Friday, May 30, 2014

Chord Substitution

In class discussed the idea of chord substitution based on common tones within chords. We made the case for substituting the iii and/or the vi chord for the I chord when appropriate. We also explored other options such as the tritone substitution for the V7 chord.

I have written a basic melody and harmony version of Mary Had A Little Lamb with which you will experiment...

Friday, May 23, 2014

Graduation Music

The piece you hear each year at this time for graduation ceremonies is from a piece entitled "Pomp and Circumstance" by Edward Elgar. Your turn...

Graduation Music

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Melody Analysis with Secondary Dominants

Today we are looking at secondary dominants from a melodic point of view. By using secondary dominants, you have melodic options unavailable in the diatonic scale. Let's take a look at a flute part to Anchors Aweigh (the Navy Hymn). We will try our hand at harmonizing the melody with chords from Bb and beyond...

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Lead Sheets and You, The Music Theoretician

If you've performed popular or jazz music anytime in the past century, you may have come across the lead sheet.
A lead sheet, which is generally housed in a Fake Book, is a musicians short hand performance guide to a piece of music. Here is an example:
A lead sheet generally gives the performer the basic elements to "fake" a performance of the song in question. With the melody and chords (often lyrics as well) the performer is meant to recreate the song based on their understanding of the style of music. This is also how songs become transformed beyond the original composers intentions. As more and more artists "fake" their own version of the song, it can often become re-composed and re-imagined generation after generation.
Today we will analyze the lead sheet example from above, and begin to create our own lead sheets based on our own original melodies.

Monday, April 28, 2014


You can certainly look up the term "mode" as related to music and see all the iterations of the term and it's use. The term mode sometimes is used to mean scale or to differentiate between a major sound and a minor sound (ex. "The melody is in a Major mode.") Ancient music used different modes as traditional scales in which to write specific musical forms.

We are going to be breaking down the modern usage of the modes as components of the major scale.

To illustrate this, here are the notes of the C Major scale:
While we call this scale the C Major scale, it can also be called by a different name...

The C Ionian mode

The Ionian mode is the another name for the major scale.
D Ionian= D E F# G A B C# D
F Ionian= F G A Bb C D E F
You get the idea...

If we were to take our C Major scale and start on a different note, we would get variations of this scale. These variations are the different modes of the major scale.

Key of C
I. Ionian= C D E F G A B C  (Major scale, Major sound)
ii. Dorian= D E F G A B C D (minor scale sound)
iii. Phrygian= E F G A B C D E (minor scale sound)
IV. Lydian= F G A B C D E F (Major sound with a raised 4th)
V. Mixolydian= G A B C D E F G (Major sound with a lowered 7th)
vi. Aeolian= A B C D E F G A (minor scale sound - natural minor scale)
viio. Locrian= B C D E F G A B (diminished scale sound)

Based on this chart, a G mixolydian scale or a melody written in G Mixolydian would have no #'s or b's in the key signature, because it comes from C Major.

Let's extrapolate...
Since F is the 2nd note of the Eb Major scale, the f dorian scale would be written with 3 b's (key of Eb) F G Ab Bb C D Eb F

Since C is the 5th note in the F Major scale, the C Mixolydian scale would be written with 1 b (Key of F) C D E F G A Bb C

We are going to try to write some music that utilizes modal scales and melodies.

Using Noteflight, please write 3 separate melodies that are at least 8 measures each.

The melodies will make use of the following modes:

  1. G Aeolian
  2. F# Phrygian
  3. Bb Dorian
Please title each melody with the mode you are using.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Variation on 4-part writing: Keyboard style

Keyboard Style

For performance on a keyboard instrument, we can use a variant of chorale style called keyboard style. In keyboard style, the upper three voices remain in closed position. At the same time, we notate all three (soprano, alto, and tenor) on the treble staff. As a result, a musician can perform all three upper voices with the right hand, leaving the bass to the left. The extreme closed position of the upper three voices--a position caused by the size of the hand--often places the tenor voice higher than we would normally find in chorale style.


In Noteflight we will attempt to write a harmonization using the keyboard style of arranging. The closed voicing in the treble staff means that we use the closest possible chord notes to complete the harmony. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Transposition 2: Revenge of Transpsoition

We have been discussing and working with transposition. We have transposed a melody from one key to another and transposed a melody between transposing instruments.

Working musicians deal with transposition on a nearly daily basis.

Here is the opening section of a song, "Rosetta" that you would find in any number of "fake" books. A fake book is a book of "lead" sheets in which a musician gets melody and chord symbols (and in this case lyrics). They then perform the song by "faking" an accompaniment based on the style of the music and their understanding of harmony, group dynamics, etc.

This lead sheet is in "concert pitch" which means that these are the sounding notes and chords.

What is you where handed this lead sheet but you play the tenor sax, alto sax, trumpet, or clarinet? You would need to transpose not only the melody, but also the chords so you have an understanding of the underlying harmony if you wanted to improvise.

Additionally, you may be playing this with a singer who thinks this key is too high and needs it lowered. How do you do that? You transpose to a different key. If you are one of the aforementioned instruments that might involve a double transposition. Changing the key to accommodate the singer and then transpose for your instrument. It seems like a lot of work, but many musicians learn to do this on sight.

We will be playing around with this lead sheet in class today.

Thursday, April 3, 2014


Transposition in music is simply the act of changing the key of an existing piece of music or musical passage. When dealing with band and orchestral instruments we have some issues we need to address...

Take a look at this screen shot of a typical concert band score:

Does anything jump out at you when you look at what is going on in the score?
You are seeing flutes, oboes, clarinets, trumpets, alto saxes, etc. all playing together but something is not quite the same between them.

Do you notice how even though they are all playing the same piece, they are not all in the same key?

This brings us to the topic of instrumental transposition. This topic is often confusing and difficult to explain clearly. I have collected a few resources that you would be well advised to read through to see if you can make sense out of this concept.

Why do some Instruments Transpose- Bret Pimentel

Wikipedia entry about instrumental transposition

Chart of instrumental transpositions

You can spend a lot of time debating the pros and cons of instrumental transposition. The bottom line is that it exists and we as theoreticians and/or composers have to be aware of it and deal with it.

For me the advantage of transposing instruments is illustrated by woodwind players who double or triple on various instruments. Thanks to transposition an alto saxophone player need only learn one set of fingerings to play any of the family of saxophones, even though they are in different keys.


In the above example, the top line represents the sounding melody (often called "Concert Pitch"). This line is not transposed. This is the line a guitarist, flautist, pianist, violinist would read because those instruments are non-transposing.

The second line is the transposed part for an alto saxophone. Because the alto sax is a transposing instrument (it is in Eb), it has to read a transposed part in order to sound the concert pitch. The transposition for Alto sax is a M6. That is why in order to sound a Bb, the alto saxophone has to read and play the G note a M6 higher.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Practicing the Common Practice

You have been working with 4-part texture for a bit now. We have focused on triad doubling, spacing voices within the chords, and the idea of motion when moving from chord to chord.

Today we want to try and bring those concepts together in one example.
I have created a figured bass template for you to complete. You will attempt to tie together the need for proper doubling, spacing and effective motion from chord to chord to satisfy the demands of common practice.

I wish you good luck.

4-part example

Friday, March 28, 2014

Constructing 4-part texture using triads: Motion

The final installment in our focus on 4-part textures will be how to deal with motion between chords. Whenever you are moving, you have to pick a direction. It is no different with the lines in a voiced chord. Lines within a moving chord have three choices: stay on a common tone (if available), move up or move down. I will break down the types of motion from chord to chord in the common practice order of most desirable to least desirable:

Contrary motion:
This motion is a strongly desired method of moving from chord to chord. When you are moving chords in contrary motion, you are moving the upper voices in the opposite direction of the bass line.
As you can see in this example, the bass voice is moving down while the others voices are moving in the opposite direction. This is a preferred motion between chords during common practice times.

Oblique motion:
Contrary motion and oblique motion are closely related. Think of oblique motion as contrary motion with a common tone if possible.
In this example the tenor and alto voices are moving contrary to the bass, but the soprano line remains on the common tone of G. That is the essence of oblique motion. This motion is also desired in common practice writing.

Similar motion:
Now we are getting to the chord motions that are less desirable because the often lead to spacing or other issues which we will spend a little bit of time on in a future class. In similar motion, the voices are all moving in the same direction as the bass, but avoid moving at the same interval.

You see that all the voices in similar motion are moving in the same direction. The important part of similar motion is that the voices move at different intervals from the bass. The motion in the bass is a 2nd while the motion in the tenor is a 5th, the alto is a 4th, the soprano is a 4th. This motion is not particularly desirable in the common practice but it is generally preferred to...

Parallel motion:
In parallel motion (as in similar motion) the voices move in the same direction as the bass. However, in parallel motion, you have instances where voices move at the same interval of the bass. This is a sound we often embrace in more modern music, but during common practice it was avoided.
In this example all of the voices are moving in the same direction and with the same interval (descending 4th). This sound is the least desirable of all the common practice chord motions. 

**Check out your chord motion in your 4-part texture. Try to identify the type of motion you employ between chords. Where possible see if you can move it up the motion food chain toward contrary or oblique motion. 

You may even notice places where you have elements of different motion combined. Similar motion with a common(oblique) tone or parallel motion combined with contrary motion. In those instances, you want to try to eliminate the less desirable motion while maintaining the more preferred elements.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Constructing 4-part textures using triads: Spacing

In our previous post and class you completed a 4-part texture using triads with a focus on proper common practice doubling. Great.

This leads us to our next hurdle: Spacing.

In this case we are talking about the distance between the voices. Specifically we are concerned with adjacent voices. S-A, A-T, T-B.

General Rule: Between the soprano and alto the distance should not be greater than an octave. This also holds true between the alto and the tenor (though it is sometimes more difficult to observe, because these voices are on different staves.) Between the tenor and bass you have a bit more freedom as you can exceed the spacing of an octave. With all the voices, you have to be cognizant of the practical ranges of the voices. The range is how high or how low the voices can extend.

Here is an example:

Use of extreme ranges is something to explore, but should be used sparingly in actual practice.

Revisit your 4-part texture from our post on doubling and make adjustments based on what you now know about spacing. Be sure to continue to adhere to common practice rules on doubling.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Constructing 4-part Textures Using Triads: Doubling

In order to begin investigating more of the "rules" of common practice music, we will explore 4-part texture in more detail.
4-part texture is a good vehicle for this exploration, because it offers up opportunities in chordal and melodic writing while staying in the confines of the grand staff.

The first concept to explore is doubling. If we are using triads within a 4-part texture, we need to double at least one note from the triad to complete a 4-part chord.


The basic rule for doubling is to be sure the note you are doubling is a stable note. You may ask,"What the heck does that mean?" The root (note that names the triad) of most triads is a stable note and is the preferred double. The leading tone (or 7th note of the scale) is generally avoided as a double because it is believed to be an unstable sound (I am not making this up).

In general you should double the root of the triad in four parts. Less often the 3rd and 5th.

In some instance you may even want to triple the root (if you truly desire this option, be sure your remaining voice is the 3rd and not the 5th.)

If you would like to double 2 notes from your triad, be sure they are the root and 3rd (omit the 5th).

...and we are just getting started.

Check out his lesson on voicing triads on the grand staff.

Hopefully this puts you in a position to build some 4-part texture. I have made a template that involves a bass line and a figured bass analysis. Your job is to complete a 4-part texture that conforms to common practice rules of doubling.

Complete 4-Part Texture

Monday, March 24, 2014

Building Basic Harmony

We have been analyzing the basic harmony of a few musical examples. Today we are going to start experimenting with our own harmonic foundations. In the process, we will begin to discuss some of the "rules" of common practice 4-part writing textures.

I have made a template with the melody of the tune "Jingle Bells"(at least the final 8-bars). Included with this melody is a crude harmonic analysis. Your job will be to fill in the missing 3 voices. Don't be afraid to experiment with note choices, placement, etc. Please use the Bach examples as a model to help you realize your own "Jingle Bells" dream.

Jingle Bells

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Using Non-Harmonic Tones

In a previous post, you were asked to review a tutorial on non-harmonic tones and identify them in a musical example from Bach.
Now you are tasked with demonstrating correct usage of non-harmonic tones.
I have created a sample 4-part texture that currently contains no non-harmonic tones (except for a sample (PT)).

You will re-work the sample to include at least one example of a passing tone (PT), neighbor tone (NT), anticipation (Ant.) and an escape tone(ET).

Demonstrate use of Non-Harmonic Tones

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Open Edit Competition on Noteflight

Check out this open edit competition on Noteflight. You have an opportunity to add 10 measures of "daydreaming" music for piano and/or guitar.
At the very least, check out what composers around the world are contributing to this composition.
Read the instructions and rules for the competition.

Open Edit Competition

Non-Harmonic Tones and Analysis

When trying to determine what is going on in a piece of music it doesn't help that the composer will often put in notes that don't quite fit the surrounding harmony.
In Common Practice we call these  Non-Harmonic Tones. 
You might even consider these notes the rebellious tinkering of composers shackled with pumping out music to please the often limited tastes of those paying the bills.
Of course, musicologists have studied these very rebellious notes and codified them into Non-Harmonic Tones.
Checkout the following tutorial on Non-Harmonic Tones and then see if you can identify some of them in an excerpt from our good friend J.S. Bach.

In this excerpt from a Bach piece, I have highlighted (in red) incidences of Non-Harmonic Tones. Feel free to work together to identify the types of Non-Harmonic Tones.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

My First Harmonic Analysis

We have tried our hand at basic composition. Melodies, different meters, basic harmonies, we are on our way. Today we are going to explore the process of analysis. What is going on inside a composition. Our focus initially will be on understanding harmonic progression.

Sample Harmonic Analysis

Today we are going to look at a piece by J.S. Bach and see what we hear...

Bach Piece

Monday, March 10, 2014

Compositional Collaboration

So we have been exploring the features of Noteflight and writing melodies and basic harmonies. Today we are going to explore the collaborative features of this notation program. I have started a score to a piece entitled Group Effort.

Your job (as you will see in the score prompt) is to work collaboratively to complete a composition. This is both a musical and social experiment. You will have the opportunity to come together on and off-line to complete this project.

Please review the instructions in the score prompt for some basic guidelines.

A Group Effort

Friday, March 7, 2014

Common Progressions and Your Compositions

Much of what we study are rules based on the common practice of composers throughout the centuries. If a musical trend becomes noticeable, it often transformed into a "Common Practice Rule." These rules are the basis for much of music theory.
When we start to look at harmonic function (chords and their use), we will notice patterns of chord use that appear over and over again in all styles of music.

The "Common Practice" chart of chord progressions is often represented like this:

This chart represents chord progression tendencies.

You might read this chart as, "A I chord can go anywhere, but a iii chord generally moves to a vi which generally moves to either a ii or IV which very often leads to a V or a viio which might move to a iii but more often moves to a I."

A general rule is that IV chords (we often call these subdominants or pre dominants) like to move to a V chord. They really like it. They do it all the time. Because a ii chord shares two common tones with a IV chord, they are often interchanged because they have a similar sound. Likewise, The V chord wants very badly to move to a I chord which you will hear when you start building progressions. The V chord contains the 7th note of the scale (we call this the leading tone) and it is drawn like a moth to the flame to the I. The viio chord has two notes in common with the V chord and that is why we sometimes will use them interchangeably (though not without some considerations that we will get to later).

Of course if all composition simply followed this chart there would not be much innovation and variety in music. This is a guideline that demonstrates tendencies that occur often in music.

Here is a video that was shared with from Mr. Eschelbacher me which takes an example of a common chord progression (one that fits the above chart quite nicely) and demonstrates how it gets used all the time...

His "Ice Cream Changes" are the chord progression I-vi-IV-V-I
Check out how that conveniently fits our common chord chart...

**Your challenge is to create two (2) songs in Garageband. One that follows the rules of common chord progressions (chart above) and one that tries to break those rules whenever possible. What do you think about the results?**

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Introducing Triads

You can probably figure out that the term "Triad" is referring to something about the number 3. In this case, the term refers to the chords we get when we stack 3 notes by the intervals of a third.

You may notice that each of these triads is identified with a Roman Numeral. Roman Numerals are useful in music because they not only count but they assign quality based on their case. Upper case Roman numerals indicate a Major (or Augmented +) triad, whereas lower case Roman Numerals indicate minor (or diminished o) triads.

Triads come in 4 flavors: Major, minor, Augmented and diminished. Each has a unique sound and a unique formula for their construction.

Check out the tutorial at for more background on triad construction.

The tutorial offers the option of counting out the intervals of the triad on the keyboard. We will also discuss using our understanding of key signatures to get the same results.

Working with Triads- Activity

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Knowing your intervals: Evaluating your understanding

It is important that you evaluate your understanding of interval construction and identification. To that end, here are two trainers from and that will help you practice both building and identifying intervals.

Interval Identification

Interval Construction

I will spend time with each of you discussing your understanding of intervals and develop strategies to aid your understanding if needed.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

A look at melody writing with our good friend Mozart

We will explore the idea of melodic analysis and theme and variation using a very familiar melody.
While Mozart did not write this melody, he is associated with it because he wrote a series of variations on this original French tune. We will do the same...

Twinkle Twinkle

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Learn the rules so you can find new ways to break them...

We discussed "the rules" of writing a melody (or at least some of the "suggested" rules) in class.

  • Your key should be reflected in your choice of notes
  • The tonic (or naming note of the key) should play a prominent role in your melody (ie. it may begin and/or end the melody)
  • The dominant (the 5th note of the scale) will also be prominently featured throughout the melody
Additional "rules" of melody writing might include:
  • repetition of the tonic and dominant notes help establish the key
  • Placing tonic and dominants on strong beats (like beat one)
Check out this observant blogger and composer as he deconstructs a familiar melody in relationship to some of the "rules" discussed above.

Look back at the 3 melodies you composed in the post about meter. Think about the key signature you chose. Does the melody take advantage of the features of that key? Does it adhere to traditional "rules" of melody writing ("rules" discussed in this class, in this post, and through reading the linked blogger post above)?

Edit your melody(s) to try and bring it in line with these rules.

Do you like the transformed/ edited version?

Composers often agonize over a single note choice or rhythmic element. Take a moment to agonize...

Monday, February 24, 2014

Meter: "No, not all music is written in simple quadruple time."

Please take a moment to read the following explanation of simple and compound meter from

Odd meters contain both simple beats and compound beats. Find out more here.

Using Noteflight, please write one four measure melody for each of the following meter classifications:
  1. Simple Triple
  2. Compound Duple
  3. Any Odd Meter
Be sure to title each example with the meter you are using.

Thank You

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Introducing Noteflight!

We will be using a cloud based notation program in Harmony and Theory. The program is called Noteflight. You have all been added as members of our site. You will need to access the site, add a password and complete a simple introductory assignment. There is a learning curve with any notation program, but I think if you play around with it, you will pick things up quickly.

When you first access the site, your log-in username is your first and last name. You do not need to enter a password. When you hit the log-in button it will prompt you to create a password. I will create a permanent link to Noteflight at the right of these blog posts.

Good Luck!

Access to our Noteflight site!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Basic Rhythm Reading: It All Counts!

Being able to work with, analyze and perform music requires a variety of skills. We have begun to work on our ears through aural training and dictation. The analysis skills are building through the work with key signatures and interval identification. We all have a basic note identification level that will continue to improve in both treble and bass clef. One area that tends to lag for many musicians is rhythmic notation reading.
Please take some time to review basic elements of rhythmic notation.

Note Duration

Measures and Time Signature

Rest Duration

Dots and Ties

If any questions come up while reviewing this material, please be sure to mention it during class time so we can work through it as a group. Keep in mind, "If you are questioning any of the material, chances are someone else is too."

Here are a couple of exercises to help us both see rhythms more accurately and be able to have a method of counting out problem rhythms.

Rhythm Mistakes

Rhythm Counting

Monday, February 10, 2014

Music Dictation: Time to turn those ears on

When we imagine someone taking dictation, it usually involves some administrative assistant eagerly jotting down every word of some high-powered executive. These words are then transformed into the latest memo or executive report. In music, the ability to take dictation is a skill that can greatly enhance your critical listening skills and help you work with music away from an instrument.

Check out this great scene from the film Amadeus in which Mozart is dictating his Requiem Mass to the conniving Salieri. The dying Mozart is trying to dictate the parts to this piece to a fellow composer who is trying desperately to keep up with the genius composer.

Amadeus (1984)

We won't start our dictation journey with the Mozart Requiem, but rather with simple step-wise melodies to get our ears warmed-up. Eventually we will work our way up to more advanced melodies that employ skips and jumps.

Dictation Example #1

Dictation Example #2

Dictation Example #3

To help train your ear, try to listen to the examples no more than three times. Here is a suggested outline of dictation protocol:

  1. Listen and try to absorb the melody. Hum or sing it back.
  2. Sketch out the notes and rhythms
  3. Finalize and check the notation

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Harmony and Theory: Basic Skills Assessment

Intervals III: Inversions

Simply put, the process of inverting in music is just rearranging the order of notes. With intervals, we just flip the notes to get the inverted interval. To get the details on what happens when you invert intervals, please check out this document.

Once you have a grasp on interval inversion, try your hand at the this interval circle. You may need to use some manuscript paper to work your way through the interval circle.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Music Theory Basics: A reference guide to foundational material

The expectation when you walk into the Harmony and Theory class is that you have a basic grasp of fundamental principles such as note reading, key signatures, time signatures and rhythmic notation and durations.
If you feel you may need to get up to speed on this content, here is a collection of reference lessons and exercises from the wonderful site which will help you.


The Staff, Clefs, and Ledger Lines

Note Duration

Measures and Time Signatures

Rest Duration

Dots and Ties

Steps and Accidentals

This information is for your reference and review. You are expected to know this material. You may not be directly assessed on this information, but it will be constantly assessed indirectly while working with other concepts.

Exercises- Practice space for notes and key signatures.

Note Identification

Key Signature Identification

Friday, January 31, 2014

Intervals II: Quality

The quality of the interval refers to it's sound based on the precise intervallic distance.

When identifying interval quality we use the terms: Perfect, Major, minor, diminished and augmented. These labels are shortened to: Perfect (P), Major (M), minor (m), diminished (d), and Augmented (A)

If we refer back to our C Major scale we see this interval distance pattern:
The "U" refers to an interval of a unison (the distance from one note to the note of the same name)
The "8ve" refers to the interval of an octave.

If we go one step further, here is the pattern of interval quality within a major scale:
From this example we can see that the intervals contained within a Major scale are comprised solely of Perfect and Major intervals.

From this example we can start to build a means for calculating interval quality:
1. Starting with the lower note of the interval as one,
count up to the upper note be sure to count all the lines and spaces in between.
2. Put that number underneath the interval.
3. Next determine if the upper note is in the key of the lower note.
4. If it is and the number is 2,3,6,7 than the interval is Major (M).
5. If it is and the number is 1,4,5,8 than the interval is perfect (P).

The information for those first 5 steps is built into the pattern of the Major scale.

The remaining steps will help you identify the interval quality of intervals that don't fit the above patterns.

6. If the upper note is not in the key because it has been raised with either
a sharp # or a natural sign and the number is 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8
then the interval is Augmented (A).
7. If it has been lowered with a flat b or a natural sign and the number is 1,4,5,8
then the interval is diminished (d).
8. If the number is 2,3,6,7 the interval first becomes
minor(m) and if it is lowered again it is

At this point you should be able to work through the Fun with Intervals sheet and complete the qualities of those intervals.

Intervals I: Intro

Intervals are simply the way we measure distance in music. Most often we think of intervals as the distance between notes, but we can also apply the term to distances between key signatures, chords, and even (less often) time elements.
For purposes of introducing intervals, we will use the example of distance between notes to build our understanding of identifying and constructing intervals.

We have discussed the spacing of the notes in the Major scale and the pattern of Whole steps (W) and Half steps (H) that build every Major scale.

Another way to describe these whole and half step intervals is by calling them 2nds. Ex. C to D is a 2nd. G to A is a 2nd. Every time you move from one note to the next closest note, you have some sort of 2nd interval.

When counting intervals we always start at 1 with the lower note and then count each line and space until we reach the desired note. For instance, if I use the scale above to figure the interval (or distance) from C to A, I would find it to be a 6th. (C=1, D=2, E=3, F=4, G=5, A=6.)

On the following worksheet, please count and label the distance of the intervals in the first section.
Fun with Intervals

When we count an interval we ultimately get the distance (number) of the interval. The trick with intervals is determining the quality of the interval. That will be addressed in the next post.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Helpful resources for theory review

You can find many helpful resources online for reinforcing basic music theory skills. The more comfortable you are with the fundamental elements of note reading (treble and bass clef) and key signatures (see the post about the circle of fifths) the better.

Two sites that I use often for both reference and practice are:

and is a simple, uncluttered space in which basic theory principals are spelled out in a straightforward, (hopefully) easy to understand manner. We will use a number of the lessons for reference and review during this course. In addition, the site has a number of customizable exercises to work on identification and construction of key signatures, intervals, chords, etc. You also have exercises that will help you work on ear-training. is another theory site that kind of kicks things up a notch. The lessons become more advanced and the number of training exercises is far greater. This is the graduate level work in theory, but it covers many useful elements to us beginners as well.

Circle of Fifths

One of the most important visual organizers in music is the circle of fifths. This chart has a number of variations, but it's main job is to help you to see the systematic way in which our key signatures are constructed and ordered.

You might ask, "Why do we call this the circle of fifths?" The name derives from the fact that if you move clock-wise around the circle (starting with the key of C major for instance) you will see the interval (distance) from one key to the next is the interval of a fifth (C major - G major - D major, etc.).
As we explore the construction of major scales, this chart is a handy visual reminder of the mathematical certainty and order in music. Keep it handy.

Welcome to Harmony and Theory!

This blog will be our online meeting place for the harmony and theory course. Course content will be posted here.