What is music theory? It is the basis behind the understanding of the language of music. Having an understanding of music theory allows you to lay down a strong foundation for your artistry. This terminology is essential for collaborations with others. Imagine trying to discuss a song but not being able to articulate your thoughts. What is rhythm? Where does the melody come in? What about those chord progressions? If you can’t answer these questions, you may need to brush up on your music theory.
At its most basic level, music is made up of notes. These notes are the language that any artist can communicate with. It is the same language around the world & anyone who understands it can communicate musically. There are a total of seven notes that make up any music. Those notes are A, B, C, D, E, F, & G and each note has its unique pitch. Then there are 12 notes on the piano keyboard: A, A#/B♭, B, C, C#/D♭, D, D#/E♭, E, F, F#/G♭, G, G#/A♭.
The pitch of those notes is determined by their frequency. That pitch is the high or low frequency which is the measure of sound wave vibrations measured in hertz.
Musical scales are a set of notes within an octave arranged by their pitch. You may know of major and minor scales. In addition to these scales, there are also scale degrees. Scale degrees relate to the amount of tension they create. The pitches in major and minor scales are:
- 1st – Tonic
- 2nd – Supertonic
- 3rd – Mediant
- 4th – Subdominant
- 5th – Dominant
- 6th – Submediant
- 7th – Leading Tone
A mode is what helps the listener FEEL something. The mode can determine if your song sounds darker or happier or something in between. Modes are a type of scale that has a distinct melody to them. Those scales derive from one of their parent scales. The seven music modes are:
Do you know when someone says that you don’t have rhythm? Well, that simply means that you don’t know how to jive with the beats that repeat a specific number of times within a bar. Within that bar, the rhythm must move at a specific speed or tempo to create the definition of a rhythm.
These help to identify notes as sharp or flat. There are a total of 12 key signatures with each being named from the 12 available notes.
This is the distance between two notes. They can measure in whole steps, half steps, and their position on the scale. It is described in numbers of half steps between two notes. The is major, minor, perfect, augmented & diminished.
You know what a melody is. It’s usually the part of the song that you keep repeating in your head as you go throughout your day. It is a group of notes that play together that sound like one single event. Melodies are the result of rhythm & pitch working together.
Harmony is the result of two or more differently pitched notes are played at the same time.
A chord is the combination of two or more notes played together. The root note starts the chord progression. Common chords include:
- Triad chords
- Major chords
- Minor chords
- Diminished chords
- Augmented chords
- Seventh chords
Chord progressions are an ordered series of chords that create a specific effect, mood, or emotion. When two chord progressions play together, it is called a cadence.
Why Study Music Theory?
The first thing that you should know as an artist is the basics. It creates an awareness for all things to come. You will be able to communicate your ideas while also being knowledgeable in your art. So get out there and begin to dig deeper into music theory. The benefits of understanding the WHY behind the music are only the first step to greatness.
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