Introduction To Music Theory

Music Theory is the grammar of music, the facts, formulas, rules and regulations. It's very academic in nature and can often be construed as dry and tedious. It's really not a study in playing the guitar but a study in the way music works in general, how it written, arranged and played. It is the explanation for all the things, outside of technique and speed, that plague us as musicians. In that context, music theory can be an exciting course of study, especially approached with patience amd a methocical approach.

In my private teaching practice I always explain that I take a two pronged approach to the teaching process:

  1. Training your fingers to make chord forms, scale shapes and to do moves (licks, riffs pieces). Included in this are fingering exercises, chord studies and repertoire. Basically the process of playing.
  2. Training your mind and ears to have a fuller and deeper understanding of music throught the study of ear training band also through an understanding of theory and composition.

If I go to far one road and not the other the student will not live up to his potential and will be become bored and disinterested. It's no fun to be a bookworm and understand everything about scales, modes, and chords and their substitutions if you don't get a lot of experience applying these princi[ples and have fun while playing and performing. Conversely there is no glory or satisfaction in being able to play all kinds of stuff and not have any understanding about what real musicians are thinking about and doing. Many people who are really fine players often joke about or light heartedly dismiss their lack of knowledge, understanding and formal study with quips or one liners. Believe me, they aren't reallly laughin at all and almost all have a hunger for the information I am going to outline here in this course. There is nothing cool, cute or funny about not knowing something you hold dear to your heart. In this case, ignorance is far from bliss.

The Musical Alphabet And The Chromatic Scale

The Musical Alphabet Consists Of Only Seven Letters:

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

If you look at the Musical Alphabet graphic above you will see that some of the notes are seperated by the words WHOLE STEP while others are seperated by the words HALF STEP. In music theory, the distance between the notes A to B is called a WHOLE STEP.

At left you see a standard keyboard with the letter "X" placed on the two A notes that appear in the drawing. Notice how the notes B and C (also E and F) are different in the regard that they do not share a black key, or have a black key between them. If the distance from the notes A to B is called a WHOLE STEP, as you are stepping over a black key to get to the B note, then the distance from the notes B to C is called a HALF STEP.

I suggest that you acquire or at least gain access to a keyboard or piano to undertake this course, it is not necessary but all musicians truly need to understand the way a keyboard is laid out and to be familiar with doing a little single note playing. It's a great learnnig tool and can also a source of inspiration.

The Chromatic Scale.

is the name given to every note in music, not just the Musical Alphabet. In the keyboard illustration that means the addition of the black keys. In the scale spelling and graphic just below, it means the addition of notes called flats and sharps.

A A#/Bb B C C#/Db D D#/Eb E F F#/Gb G G#/Ab A

(The Chromatic Scale contains 12 notes)

Flats And Sharps

If you look at the chromatic scale spelling just above you will notice two symbols following certain letters. The "#" symbol stands for the word sharp while the "b" stands for the word flat. If you place the "#" symbol next to the note you have changed its identity, pitch and location to a new note, one half step higher than the original. If you place a "#" symbol next to the note "A" for example that note called A sharp is located at the black key one half step higher than the actual "A" note, called A natural. If you place a "b" symbol next to the note "B" for example that note called B flat is located at the black key one half step lower than the actual "B" note, called B natural.

Enharmonic Spelling

When one note could be given any one of two names, such as A# and Bb, which are one in the same, these synonomous notes are called enharmonic spellings. The short video below will firm up your knowledge of sharps, flats and enharmonic spellings.

The Grand Staff

The GRAND STAFF is where music is read and written and is also the perfect study vehicle for music theory. If you haven't tried to read music, and taken lessons with a good teacher you are missing out, so consider getting some instruction in reading music as way of seriously furthering your skills. If you want to get the most out of this course print these pages and make youir self a jumbo text book. Also get a hold of some blank music writing paper and start using it. Practice by copying out the diagram below until you know it by heart.

The Chromatic Scale

The chromatic scale is written below in the same way as you should copy this scale down on music writing paper. If you do the music writing exercises you be acting like a real musician, also you will be someone who understands the craft to the best of their abilities. The most important payoff is the lomg term improvement musical literacy causes.

Guitar Wise

The chromatic scale is a very powerful musical device, and sits quite nicely on the neck of the guitar. In my scales course, I have written exrensively about playing, hearing and understanding the chromatic Scale. (Super Scales: Chromatic Scale).

Understanding the feel of playing any scale is really understanding the fingering.Play the interactive animation below, listening to the smooth and rolling sound the chromatic scale. This is called its musical quality but you can think of the sound of a scale as its personality or character.

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