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.