Basic Music Theory: An introduction

Discussion in 'The Sevenstring.org Workbench' started by Jongpil Yun, Jan 12, 2008.

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  1. Jongpil Yun

    Jongpil Yun Contributor

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    WARNING: Article is 4ths tuning specific.

    The Major Scale

    Code:
    | 1 |   | 2 |   | 3 | 4 |   | 5 |   | 6 |   | 7 | 1 |   | 2 |   | 3 |
    | x | x | x | x | x | x | x | x | x | x | x | x | x | x | x | x | x |
    
    The above diagram is a major scale, with each box or "x" representing a single semitone, or fret. As you can see, the major scale is W, W, H, W, W, W H, with a half step only between the 3 and 4, and the 7 and 1. Chords (and by extension, arpeggios) are all built from and described by their relation to the major scale. The major scale is, in fact, the basis of all western music theory. The scale of C major (in the key of C) looks like this:

    Code:
    | 1 |   | 2 |   | 3 | 4 |   | 5 |   | 6 |   | 7 | 1 |   | 2 |   | 3 |
    | C |   | D |   | E | F |   | G |   | A |   | B | C |   | D |   | E |
    
    Intervals

    An interval is the distance between two notes. Each interval has a special name given, once again, in relation to the major scale.

    Code:
    | 1 |                                                    ROOT or TONIC
    | 1 | b2|                                                MINOR 2nd  (1 fret)
    | 1 |   | 2 |                                            MAJOR 2nd  (2 frets)
    | 1 |   | 2 | b3|                                        MINOR 3rd  (3 frets)
    | 1 |   | 2 |   | 3 |                                    MAJOR 3rd (4 frets)
    | 1 |   | 2 |   | 3 | 4 |                                PERFECT 4th  (5 frets)
    | 1 |   | 2 |   | 3 | 4 | b5|                            DIMINISHED 5th  (6 frets) 
    | 1 |   | 2 |   | 3 | 4 |   | 5 |                        PERFECT 5th  (7 frets)
    | 1 |   | 2 |   | 3 | 4 |   | 5 | b6|                    MINOR 6th  (8 frets)
    | 1 |   | 2 |   | 3 | 4 |   | 5 |   | 6 |                MAJOR 6th  (9 frets)
    | 1 |   | 2 |   | 3 | 4 |   | 5 |   | 6 | b7|            MINOR 7th  (10 frets)
    | 1 |   | 2 |   | 3 | 4 |   | 5 |   | 6 |   | 7 |        MAJOR 7th (11 frets)
    | 1 |   | 2 |   | 3 | 4 |   | 5 |   | 6 |   | 7 | 1 |    OCTAVE (12 frets)
    Fourths tuning, which is what this lesson is concerned with, is composed of having all seven strings arranged in 4ths, generally starting from B. From low to high, the strings would then be BEADGCF. This is also known as the circle of fourths and has other uses in music theory. A useful mnemonic for remembering this is

    The mnemonic works equally well in reverse, in which case it would be

    Chords & Arpeggios

    A chord is 3 or more notes played simultaneously. Chords are usually composed of minor 3rds and major 3rds stacked on top of eachother, or equivalently, by taking a scale and skipping every other note starting from the tonic. Such chords are called tertian, although this is very unimportant to remember.

    An arpeggio is a chord where the notes are not played simultaneously -- instead, they are usually played in sequence, but not always.


    Inversions

    An inversion of a chord is a chord with a bass note other than the root. For example, if you have a chord of a 1, 3, and 5, the chord has two inversions -- 3, 5, 1, and 5, 1, 3.

    A chord will have one less inversion than it has notes. A four note chord can be inverted 3 times, but if you invert it again, you will be in root position an octave down.

    It's helpful to remember that when inverting intervals, the two intervals together will always add up to 9, and the name will be opposite. For example, the inversion of a minor third is a major 6th -- 3 + 6 = 9, and the opposite of minor is major.

    Given this, you can find that 2nd become 7ths, 3rds become 6ths, and 4ths become 5ths. Minor becomes major, augmented becomes diminished, and perfect intervals remain perfect.

    If you stack an interval and its inversion together, you will have gone up an octave. For example, a minor third on top of a major 6th together sum to an octave, a perfect fourth and perfect fifth do as well.

    Power Chords

    Power chords aren't chords in the truest sense, because there are only two notes in a power chord, but to tell anyone that would be pedantic. A power chord is made up of a root (1) and perfect fifth (5), which would be C and G for a C power chord. You will sometimes see a power chord notated as for example, C5.

    Code:
    | 1 |   |   |   |   |   |   | 5 |   |   |   |   | 1 |
    | C |   |   |   |   |   |   | G |   |   |   |   | C |
                   P5th                    P4th
    
    A power chord can be played by putting your first finger on any fret, and your third finger one string down and two frets above it, as seen below. You can also double up on the octave, and even double the fifth.

    [​IMG]

    Power chords have only one inversion, the perfect 4th.

    [​IMG]

    Power chords are the only chords that don't sound dissonant under heavy distortion, and it's no accident. They're composed of only "perfect" intervals, so the amplified overtones don't clash. Even if you were to add a major 3rd, the next most stable interval, under heavy gain it would sound dissonant.

    Major Chords & Arpeggios

    Major chords are made by playing the root (1), major third (3) and perfect fifth (5) simultaneously, or by stacking a minor third on top of a major third. A C major chord would be C-E-G as seen in the following diagram.

    Code:
    | 1 |   |   |   | 3 |   |   | 5 |   |   |   |   | 1 |
    | C |   |   |   | E |   |   | G |   |   |   |   | C |
             M3rd          m3rd           P4th
    
    Major chords are very stable, very consonant, and have a characteristic bright, cheery sound. As with all chord shapes here, the following can be played anywhere on the neck.

    [​IMG]

    Following is how to play a single string, one octave major arpeggio, along with its inversions.

    [​IMG]

    Next is a seven string, four octave major arpeggio and its inversions. As with all the multiple string arpeggios here, there is a single pattern that repeats.

    [​IMG]

    And finally, a seven string three octave + root major arpeggio and its inversions.

    [​IMG]

    Minor Chords & Arpeggios

    A minor chord is made by playing the root (1), minor third (b3), and perfect fifth (5) together. Alternatively, you can think of it as stacking a minor third on top of the root, and a major third on top of that. A C minor chord would be C-Eb-G as seen in the following diagram.

    Code:
    | 1 |   |   | b3|   |   |   | 5 |   |   |   |   | 1 |
    | C |   |   | Eb|   |   |   | G |   |   |   |   | C |
           m3rd          M3rd              P4th  
    
    Minor chords are also very stable and consonant, and have a characteristic sad or melancholy sound.

    [​IMG]

    Following is how to play a single string, one octave minor arpeggio.

    [​IMG]

    Next is a seven string, four octave minor arpeggio.

    [​IMG]

    And finally, a seven string three octave + root minor arpeggio.

    [​IMG]


    COMING SOON

    • 7th, 9th, diminished, and sus2/sus4 chords
    • Scales/modes
    • Chord progressions & Analysis

    Suggestions welcome.

    EDIT: Mods may want to add to the title somewhere that this is written with all 4ths tuning in mind.
     
  2. Desecrated

    Desecrated Guest

    Thanks.
     
  3. amonb

    amonb Les Pauls forever Contributor

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    Awesome
     
  4. El Caco

    El Caco Djavli te ponesli Contributor

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    Thanks :yesway:
     
  5. Chris

    Chris metalguitarist.org Forum MVP

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    Stuck, contrib tag for you, and workbenched. Great post man, thanks very much! :yesway:
     
  6. HANIAK

    HANIAK 7 string addict

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    Thank you very much for your great post!
     
  7. Michael

    Michael Forum MVP

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    Awesome write-up man. :yesway:
     
  8. friday11

    friday11 SS.org Regular

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    cool! Now something make sense =)
     
  9. BaHkaTa

    BaHkaTa SS.org Regular

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    hey man are you updating this thread with what's in 'coming soon' ? =] anyway it's quite helpful
     
  10. EATyourGUITAR

    EATyourGUITAR SS.org Regular

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    this is a really great beginners guide to music theory. one thing Id like to expand on is intervals. didn't want to start a new thread though.

    UNDERSTANDING INTERVALS

    INTERVAL (DEFINITION) : "The measurement of distance in pitch between two notes"

    interval names came from people talking about a scale degree as it relates to the root note (tonic). its important to know that major and minor scales with the same root note have some of the same notes. root note obviously but also the 4th the 5th. the minor 2nd minor 3rd minor 6th minor 7th are all just 1 fret below their respective majors. its easy to remember that the distance of a minor whatever is going to be a little smaller and sound just a little different.

    the 5th is used in almost every chord ever made. its frequency is 1.5x the root note. it doesn't give the listener any idea as to whether your in a minor or major key/chord. it just adds texture and fullness to the chord. look at a power chord Root + 5th + Oct. it doesnt have much going on. so to really start building chords we have to put something else into it.

    terminology:

    whole step = 1 tone = 2 frets = 2nd = major 2nd

    if its not defined, 2nd means major 2nd
    often used in the sus2 chord

    half step = semi-tone = 1 fret = minor second

    4th = perfect 4th
    cause there is no other 4th
    when the 5th is raised up one fret its called an augmented 5th
    I much prefer to call it that than a minor 6th I'll explain later

    scales or chords?
    you can do either one if you understand intervals.

    scales
    a major scale will always have the same intervals in the same order no matter what note you start on. in terms of whole steps and half steps a major scales is

    Code:
    major
    
    W W H W W W H
    
    minor is
    
    W H W W H W W
    
    in either example you arrive at the octave of the root note.

    Code:
    try it on your guitar on any string
    here is a one string tab for major
    
    0 - 2 - 4 - 5 - 7 - 9 - 11 - 12
    
    minor
    
    0 - 2 - 3 - 5 - 7 - 8 - 10 - 12
    your guitar is tuned in 4ths for the first 4 strings. a 4th is actually 5 frets on a guitar. you can take these scales and play them anywhere on the neck in any form or mode if you remember the intervals. just do the -5 frets trick to get it onto the next higher string.



    Code:
    example
    major
    
    0 - 2 - 4 - 5 - 7 - 9 - 11 - 12
    
    becomes
    
    - - - - - - 0 - 2 - 4 - 6  - 7 
    0 - 2 - 4 - - - - - - - - - -
    
    - 5 frets again
    
     - - - - - - - - - - - - 1 - 2
     - - - - - - 0 - 2 - 4 - - - - 
     0 - 2 - 4 - - - - - - - - - -
    of course it gets tricky when you jump from the g string to the b string cause they are not tuned in 4ths. G ------> B is a major 3rd

    GAB like 123 = major 3rd

    this is only true if G --> A whole step A --> B whole step
    "whole whole" is the start of a major scale as in the example

    Code:
    major
    1 2 3
     W W H W W W H
    
    lets look at an exercise that will help you locate octaves and 5ths anywhere for a given root note

    Code:
    -----------8-----------
    ---------6-------------
    -------5---------------
    -----3-----------------
    --3--------------------
    1----------------------
    
    or 
    
    ------------5----------
    ---------5-------------
    ------2----------------
    ----2------------------
    --0--------------------
    ----------------------
    
    its like an extended power chord.

    some absolutely mandatory intervals on the fretboard

    Code:
    root + maj3rd + 5th + Oct
    ----------------------
    ----------------------
    ----------------------
    ----------7------------
    ---4---7----7--4----------
    -5----------------5-----
    
    two octaves
    
    ----------------------
    --------------9--------
    ---------6-9------------
    -------7---------------
    ---4-7------------------
    -5---------------------
    
    you should hear and see whats happening here. its should just be obvious that the major3rd is always one string up one fret down. the 5th is always one string up two frets up. the octave is always two strings up two frets up.

    Intervals, learn them or I'll shoot this dog.

    [​IMG]
    (not gonna shoot a dog lol)
     
  11. chnc

    chnc SS.org Regular

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    Old thread, I know, but some of the things in this post, like the above, aren't true at all. Don't get the wrong idea, kiddies. (Hints: "Lydian", "+11", "Whole-Tone")
     

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