"Fundamentals of Music Theory 101"

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2006 11 03
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...this thread will discuss the "fundamentals of music theory" as they apply to fretted string instruments (guitars, bass, etc.), it will not discuss "notation" or "tablature" reading.

...Thousands of years ago, the Greeks discovered that a single "vibrating" string not only produced a fundamental tone, but also a series of overtones (also called harmonics or partials).  They discovered that the "fundamental" string vibrations were related to the strings length, while its overtones were always integer multiples (that is 1/1, 1/2, 1/3, 1/5, etc.) of that length. For instance, a vibrating string tuned to Key-of-C would produce the following tones:

1/1 = C-tone, Fundamental (1X)
1/2 = C'-tone, Octave (2X)
1/3 = G-tone, partial
1/4 = C"-tone, double Octave (4X)
1/5 = E-tone, partial
1/6 = G'-tone, octave partial
1/7 = Bb-tone(approx)
1/8 = C'''-tone, triple Octave (8X)
1/9 = D-tone
1/10 = E-tone
1/11 = F#-tone(approx)
1/12 = G"-tone
1/13 = A-tone (approx)
1/14 = Bb-tone (approx)
1/15 = B-tone (approx)
1/16 = C''''-tone, quadruple Octave (16X)

...the Greeks found that the "strongest" tones, beside the Fundamental (C) and its Octaves (C'-C''-C'''-C''''), were the E and G notes, and these three notes (called a triad) played simultaneously had a pleasing sound.

...and, when the the notes were arranged in order from Fundamental through Octave, the following SCALE (or "ladder") of notes was produced: (C)..D..(E)F..(G)..A..B(C')

...notice that the notes comprising the Key-of-C triad are C-note (the fundamental or root), E-note (the third note in the scale) and G-note (the fifth note in the scale), which are everyother note from the scale!

...this same arrangement is still used today, with the individual notes of the SCALE called DEGREES (formally written as Roman Numerals, but simplified to Arabic Numbers) to indicate their position within the scale. Hence:

I = 1 = C, Root <--R in triad
II = 2 = D, 2nd
III = 3 = E, 3rd <--3 in triad
IV = 4 = F, 4th
V = 5 = G, 5th <--5 in triad
VI = 6 = A, 6th
VII = 7 = B, 7th
I' = 8 = C', Octave

...originally, only triad (3-note) chords were played; but later, during the Renaissance years, additional notes were added to chords, forming tetra- (4-note) and penta- (5-note) or more chords.

...the definition of a CHORD is three or more notes played simultaneously, while an ARPEGGIO is the sequential playing (one after the other) of the notes of a chord (think "House of the Rising Sun" for instance)...both CHORDs and ARPEGGIOs can be played forward or backwards, it doesn't matter, but does sound slightly different...with bass-to-treble sounds being more common (but not necessarily in rock-n-rock).

...while the above example begins with a C-note, it is the "key" of the scale that determines what the "fundamental" or "root" note will be, that is, the ROOT note of a "key" is the "fundamental" note (lowest) note of its SCALE, i.e.: the note the SCALE begins on.


REVIEW: what is a SCALE? what is a DEGREE? what is a CHORD? What degree notes typically comprise a chord?

...and the DEVIL said: "...yes, but it's a DRY heat!"

Senior Member
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2006 09 26
145 posts

old tele man this is fantastic cheers so a scale is s ladder  goes up in degrees and the chords triads and are made up of 1st 3rd and 5th degrees is this right ?

Senior Member
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2006 11 03
1,152 posts

...correct, a SCALE are the notes (and spacings) between the ROOT and its Octave; a DEGREE is a notes numerical position within the scale; and a triad CHORD is composed of ROOT(R), THIRD(3) and FIFTH(5) degrees of a SCALE <---[ notice how "sneakyly" I tied them all together! ]

...the word SCALE comes from the Italian word "SCALA" which means 'ladder' (almost ALL music terms are Italian based).

...now, look at the key-of-C scale (below) and notice how each "name"-note is directly associated with a DEGREE, e.g.:

C = I or ROOT
D = II or 2nd
E = III or 3rd
F = IV or 4th
G = V or 5th
A = VI or 6th
B = VII or 7th
C' = I' or Octave

...when you play each note of the C-scale (not just the chord notes) in succession, you are obviously playing the "C-scale," but what happens when you "start" to play notes on the 2nd or 3rd, etc. degrees? Well, the succession of notes, started on the other notes in the scale -- that is, NOT the ROOT or OCTAVE -- are called MODES, which the Greeks gave specific names to:

C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C' = Ionian
D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D' = Dorian
E, F, G, A, B, C, D, E' = Phrygrian (pronounced: friggy-ann)
F, G, A, B, C, D, E, F' = Lydian
G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G' = Mixolydian
A, B, C, D, E, F, G, A' = Aeloian
B, C, D, E, F, G, A, B' = Locrian (means: "crying" or "sad")

...if you look closely, you'll recognize that they're ALL THE SAME NOTES, just 'started' and 'stopped' on successively different DEGREE notes!

...NOTE: a SCALE denotes the sequential playing (e.g.: one-after-the-other) of DEGREE notes, but a "HARMONY" denotes the simultaneous playing (e.g.: all at once; a chord) of DEGREES notes that "sound" good together. A songs melody is typically made up of scale notes buty can sometimes also contain non-scale notes.

...thus, a MELODY (or scalar) progression would be playing single notes in a key, while a HARMONIC progression would be playing of chords within a key (more on this in a moment).


REVIEW: what is a MODE? what is the difference between a SCALE and HARMONY? what is the difference between SCALE "notes" and MODE "notes"?

...and the DEVIL said: "...yes, but it's a DRY heat!"

Senior Member
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2006 09 26
145 posts

ok so a mode is a scale that is started by degrees/ is  an octave is a 8 notes higher  than the root note ?scale are  notes played  individually while harmony is degrees notes and or oave and root played together  as in a chord (3 or more)and modes are  scales that start with degrees?

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2006 11 03
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[quote=beth]is an octave is a 8 notes higher than the root note?[/quote]
...yes, the "octave" (Italian for "eighth") is the 8th-DEGREE-note, but when you count the "in-between" sharp(#) and flat(b) notes, it's the 12th "fret" above (and below! e.g.: sub-octave) a ROOT-note.

NAMES OF THE SCALE DEGREES--just as the MODES have individual "names" so too do the DEGREES of a scale:

I = Tonic
II = Supertonic
III = Mediant
IV = Subdominant
V = Dominant
VI = Submediant
VII = Leading Tone

...although I won't use them, they are used quite often.

...also, the scale DEGREES have two basic "movement" characteristics: (a) "active" tones, which want to 'move' or 'resolve' to someother tone; and, (b) "rest" tones, which are 'stationary' and to which the "active" tones will 'resolve' to.

...the "active" and "rest" tones and their characteristic "movement" relationships are:

"active" = II, IV, VI and VII
"rest" = I, III, V and octave (I').

II resolves to either I or III
IV resolves to III
VI resolves to V
VII resolves to 8 or I'

...these movements and resolutions are the basis for the familiar chord changes used in songs.

...and the DEVIL said: "...yes, but it's a DRY heat!"

Senior Member
registered
2006 09 26
145 posts

ok got it thanks

Senior Member
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2006 11 03
1,152 posts

...the "standard" tuning for a guitar (bass to treble, note/string) is E6, A5, D4, G3, B2 and E1, so when we combine the "notes" from a simple C Major triad (meaning 'three') chord, e.g.: Root = C, 3rd = E, 5th = G, we get:



CODE: red diamond = Root note; black-filled circles = all other notes; open circle = "open" string note; "dashed" circle = previous position of changed note.

...to play the notes-of-the C (or Ionian) scale, from ROOT to OCTAVE, simply begin with the C-note on the A5-string and sequentially play each degree note of the scale, progressing toward the B2-string, like this:

C on A5-string at fret 3 <--- the I or ROOT note (chord note)
D on D4-string "open"  <---the II or 2nd note
E on D4-string at fret 2 <---the III or 3rd note (chord note)
F on D4-string at fret 3 <---the IV or 4th note
G on G3-string "open"  <---the V or 5th note (chord)
A on G3-string at fret 2 <---the VI or 6th note
B on B2-string "open"   <---the VII or 7th note
C' on B2-string at fret 1 <---the I' or octave note (repeated root)

...notice that "every other" note is a CHORD note, or stated another way, the note-wise sequence is CHORD(C), scale(D), CHORD(E), scale(F), CHORD(G), scale(A), scale(B) and octave-CHORD(C'); and the "halfstep" notes 'between' the scale notes are generically called "passing tones" but actually do have names (to be covered later).

...Can you "see" how the above C-chord was 'made'? Did you notice that only one chord note per string is played? And, that "open" strings are used where ever possible?

...and the DEVIL said: "...yes, but it's a DRY heat!"

Senior Member
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2006 09 26
145 posts

Did you notice that only one chord note per string is played? what do you mean by this

Senior Member
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2006 11 03
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...some people mistakenly think that when a string has two notes on it (such as the E1-string of the C-chord, which has: "open" = 3rd and fret 3 = 5th) that they should "try" to play both...not so...it's one or the other, your choice!

...and the DEVIL said: "...yes, but it's a DRY heat!"

Senior Member
registered
2006 09 26
145 posts

C on A5-string at fret 3 <--- the I or ROOT note (chord note)
D on D4-string "open"  <---the II or 2nd note
E on D4-string at fret 2 <---the III or 3rd note (chord note)
F on D4-string at fret 3 <---the IV or 4th note
G on G3-string "open"  <---the V or 5th note (chord)
A on G3-string at fret 2 <---the VI or 6th note
B on B2-string "open"   <---the VII or 7th note
C' on B2-string at fret 1 <---the I' or octave note (repeated root)
so this is the scale of c?


iam sorry im a bit confused about this what do you mean by 1 chord note per string

...notice that "every other" note is a CHORD note, or stated another way, the note-wise sequence is CHORD(C), scale(D), CHORD(E), scale(F), CHORD(G), scale(A), scale(B) and octave-CHORD(C'); and the "halfstep" notes 'between' the scale notes are generically called "passing tones" but actually do have names (to be covered later).

not sure what your getting at are you saying while strumming you should play one or the other  the D string with a finger on the 2nd fret and the open e string  or play both ?

bit lost by this, to such as the E1-string of the C-chord, which has: "open" = 3rd and fret 3 = 5th

the E1 is an open  E   but the  3rd and fret 3 = 5th not sure, is it 3rd string on 3rd fret is the 5 th note


 
 
 
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