Hot answers tagged

84

My father was a French horn player for the New York Phil and later the Pittsburgh Symphony. It was a rare day when he didn’t go down to the basement and play a series of scales and arpeggios, sometimes for extended periods. I talked to him about it, but years ago so I can’t tell you if the following thoughts are his or mine: There’s a lot of repetition in ...


78

Pretty basic and simple. Each key has 7 notes, with a different letter name for each. A B C D E F G but not always starting on A!! Let's take Gmajor G A B C D E F G - except the F needs to be F#. So far so good with your idea. Let's take Fmajor. F G A A# C D E F. Oops, there are two A notes - and no B. Try writing it out on the lines and spaces we call ...


76

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 instruments,...


60

NReilingh gave a good general-case answer. I'll give you a specific case just to demonstrate that the concept is useful. First consider a C major chord. C-E-G, right? Then you make it into a minor chord by flattening the third, to get C-E♭-G. So far, so good. Now, consider an A♭ major chord: it's spelled A♭-C-E♭. But what happens when ...


58

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 ...


58

tl;dr People don't like it because they don't actually know what it is. There has been and will always be a stigma against music theory and studying it. Some of the reasons I've heard on this very site are: Music is artistic and no theory can explain art. It makes you think rather than play. X musician doesn't know theory so I don't have to. There are ...


57

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 2X Hz. Meanwhile, the ...


57

You’ve discovered a very deep fact about music that is referred to as “mode.” It isn’t ridiculous at all to say that the same notes can have a different emotional quality depending on how you use them, in fact that’s a huge part of what composition is about! Most western composers use the same twelve notes to express everything from rage to joy to anhedonia. ...


55

I'm told that my great-grandmother, a professional pianist, practiced her scales for some hours each day. I don't think that you're "ever done," unless you've decided to quit playing. As with any sort of athlete, you have to practice to keep your skills sharp, and scales are one of the best exercises to do. You could probably substitute other exercises, ...


53

"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 ...


51

Jazz is an unbelievably expansive genre with over 100 years of musical tradition; a big part of this tradition is an ever-increasing list of sub-genres that fall under the larger umbrella term of "jazz." Your "(I'm guessing it is)" is encouraging; it suggests you realize it's maybe a little silly to think you can mimic such a broad tradition by "just ...


49

'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 ...


48

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 ...


48

Put it in key A. That's I, and D is IV, while E is V. The slightly awkward G is said to be a borrowed chord, from, in this case, A minor, the parallel key. It's theory, an observation, not a rule, and obviously it works, not only in your song, but many, many others. The reason A seems better is that the E at the end of four bars (I guess) is the dominant, ...


45

The left hand is in treble clef.


45

It's because in music, when you're talking about intervals, you count the first note, all notes in between, as well as the final note. For example, if you play two notes that are right next to each other, the interval is a second - even though the second note is just "one note" away from the first. In fact, if you play the same note at the same time, it's ...


45

First off, for any melody that stays within a key, you have about a 1/7 chance of any random note you guess being the next note. Second, there are popular melody patterns and techniques, and sometimes the chords being played will suggest likely places for the melody to go. Depending on the chords and the harmony, you may be instinctively understanding that ...


45

By definition this is not possible. Just intonation ratios are rational numbers, N/M where N, M are integers. Equal temperament is based on defining the smallest ratio as the n-th root of 2, 2^(1/n). For 12TET n = 12. What you are basically asking is if an irrational number can be made to exactly match a ratio of integers. This will never be possible....


44

The TL;DR answer: Some instrument families (saxophones, clarinets, double reeds) have variants which change the instrument range by something other than an octave. To make it easy to switch between instruments in the same family, the parts for these instruments are transposed so the same written note has the same fingering, but produces a different actual ...


44

The reason there are multiple names for notes is that the same note may function differently in different contexts. If you just play a single note with no context, then it could have a multitude of different names. For example if you played the note in between F and G you could call it F# or Gb or more obscurely E## or Abbb. They are all valid names and are ...


43

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 easy for others. 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, ...


42

This is actually tr, the notation for "trill," an embellishment (or ornament) on a note where you rapidly alternate between the main pitch and an adjacent pitch. There are many different types of trills; the style of music (and perhaps editorial notes) will clarify exactly which type is intended. You can check out more in the Wikipedia article.


41

It's an artifact of Spotify's analysis. Notice that this chart shows no songs written in a flat key. Therefore, without a doubt, the chart is simply using "F♯" to mean "F♯ or G♭," "A♯" to mean "A♯ or B♭," and so forth. In particular, B♭ major (with a key signature of ♭♭ – two flats) is definitely much more common than A♯ (with a key signature of 𝄪𝄪𝄪♯♯♯♯ –...


40

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 ...


39

Supposedly Heifetz said, "If I skip practicing one day, I notice the difference. If I skip two days, the critics notice. If I skip three, the public notices."


39

You're correct; it should be called a fourth! But since "augmented fourth" won't be big enough for this, we kind of had to make up a term, and the world of music theory collectively decided upon calling this interval a doubly augmented fourth. This just means that it's one half step larger than an augmented fourth. (As such, the augmented fourth is not ...


38

Using only your ears, it's impossible to determine the exact time signature the composer would have used when writing the score. This is because there are many ways to write the same thing, all of which sound the same when played. For example, a piece written in 3/4 time can easily be re-written in 3/8 time by halving all the note values and playing it half ...


38

The main “purpose” of the raised degrees in ascending melodic and harmonic minor is to create a strong leading note: X:1 L:1/4 M: K:Am V:1 clef=treble e ^f "V₇ ↗"^g "i"a % Clearly, this leading tone only makes sense if you actually do resolve it upwards. If you go down instead, this can rather leave a feeling of unresolved tension. X:1 L:1/4 M: K:Am V:1 ...


38

First, I think that it would be difficult to read a piece of music with no bar lines. The bar lines help to break longer streams of notes into regularized and easily digestible chunks. But it is also not true that a stream of 16 quarter notes should represent the same thing as four bars of four quarter notes. For example, typically in 4/4 time the One and ...


38

The intervals between notes are "equal" not in the sense that the difference in Hz between them is the same, but the ratio a between them is the same. Let's say g is one semitone higher than f, then g = a f. Note Hz Ratio a to previous note, rounded to 3 decimal places A4 440.00 A#4 466.16 1.059 (466.16 / 440.0 = 1.059, and so on down the column)...


Only top voted, non community-wiki answers of a minimum length are eligible