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Table of Contents

Fundamentals of Western
Music

Page 1

Musical Notation

Page 4

Scales

Page 7

Intervals

Page 10

Rhythm

Page 14

The Time Signature

Page 17

Modes

Page 21

Diatonic Triads and Seventh


Chords

Page 24

The Circle of Fifths

Page 27

Functional Harmony and


Keys

Page 31

Fundamentals of Western Music


Basic Vocabulary
1. Pitch referring to the tonal quality of sound. A pitch may be said to
be high or low. Pitch is that quality of sound which one would say
belongs to notes, but not to noise. Pitches are produced by objects
vibrating at a given frequency.
2. Note a musical sound in which one can recognize a specific pitch.
3. Frequency Sound is produced when objects vibrate. All
instruments make use of vibration in some way or another. When
violinists bow the strings on their instruments, they are causing the
strings to oscillate at a specific rate. Frequency refers to the rate at
which an object vibrates.
4. Octave When one pitch vibrates at twice the frequency of another
pitch, those two pitches are said to be octaves. For example, if pitch
#1 oscillates at 60 times per second and pitch #2 at 120 times per
second, then pitch #2 is the octave of pitch #1.
All notes that are octaves are identified by the same letter name and
are members of the same pitch class.
5. Pitch Class There are 12 pitch classes commonly used in music
theory. Each pitch class is identified by one of the letters A, B,
C, D, E, F or G and also by a quality: flat, natural or
sharp.
6. Interval The distance between two musical notes. Examples
include an octave, perfect fifth and major third.
7. Scale A scale can generally be thought of as a collection of notes,
defined by their intervallc relationships to one another. A scale tone is
a note contained within a scale.
8. Enharmonic A word referring to a note or chord that can be
spelled in more than one way.
For example, C# is enharmonic to D.
(See the chart below for a more comprehensive list of enharmonic notes.)

Fundamentals of Western Music (2)


Table 1
Pitch Class Flats and
Naturals
A flat

A natural.
B flat
B natural or C flat
C natural

D Flat

D natural
E flat

E natural or F flat
F natural

G flat

G natural

Enharmonic Notes

=
G#
A
B
=
A#
C
=
B
C

=
B#
D

=
C#
D
E

=
D#
F
=
E
F

=
E#
G

=
F#
G

Pitch Class Sharps and


Naturals
G sharp

A natural
A sharp
B natural
C natural or B sharp

C sharp

D natural
D sharp

E natural
F natural or E sharp

F sharp

G natural

Fundamentals of Western Music (3)


Fig. 1 The 12 pitch classes as seen on the piano:

The distance between two neighboring notes in a given scale is a step. If the
notes have another note between them, they are a whole step apart.
Examples of a half step would be C to D as well as E to F.
Half steps are also known as semitones.
Examples of a whole step would be C to D as well as F# to G#.
Whole steps are also known as whole tones.
Fig. 2 Whole steps and half steps identified on the piano:

Musical Notation
3

In musical notation, the foundation for writing pitches and rhythms is the
staff. The vertical direction of the staff represents pitch height, or how high or low
a note will sound. Therefore, the pitch of a note is represented by how high or low
it is placed on the staff. The horizontal direction of the staff represents time. Time
in music is read left to right just like the English language. Therefore, if note #1
placed to the left of note #2, #1 will occur before #2.
Fig. 3 The basics of musical notation:

The staves (plural of staff) consist of alternating lines and spaces. Each line
or space stands for a letter in the musical alphabet. Sharps and flats are written in
directly before each note, so that all the twelve pitch classes of the octave can be
included. When a note falls above or below the staff additional lines are written in.
These lines are called ledger lines.
Fig. 4 Notating the scales on a staff:

Musical Notation (2)


4

If one is playing music in which a sharp or flat is called for consistently for a
significant duration, a key signature is added. A key signature is a set of sharps
and flats at the left side of a staff that indicate whether some notes will sharped or
flatted. For example, should a passage use C minor exclusively, it becomes too
tedious to write a flat before every E, A and B that occurs. Sharps and flats
that are written in the music and that are not in the key signature are called
accidentals.
Fig. 5 Key Signatures:

The symbols you see at the beginning of the staves in figure 8 are the clefs.
The clefs in figure 8 are treble clefs. There are many different clefs, but the two
most basic are the treble clef and the bass clef. Each clef shows a different range
of notes. The notes in the bass clef are lower sounding than those in the treble clef.
For instruments which have a very large range of notes, like the piano, a grand
staff is sometimes used, in which there is both a treble clef and a bass clef.
Fig. 6 The Grand Staff:

Musical Notation (3)


5

Register is a term that refers to the overall height and range of a musical
passage or an instrument. For example, one could say that the flute plays in a
higher register than does the bass guitar. Each octave of pitch is given a number to
show what register it is. The C natural one ledger line below the treble staff (a
staff with a treble clef) is called C4 or middle C. Every note within an octave
of and above a given C natural is labeled with the same number. For example,
the A directly above middle C is A4. The A directly below middle C is
A3.
Fig. 7 The octaves:

Scales
6

Scale A scale can generally be thought of as a collection of notes, defined


by their intervallic relationships to one another.
Two things determine a scale:
a. What note the scale is built on. This is called the tone or pitch
center of the scale. The tone center for a C major scale is C
natural. The tone center for an A major scale is A natural
and so on.
b. The order of intervals. In the case of the major scale, all of the
intervals are whole and half steps. See below for details.
Letter names in a scale are not supposed to be repeated. One would
not find C natural and C# in the same scale. Instead, the C# would be
respelled enharmonically as D flat.
A Major Scale is a scale built on the pattern of whole and half steps: Whole,
Whole, Half, Whole, Whole, Whole, Half. Starting on C natural, this would
yield: C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. On the piano, all of the white keys form a
C major scale.
A Minor Scale is a scale built on the pattern of half and whole steps:
Whole, Half, Whole, Whole, Half, Whole, Whole. Starting on C natural, this
would yield: C, D, E F, G, A, and B.
Fig. 8 C major and minor scales shown on the piano

Scales (2)

A Chromatic Scale is a scale in which all neighboring scale tones are one
half step or one semitone away from each other. The complete chromatic scale
contains all of the 12 pitch classes.
Fig. 9 The chromatic scale shown on the piano:

Most scales are spelled using only sharps or flats and without repeating any
of the letters A G, but spelling the chromatic scale requires that some letters
be used more than once. To avoid confusion, the chromatic scale is generally
spelled using all sharps or all flats, like the major scale.
If we choose to spell this scale in sharps we have two qualities of C, D,
F, G, and A. If we choose to spell this scale in flats we have two qualities of
D, E, G, A and B.

Scales (3)
8

Transposition to move a note or set of notes up or down by some interval.


A C major scale transposed up a major second becomes a D major scale.
Fig. 10 Transposition

Chords and melodic figures can be transposed within a scale as well


(diatonically).
Fig. 11 Transposition within a scale

Intervals
9

An interval is the distance between two notes. Two things determine the interval
between notes:
1. A number that designates the number of letter names two notes are
away from each other. The distance between C# and D natural,
for example, is a second. So is the distance between C# and D#.
The distance between C# and E, however, is a third.
2. A word that designates the quality of the interval. Intervals can be
major, minor, perfect, diminished and augmented.
The distance between a note and itself is called a unison.
In a C major scale, the tonal center or tonic is C natural. C natural is the
first scale degree of the C major scale. As major is a seven note scale, there are six
other scale degrees: D natural is the second or supertonic, E natural is the third or
mediant, F natural is the fourth or subdominant, G is the fifth or dominant, A is
the sixth or submediant and B is the seventh or leading tone. As was mentioned
earlier in the section on intervals, every interval is given both a number and a
quality. The intervals between the scale degrees of the major scale are as follows:
Scale Degrees of the C
major scale

Intervallic distance from C

Scale Degree 2 or D

Major second (two semitones)

Scale Degree 3 or E

Major third (four semitones)

Scale Degree 4 or F

Perfect fourth (five semitones)

Scale Degree 5 or G

Perfect fifth (seven semitones)

Scale Degree 6 or A

Major sixth (nine semitones)

Scale Degree 7 or B

Major seventh (eleven semitones)

Intervals (2)
Scale Degrees of the C
minor scale

Intervallic distance from C


10

Scale Degree 2 or D

Major second

Scale Degree 3 or E flat

Minor third (three semitones)

Scale Degree 4 or F

Perfect fourth

Scale Degree 5 or G

Perfect fifth

Scale Degree 6 or A flat

Minor sixth (eight semitones)

Scale Degree 7 or B flat

Minor seventh (ten semitones)

Unaltered seconds, thirds, sixth and sevenths will either be major or minor in
quality. Unaltered fifths, fourths, octaves and unisons will be perfect in quality.
Expanding any interval by a semitone makes it an augmented interval. Collapsing
an interval by a semitone makes it a diminished interval.
An augmented fourth is the same interval (in equal temperament) as the
diminished fifth. This interval has a special name called the tritone, because it is
the distance of three whole tones.

Intervals in the Key of C


Range of Notes

Intervallic
Distance

Enharmonic
Equivalent
11

Range of Notes

C to C
C to C#
C to D
C to D#
C to E
C to E#
C to F
C to F#
C to G
C to G#
C to A
C to A#
C to B

Perfect Unison
Augmented Unison

Minor Second

Major Second

Diminished Third

Augmented Second

Minor Third

Major Third

Diminished Fourth

Augmented Third

Perfect Fourth

C to D
C to E
C to E
C to F
C to F

Perfect Fourth
Augmented Fourth

Diminished Fifth

Perfect Fifth

Diminished Sixth

Augmented Fifth

Minor Sixth

Major Sixth

Diminished Seventh

Augmented Sixth

Minor Seventh

C to G
C to A
C to A
C to B
C to B

Major Seventh

Intervals (4)
The inversion of an interval is the interval required to complete a perfect
octave.
Fig. 12 Interval Inversion

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In order to find the inversion for any interval in the chromatic scale, subtract
its numerical value from nine and change its quality as follows:
Minor inverted becomes Major
Major inverted becomes Minor
Diminished inverted becomes Augmented
Augmented inverted becomes Diminished
A major 6th becomes a minor 3rd
(9 6 = 3)

Major becomes minor

A perfect 4th becomes a perfect 5th


(9 4 = 5)

Perfect stays perfect

A minor 2nd becomes a major 7th


(9 2 = 7)

Minor becomes major

An augmented 6th becomes a diminished 3rd


(9 6 = 3)

Augmented becomes diminished

Rhythm
When we refer to time in the everyday sense, we often speak of units of time
such as seconds, minutes or hours. These units help us to measure and to
discriminate between different lengths of time as it passes.
In music, there is a similar system. Instead of measuring time by seconds
and minutes, music is measured in units like beats, notes, rests and measures. A
measure can last for only a second, or it can last for four seconds. The actual
length of any musical duration is determined by the tempo and time signature.

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Basic Vocabulary
1. Beat a. A location or single point in musical time. Ex. On the third
beat of measure four.
b. A steady rhythm or groove. Ex. I like the song with the bossa
nova beat in it.
2. Rest A period of time in which one is not actively playing.
Sometimes a rest is a period of silence.
3. Tempo The speed of the musical beat. Tempo is usually measured
in beats per minute or BPM. March tempo is 120 BPM.
4. Meter/Time Signature The way in which a rhythm is grouped.
This term refers to whether eighth notes, quarter notes, half notes, etc.
(see below for discussion of these terms) are associated with the beat
of a particular piece. Is also determines the number and grouping of
beats within a measure.
5. Time Signature - A symbol placed at the beginning of a staff or
measure to indicate a particular piece of musics meter.
6. Measure A measure is a well defined length of musical time. A
measure will consist of a specific number of beats. A measure which
has four beats at a tempo of 60 BPM lasts four seconds. (Obviously 1
beat at 60 BPM lasts exactly one second.)
Most of the time, when musicians refer to rhythm, they do not talk about
beats. The term beat is rather vague and confusing. In musical terms, it is more
accurate to speak in terms of quarter notes, eighth notes, half notes and whole
notes. These notes bear the relationship shown on Table 2:

Rhythm (2)
Table 2 Note Durations

1 whole note = 2 half notes

=
+
=
+

1 half note = 2 quarter notes

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1 quarter note = 2 eighth notes

= +
=
+

1 eighth note = 2 sixteenth notes

The system continues towards finer and finer subdivisions of rhythm. Just
as sixteenth notes have one more flag on their stem than do eighth notes; thirty
second notes and sixty fourth notes, etc. can be drawn by adding additional flags
on the stem of each note.
A given measure of music will be assigned one of the previous note
durations as the basis for its meter. A measure will last, for example, for the
duration of four quarter notes or for two half notes.
Fig. 13 The Time Signature

The bottom number of the time signature refers to what note duration from
Table 2 corresponds to the beat. The top number refers to how many beats per
measure. In this case the time signature is pronounced, three four. It means that
the quarter note receives the beat and that there are three beats per measure.

Rhythm (3)
Table 3 - Rests

1 whole rest = 2 half rests

= +
=
+
=
+

1 half rest = 2 quarter rests

1 quarter rest = 2 eighth rests

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1 eighth rest = 2 sixteenth rests

=
+

Dotted Values
A note that is dotted looks like a normal note, only with a tiny dot directly to
its right. That dot indicates that the note is to be held for 1 times its normal
duration. A quarter note, which is normally worth two eighth notes, when dotted,
is worth three eighth notes. An eighth note, normally worth two sixteenth notes,
when dotted, is worth three sixteenth notes. This same principle applies to rests as
well.

1 dotted whole note = 3 half notes

. =
++
. =
++
. =
++
. =
++

1 dotted half note = 3 quarter notes

1 dotted quarter note = 3 eighth


notes
1 dotted eighth note = 3 sixteenth
notes

The Time Signature


The C stands for common time.
Common time is the time signature four four.
In this meter, the quarter note gets the beat and
there are 4 quarter notes.
This time signature is three four. The
quarter note is the beat and there are 3 quarter
notes.

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Common time shown in eighth notes.


There are 8 eighth notes because each quarter
note is worth 2 eighth notes.
This is six eight time. The eighth note
receives the beat and there are 6 of them.
This is four eight time. The eighth
note receives the beat and there are 4 of them.
A mixture of quarter notes and eighth
notes in common time.
Six eight time shown with beamed
eighth notes. Notes are beamed together to
show that they belong to the same rhythmic
grouping. Beaming does not change a notes
rhythmic value.
Four two time. The half note receives
the beat and there are 4 half notes.
Three two time shown with quarter
notes. The half note receives the beat and there
are 3 of them. Each half note is worth 2 quarter
notes.

The Time Signature (2)


There are four quarter rests in common
time.

The quarter note is the beat and there are


3 quarter rests.
A measure of common time lasts for one
whole rest.
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This is six eight time shown with 12


sixteenth note rests.

There are 4 eighth note rests in four


eight time.

A mixture of quarter rests and eighth


rests in common time.

Six eight time shown with eighth rests


and one quarter rest.

Three two time shown in half rests.

Four two time shown with one whole


rest and two half rests.

The Time Signature (3)


Beat Types and Meter Types
The type of meter that a measure has is most often one of the three following
types:
1. Duple A duple meter means that there are two beats per measure.
2. Triple A triple meter means that there are three beats per measure.

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3. Quadruple A quadruple meter means that there are four beats per
measure
The type of meter that a beat has is most often one of the two following
types:
1.

Simple A simple beat divides into two equal parts

2.

Compound A compound beat divides into three equal parts

With almost all time signatures, the division of the measure and the beat
creates a pulse within each measure. Some beats within a measure are said to be
strong, while others are weak. For example, in 4/4, or common time, there are
four beats and beats 1 and 3 are the strong beats. Beats two and four are the weak
beats.
Singing the natural accents of two 4/4 measures sounds like this,
ONE two THREE four ONE two THREE four
A measure of 6/8 has strong beats on beats 1 and 4. Singing two measures
of 6/8 sounds like this,
ONE two three FOUR five six ONE two three FOUR five - six
REMEMBER: Identifying time signatures and meters is often a matter of
interpretation, not of right and wrong.

Time Signatures (4)


Table 4
Meter Division Beat Division
Simple

Duple

Triple

Quadruple

Simple Duple

Simple Triple

Simple Quadruple

Compound

Compound Duple

Compound Triple

Compound
Quadruple

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Meter Division Beat Division


Simple

Duple

Triple

Quadruple

2/4, 2/2

3/4, 3/2

4/4, 4/2

Compound

6/8, 6/4

9/8, 9/4

12/8, 12/4

There six common types of meter listed above: Simple Duple, Simple
Triple, Simple Quadruple, Compound Duple, Compound Triple and Compound
Quadruple.
It is understood that in signatures such as 4/4, the beat is divided into two
parts. This is not to suggest that other beat divisions do not ever occur; but if they
do, they will be accompanied by a notation of some kind that will indicate it.
Another confusing point about identifying time signatures is that the bottom
number of the signature is said to identify what value gets the beat. In the case of
6/8, the 8 on bottom suggests that, the eighth note gets beat. The six on the
top of the signature means that there are six beats.
In many cases however, because 6/8 has strong beats on beats 1 and 4, a bar
of 6/8 will feel like there are only two beats. Try singing Take Me Out to the Ball
Game while tapping your foot on the beat. Sing it once very slowly and once
very quickly. Do you notice how the feel changes? Do you notice that the number
of beats seems to change from 6 to 2? This is one of the reasons that identifying
meter is often a matter of interpretation.

Modes
By now we know that a major scale consists of a series of notes defined by
their distances from one another. These distances are measured in whole steps and
half steps and the order of these intervals is Whole, Whole, Half, Whole, Whole,
Whole and Half.
If we were to start on the second note of the major scale (so in C major, to
start on D) and continue upward until we reach the octave, the pattern of steps
would be: Whole, Half, Whole, Whole, Whole, Half and Whole. The resulting
20

scale is centered on D. This scale is the D dorian scale and it is a mode of C


major.
A mode of a scale is another scale which shares the same general intervallic
pattern, but has a different tone center or tonic.
So in total, there are 7 modes of the C major scale: One beginning on C,
on D, on E, on F, on G, on A and on B.
The modes of the major scale are:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.

Starting on scale degree 1: Ionian.


Starting on scale degree 2: Dorian
Starting on scale degree 3: Phrygian
Starting on scale degree 4: Lydian
Starting on scale degree 5: Mixolydian
Starting on scale degree 6: Aeolian
Starting on scale degree 7: Locrian

WWHWWWH
WHWWWHW
HWWWHWW
WWWHWWH
WWHWWHW
WHWWHWW
HWWHWWW

These seven modes are often referred to as the church modes. Modes
were the basis of western music for many centuries way back in the glory days of
chant.
The modes can be understood in two groupings: ones that are similar to the
major scale and ones that are similar to the minor scale.

Similar to Major

Similar to Minor
Dorian Minor with natural 6th
Phrygian Minor with flat 2nd
Aeolian Minor
Locrian Minor with flat 2nd and
flat 5th
Modes (2)

Ionian Major
Lydian Major with #4th
Mixolydian Major with flat 7th

Fig.14 Modes on the piano


1. Ionian

2. Dorian
21

3. Phrygian

4. Lydian

5. Mixolydian

6. Aeolian

7. Locrian

Modes (3)
There are many important aspects of the church modes that explain why they
have been so popular throughout history. All of the church modes are diatonic (see
below for discussion of diatonicism) to the major scale as well as to each other.
Here are some of the properties that make the modes of major such versatile
musical resources:
1. There are no steps larger than a major 2nd This means that melodies
traveling up and down the scale wont go through any large leaps.
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2. The scale is asymmetrical This means that every note in the scale has a
unique position relative to all the others. There are no points in the scale in
which the pattern of whole steps and half steps looks the same both up and
down the scale.
3. The two half steps are distributed as evenly as possible
4. There are twelve transpositions of each mode
The importance of these properties will become more apparent the further you
travel into music theory and musical experience in general.

Diatonic Triads and Seventh Chords


Basic Vocabulary
1. Harmony - the simultaneous sounding of two or more different pitches.
Harmony is often considered to be the vertical aspect of music.
2. Chord A single harmonic entity. Just as a scale consists of scale members
identified by numbers, a chord consists of chord members identified by
numbers. Chord members are also called chord tones.
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3. Triad A chord made of only three members, identified as chord members


1, 3 and 5. The distance between tones 1 and 3 is a third. The distance
between 1 and 5 is a fifth. The distance between 3 and 5 is a third. The
distance between 5 and 1 an octave up is a fourth. Triads are thought of as
being built on thirds.
Chord tone 1 is called the root of the chord. All other chord tones are
identified by their intervallic distance above the root.

4. Diatonic referring to a specific relationship between two or more sets of


pitches. Two sets of pitches (actually, pitch classes) are diatonic if all the
notes of one can be found within the other. Diatonic can describe scales,
modes, chords and other types of pitch groups. For example, the C major
chord is diatonic to the C major scale. The D Dorian scale is also diatonic to
the C major scale.
The major scale and all of its modes are all diatonic. When someone refers
the diatonic scale, they are most likely referring to a scale diatonic to major.
5. Seventh Chord A four note harmony consisting of a root, a third, a fifth
and a seventh. The distance between tones 5 and 7 is a third. The distance
from tone 7 up to tone 1 is a second.
6. Tertian a term describing musical entities that are built on thirds.

Diatonic Triads and Seventh Chords (2)


7. Consonance A term referring to the quality that two or more tones have
when they are simultaneously sounded. A chord that is consonant has a
smooth pleasant character that is free of tension.
8. Dissonance - A term referring to the quality that two or more tones have
when they are simultaneously sounded. A dissonant sound is something that
is harsh or tense. Minor seconds are often said to have a dissonant character.
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Every scale degree of a given scale has its own unique triad that is
associated with it. There are three possible triad qualities found within the C major
scale.
1. Major The distance between chord tones 1 and 3 is a major third. The
distance between 3 and 5 is a minor third. The distance between 5 and 1 the
octave above is a perfect fourth.
2. Minor The distance between chord tones 1 and 3 is a minor third. The
distance between 3 and 5 is a major third. The distance between 5 and 1 the
octave above is a perfect fourth.
3. Diminished The distance between 1 and 3 is a minor third. The distance
between 3 and 5 is a minor third. The distance between 5 and 1 the octave
above is an augmented fourth.
Fig. 14 Diatonic Triads in major and minor keys

Diatonic Triads and Seventh Chords (3)


A seventh chord is a triad with an added seventh.
Fig. 15 Diatonic seventh chords in C major and C minor

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There are four qualities of seventh chord diatonic to the major and minor
scales:
1. Major Seven It is constructed major third, minor third, major third, minor
second. In major keys, this chord is diatonic on scale degrees 1 and 4. In
minor, this chord is diatonic on scale degrees 3 and 6.
2. Major Minor Seven - It is constructed major third, minor third, minor third,
major second. In major keys, this chord is diatonic on scale degree 5. In
minor keys, this chord is diatonic on scale degree 7.
3. Minor Seven It is constructed minor third, major third, minor third, major
second. In major keys, this chord is diatonic on scale degrees 2, 3 and 6. In
minor keys, this chord is diatonic on 1, 4 and 5.
4. Half Diminished Seven It is constructed minor third, minor third, major
third, major second. In major keys, this chord is diatonic on scale degree 7.
In minor, this chord is diatonic on scale degree 2.
Fig. 16 Seventh chord constructions

The Circle of Fifths


The C major scale is the only major scale which uses only the white keys on
the piano. If we were to form a major scale starting on the note G natural, we
would find that we must include one of the black keys of the piano, F#.
Fig. 17 The G major scale on the piano

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Notice that the G major scale is spelled using one sharp. The G major scale
is therefore one accidental away from C major; that is, one sharp. There is also a
scale which is one flat away from C major: F major.
Fig. 18 The F major scale on the piano

The Circle of Fifths (2)


The G major scale, which is one sharp away from C major, starts a perfect
fifth up from C, (G is a perfect fifth above C). Likewise F major, one flat
away from C major, starts a perfect fifth down from C, (F is a perfect fifth
below C).
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If we were to play a musical passage which consistently used only the notes
of a particular scale, we are said to be playing in that key.
Fig. 19 A passage in F major:

The keys two accidentals away from C major on either side are known as
closely related keys. The closely related major keys of C major are G major (1
sharp), D major (2 sharps), F major (1 flat), and B flat major (2 flats). Closely
related keys also include closely related relative minor and relative major keys.
Relative minor and major keys are covered on the next page.
Of the seven church modes, only two can really said to be keys in the normal
sense: Major (Ionian) and Minor (Aeolian). Although it is not unthinkable that
someone would play a piece, in the key of D Dorian, the use of these modes is
greatly overwhelmed by the occurrence of the major and minor modes.

The Circle of Fifths (3)


Every major key has a parallel and a relative minor. The parallel minor is
the minor scale which shares the same tonic as the major scale. So the parallel
minor of D major is D minor and the parallel minor of F# major is F# minor.
The relative minor is the Aeolian mode of a major scale; or the minor scale
which shares the same key signature as the major scale. So the relative minor of C
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major is A minor and the relative minor of E major is C# minor. The relative minor
of a given major scale always starts a minor 3rd down from the tonic of the major
scale.
Fig. 20 Relative and Parallel Minor Scales

The Circle of Fifths (4)


If we list all the keys starting at C major and progressing upwards by perfect
fifth we will create what is known as the circle of fifths. The circle of fifths is a
map of all of the major and minor keys and their relative distances from one
another. It is known as a circle because one will eventually arrive back at their
starting key if they continue to progress by perfect fifth.
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Fig. 21 The Circle of Fifths

The Circle of Fifths (5)


Below are the key signatures of the 12 major and 12 minor keys.

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Functional Harmony and Keys


Now that all of the basic musical structures and principles have been
identified, we can lightly cover the true essence of western harmony:
functionality. It must be understood that the contents of this chapter are not rules
about music per se, but about music as it was practiced in the common practice era.
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These rules have become the foundation for the tradition of western harmony; a
tradition that has influenced western music all the way to the present.
In the last chapters we identified the constructions of diatonic chords and
scales. We must now find out how these resources have been used in the history of
western music.
Chord Progression A chord progression is a series of consecutive chords.
Usually chord progressions end with a cadence or with something that gives the
listener a sense of finality or resolution.
Cadence A cadence is a resolution of a phrase. The most common
historical cadences occur at the end of tonal chord progressions. The cadences of
the common practice era are characterized by a V I resolution.
There are certain rules and logical orders that most chord progressions
adhere to:
1. The most common root movement is up by fourth. So for example, it is
very common for ii to progress to V and for V to lead into I.
2. Root motion does not go up by third, but it often travels down by third.
Patterns like I vi IV ii are common.
3. The VII and v chords in minor are changed to vii dim. and V see below
for further discussion.
Some common chord progressions found in pop, jazz and classical music:

Major Progressions
I vi ii V I
I vi IV ii vii I
I IV I V I
I IV V I
I ii V vi IV V - I

Minor Progressions
i VI iv ii V i
i VI iv ii vii dim. i
i iv i V i
i iv V i
i ii V VI iv V i

Functional Harmony and Keys (2)


Probably the most important tone of the major scale is scale degree seven,
called the leading tone. It is important because it is a tendency tone. This means
that the presence of this note in tonal music serves a function: it is meant to lead
the ear up to scale degree one, the tonic. Review the chapter on diatonic harmonies
and find all the chords which contain the leading tone. The chords that have the
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leading tone are III, V and vii. Of these chords, only III does not go directly to

I.
The pull of the leading tone towards scale degree one is one of the central
defining aspects of western music. It is this pull that has popularized the
progression V I so greatly.
One potentially confusing point is that the v chord in minor keys is a minor
chord. Most of the time, scale degree seven in minor is raised one half step so that
it can act as the leading tone; thus making the chord starting on the fifth scale
degree major.
Fig.22 The V chord in minor

Because the 7th scale degree is often raised a half step in minor keys, there is
a distance of an augmented second between scale degrees 6 and 7. Play up and
down the minor scale once through, raising scale degree 7 one half step. Do you
hear the large leap from scale degree 6 to scale degree 7? A minor scale which has
this leap between scale degrees 6 and 7 is called a harmonic minor scale.
In order to get rid of this large leap, scale degree 6 is also raised by a half
step. The resulting scale is called the melodic minor scale and it is used to
accommodate the necessary leading tone in the V chord. The melodic minor scale
is usually only used when ascending the scale.

Functional Harmony and Keys (3)

In general, the progression of diatonic chords within one key can move as
follows:
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Where chords can move in major and minor keys


Chord
I/i
Ii
iii/III
IV/iv
V
vi/VI
vii/VII

Major Key
anywhere
vii, V
vi, IV
ii, vii, V, I
I, vi
ii, IV, vii, V
V, I

Minor Key
anywhere
vii, V
VI, iv
ii, vii, V, i
i, VI
iv, ii, V
V, i

Final Thoughts
There is a lot more that needs to be said about counterpoint, voice leading,
key modulation and many more subjects for one to have a full understanding of the
subject of traditional western music theory. These subjects, however, are outside
of the scope of this book. This text has been prepared to provide a foundation for
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the aspiring musician or student in the field of music theory and only covers
diatonic harmony and scales. I hope you have found this text to be helpful.

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