Hot answers tagged

61

This requires an excursion into musical history. Originally, instruments were made to simply play notes that sounded "right" together. Why some notes sounded right and others wrong wasn't of great concern for most of humanity's history, until Pythagoras, (yes, the guy with the theorem) noticed that it had to do with intervals, and made a music theory based ...


60

There are a ton of easy and great-sounding substitutions, and you can use them in the turnaround or anywhere else you want. Here are a few of the most common: ii-V sub: Substitute ii for IV, so that you have a ii-V turnaround. For example, if you're playing in the key of C, the V chord is G7 and the ii chord is Dm7. So instead of C-F-G7, play C-Dm7-G7. ...


58

I've seen it argued that the instrument that became the guitar started with the major G chord set, the second, third and fourth string, probably in pairs, as the entire string set for the instrument. The first string was then added, and the lower strings were added in fourths to provide more bass harmony, much the same way we see the 7th string being brought ...


48

Do you transcribe other players' solos? I find this helps me a lot, especially when I transcribe non-guitarists' solos. The clichés and idioms on other instruments are simply different than they are on guitar, so that can help to see melody from a different perspective. Trumpets and saxophones, in particular, sit in a similar range to the guitar but have ...


47

Often it has to do with altering notes in a key that are already sharpened or flattened, such as a harmonic minor in a key where the 7th is a sharp. Take G♯ minor: You could write F♯♯ (or F𝄪) as a G, but then your scale would have no F note in it but two different G's. Every time you put down an G note, you'd have to attach a ...


45

See the section on tuning systems on Wikipedia for some background. In short, most intervals do not sound best on equally-tempered scales (where the distance between any two consecutive half steps is the same) but on ones where the notes vary in distance. For instance, fifths usually sound the most in tune when the frequencies are in a 2:3 ratio. Because ...


43

You ask an enormously deep question that could (and does) comprise whole books of material. I'll try to boil down the bare essentials for right now, and I'll expand on them later. "There are only two types of chords: I's and V's" My teacher told me that Joe Pass said this, although I'm sure it's probably a misquote. The sentiment, though, is right on. ...


43

Do-re-mi-etc. is "sol-fa" or "solfege". Sol-fa represents a major scale, with Doh being the first note, Re being the second, and so on. I'm sure you can sing that scale. The A-G note names are absolute names for a certain note. An 'A' is an 'A' no matter what key you are performing in. There are two variants of sol-fa. Fixed doh and Movable doh. Fixed ...


40

First, a key is only really a basis. You can have an F# in a piece written in C Major without having the piece "switch" keys. Second, keys are defined arbitrarily. Sure there is theory about what sounds good and that sort of thing, but at the end of the day it's just a group of notes that's just as valid as any other group of notes. This is made clear by ...


40

The keys are only identical on equal-tempered instruments, but that's most modern western instruments like pianos. Wind instruments other than the trombone are built to be (mostly) equal tempered [EDIT: I might be simplifying too much here, see David's comment below], but the players can bend pitches somewhat. The trombone, all non-fretted string ...


38

J Roq, Scales are important for a guitarist, just as learning good grammar is important to speaking properly. If you are intent on "playing" guitar then learning the language of music is going to be inevitable. From my own personal and teaching standpoint, guitar music should start with Chords. As opposed to notes. To me they are the most practical form ...


38

'Dorian mode on C' does not mean "the Dorian scale that you can find among the notes that are available in the major key of C"! 'Dorian mode on C' refers to the Dorian scale, or set of note intervals, that start on the note C, i.e. C is its root or tonic. This set of notes happens to be the same as the ones found in the Bb major key, thus two flats. This is ...


35

This question on math.se is quite similar to what you're asking and the answers give a lot of detail: Mathematical difference between white and black notes in a piano? What's going on here is a massively convenient mathematical coincidence: several of the powers of 2^(1/12) happen to be good approximations to ratios of small integers, and there are ...


34

Yes, you're right. As for why the harmonic series doesn't produce notes that work in all keys, the simple answer is that the math just doesn't add up. Let's work out the math for just intonation: Suppose you choose X Hz for the fundamental frequency and go from there. Then the octave above the fundamental should have frequency 2 X Hz. Meanwhile, the ...


34

D's central position in Wicky-Hayden layout is an artifact of the fact that Dorian mode is a symmetric scale (its descending interval pattern and ascending interval pattern are the same) in some tunings, including the twelve tone equal temperament (and it's the only such diatonic mode). Even though I'm sure this mathematical property of Dorian mode has been ...


32

Yes, there are ways to measure it, though there are many different algorithms claiming to be more correct than the others. This formula by Vassilakis is recent (2007). These measure "roughness", which is similar to dissonance. (Dissonance is basically roughness, but weighted towards certain intervals due to cultural conditioning, which is obviously hard ...


32

Anacrusis (pickup) is a bit more rhythmic than melodic. Hearing it seems easy to my musical brain, but I can understand how it would not be. Most music has a set rhythm, which we can understand in its simplest form by saying there is a fairly low number (most commonly 4), to which one can repeatedly count while listening to a piece of music such that the ...


31

This is a D melodic minor scale (The root of the scale would be D since this Bach), which alters depending on if it is descending or ascending. When ascending the 6 and 7th degrees are raised, and then decending they are lowered. So when descending it is the same as a natural minor scale. These are pretty common in classic music and are often standard of ...


31

Music, as an art, is in the ear of the listener. As a musician, I can say there are definitely times when a song sounds "better" in one key than another. The primary reason this is so is when the key fits the "natural" range of a singer or instrument. A song may sound perfect when sung by a female alto, but as those notes sung verbatim would be at the top ...


30

A drum solo is a song without a key.


30

To understand the answer to this question you need and understanding of these concepts: Key center Tonality Chord progressions in functional harmony Cadence A song is regarded as being in the key of C major if the pitch C is its key center, if the notes in the song chiefly fall in the C-major scale (as opposed to the C-minor scale, or one of the other ...


30

There is a rather more fundamental, physical reason for this than so far mentioned: the bass fills not only the bass frequency range, but its harmonics actually reach well into the midrange where all other voices have their fundamentals! In fact, since the bass has typically the strongest amplitude1 of all tuned instruments (save perhaps trumpets, lead ...


29

Learning improvisation is a long trip. Most people start with one of two ways: going by ear, just play something that fits. Try until you think it's good. going by chords. Learn what tones fits the chords in the chart. Try until you think it's good. Soon you notice that it's not either one way or the other, it's a combination of both. Good improvisers ...


28

In classical theory, the necessity or lack thereof of a particular chord member is generally determined by the note's tendency to lead to another note. That tendency comes most often from the interval of an augmented fourth or diminished fifth. Enharmonically, those intervals are the same, but in context, they are not, and they resolve differently. In a ...


28

The root note is always the note that is the basis for the chord, regardless of its inversion. In root position the lowest note is the root (hence the name), but other notes are the lowest in other inversions of the chord. For example, take a C Major chord. In every position, the root note is C. Whether it is voiced as C-E-G (root position), E-G-C (first ...


27

It depends on the tuning system being used. If you're tuning by perfect intervals, i.e. intervals in which the ratios of the frequencies are in whole-number pairs, then Gb isn't exactly the same as F#. For example, say you're tuning to A440 and using perfect intervals. Then the E above the A is tuned to 440 * 3/2 = 660 Hz. The B above the E is tuned to ...


27

"Modal" and "tonal" both describe works that: have one defined "home" pitch, or "tonal center," around which the melody and harmony are based; have only one tonal center at a time, though that tonal center can change throughout a piece; and use a seven-note diatonic scale as their pitch collections. The difference between modal and tonal are in the ...


27

Two reasons. You don't have enough fingers to play it. The fifth is the most expendable note in a 7th chord (1-3-5-7). Without the 7, it wouldn't be a 7th. Without the 3rd, it wouldn't be major or minor. Without the root, it wouldn't be the chord that it is. But the fifth doesn't contribute any vital property of the chord. There is this other fretting ...


27

I think the author of that Wikipedia page has rather misinterpreted Nancarrow's title page for the Study (linked on Roland Bouman's comment to the question). (1/√π)/√⅔ refers to a tempo ratio between two voices, not a time signature. Nancarrow was rather obsessed with canons. The canon is a form where multiple voices each play the same music at some time ...


27

My PhD is in Music Composition, but it was a heavily theory-focused program. I also have many theorist colleagues. Your question is interesting, and difficult to answer in total detail without writing a book, so I won't try to be exhaustive. Let me first say that the understanding of "Music Theory" is most definitely not complete, and that there absolutely ...



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