Chord Progressions, as well as substituting Chords, Transposing from one Key to another and much more.
Many people who sit down at a Piano, do not know what to do with the instrument because they cannot remember a “song” that they learned by heart many years ago, much like you may not be able to remember how to say “I love you” in a foreign language which you learnt by heart many years ago.
Understanding music from a perspective of Music Theory is important because it gives you a “road map”. Music Theory allows you to understand the structure of music and this makes learning the language of music much easier.
If you do not have the time or interest to learn Music Theory then simply play the Notes/Chords shown in the cut out windows of your Music Wormhole products. You can trust me that these are the Notes/Chords that sound good together.
The information presented here will support any other music tuition you are receiving. I encourage you to use a private teacher, attend music classes and seek out music education. Playing music will enrich your life and give you an inner joy.
You have taken a significant step towards playing your instrument well by purchasing Music Wormhole’s products. Please take the time to play the suggested Chord Progressions that are displayed at the end of this text. These Chord Progressions are an excellent starting point for your regular practice.
Chapter 2 – Know what to do:
If you watch an accomplished musician playing, you will notice that it is fairly easy for them to play. Their fingers, on both hands, move fluidly and they are under little physical stress.
There are two big differences between the accomplished musician and the aspiring musician. The first is that that accomplished musician “knows what to do” and the second is that the accomplished musician as muscle memory.
The Music Theory Illustrated products address the issue of “knowing what to do”.
If you know what you are supposed to do, it is much easier for you to do it.
Once you know what to do, you can do it many times over and you will develop the muscle memory to do it effortlessly.
Let’s get started with an explanation of Music Wormhole’s color assignment.
Chapter 3 – Color Assignment:
The three primary colors: Yellow, Blue and Red are assigned to the notes C, E and G#/Ab. These three notes are as far apart as possible on a 12 point circle. There are three notes between each of these primary colors and the middle one of these three notes is allocated one of the secondary color, Green, Violet and Orange. Each secondary color can be created by mixing together the two primary colors on each side of it.
The tertiary colors are created by mixing a primary color with a secondary color and these colors complete the color wheel. Music Wormhole has used descriptive names for the tertiary colors; Yell-G, Blu-G, Blu-V, Red-V, Red-Or, and Yell-Or. The first half of the tertiary name is an abbreviation of the name of the primary color and the second half of the tertiary name is an abbreviation of the name of the secondary color.
These color assignments never change throughout all of Music Wormhole’s products, for example, the color of the Note C is always Yellow and the color of the note E is always Blue.
Chapter 4 – Stickers:
Note stickers for your instrument have been included in your Music Wormhole bundle. Please place these stickers on your instrument to assist your learning experience.
Review the instrument diagram on the front of your illustrated Music Wormholes. Notice that the colored stickers match the colored notes on the instrument diagrams.
Chapter 5 – Intervals:
An Interval is the distance between two notes of the Chromatic Scale.
View the table below where we have used the note of C as our starting point. In this table, the note of C is our lowest sounding note (or our Root Note) and we will choose another note above C to be our second note, thereby creating an Interval above our Root Note. If we choose the note “E” to be our second note, which is four semi-tones above C, this Interval is called a Major Third.
The table below shows the Interval Names and their Alternative Names:
Chromatic #: Note: Interval Name: Alternative Name:
12 C Octave Octave
11 B Major 7th 7th
10 A# / Bb Minor 7th Flat 7th
9 A Major 6th 6th
8 G# / Ab Minor 6th Flat 6th/ #5th
7 G Perfect 5th 5th
6 F# / Gb Minor 5th Flat 5th
5 F Perfect 4th 4th
4 E Major 3rd 3rd
3 D# / Eb Minor 3rd Flat 3rd
2 D Major 2nd Whole Tone or Whole Step
1 C# / Db Minor 2nd Semi-tone or Half Step
12 C Root Root
Chapter 6 – Chords Quality:
A single frequency played on a Musical Instrument is called a “Note”. Two or more notes played together are called a “Chord”. It is most common for a chord to have three notes. A chord with three notes is called a “Triad”.
Chords have different Qualities depending on the Interval between the Notes that make up the Chord. The most common Triad Chord Qualities are Major Chords, Minor Chords and Diminished Chords.
Chords with four notes are called “7th Chords” and just like Triads they also have Chord Qualities depending on the Interval between the notes that make up the “7th Chord”.
Please review the pie chart Chord Quality diagrams on the back of your Piano Major Scale. The pie chart diagrams show the Interval pattern for a Major Triad, Minor Triad, Diminished Triad, Augmented Triad, Dominant 7th Chord and the Major Scale.
Chapter 7 – The Major Scale:
Western Music has 12 Notes in each octave. There are approximately ten octaves in the human audible range but only four of these octaves (C3 – C6) are commonly used in Western Music (most keyboard span 6 Octaves but the highest and the lowest octaves are seldom used). That means there are only 48 notes that are commonly used in Western Music, however, methods have been devised to reduce this to a smaller number of notes.
The Major Scale is a series of Intervals that is applied to the Chromatic Scale in order to reduce the number of notes from 12 to 7. In each Major Scale there are only 7 Root Notes in each Octave. The way that these notes are derived is by apply the following Interval pattern to the Chromatic Scale:
W W h W W W h
(where W = whole step or whole tone
and h = half step or semi-tone)
Please review the Major Scale diagram on the back of your Piano Major Scale.
Chapter 8 – Your Piano Major Scale:
Turn to the back of your Piano Major Scale. If you lift up the edge of the dial, you will see that the Whole Steps and Half Steps of the Major Scale have been marked on the page under the dial. By turning the dial you can change the note that is the first degree, or in the “I” position or in the 12 o’clock position.
The Note/Chord which is the first degree of the Major Scale, is the Key or Tonal Center of that Major Scale and gives that Major Scale its name. The rest of the notes which make up that Major Scale are in their corresponding scale degree positions as identified by the markings under the dial.
In the Major Scale, the I, IV and V Chords always have a Major Chord quality built on top of the Root Note, the ii, iii and vi Chords always have a Minor Chord quality built on top of the Root Note and the vii° Chord always has a Diminished Chord quality built on top of that Root Note. This is true for all Keys of the Major Scale.
Turn over your Piano Major Scale and position the Yellow “C” Chord in the middle of the cut out window. Whatever Chord is positioned in the middle of the cut out window is the First Degree of that Major Scale. Another way to say this is that whatever Chord is positioned in the middle of the cut out window is the Key or Tonic or Tonal Center of that Major Scale with the other chords around it being the
ii, iii, IV, V, vi and vii° of that Major Scale. Think of the “I” as the center of the circle or the bulls-eye of a dartboard.
Turn the dial in a clockwise direction to show the next Key of Western Music in the cut out window. It should be the Key of G. The position of the Major Scale Degrees do not change as you rotate the dial. This means that the I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, vii° always occupy the same position within the cut out window.
Notice that the three chords with a Major Chord Quality are always in the middle band of chords, the three chords with a Minor Chord Quality are always in the top band of chords and the single Diminished Chord that is found in each Major Scale is shown in the bottom band of chords.
Set the dial to you desired Key and the cut out window will display all the Chords that are Diatonic to that Key. Diatonic means “in the tonic of” or “in the tone of” or “in the Key of”.
The “I” should be the most frequently heard sound (or the dominant sound) within the Key and Notes/Chords which are Diatonic to the Key support the “I” chord in its position as the dominant sound.
Most songs of Western Music are played in ONE KEY ONLY.
The most commonly used Keys of Western Music are C, G and D.
Chapter 9 – Other Scales:
All Scales are derived in the same way as the Major Scale, that is, you start with the Chromatic Scale and apply a specific pattern of intervals in order to reduce the 12 notes of the Chromatic Scale into another Scale with a lesser number of Notes.
The Interval patterns for some common scales are shown below:
(W = whole step or whole tone, h = half step or semi-tone)
Chromatic Scale (12 notes in the Scale)
Chromatic: h, h, h, h, h, h, h, h, h, h, h, h
Octatonic Scales (8 notes in the Scale):
Major Bebop: W, W, h, W, h, h, W, h
Dominant Bebop: W, W, h, W, W, h, h, h,
Whole-Half Diminished: W, h, W, h, W, h, W, h
Heptatonic Scales (7 notes in the Scale):
Major Scale: W, W, h. W, W, W, h
Relative Minor Scale: W, h, W, W, h, W, W
Jazz Minor: W, h, W, W, W, W, h
Hexatonic Scales (6 notes in the Scale):
Major Blues Scale: W, h, h, 1 ½, W, 1 ½
Minor Blues Scale: 1 ½, W, h, h, 1 ½, W
Whole Tone Scale: W, W, W, W, W, W
Pentatonic Scales ( 5 notes in the Scale):
Minor Pentatonic Scale: 1 ½, W, W, 1 ½, W
Major Pentatonic Scale: W, W, 1 ½, W, 1 ½
Egyptian Suspended Scale: W, 1 ½, W, 1 ½, W
By far the most commonly used scale in Western Music is the Major Scale. In any text on Western Music you should assume the Major Scale unless the text specifically stated otherwise.
Chapter 10 – Melodic Progression:
Look on the front of your Piano Major Scale at the first flow diagram on the top right hand side. This diagram is entitled: Direction of Melodic Progression. Melody is the horizontal progression of music over time and harmony is the vertical depth of music at one instance of time.
The primary purpose of this diagram is to show the most commonly used “Direction of Melodic Progression”. Most of the time, melodies will start in the White segment on the “I” Note/Chord. Normally a Melody will move from the white segment, to the blue segment, to the red segment and back to the white segment again but not normally in the other direction, that is, not normally from Red to Blue.
If you look at the Chord Spelling (the letters that make up the chord) in the cut out window, you will notice that the three chords in the white segment (the I, iii & vi) all share two out of three notes with the other chords in that segment. (This is true in all 12 Keys of the Major Scale).
The two chords in the Blue segment (the ii and the IV) share two out of three notes with each other.
Similarly, the two chords in the Red segment (the V and the vii°) share two out of three notes with each other.
A pivotal characteristic to note is that the “iii” chord that shares two notes in common with the “I” and “vi” chords also shares two notes in common with the “V” chord.
The above “notes in common” characteristics are true for all 12 Keys of the Major Scale.
These common notes give the Chords a common sound and influence music composer’s decisions on Melodic Progression.
I use an elaborate analogy to remember which Chords of the Major Scale share common Notes:
• Each Key is a family.
• The white segment (I, iii & vi) are the “Parents of the Family” or the center of the family with the “I” being the Reliable Father, the “vi” the Melancholy Mother/Wife (closely allied to the Father) and the “iii” is the Eastern Grand Mother.
• The blue segment (ii & IV) are the daughters of the family, both soft and easy going with the “ii” being the popular youngest daughter and the “IV” being the beautiful bright daughter.
• The red segment (V & vii) are the sons of the family, with typical male traits. The “V” is the early twenties son who wants to dominate everything with his competitive attitude and the “vii” is the young son that nobody wants to play with and who will run to his Father (I) to tell on his older brother.
• A pivotal person in the family is the Eastern Grand Mother (iii) who is supportive of the Melancholy Mother (vi) and Reliable Father (I) but secretly enables the Dominant eldest son (V).
You can come up with your own way of thinking about the characteristics of the Chords of the Major Scale or you can use my analogy.
The important thing is that you know there are common Notes within these Chords and these common Notes give the Chords similar sounds. Knowing which Note/Chord you are playing gives you a good idea of where the music is likely to go next.
Moving between the different “sound groups” gives the music its Melodic progression.
Chapter 11 – Major Scale Progression:
Look on the front of your Piano Major Scale at the second flow diagram down from the top of the right hand side. This diagram shows how to play the Chords Diatonic to the Major Scale. The diagram is entitled: Major Scale Progression.
Notice that the first Scale Degree, the “I”, is in the center of the diagram and that the diagram is the same shape as the cut out window on the front of your Piano Major Scale.
Think of the “I” as the bull’s eye at the center of a dartboard. The “I” is also called the Key or the Tonic or the Tonal Center. The “I” is the sound that should dominate when you play in that Key.
Most songs in Western Music (more than 80%) are played in one Key of the Major Scale and most songs are played using four Chords or less. Most songs use the I-IV-V Chords plus one other Chord. By knowing the Key of the song, you can make an intelligent guess about the other Chords in that song.
The correct names of the Scale Degrees of the Major Scale are the following:
Scale Degree Quality Scale Degree Name My Family Analogy Name
I Major Tonic Reliable Father
ii Minor Super Tonic Popular Youngest Daughter
iii Minor Mediant Eastern Grand Mother
IV Major Sub Dominant Beautiful Bright Daughter
V Major Dominant Dominant Alternative Son
vi Minor Sub Mediant Melancholy Mother / Wife
vii° Diminished Leading Tone Young Forgotten Son
It is a music convention that the upper case Roman Numerals denote a Chord Quality of Major, the lower case Roman Numerals denote a Chord Quality of Minor, and the small degree sign ° denotes a Chord Quality of Diminished.
These names allow musicians to discuss characteristics and features of the Scale Degrees and how they relate to the structure of the songs or musical pieces that they are playing.
Chapter 12 – Relative Minor Scale:
The Relative Minor Scale starts on the “vi” Scale Degree of every Major Scale. In the Key of “C Major”, the relative minor is Am.
If we are playing in the Key of Am, the Am is the first Note/Chord in that Key and is called the “i” with a small “i” because it is a Minor Chord.
The sounds generated by the Minor Keys are often characterized as melancholy, sad or tearful.
The Relative Minor Scale uses exactly the same Notes and Chords as the Major Scale.
Look on the front of your Piano Major Scale at the third flow diagram down on the right hand side. This diagram is entitled: Relative Minor Scale Progression.
Notice how the scale degrees are marked as shown below:
i, ii°, III, iv, v VI VII
As the Relative Minor Scale Progression flow diagram demonstrates, the Chord Progression remains the same as the Chord Progression of the Major Scale and the Chord Qualities (Major, Minor, Diminished) remain the same, but the starting point is different and the Tonal Center is different.
If you know the Notes/Chords of the Major Scale, you also know the Notes/Chords of the Relative Minor Scale. The main difference is the Tonal Center and which notes/chords are being accentuated in order to support that Tonal Center.
When playing in a Minor Key, you should primarily be playing chords that have a Minor Chord Quality. This will exaggerate the melancholy, sad and tearful sound of the Minor Key.
In each Key of the Major Scales there are three Major Chords and three Minor Chords. The relative minor of the “I” is the “vi”. The relative minor of the “IV” is the “ii” and the relative minor of the “V” is the “iii”. (This is true for all Keys).
In the Major Scale, the I-IV-V chord progression is used often. Similarly, in the Relative Minor Scale the i-iv-v chord progression is used often.
In any Major Scale, you should only play Notes/Chords that are diatonic to that Major Scale. Similarly, in any Relative Minor Scale, you should only play Notes/Chords that are diatonic to that Relative Minor Scale.
Chapter 13 – Modes:
Modes are a concept that pre-dates modern functional harmony and are seldom used today. I use Modes to move the Tonal Center around within the cut out window of your Piano Major Scale.
When you play in the Relative Minor Scale (lets assume it is Am), you can also call this “playing Am in the Aeolian Mode”.
A new Mode can be derived from starting at each of the Scale Degrees of the Major Scale and recording the sequence of Whole and Half steps.
If we count the number of Whole and Half steps from Am as we rotate around the C Major Scale, we get the Aeolian Mode:
W, h, W, W, h, W, W
Look on the front of your Piano Major Scale at the second flow diagram down from the top of the right hand side. This diagram shows the name of the Mode for each Scale Degree.
Without moving the dial at the back of your Piano Major Scale, the Tonal Center can be moved from the “I” of the Key of C Major to each of the other Scale Degrees, for example, play “d minor” in the Dorian Mode, play “e minor” in the Phrygian Mode, play “F Major” in the Lydian Mode, play “G Major” in the Mixolydian Mode, play “a minor” in the Aeolian Mode and play “b diminished” in the Locrian Mode.
The table below uses Modes to show the 7 Major Scale Degrees as the tonic within the Key of C Major:
Degree Tonic Steps Mode Chords Dominant
I C Major W, W, h, W, W, W, h Ionian C, d, e, F, G, a, b°, C Major I, IV, V
ii d minor W, h, W, W, W, h, W Dorian d, e, F, G, a, b°, C, d Minor i & Major IV
iii e minor h, W, W, W, h, W, W Phrygian e, F, G, a, b°, C, d, e Minor I & Major bII
IV F Major W, W, W, h, W, W, h Lydian F, G, a, b°, C, d, e, F Major I & II
V G Major W, W, h, W, W, h, W Mixolydian G, a, b°, C, d, e, F, G Major I, IV & bVII
vi a minor W, h, W, W, h, W, W Aeolian a, b°, C, d, e, F, G, a Minor i, iv&v, Major bVI & bVII
vii° b dim h, W, W, h, W, W, W Locrian b°, C, d, e, F, G, a, b No used often
Your Piano Major Scale makes this easy to visualize. Do not move the dial but move the focal point of your Chord Progressions away from the center of the cut out window to one of the six chords surrounding the center. Start (and end) your Chord Progressions on the new focal point.
For the remainder of this text, the Ionian Mode of the C Major Scale should be assumed.
Chapter 14 – Chord Progressions:
A Chord Progression is simply a series of Chords played sequentially. Think of a Chord Progression as a conveyor belt, which goes around and around (or a network of conveyor belts because sometimes the chord progression changes to a new chord progression which loops a couple of times and then goes back to the original chord progression which loops a couple of times).
A Chord Progression may include a REST, which is considered a SILENT BEAT. Silent beats are very important because they play a big part in providing structure to the music. (It is bad musical etiquette to play during a rest, it tells other people that you are not in time with the band or that you are trying to bring attention to yourself at the expense of the rest of the band and the integrity of the music that you are playing).
Below are a number of variations of Chord Progressions that are commonly used while playing in the Key of C Major:
C F G C | C F G C | C F G C | C F G C
C F G R | C F G R | C F G R | C F G R R = REST
C d e F | G a b C | C d e F | G a b C
C C a a | C C a a | a a G G | a a d d
C C C | F F F | G G G | C C C
C C | F F | G G | C C
If the above Chord Progressions are expressed as Scale Degrees, they look as follows:
I IV V I | I IV V I | I IV V I | I IV V I
I IV V R | I IV V R | I IV V R | I IV V R R = REST
I ii iii IV | V vi vii I | I ii iii IV | V vi vii I
I I vi vi | I I vi vi | vi vi V V | vi vi ii ii
I I I | IV IV IV | V V V | I I I
I I | IV IV | V V | I I
By representing the Chord Progression in Scale Degrees, the progression can be played in any Key, which is useful for musicians.
Chapter 15 – Transposing:
Transposing means changing the Key of a particular Chord Progression (or song) to a different Key, for example, changing a chord progression in the Key of C to the same chord progression but in the Key of D.
If a Chord Progression is represented as Scale Degrees, it is easy to use your Piano Major Scale to transpose to a different Key. Simply turn the dial to the new Key. The Chord Progression will remain the same and the Scale Degrees used will apply to the new Key.
Each Key has a different Tonal Center. A Chord Progression in one Key may sound quiet different in another Key. Adjectives for the sound characteristics of each Key have been shown in the cut out window of your Piano Major Scale next to the title Character. There are thousands of songs and musical pieces written in most Keys of the Major Scales. The two adjectives used in Music Wormhole’s products are a starting point for discussion on the sound characteristics of 12 Keys of the Major Scale.
Chapter 16 – Modulation:
Modulation refers to intentionally changing the Key or Tonal Center within a song or musical piece, for example, changing from the Key of C to the Key of G as a deliberate part of the songs composition.
For a smooth transition, modulation normally occurs on a Pivot Note/Chord that is found in both Keys.
There are two Major Chords and two Minor Chords that can be used as Pivot Chords to modulate to the adjacent Key in a clockwise direction on your Piano Major Scale. If you want to Modulate from the C Major Key to the G Major Key (moving the dial in an clockwise direction on your Music Wormhole), you can use the Major “I” chord which becomes the “IV” chord or the Major “V” Chord, which become the “I” chord, or the Minor “vi”, which becomes the “ii” in the next clockwise Key, or the pivotal Minor “iii” note/chord, which become the relative minor “vi” in the next clockwise Key. (This is true for all Keys).
Similarly, there are two Major Chords and two Minor Chords that can be used as Pivot Chords to modulate to the adjacent Key in a counter-clockwise direction on your Piano Major Scale. If you want to Modulate from the C Major Key to the F Major Key (moving the dial in an counter-clockwise direction on your Music Wormhole), you can use the Major “I” chord which becomes the “V” chord or the Major “IV” Chord which become the “I” in the next counter-clockwise Key, or the Minor “ii”, which become the “vi” in the next counter-clockwise Key or the Minor “vi” which becomes the “iii” in the next counter-clockwise Key. (This is true for all Keys).
Your Music Wormhole products make it easy to visualize modulating from one Key to another using the pivot chords that are common to both Keys.
Chapter 17 – Key Signatures:
Key signatures pertain to music written in the Treble Clef and Base Clef Staff Notation and are shown in the upper left of the Staff Notation.
The Key of C Major and its relative minor Am, are the only two Keys that have no Key signature because these are the only two keys that do not have any Sharp or Flat Root notes.
Turn the dial of your Piano Major Scale to show the Key of G in the cut-out window. Below the Diminished Chord, the Key Signature of one Sharp is shown. This sharp is on the top line of the Treble Clef staff which is the line for the note of F. In the Key of G, the Root Note F is always played as F#. Notice that the “vii°” Scale Degree has a sharp “#” Root Note.
Turn the dial of your Piano Major Scale again in a clockwise direction to the next Key, the Key of D. Below the Diminished Chord, the Key Signature of two Sharps is shown. The Sharps are on the staff that correspond to the F and the C notes. In the Key of D, the Root Notes of F and C are always played as F# and C#. Notice that the “vii°” and “iii” Scale Degrees have a sharp “#” Root Note.
This pattern continues until you reach 6 sharp notes, which can also be written as six flat notes.
Starting from the Key of C, turn the dial of your Piano Major Scale in a counter-clockwise direction to the next Key, the Key of F. Below the Diminished Chord, the Key Signature of one Flat “b” is shown. This Flat is on the middle line of the Treble Clef staff which is the line for the note of “B”. In the Key of F, the Root Note B is always played as B Flat. Notice that the “IV” Scale Degree has a flat Root Note.
Turn the dial of your Piano Major Scale again in a counter-clockwise direction to the next Key, the Key of Bb. Below the Diminished Chord, the Key Signature of two Flats is shown. The Flats are on the staff that correspond to the B and the E notes. In the Key of Bb, the Root Notes of B and E are always played as Bb and Eb. Notice that the “IV” and “I” Scale Degrees have a flat Root Note.
This pattern continues until you reach 6 Flatted Notes, which can also be written as six Sharp Notes.
The Key Signature is shown in order to reduce the amount of notation shown on the Treble and Bass Clef staff.
Chapter 18 – Your Piano Wormhole:
Your Piano Wormhole shows the 12 Keys of the Major Scale however the band of Diminished Chords has been replaced with a band of Dominant 7th Chords with the same root note as the Major Chord directly about it.
The Dominant 7th Chords are often used as substitutes for the Major Chords.
Dominant 7th Chords add tension to music. You can create musical tension by “jumping” to any one of the Dominant 7th Chords shown in this band and then working your way back to the “I” Chord to release the tension within the music.
Use the two Progression Flow Diagrams on the right hand side of your Piano Wormhole for ideas on creating your own Dominant 7th Chord Progressions.
The back of your Piano Wormhole is a useful reference resource which shows the Minor, Major and Dominant 7th Chord Qualities for each Root Note arranged with the Root Notes in the order of the Chromatic Scale.
Chapter 19 – Chord Substitution:
If you are creating your own arrangement of other people’s music, substituting a few chords may be a good idea to make the arrangement your own.
Here are a few guidelines to Chord Substitution:
• Change the Chord Quality but keep the same Root Note.
• Change a Triad to a 7th Chord by adding a 4th note an Interval of a Minor Third above the top note of the Triad.
• Change any Chord to the Dominant 7th Chord with the same Root Note.
• Change the Chord to another Chord within the Red, White and Blue groupings of the Melodic Progression Diagram.
• Think of the chords using my “family analogy” and change the chords to have a meaningful flow within the context of this analogy.
Chapter 20 – Improvising:
Improvising is when a musician makes up their own Chord Progressions and Melodies. This is done spontaneously at the time of playing and it not pre-plan, although individuals often have “signature” patterns that they play.
To do this well, it is helpful to have absorbed the knowledge in this Music Theory Illustrated text. If you know what key you are in and where you are within that key, you can work a logical progression from “I” back to “I” again.
I recommend using the Notes/Chords within the Tonic (white) grouping, moving to the Subdominant (blue) grouping, moving to the Dominant (red) grouping and then moving back to the Tonic (white). By using this pattern as a reference point, you have a “roadmap”.
Chapter 21 – Music likes to move in Thirds:
Music likes to move in thirds, both Major Thirds, which sound more bold and confident, and Minor Thirds, which sound more nervous and unbalanced.
You can create the framework of a song by choosing two chords with the Root Notes a Minor Third apart and another two chords with their Root Note a Major Third apart. Using two groups of two Chords, you can create many interesting patterns.
All the chords should be in one Key and they should sound distinctly different from one another. (The word “should” is used because there are no absolute rules in music and there is no “music police”. If something happens most of the time, for example 80% or more, it is consider a “rule” in music but these rules can be broken. Some musicians have made a career out of breaking the rules).
Similarly, many songs have been made popular by using one group of three Chords and combining them in interesting patterns.
Chapter 21 – Call and Response:
Popular music often oscillates between one Chord and the next chord, in a “call and response” fashion. This may happen many times within a song. For example:
C Am | C Am | C Am | C Am or I vi | I vi | I vi | I vi
C G | C G | C G | C G or I V | I V | I V | I V
C C C C | Em Em Em Em or I I I I | iii iii iii iii
Think of the “Call and Response” as a conversation between a man and a woman. There should be as much differentiation between the sounds as possible, so that it is easy to hear which “voice is speaking”.
Song structures within popular music are normally not complicated. If you are composing popular music, try to keep things simple and repeat musical phrases often.
Chapter 22 – Arpeggio Chords:
Normally all the notes of a chord are played that the same time. When strumming a stringed instrument, the notes are played so close together that we will consider them to be played at the same time.
Arpeggiating a chord is the musical term for playing the notes of a chord one at a time, so that each note can be heard separately.
Playing chords in an Arpeggio style is a technique that you can use to make your music sound more sophisticated. If you know the fingering to play the chord, you also know the fingering to play the chord Arpeggio style
Chapter 23 – Rhythms:
Music is played in recurring patterns of accents that provide a beat to the music. To achieve this, musical Notes/Chords are grouped into Measures. Think of Measures as parenthesis that package Notes/Chords together. Within any piece of music or song, there are always the same number of beats in each measure.
There is no pause or Rest between measures.
It is common for musician to accentuate the volume of the first beat of each measure but there is no rest or pause between measures. All Rests will be specifically marked. In lead sheet music the word “Tacit” is used to designate a rest, or tell the player, “Don’t play here”.
Western Music is most commonly played with 4 beats per measure, 3 beats per measure or 2 beats per measure. Other numbers of beats per measure (like 5, 6 or 7) are possible but not common.
The number of beats per measure can be used to give a rhythm to the music.
Think of Rhythm as the “click, clack” of a train going down a railroad track. Is your train going “Click, Clack” or “Click, Click, Clack” or “Click, Click, Click, Clack”?
Chapter 24 – Tempo:
Tempo refers to the speed at which the music is played and is normally specified as a specific number of beats per minute.
It is helpful to equate new subjects to ones that you are familiar with. I like to equate Tempo to my heartbeat. A normal heart rate for a human is approximately 90 beats per minute and this is a medium pace for music. Folk music is often played at 90 beats per minute.
Rock and roll music and punk rock music is played fast, at 160 beat per minute or faster. Most people would be sweating and breathing hard at a heart rate of 160 beats per minute, for example, after running 20 minutes of “hills” on a treadmill in the gym. 200 beats per minute is approaching the maximum of the human heart rate and intelligible music.
Ballads and love songs are often played slowly at around 60 beats per minute with 40 beats per minute being very slow. 60 beats per minute is a good resting heart rate and 40 beats per minute is a very slow heart rate.
A beginner musician should play slowly!
It is better to play and practice slowly but correctly. Allow the speed of your playing to increase as your ability to play increases.
It can be difficult for a beginning musician to slow down. When I started playing the Ukulele, my strumming hand was like a dog’s paw scratching a bad itch, a blur of motion that was symptomatic of an enthusiastic novice.
Chapter 25 – Playing by Ear:
Music is mostly an audible experience and playing music should be done mostly with your ears. This may seem to be a statement of the obvious but there are many musicians who play by “sight”. In other words, they look at the Chords on the Lead Sheet or the Notes on the Treble Clef Staff with an intensity that dominants their mental processes. The result is that they are not listening to the band or to the music that they are playing.
You will be a much better musician if you can “Play with your Ears and not your Eyes”. To do this you should have some knowledge of Music Theory and the musical piece that you are playing. You should know the structure of the music you are playing. Then you will be able to hear the band and your part within the band and know what is coming next.
Chapter 26 – Playing Multiple Instruments:
Music Theory applies to all the instruments used in an orchestra and to all the instruments sold in any Western Music shop. There is only one set of Music Theory principles that governs all the musical instruments.
Once you have an understanding of Music Theory, you should be able to learn a new instrument quickly. I encourage you to do this. Playing more than one instrument improves your ability to play your primary instruments and it is fun.
Music Wormhole uses the same color assignment for all the instruments of Western Music and a consistent methodology across all of it’s products.
Chapter 27 – Apps:
Music Wormhole has produced several iPhone, iPod and iPad apps to assist you to improve your musicianship. Links to these Apps can be found at our website:
You can find these apps on the Apple App Store if you access the App Store using your Apple mobile devices, iPad, iPhone or iPod. (This is a different App Store to the one that you will access when you use an Apple desktop device such as a Mac-book or iMac computer to access the App Store.) Enter the title Music Wormhole into the search field or entering one of the links below:
iPad only (Music Wormhole’s latest release with the most advanced features):
Piano …… https://appsto.re/us/4YoG1.i
Guitar …… https://appsto.re/us/peoG1.i
Ukulele … https://appsto.re/us/cUoG1.i
iPhone, iPod, iPad Universal App (good to always have with you on your cell phone):
Piano …… …… https://appsto.re/us/AnuhO.i
Guitar …… …… https://appsto.re/us/I7K0K.i
Ukulele … …… https://appsto.re/us/5buhO.i
Chapter 28 – Congratulations
Congratulations, you have reached the end of Music Theory Illustrated: Advanced!
Practice playing the Chord progressions shown below in all the Keys of Western Music. Start with the Keys of C, G and D.
I I I I | IV IV IV IV | V V V V | I I I I
I I I R | IV IV IV R | V V V R | I I I R R = REST
I IV V I | I IV V I | I IV V I | I IV V I
I IV V R | I IV V R | I IV V R | I IV V R R = REST
I I I | IV IV IV | V V V | I I I
I IV V | I IV V | I IV V | I IV V
I I | IV IV | V V | I I
Play and have fun!
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