Fundamentals

Fundamentals admin Thu, 03/23/2017 - 16:17

Almost all great musicians share one thing in common: they have mastered the fundamentals. Regardless of your instrument or genre, there are certain basic concepts and skills which you must master in order to become an accomplished performer or creator of music.

All of the games on Theta Music Trainer are designed to exercise a particular area that is fundamental to playing music. However, there may be gaps in your knowledge regarding certain areas. In this section, we will provide a brief introduction and review of some fundamental concepts, and explain why each one is important to the development of a great musical ear and mind.

Sound

Sound admin Thu, 03/23/2017 - 18:18

Although not included in most traditional ear-training methods, the ability to recognize different sound qualities is a critical skill for most musicians. An experienced player with a sharp ear can quickly discern which instruments should be louder or softer in the mix, which parts need more treble or bass, and where to most effectively apply reverb, echo, and other effects. We group these properties under the general heading of Sound, and learning to identify and describe them is a key part of training your ear.

Volume and Mixing

Volume and Mixing admin Thu, 03/23/2017 - 18:20

When a group of musicians play together, one of the most important components of their sound is the mix of their instruments, and the respective volume of each instrument in the mix. Most experienced musicians have trained their ears to pick up not only melody, harmony and rhythm, but also the subtle differences in volume levels and instrument sounds that make up the overall sound of a group.

To develop a strong sense of instrumentation, dynamics and acoustics, practice listening to individual parts during a group performance, "zeroing in" on particular instruments. Learn the sounds of various different instruments, and how particular sets of instruments sound in combination.

Channel Scramble will train you to quickly catch small changes in the mix of a song. You will also begin to hear more clearly the sounds of individual instruments in various genres and styles.

Effects

Effects admin Thu, 03/23/2017 - 18:21

A vast array of audio effects are used in virtually all popular music today, both in studio and live settings. Effects can be used to add color to a sound, or to completely reshape it. If you play guitar or bass, you are probably already familiar with at least some of the effect pedals that can be used to alter your tone. Effects are also found frequently on amplifiers and PA mixers.

Here are some of the most widely used effects:

Equalizer (EQ) - Boosts or reduces specific frequencies in a signal. Adjusts the bass, mid-range and treble components of a sound. Frequently found on PA mixers, equalizers can also be used to reduce feedback.

Distortion/Overdrive - Creates a 'dirty' or 'fuzzy' sound by compressing the original signal and adding overtones to it.

Reverb - Simulates the effect of a room on the original signal, based on the echoes created when the signal bounces and reflects off the walls of the room.

Delay - Repeats the original signal after a specified unit of time.

Chorus - Thickens a sound by producing the illusion of multiple instances of the original signal.

Flanger/Phaser/Tremolo - Creates a 'whooshing' sound by mixing the original signal with another that has been 'phase-shifted'.

Regardless of your instrument or style, knowing the basic sounds produced by each of these effects will help make you a better musician. It will also help you to make better decisions about what kind of gear and settings to use. When you are sound checking for a live performance, you will be better able to explain to the engineer at the mixing board what kind of sound you want from the PA (especially regarding reverb and EQ).

 

Instrumentation

Instrumentation admin Thu, 03/23/2017 - 18:21

In music, instrumentation refers to the combination of instruments used to perform a song or piece, as well as the sound of each individual instrument. Musicians should be able to discern which instruments are playing at any given time. Songwriters and composers can greatly increase their creative choices by having a large mental vocabulary of instrument sounds at their disposal.

See also: Instrumentation (Wikipedia)

Band Match will train your ear to recognize the sound of many different instruments and instrument combinations.

Equalization

Equalization admin Thu, 03/23/2017 - 18:22

Equalization is used to adjust the sound of an instrument so that certain frequencies are either accentuated or reduced. This is useful in both recording and live performance, and some form of equalizer (EQ) unit is used by all audio engineers. By adjusting its EQ, the engineer can change the timbre of an instrument, causing it to stand out prominently or pushing it into the background.

EQ units are also used to balance out peculiarities in the acoustics of a particular room or hall, especially in live settings. The simplest kind of equalizer is a tone control which adjusts the bass (low frequecies) or treble (high frequencies) of the audio signal. A typical graphic equalizer has slider controls for at least 5 frequency ranges (bands), allowing the gain for each frequency range to be boosted or cut. Many instrumentalists - especially guitarists and bassists - use graphic equalizer pedals among their effects in order to get better control over their tone.

See also: Equalization (Wikipedia)

EQ Match will train your ear to hear the different frequencies on a 5-band graphic equalizer, using a wide variety of instrument samples.

Pitch

Pitch admin Sun, 04/15/2018 - 16:24

As it relates to playing music, pitch is a property of sound that allows us to judge one tone as 'higher' or 'lower' than another. 

One of the most basic pitch skills for a musician is using the voice to match pitch with a given note. That is when a not is sung or played on an instrument, the musician then sings back the same pitch.

A second fundamental pitch skill involves pitch comparison. Given two notes, a musician should be able to quickly determine which of the two is higher in pitch. 

By developing these skills, the musician will be able to sing and/or play 'in tune' more easily and with greater accuracy.

 

 

Matching Pitch

Matching Pitch admin Thu, 03/23/2017 - 18:18

Matching pitch is the act of reproducing with your voice the pitch of a tone you hear. It is the most basic and most important ear training skill, and is therefore the starting point for virtually all ear training. You don't need to have a great singing voice, but you do need to be able to get the pitch or frequency of the tone right, without singing it too sharp or too flat.

When you hear somebody sing who is consistently way out of tune, it is usually because they have never mastered this basic skill. The term 'tone deaf' is often used to describe people who attempt to sing a melody without first having acquired the ability to match pitch. True 'tone deafness' is extremely rare, but off-key singing is surprisingly common. This can be improved considerably through ear training and practice.

Intonation and Tuning

Intonation and Tuning admin Thu, 03/23/2017 - 18:19

In music, intonation refers to pitch accuracy - that is, whether a tone is played 'in tune' or not. A note that is sung or played on an instrument may be sharp (higher frequency than the target tone) or flat (lower frequency than the target tone). With fretless string instruments such as the violin or cello, intonation depends on the degree of precision in finding the exact spot to press on the fingerboard of the instrument. Guitarists who bend strings must also have a good sense of intonation in order to keep their bends in tune.

Tuning is the process of adjusting the pitch of a tone until it matches a reference tone, at which point the pitch is considered to be 'in tune'. When you do this with your voice, it is called 'matching pitch' and is one of the most basic skills of ear training. Tuning is often done by ear, playing two pitches and adjusting one of them to match the other. Guitarists and other string players must often tune 'on the fly' during a performance. In order to play or sing in tune with proper intonation, it is vitally important to have a keen sense of pitch differentiation. Our games Speed Pitch and Dango Brothers will give you excellent practice in this area.

 

 

Pitch Memory

Pitch Memory admin Thu, 03/23/2017 - 18:19

Musicians often develop a high capacity for keeping musical information in their memories, both short-term and long term. The most basic type of musical memory is called pitch memory. To give a simple example, when you play a tone on a pitch pipe in order to establish the key before singing a song, you are using your short-term pitch memory in order to store the starting tone in your mind before you start singing. In addition, if the song starts on a tone other than the "one" of the key, you must use your relative pitch skills to find and store the starting tone of the song.

With practice, most of this becomes automatic and is done without any conscious effort. Sometimes, you will need to keep a tone in your mind as other music is playing. You may also find that you need to translate a melody to your instrument that is sung or played on a different instrument. In these cases you must be able to distinguish and store the tonal information (that is the pitches used in the melody), independent of the instrument sound. The development of a strong memory for pitch regardless of timbre (instrument sound) is one of the first steps in building your general musical memory.

Tonal Recall will strengthen both your pitch memory and your relative pitch skills.

Tonality

Tonality admin Sun, 04/15/2018 - 17:05

Tonality is the grouping of pitches and chords into a hierarchy of relationships. 

In each tonal group or key, there is one tone which sounds the most stable, like a 'home' pitch. This pitch is called the tonic, and the name of that tone is also the name of the key.

For example, in the key of C Major, the tonic pitch is C. When you play along with a musical piece that is in the key of C Major, you can play the tone C at just about any point in the piece and it will sound like it 'fits' without much dissonance. 

Each key has a scale of tones associated with it. The tones that make up a scale are typically ordered by the frequency of their pitch. A scale that moves from lower pitch tones to higher ones is called an ascending scale, while a scale that moves from high to low is called a descending scale.

Circle of Fifths

Circle of Fifths admin Thu, 03/23/2017 - 18:05
Music is full of patterns, and some of the most fundamental of those patterns can be illustrated using a diagram known as the Circle of Fifths (sometimes called the Circle of Fourths).
 
The Circle is a visual representation of the basic relationships between keys, chords and scales. At the top of the circle you will find the key C major on the outside (and A minor on the inside). This key signature contains no sharps or flats. Now move one step clockwise, and you will find the key of G major (and E minor). Note that the interval from C to G is a perfect fifth up (or a perfect fourth down), and the key signature for this key contains one sharp. Go another step clockwise, and you'll find D major, which is a perfect fifth up from G and has two sharps in the key signature.
 
See the pattern? As you move clockwise around the circle, each key is a perfect fifth up from the preceding key, and each key signature has one additional sharp. It works the same way going counter clockwise as well, except this time the motion is downward in fifths (or upward in fourths). From C to F is a perfect fourth up, taking us to a key signature that has one flat. Another fourth up, and we are at Bb, which as two flats in the key signature, and so forth.
 
Notice that the circle clearly illustrates the relationship of one key to another. The closer two keys are on the circle, the more notes they have in common. Notice also that for any major key on the circle, you can take the tonic chord of that key as the I, and you will find the IV right next to it (moving counter-clockwise), as well as the V chord (on the other side, moving clockwise).
 
Look at the minor chords (keys) on the inside of these three, and you will find your IIm, IIIm and VIm chords. Not surprisingly, these six chords are the ones that you are most likely to encounter in any given piece of music.
 
See also: Wikipedia: Circle of Fifths
 
Traditionally, music students have learned the Circle of Fifths by writing it out on a sheet of paper over and over again. We've designed a much more modern (and fun!) way of learning the Circle. As you progress through the levels of Key Puzzles, you will hear music in a wide variety of styles where the chords progress in fifths around the circle. Not only will you be learning these key patterns and relationships, but at the same time you will be subconsciously conditioning your ear to hear and recognize chord progressions that move in fifths (or fourths). This progression is one of the most frequently occurring harmonic patterns in virtually all styles of music.
 
 

Scales

Scales admin Thu, 03/23/2017 - 16:38

A scale is a set of notes grouped together in a specific pattern. The most commonly used scale in popular music is the major scale. The notes of the major scale are numbered from 1 to 8, with the tonic assigned the number 1 and other tones moving up in sequence to the octave, which is number 8.

Major Scales

In the major scale, notes are arranged in a specific sequence of half steps and whole steps. A half step is the distance from one note to the next closest note. On a piano, the distance from any key to the next closest key (regardless of whether it is a black key or white key) is a half step. A whole step is equivalent to two half steps. To construct a major scale from any starting tone, use the following arrangement of whole steps (W) and half steps (H):

Here are some examples:

C Major: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
C D E F G A B C
 
D Major: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
D E F# G A B C# D
 
G Major: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
G A B C D E F# G
 
Notice that the pattern of whole steps and half steps (W-W-H-W-W-W-H) is always the same regardless of which tone is used for the tonic. The first step in ear training is to learn the pattern for the major scale and the numbers for each note in the scale. The numbers of the scale are sometimes called scale degrees. For further reference: Major scale - Wikipedia The Major Scale - musictheory.net

Minor Scales

Compared to major scales, minor scales have a darker and heavier sound. They also have their own pattern and order. Here is the pattern of whole steps (W) and half steps (H) used to create a minor scale:

 

And here are some examples of minor scales:

C Minor: 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 8
C D Eb F G Ab Bb C
 
D Minor: 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 8
D E F G A Bb C D
 
G Minor: 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 8
G A Bb C D Eb F G
 

As you can see, the minor scale follows the interval pattern of W-H-W-W-H-W-W. To create a minor scale in any key, begin on the tonic of the key, and add scale tones according to this pattern.
You can use the piano keyboard below to see examples of any major or minor scale. Simply choose the tonic (starting tone or "root" of the scale), press the play button for either the major or minor scale, and observe which notes are used to build the scale.

Starting tone:

Paddle Tones and Tone Drops will train you to quickly match each scale tone with its number as soon as you hear it. This will strengthen your sense of relative pitch.

Intervals

Intervals admin Wed, 04/18/2018 - 16:07

An interval is the distance (in scale steps) between two pitches.

Intervals provide the basic framework for almost everything in music. Small intervals such as half steps and whole steps combine to form scales. Larger intervals combine to make chords.

The ability to identify intervals by ear is one of the major goals of ear training. Intervals are fundamental to working out melodies by ear. They are also used to help identify the quality of chords, in determining for example whether a chord is major, minor, augmented or diminished. 

Melodic Intervals

Melodic Intervals admin Thu, 03/23/2017 - 17:31

A melodic interval occurs when two notes are played in sequence, one after the other. Intervals can also be harmonic, meaning that the two notes are played together at the same time. For example, taking C as the tonic (the "1" or the first degree of the scale), then the third degree of the C major scale is E, so the interval between C and E is called a major third. If the second tone in a major interval is lowered by one half step, the interval becomes minor. The example below shows a major third and a minor third, each starting on C.

Major 3rd
Minor 3rd
There are four intervals which are called perfect intervals, and are found in both major and minor scales. Perfect intervals include the unison (same tone repeated), fourth (five half steps), fifth (seven half steps) and octave (twelve half steps). The examples below show the perfect fourth and perfect fifth intervals starting on C.

 

Perfect 4th
Perfect 5th
 

Use the Interval Demo application below to compare the sounds of different melodic intervals. First select a bottom tone, then press the buttons to hear how various melodic intervals sound when played from that tone. Also be sure to check out the difference between ascending and descending intervals.

 

Starting tone:

Melodic Drops will help you quickly recognize the most commonly used intervals. It starts with a small set of the most basic intervals and progresses gradually through the complete set, played with a variety of instruments.

Harmonic Intervals

Harmonic Intervals admin Thu, 03/23/2017 - 17:59

A harmonic interval occurs when two notes are played at the same time. Intervals can also be melodic, meaning that the two notes are played in sequence, one after the other. For example, taking C as the tonic (the "1" or the first degree of the scale), then the third degree of the C major scale is E, so the interval between C and E is called a major third. If the second tone in a major interval is lowered by one half step, the interval becomes minor. The example below shows a major third and a minor third, each starting on C.

Major 3rd
Minor 3rd
There are four intervals which are called perfect intervals, and are found in both major and minor scales. Perfect intervals include the unison (same tone repeated), fourth (five half steps), fifth (seven half steps) and octave (twelve half steps). The examples below show the perfect fourth and perfect fifth intervals starting on C.

 

Perfect 4th
Perfect 5th
 

Use the Interval Demo application below to compare the sounds of different harmonic intervals. First select the bottom tone, then press the buttons to hear how various harmonic intervals sound when played from that tone.

 

Starting tone:

Harmonic Drops will help you quickly recognize the most commonly used harmonic intervals. It starts with a small set of the most basic intervals and progresses gradually through the complete set, played with a variety of instruments.

Melody

Melody admin Thu, 03/23/2017 - 16:36

A melody is a sequence of notes played one after the other. It is the "tune" of a song - the part that most people generally know and sing. Melodies can be described in terms of numbers, where each note in the melody receives a number corresponding to its position in the scale. This numbering system is at the heart of learning to play melodies by ear, as it makes them easier to identify, recall and transpose to other keys.

Melodic Dictation

Melodic Dictation admin Thu, 03/23/2017 - 17:55

Melodic dictation (also called transcription) involves the ability to hear a piece of music and quickly play it back or write down the notes of the melody. One of the main goals of ear training is to strengthen your powers of visualization - being able to hear a phrase and immediately visualize how it will look and feel when played on your instrument. Melodic dictation is closely tied to visualization, and is a skill that most experienced improvisers and composers have developed to a high degree.

To begin building this important skill, start with very short fragments - three or four notes of a simple melody. Try to sing the phrase and convert the tones of the melody to scale numbers. Visualize how the melody will look and feel on your instrument. Soon you will be ready to move on to longer, more complex phrases. Notice how the longer phrases are often made up of shorter melodic patterns that you already know. As your ability increases, you will eventually be able to mentally practice and compose music away from your instrument.

Parrot Phrases will greatly increase your visualization skills. By regularly training your ear with this game, you will soon be able to mentally 'see' exactly how to play all kinds of melodies on a piano or guitar.

Harmony

Harmony admin Thu, 03/23/2017 - 17:56

In its simplest form, harmony occurs whenever two or more pitches are played at the same time. It also refers to the 'backing' chords which often accompany the melody in songs. Much of ear training and music theory practice is devoted to a study of harmony. By understanding the principles related to harmonic intervals, chords and chord progressions, you will find it much easier to recognize the chords in the music you hear. You will also have an easier time choosing chords to match your original melodies.

Harmony Singing

Harmony Singing admin Thu, 03/23/2017 - 17:57

When you sing in tune together with other singers, you are creating the sound of an instrument playing a harmonic interval or chord. In a group setting, each harmony singer usually sings a tone that is part of the chord being played by the other instruments in the group. As with most other aspects of music, you will benefit greatly by understanding what you are doing - in particular how to construct chords.

You will always have a much easier time with vocal harmonies if you understand the chords in a song and are able to sing the tones of those chords. The simplest form of harmony singing is when you create a second vocal part that goes well with the lead singer's main melody. You often hear this in the refrains of popular songs, where the second voice 'adds weight' or gives emphasis to the chorus of the song. The two tones sung simultaneously by the lead singer and harmony singer create a harmonic interval.

When learning to sing harmony, try listening to some of your favorite songs that have two-part vocal harmonies and see if you can hear the intervals created by the two singers. Thirds and fifths are particularly common. See also if you can work out which chord degree is being sung by each singer.

Our game Vocal Match will give you great practice in singing parts of common harmonic intervals (levels 6-10) and chords (levels 11-20).

Chords

Chords admin Thu, 03/23/2017 - 18:06

A chord is a set of three or more notes. Chords are usually made up of intervals, most commonly major thirds and minor thirds. Chords are also derived from scales and are used to provide harmonic accompaniment to the melody of a song. Chords are essential to providing harmony for a song. For example, when a pianist or guitarist accompanies a singer, he uses chords to create the harmonic accompaniment. By learning how chords are constructed and how different chords work together, you will start to recognize and remember the common chord progressions. You will also have a strong foundation for composition and improvisation.

Triads

Triads admin Thu, 03/23/2017 - 18:06

The most basic chords are called triads, and they contain three different notes played at the same time. These notes are called chord tones and are arranged as follows:

root: the main note of the triad
third: a major or minor third interval above the root
fifth: a perfect fifth, diminished fifth, or augmented fifth above the root

There are four basic types (or "qualities") of triads: major, minor, diminished and augmented. Triads with major or minor quality are by far the most common triads found in popular music. Diminished and augmented triads appear often in jazz and classical settings, and also have specialized uses in popular music. The four basic triad qualities are built by stacking major third and minor third intervals in the following manner:

  • Major: Major 3rd + Minor 3rd (ex. C, E, G)
  • Minor: Minor 3rd + Major 3rd (ex. C, Eb, G)
  • Diminished: Minor 3rd + Minor 3rd (ex. C, Eb, Gb)
  • Augmented: Major 3rd + Major 3rd (ex. C, E, G#)

Use the demo app below to try out these patterns and see how chords are constructed for each of the four different triad qualities. First select a root tone, then press the button for the triad you want to hear.

Chord root:
Chord name: -

In order to work out the chords to a song by ear, you first need to be able to identify the quality of the chord - that is, whether it is major, minor, augmented or diminished. To begin, learn to sing and identify the arpeggio of the triad. This is made up of the individual chord tones played one after another in sequence.

The beginner levels of Tone Trees and Chord Locks will give you extensive practice in identifying triad quality and distinguishing the individual chord tones of the common triads, especially major and minor triads. With Tone Trees, you will also learn to visualize the shapes of different triads on piano or guitar.

Seventh Chords

Seventh Chords admin Thu, 03/23/2017 - 18:09

When a triad is combined with a major or minor seventh interval, the resulting chord is called a seventh chord. The four most common types of seventh chords found in pop, jazz, blues, and R&B music are constructed as follows

Seventh Chord = Triad Quality + Seventh Interval Chord Degrees Example
Major 7th chord:   Major Triad   Major 7th Root, 3rd, 5th, 7th Cmaj7 (C, E, G, B)
Dominant 7th chord:   Major Triad   Minor 7th Root, 3rd, 5th, b7th C7 (C, E, G, Bb)
Minor 7th chord:   Minor Triad   Minor 7th Root, b3rd, 5th, b7th Cm7 (C, Eb, G, Bb)
Minor 7th flat 5 chord:   Diminished Triad   Minor 7th Root, b3rd, b5th, b7th Cm7(b5) (C, Eb, Gb, Bb)

Just as each note of a scale is given a number to represent its scale degree, each chord tone is assigned a chord degree to represent its position in the chord. Each chord degree always corresponds to scale degree of the major scale that starts with the root tone of the chord. For example, take a Dm7 chord, which has chord tones D, F, A, and C. Now look at the D major scale:

D major: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
D E F# G A B C#
From the chart above, we know that a Minor 7th chord is made up of Root, b3rd, 5th and b7th.
  1. We start with the root, which corresponds to "1" or the first scale degree: D.
  2. Next comes the b3rd, which is simply the "3" or third scale degree (F#) lowered by one half step, so the F# in the scale gets lowered to F natural.
  3. Then comes the 5th, which matches the "5" of the D Major scale.
  4. Finally we get the b7th by taking the "7" of the major scale (C#) and lowering it one half step to C.

You can see from the above example that any seventh chord can be constructed simply by following the formula for the particular type of seventh chord you want. Try constructing some of your own seventh chords. You can check yourself with the demo app below. First select a root tone, then press the button for the seventh chord you want to hear.

Chord root:
Chord name: -

The intermediate and advanced levels of Tone Trees and Chord Locks will train you to identify these various seventh chords whenever you hear them. With Tone Trees, you will also learn to visualize the shapes of different seventh chords on piano or guitar.

Inversions

Inversions admin Thu, 03/23/2017 - 18:10

Most of the chords you hear in popular music are in root position, meaning that the root tone of the chord is also the lowest tone in the chord. When a note other than the root appears in the lowest position ("bass position") the chord is called an inverted chord.

If you take a typical C Major chord (chord tones C, E, G) and raise the root tone C up an octave, your lowest tone becomes E, and the chord is said to be in first inversion, because the 3rd of the chord (E) is in the bass position. Inverted chords are often written with a slash "/" followed by the name of the tone that is in the bass.

Using our previous example, we would call this first inversion chord C/E. This simply indicates that it is a C Major chord with E as the lowest tone. In the same way, if the 5th of the chord appears in the bass position, the chord is said to be in second inversion. So a C Major chord in second inversion would have G as its lowest tone, and we would notate the chord as C/G.

In the intermediate and advanced levels of Tone Trees and Chord Locks, you will work with all kinds of inversions. With Tone Trees, you will also learn to visualize the shapes of different inverted chords on piano or guitar.

Arpeggios

Arpeggios admin Thu, 03/23/2017 - 18:11

An arpeggio consists of the chord tones for a chord played individually one after the other. This way of playing a chord is called arpeggiating the chord. On the other hand, if all the notes in a chord are played at the same time, then the chord is said to be a block chord. You can think of arpeggios as chords that have been "melted down" to their individual chord tones, and block chords as "frozen" arpeggios.

Sometimes the melody of a song is accompanied by a guitar or piano playing arpeggiated chords. In addition, arpeggios are often found within the melodies themselves, especially in folk songs, anthems and religious music. Very often, the tones of the melody are also found in the chord playing along with the melody, particularly on the strong beats.

By training your ear to identify arpeggio patterns when you hear them in melodies, it will give you a good clue as to what chord accompanies that part of the melody.

Phrase Fitter will train you to recognize arpeggios when you hear them in a song, and to quickly identify the chord which matches each arpeggio.

Spelling Chords

Spelling Chords admin Thu, 03/23/2017 - 18:12

The process of spelling chords (also known as 'building chords') refers to being able to name the tones that are found in a particular chord. Given the name of any commonly used chord, most accomplished musicians can quickly tell you the chord tones which comprise that chord.

For example, if you see or hear the chord Em, you should be able to immediately recite "E, G, B" - the chord tones for Em. Recall the following formulas (scale degrees from the major scale) for building these common types of chords:

A Major Scale: A B C# D E F# G#
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
 
Major Triad: 1 3 5
ex. A Major (A, C#, E)
 
Minor Triad: 1 b3 5
ex. A Minor (A, C, E)
 
Diminished Triad: 1 b3 b5
ex. Adim (A, C, Eb)
 
Augmented Triad: 1 3 #5
ex. Aaug (A, C# E#)
 
Major 7th: 1 3 5 7
ex. Amaj7 (A, C#, E, G#)
 
Dominant 7th: 1 3 5 b7
ex. A7 (A, C#, E, G)
 
Minor 7th: 1 b3 5 b7
ex. Am7 (A, C, E, G)
 
Minor 7th, Flat 5: 1 b3 b5 b7
ex. Am7(b5) (A, C, Eb, G)
 

Eventually, you want to be able to quickly spell out the tones for any chord in any key. Chord Spells will make you a wizard at spelling all kinds of triads and seventh chords.

Roman Numerals

Roman Numerals admin Thu, 03/23/2017 - 18:12

In music theory and in communication between musicians, chords are often represented with roman numerals which indicate the function of each chord within a particular key. Because Arabic numerals are generally used to indicate scale degrees, Roman numerals were adopted for chords in order to make an explicit distinction and improve clarity. If you see '1' in the key of C Major, you know it is referring to the tonic tone (C), while the Roman numeral 'I' refers to the tonic chord (C Major).

Whenever you see a Roman numeral representation of a chord, you know straightaway that the root of the chord has the same scale degree number (Arabic number) as the Roman numeral for the chord. Hence the IV chord in the key of C Major has as its root the 4 degree of the C Major scale (F), and the VIm chord in the key of C Major will have the tone A as its root.

There are different ways to represent various types of chords. Some musicians like to use lowercase Roman numerals for minor chords. This is especially common in classical music and traditional music theory textbooks. Other people prefer to use all uppercase Roman numerals, and indicate the type of chord explicitly by adding 'm', 'dim', 'aug', etc. This is the approach that we have adopted for our games and lessons. Here are the basic (most common) chords in Roman numeral format for the key of C Major:

I IIm IIIm IV V VIm VIIdim
C Dm Em F G Am Bdim

 

 

Number Blaster will help you to quickly place chords in their Roman numeral context for different keys. Chord Locks will also give you extensive practice at identifying various type of chords by ear as well as by roman numeral.

Chord Progressions

Chord Progressions admin Thu, 03/23/2017 - 18:04

A chord progression is a sequence of chords. Chord progressions are often used to harmonize melodies. The chords that appear in a typical progression are closely associated with the key of a song. For example, take the key of C Major and its associated scale:

C Major: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
C D E F G A B
Now for each of the scale tones, create a triad built on top of that tone, and assign a roman numeral to represent the triad
I IIm IIIm IV V VIm VIIdim

In the key of C Major, these chords are the ones most likely to appear in a chord progression. The one exception is the VII diminished chord, which tends to show up more often in jazz and classical than in pop music. Notice that for chords we use roman numerals to represent the chord numbers within a key, rather than the arabic numerals which are used for numbering the scale steps. In any key, the tonic tone and the tonic chord carry the most weight.

All the other chords and tones tend to gravitate back toward the tonic tone and the "I" chord. If you think of harmony as a solar system, the I chord is the sun - the center of the universe. In a major key, there are three "primary" chords, which are the most important chords in that key and tend to show up more often than other chords. These primary chords are the I, IV and V. The vast majority of folk, gospel, blues and good bit of rock music are based around these three chords.

All tonal music makes heavy use of primary chords, so learning to recognize the I, IV and V in any key is a crucial part of your ear training. Chords tend to progress from one to another in very typical ways. By knowing the common patterns, you gain valuable clues that can save time when you're trying to figure out the chords to a song by ear. One very general rule is that chords within a key very often move in fifths:

 
IIIm -> VIm -> IIm -> V -> I
 

Whenever you have identified one of the above chords in a progression and are looking for the next chord in the sequence, you can look at the chart above to find a very strong candidate! Certain sequences of chords tend to come up over and over again in popular music, so it is very helpful to be able to recognize these patterns.

By learning the patterns as numbers (in roman numeral format), you will be able to identify them in all keys. As an added benefit, knowing the important chords and patterns in all keys will also help you to better remember songs you've already learned. With enough training, you start to mentally group certain chords together, making it easier to remember them in the songs you already know.

Speaker Chords will help you recognize which chords are commonly found together in the same song. You will learn to identify chord patterns from a wide variety of styles and genres, and you will better understand the relationships between chords in the same key. By playing Speaker Chords regularly, you will soon be able to quickly name the chords from almost any song you hear.

Rhythm

Rhythm admin Thu, 03/23/2017 - 18:13

Rhythm describes the pulse and tempo of a piece of music, as well as the duration of each individual note. It is perhaps the most primal component of music, in that the earliest music was almost purely drum-based. To play music by ear, you must be able to recognize the rhythmic elements that you ear in the melody and and harmony.

Rhythm Patterns

Rhythm Patterns admin Thu, 03/23/2017 - 18:16

(Note: This page uses American music terms. You may also view the page with European terms.)

In order to read, identify and transcribe rhythms, you need to become familiar with rhythm notation and rhythm patterns. This mainly involves indicating when a note happens and how long it lasts, and recognizing when you hear a common rhythm. Rhythm occurs within the framework of meter, which is simply a repetitive pattern of strong and weak beats. Here are some common examples of meter:

Two-beat meter: STRONG - weak
Three-beat meter: STRONG - weak - weak
Four-beat meter: STRONG - weak - weak - weak

 

The meter of a song is indicated by its time signature. The time signature consists of two numbers, stacked one on top of the other. The top number represents the number of beats per measure, while the bottom number represents the note value for each beat. Rhythms are notated using notes and rests. Here are the basic notations for each note, along with its equivalent rest (a rest is silence, when no sound is played):

Notes can also be joined together with a tie to create a longer value:

A dot beside a note extends its duration by 1/2. For example, the length of a dotted quarter note is equivalent to three eighth notes.

Rhythms in music are made up of short phrases that combine to make longer phrases, much like a spoken language. Many of these phrases are made up of common two-beat patterns. Once you become familiar with these short patterns, it will be much easier to identify and follow the rhythms of longer phrases. Here is an application that will play short two-beat rhythm patterns for you:
 

Rhythm Puzzles will strengthen your recognition of rhythm notation, and will train your ear to match the rhythms you hear with their associated notation. It will also help you to become familiar with the common rhythm patterns that combine to make longer rhythms.