Questions tagged [theory]

For questions about how music works, seeking to identify structures and patterns in music. Used to indicate questions about musical concepts and structures, as opposed to techniques and execution.

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
153 votes
12 answers
47k 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 ...
user avatar
129 votes
12 answers
71k 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?
user avatar
  • 1,451
125 votes
28 answers
33k 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 ...
user avatar
  • 1,391
86 votes
13 answers
75k 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 ...
user avatar
  • 1,043
80 votes
12 answers
22k 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 ...
user avatar
  • 954
72 votes
7 answers
30k views

Why are there both sharps and flats? [duplicate]

If we can get away with just having sharps (aka black notes on a piano) then why complicate things and add flats as well? For example, if I have a C# why call it Dflat? Why not just leave it as C# and ...
user avatar
70 votes
6 answers
211k views

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

When people sing the song, they use do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, (si), etc, but sometimes I hear that the music people say A, B, C, D flat, etc. Is there a relationship or are they two different ...
user avatar
  • 1,447
68 votes
22 answers
143k views

What is the difference between a mode and a scale?

I can't seem to find a straight definition for both.
user avatar
67 votes
22 answers
6k 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 ...
user avatar
66 votes
7 answers
44k 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 ...
user avatar
  • 1,041
65 votes
5 answers
14k 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 ...
user avatar
  • 1,557
63 votes
20 answers
50k 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 ...
user avatar
  • 735
60 votes
4 answers
15k 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 ...
user avatar
  • 46.4k
57 votes
8 answers
13k views

Which 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 chords,...
user avatar
  • 2,764
56 votes
11 answers
25k views

Do advanced musicians still practice scales every day?

I'm wondering if you're ever "done" or do you just go practicing them forever?
user avatar
55 votes
4 answers
38k 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 ...
user avatar
55 votes
7 answers
39k 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 ...
user avatar
54 votes
21 answers
21k views

Why are some people so paranoid about music theory?

Music theory is cool. However, I've noticed that a few genres of music tend to discourage it. I just read that learning music theory "seems like the antithesis" of being able to improvise. ...
user avatar
54 votes
12 answers
16k 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 I'...
user avatar
51 votes
3 answers
190k views

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

I was wondering what the differences are between "tone", "note", and "pitch"?
user avatar
  • 897
50 votes
16 answers
155k views

How to know what notes will go together while improvising?

This is 3 questions in one, so it might take a slightly involved answer, or some good links. Edit--- tl;dr: How can you learn which keys to hit to make the notes you hear in your head? I know what I ...
user avatar
46 votes
10 answers
136k 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?
user avatar
  • 787
46 votes
6 answers
56k 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 ...
user avatar
46 votes
6 answers
133k 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"?
user avatar
45 votes
8 answers
47k 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 ...
user avatar
  • 797
45 votes
8 answers
4k views

Does the difference in harmonic series between instruments have a significant effect on the consonance of the sound?

We all know that an instrument's timbre is uniquely determined by its harmonic series. Harmonic series are also very effective in describing whether an interval is consonant or not. For example, the ...
user avatar
  • 1,144
44 votes
5 answers
5k views

Is there any "research" in music theory?

A researcher in, say, mathematics, conducts research in the form of proving theorems, laying out foundations for new theories, etc. But what do, for example, PhD candidates do in music theory? Split ...
user avatar
  • 671
43 votes
8 answers
181k 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 ...
user avatar
  • 811
42 votes
7 answers
5k views

Major scale of one note is the Minor scale of another note?

I am learning guitar at the moment and I learned the major scale. Then I checked the minor scale and the positions are the same! Not only that, the C major scale is the same as the A minor scale. So ...
user avatar
42 votes
6 answers
15k 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?
user avatar
  • 46.4k
42 votes
11 answers
13k views

Why do octaves sound equivalent?

It is, I think, a perfectly clear observation that one note an octave above another note sounds as if it were the same in a certain sense; while they are by no means the same exact note, they are ...
user avatar
41 votes
12 answers
26k views

Why do many songs in major keys use a bVII chord?

Based on my understanding of chord theory, the chords used in most modern popular songs are comprised of notes that occur in the scale of the tonic key for that song. The I, ii, iii, IV, V, vi, and ...
user avatar
41 votes
9 answers
22k 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 ...
user avatar
  • 11.4k
41 votes
11 answers
28k 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, ...
user avatar
  • 1,133
40 votes
12 answers
20k 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 ...
user avatar
40 votes
8 answers
3k 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 ...
user avatar
39 votes
6 answers
8k views

Why do people sometimes write notes as E♯ or C♭?

Instead of writing F or B, sometimes people use E♯ or C♭ to write these notes. Are there any advantages to this notation?
user avatar
39 votes
9 answers
13k 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 ...
user avatar
39 votes
4 answers
9k 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 ...
user avatar
  • 743
39 votes
10 answers
51k views

What is the difference between sharp note & flat note?

In guitar or generally in any musical instruments, what is the difference between sharp notes & flat notes? For example : Are A♯ & B♭ the same? And are C♯ & D♭ the same? Does that make ...
user avatar
  • 815
38 votes
14 answers
33k 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 ...
user avatar
36 votes
12 answers
27k views

How can I learn to compose?

I am aware that Stack Exchange questions should be on-point, and not too broad, but I really would appreciate a response from people who know what they are talking about: I recently saw Boublil and ...
user avatar
  • 2,626
35 votes
8 answers
163k 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 ...
user avatar
  • 46.4k
35 votes
3 answers
46k 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 ...
user avatar
  • 1,692
35 votes
6 answers
49k 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 ...
user avatar
35 votes
6 answers
68k views

Polymeter vs Polyrhythm

What is the difference between a polymeter and a polyrhythm? Do these words mean anything different for different instruments? PS: I'm a drummer.
user avatar
35 votes
9 answers
4k 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?
user avatar
34 votes
10 answers
4k 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 ...
user avatar
33 votes
7 answers
8k views

Why is it that I can sometimes guess the next note?

For some songs and musical pieces that I am listening to for the first time, why is it that I can occasionally guess what the next note will be? I imagine the next note in my head and sometimes it is ...
user avatar
  • 433
33 votes
11 answers
13k views

I'm learning music theory, but none of the songs I'm trying it on are playing by the rules

So, I've been playing guitar for about a year, and I want to learn some chord theory. I crack open a book, I learn about I ii iii IV V vi viio and why it works and how to construct it, then I learn ...
user avatar
  • 1,122

1
2 3 4 5
69