The study of how music works, seeking to identify structures and patterns in music.

learn more… | top users | synonyms (1)

25
votes
8answers
2k views

What are modes and how are they useful?

I'm a self-taught guitarist with zero to little experience in music theory. After marrying a violinist I found that there's a lot to music theory that I know tribally but don't understand the ...
27
votes
1answer
5k views

Why is C the base note of standard notation and keys?

Why is it that notes "start" with C? In key signatures, for example, C Major is the basis and accidentals are added for all other key signatures. I know that the musical alphabet starts with A and ...
17
votes
2answers
2k views

Why do notes have multiple names?

I've seen the same note called different names for example the note F# can also be written as Gb. Why is this the case and are there times to use one name over another?
69
votes
7answers
13k views

Why are there twelve notes in an octave?

I know that one scale consists of 12 half-tones. But my question is still: Why? Why not 13 or 11?
13
votes
4answers
4k views

Understanding minor key harmony

A comment discussion under this question from me, clued me in to the fact that I don't really understand how minor keys work very well. So here is what I think I know The natural minor comes from the ...
95
votes
11answers
14k views

Why is the guitar tuned like it is?

Why is there that funny tuning kink between the G and B string on a guitar in standard tuning? I.E. the gap (interval) between the rest of the adjoining strings is 5 frets (or a perfect fourth), but ...
36
votes
8answers
5k views

Is there a way to measure the consonance or dissonance of a chord?

I know that if I played C and B together they would be very dissonant compared to if I played a G or C one octave up. Is there a quantitative way to describe that sort dissonance? Edit: I understand ...
24
votes
7answers
3k views

The major scale - why and how?

background: I am an amateur guitarist. I was trained in Indian classical music as a kid. Most of what I know in music theory is from books or Google. So please feel free to correct me or tell me if ...
19
votes
6answers
31k views

How to tell the time signature of a song by listening?

Every song has some kind of time signature; even if different parts of the song have different time signatures, there is always a time signature. When learning a song by ear and no score, knowing the ...
52
votes
22answers
8k views

What's the point of keys other than C and Am?

I'm VERY new to music theory, just learning. I'm reading about keys and scales right now. From what I understand major keys are all the same except for being shifted by one or more semitones (e.g. C ...
47
votes
6answers
5k views

What's the difference between a G♭ and an F#?

I've heard it said that, whilst on most instruments these notes are played with the same fingerings/technique/etc there is a subtle difference. This isn't specific to this particular note ...
28
votes
9answers
13k views

How to transcribe music by ear?

Often times we find ourselves enjoying a piece of music that, for whatever reason, we are unable to find appropriate documentation/tablature for. What are good practices for transcribing music by ear ...
35
votes
10answers
68k views

Why learn scales? What are they for?

I tried Googling but it seems there is no answer for this one. So the internet assumes everyone knows what scales are for? Why should I learn them? Are they important to be a good guitarist?
35
votes
14answers
13k views

Why Is Just Intonation Impractical?

I've read about the debate of "just intonation" vs 12-tone equal temperament. And nowhere it was clearly stated why just intonation is impractical. Here are my assumptions. Please let me know if I am ...
50
votes
9answers
17k views

Purpose of double-sharps and double-flats?

In a few pieces of music I have read through, I have come across double-sharps and flats. To my understanding, they are two semitones above/below the note indicated. What is, then, the point of ...
23
votes
3answers
17k views

How do harmonics work?

The guitar has harmonic notes at some places. I can play it, but I don't understand the logical reason why/how this is can played. Can you tell me how exactly this works? What other musical ...
11
votes
4answers
19k views

What is a secondary dominant chord?

What is a secondary dominant chord? What's the theory behind them? How are they used in composition?
8
votes
2answers
3k views

What is a key signature?

I'm trying to learn the flute and I bought a book that is supposed to help me learn. In one of the first chapters it describes something about key signatures and the circle of fifths and I'm ...
33
votes
8answers
1k views

What exactly should I have to learn to understand why certain combination of chords are harmonic when played in a sequence?

I am an intuitive music composer trying to move to a technical music composer. As a dummy, I see music as a composition of 'pieces' (my word). Each piece is a set of notes that are melodical when ...
54
votes
22answers
3k views

Ways to get out of a scalar rut?

I'm a well versed and experienced guitarist. I have a decent sense for rhythm and melody, but I have a VERY hard time with soloing. I know you've heard it all before I'm one of those guys that got ...
27
votes
7answers
71k views

What does it mean to write a song in a certain key?

I have been searching for a while to try to correctly understand this. What exactly does it mean if for example a song is written in C Major? Does it mean the song's notes cannot contain any sharps ...
20
votes
9answers
3k views

What are good resources for learning music theory?

What is a good resource for learning music theory, especially as it relates to the guitar, coming from a completely beginner's perspective? I had a musician friend try to teach me about modes such as ...
23
votes
5answers
4k views

Why is music theory built so tightly around the C Major scale?

Lately, I'm trying to study deeper into music theory, learning Intervals, key Signatures, Chords, Progressions etc. I can see that everything is built around the 'normal' notes that belong to the C ...
36
votes
4answers
82k views

What is the relationship between “do re mi” and note letter names?

When the people sing the song, we use do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, si, ect, but some time I hear that the music people say A, B, C, C flat, ect. Is their relationship or are they two different ...
18
votes
10answers
7k views

What makes an interval “Perfect”?

I've been trying to find an answer, but to no avail. Is what we call a perfect interval somewhat arbitrary? It seems as if the modern definition is "perfect under inversion". I know the other thing ...
5
votes
3answers
476 views

General procedure for determining the name of an interval given a major key / diatonic collection

I'm attempting to program a library that lets one make use of concepts from Peter Westergaard's tonal theory. The current problem I'm trying to solve is to determine the specific name of an interval ...
34
votes
19answers
30k views

What is the difference between a mode and a scale?

I can't seem to find a straight definition for both.
18
votes
5answers
44k views

What is the first scale one should learn on guitar

The title really sums it all up but I'll try expand it slightly. Lets say I'm learning guitar and would like to improve my guitar work. Which of the scales should I learn first and why?
35
votes
3answers
63k views

What are the differences between tone, note, and pitch?

I was wondering what the differences are between "tone", "note", and "pitch"?
16
votes
5answers
10k views

Is it possible to find the correct chords from melody notes alone?

I'm caught up in this thought. My friend gave me just the melody notes of a song. Here it is, So, here is the problem: "without having the chords supplied, there is no way of knowing what the chords ...
40
votes
4answers
5k views

(1/√π)/√⅔ as a time signature?

I recently found this article on wikipedia about lists of musical works in unusual time signatures and the first unusual time signature is (1/√π)/√⅔. I looked up the piece that was listed as having ...
28
votes
11answers
17k views

How is counterpoint different from harmony?

Harmony is a kind of second sound you hear. Counterpoint is also the second sound you hear. Aside from technical differentiation, how can you by ear differentiate these two concepts. Is it possible ...
24
votes
7answers
38k views

How to identify the root note of a chord

I struggle with chords on the staff because I'm not sure which note is the root note. Is it the top note with the rest of the notes falling below it? E.g., if the top note is C, and bundled below it ...
17
votes
9answers
6k views

Learning to create melodies

I've researched my question on Google before and came across a few threads which I've read a couple of times. So far I've got into music theory and understand scales, how chords are formed, I know ...
16
votes
4answers
28k views

The differences between natural, harmonic and melodic minors

I'm studying scales and came across the natural, harmonic, and melodic minors. I understand the patterns for each scale but what other important differences exist between the three?
15
votes
3answers
2k views

Name for descending semitones under a repeating musical phrase?

In much contemporary music, especially instrumental guitar music, there is a particular device employed. It involves a musical phrase in which usually one note, often a bass note, descends in one ...
6
votes
2answers
281 views

Why are the harmonic and melodic minor scales called what they are?

Does the harmonic minor have something to do with harmony, and does the melodic minor have something to do with melody? I searched this question on Google and nothing came up.
21
votes
4answers
14k views

What are the practical reasons for still having transposing instruments?

I understand that historically there was a need for transposing instruments. e.g. Brass instruments would use lead pipes to change their key and players in brass bands would like to stick to the same ...
14
votes
1answer
687 views

What is a Neapolitan 6th?

In studying music theory I have heard the term Neapolitan 6th quite a few times, but I'm not quite sure what it is. What is a Neapolitan 6th and how is it used in a composition?
14
votes
6answers
1k views

Collective word for sharps and flats in the key signature

On a mailing list I'm subscribed to, someone recently asked what the collective name was in English for the sharps and flats you find in the key signature. Apparently, the closest translation from ...
12
votes
3answers
3k views

How do you know what beat to emphasize based on the time signature?

In learning the guitar I have run across various time signatures. In each time signature it seems as if you are supposed to emphasize different beats. Is this something that you just have to intuit, ...
7
votes
1answer
4k views

How can I find the length in seconds of a quarter-note (crotchet) if I have a tempo marking?

Given a tempo marking in bpm (beats-per-minute), how can I work out the length of a crotchet (quarter-note) beat?
26
votes
4answers
37k views

What's the difference between “modal music” and “tonal music”?

As the title says, what's the difference between "modal music" and "tonal music"? Is there also any other classification besides "modal music" and "tonal music"?
18
votes
4answers
720 views

Where can I get started with my improvisation?

I have been playing the alto saxophone for a while now. I have also improvised from time to time and have some theoretical and practical background on the instrument, harmony, scales, etc. I have ...
13
votes
2answers
632 views

What is the theory behind scales?

My question is the following: Scales are The backbone of quite everything in western music. Does anybody know if there is some sort of backbone behind scales? A number, something like that? Or do some ...
21
votes
10answers
4k views

When is a piece in A minor versus C major?

When would you say a piece, or a movement in a symphony, is in A minor versus C major? They both use the same notes on the scale... what would indicate that the piece is in A minor? Let's take an ...
16
votes
5answers
1k views

Is it possible to create the illusion of a sub-harmonic?

The way I understand it, a normal plucked tone consists of a great many overtones in addition to the base tone. A pinched harmonic, however, shifts the base tone higher into the overtone series by ...
20
votes
7answers
12k views

Why does the Dorian mode on C have two flats?

I'm studying scale modes and I just found on Wikipedia that the Dorian mode on C has two flats... Why is this? Because the Dorian mode is just the major scale (Ionian) starting from the second ...
9
votes
2answers
846 views

Finding the “Starting point” when creating a composition or score

This is a fairly simple one, and hopefully not too wide-open to be permitted here: what approaches are available when sitting at a fresh screen or sheet of paper, or at your instrument, to create the ...
2
votes
9answers
6k views

What is a perfect fifth?

I have gone through many documents, but don't understand what a perfect fifth is. Can somebody please explain with an example? (An example is important!) I have already found these explanations, but ...