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

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70
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7answers
5k 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 (musical) gap between the rest of the adjoining strings is 5 frets (or a perfect fourth), but ...
52
votes
6answers
5k 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?
48
votes
17answers
2k 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 ...
43
votes
6answers
2k 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 ...
40
votes
4answers
8k views

What are some chord substitutions for a I-IV-V blues progression?

I was watching a video of SRV and one of the things that really stood out was the fact that he seemed to have a different iteration of the I-IV-V turnaround - and made it look/sound effortless. Any ...
35
votes
7answers
5k 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 ...
34
votes
19answers
5k 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 ...
31
votes
8answers
845 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 ...
29
votes
3answers
2k views

What's so special about minor and major scales?

background: I'm an amateur and self-learner pianist. What I know, I know from books or google, so I'll start with summarising what I already know - please don't hesitate to correct me if I have ...
26
votes
4answers
28k 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 (or si).... but some time I hear that the music people say A, B, C, or C flat..., what is their relationship? or are they two ...
26
votes
9answers
824 views

What is the best way of learning the notes on the fretboard.

What is the best way to learn the notes on the fretboard. Are there any good tips on how to do this?
25
votes
5answers
4k views

Does it really make difference to play a song in a different key?

I hear sometimes players and composers say that this song won't sound good in F Major for example, and you should play it or write it in G Major (this was just an example). In other words, it seems ...
24
votes
8answers
2k views

Is it possible to write a song without a key?

"This song is in F Major", "That song is in A Minor", "This song is in D Minor, but modulates to F Major in the middle", etc. Can we say "This song has no key"? Are there songs that have/follow no ...
24
votes
16answers
9k views

What is the difference between a mode and a scale?

I can't seem to find a straight definition for both.
24
votes
6answers
3k views

Why isn't D the “most central” note?

When laying out the notes in the two-dimensional Wicki-Hayden layout, which is the most symmetrical layout I know of, it is visually clear that D is the "most central" note. Why, then, doesn't D play ...
24
votes
6answers
2k views

What notes are optional in jazz chords?

I have a question on jazz chords, and what notes can be removed from the chord. My understanding is fairly superficial - mostly from what I've read in books. This is what I understand: In some ...
24
votes
9answers
5k views

Why are the white and black keys on the piano placed the way they are?

I am pretty convinced it is not just for historical reasons. I have found a mathematically-sound explanation of the twelve-tone musical scale, thanks to this question. Does anyone know a similar, ...
23
votes
8answers
6k 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 ...
23
votes
8answers
4k 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 ...
22
votes
7answers
24k 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 ...
22
votes
6answers
2k 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 ...
22
votes
4answers
3k views

What is the relationship between the melody line and the rhythm chords?

Let's say I've written a song with the chord progression I-IV-V in the key of A (just as an example). So, the chords I'm playing are A-D-E. When playing a lead over this rhythm, what notes do I need ...
22
votes
9answers
3k views

What is the difference between a “riff” and a “melody”?

How do I tell when a riff becomes a melody, or is it even important to know? Can you construct a song around a riff - what are some suggestions on how to construct a song in that manner?
21
votes
7answers
21k views

How to know what notes/chords go together while improvising?

This is 3 questions in one, so it might take a slightly involved answer, or some good links. I'm a very good classical pianist, but I skipped theory entirely in my early days and learned to play well ...
21
votes
1answer
2k 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 ...
20
votes
7answers
549 views

What are some of the components of a good guitar solo?

Putting aside the emotional value of listening to a great guitar solo, what are some of the criteria that can be applied to make an educated judgement as to the quality of a solo within the context of ...
20
votes
6answers
11k 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., The top note is C, and bundled below it are ...
20
votes
6answers
1k 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
4answers
3k 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 ...
19
votes
8answers
887 views

Is there any way to improve composing?

Beside playing drums I'm toying with software to create music. The problem is when I need to advance further. I may have some good, let's say "riffs" (or pieces, or melodies, or ideas), and I'm pretty ...
19
votes
5answers
1k views

When to use a dot or a tie in music notation?

Let's say I have the following piece in 4/4, Should it be notated as: or Are there any specific rules? From my previous experience, I believe the second one is the correct notation since it ...
19
votes
5answers
522 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 ...
19
votes
2answers
623 views

Why does the C7 chord on guitar omit the G note (5th) in open position?

0 C7 C7 ( 1-3-5-flat7) is suppose to contain a G as its 5th right? So how does a guitar get away with this in open position?
18
votes
9answers
6k 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. I mean, is it ...
18
votes
6answers
4k views

Fast Chord Identification

How would someone go about identifying chords quickly and efficiently? While sight reading, I would often come up to some strange chord and try to decipher it. It normally takes me (what feels like) ...
18
votes
6answers
1k views

How to formulate a chord on the piano?

I play guitar, and am attempting to teach myself the piano. Which notes from a scale form the chord on the keyboard? Is there a common rule for this? Thank you for your time.
18
votes
3answers
5k views

How do classical composers write music?

I am starting to learn about music theory and today it hit me how do classical composers such as Mozart and Beethoven are able to write music for instruments they don't play, such as (for example ...
18
votes
4answers
1k views

Chord progressions

I know these kinds of question are asked a thousand different ways in every forum, but I've read many of them and they seem to be lacking in certain respects, so I'll cross my fingers and hope for the ...
18
votes
1answer
389 views

Is this piece of renaissance music really in the locrian mode?

A fifteenth-century dance manual contains this piece of music: which appears to be (uncharacteristically) in the locrian mode. Is it really, or am I mis-reading? Does anybody know of other music ...
17
votes
7answers
5k 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 ...
17
votes
9answers
721 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 ...
17
votes
8answers
928 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 ...
17
votes
4answers
1k views

Algorithms for music composition

I'm a beginner in music but I also like to fool around with simple computer programs . So I found a little python library to generate MIDI files . So what I do now is that I have a few rhythm ...
17
votes
3answers
835 views

How do you remember your music and how do I improve in this regard?

Okay, let me start with my own story. I jumped straight into playing classical pieces on the piano without much in the way of formal musical education. By now I know how chords are built (but it takes ...
17
votes
3answers
561 views

Are the any great open questions in music theory?

In many sciences there a are a number open questions that are well known in the field, and for which a solid answer would gain the answerer much Prestige. For example, maths has many open questions, ...
17
votes
4answers
1k views

Why is the aeolian mode the minor scale?

I've studied music theory for many years now, and one thing has always confused me about the naming methodology for the minor scale. A major scale is based off the Ionian mode and consist of only ...
17
votes
1answer
664 views

Are there any machine-readable databases of chord progressions available?

I'm interested in doing some linguistics-inspired computational musicology on chord progressions and am wondering if there are any freely available databases of chord progressions. Obviously, I could ...
16
votes
8answers
11k views

What chord is formed by the open strings of a guitar in standard (EADGBe) tuning?

Here is something that I have been wondering about for a while: If you strum all six strings of a guitar in standard (EADGBe) tuning what chord would you play? I think it would be some variety of a ...
16
votes
7answers
6k views

What is the “theory” behind “odd time signatures”?

There are a number of bands, Genesis, The Police, Crack the Sky, Gentle Giant, that have all incorporated unusual time signatures as their core sound - some entire "pop"songs, "Ordinary World - Duran ...
16
votes
4answers
1k views

Why do frets get closer as the notes get higher?

Why do spaces between guitar frets get smaller as the notes get higher?