Thursday, June 18, 2015

One Last Melody

Ahh the Swan Song. Being played off at the Academy Awards. Graduation music. Final moments need a theme song. Our last Theory class needs a send off with music.

What do you got?

One Final Melody

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Theory in Practice: Being Flexible on the Gig

I always feel fortunate and grateful for any opportunity to make music. Often you don't know what shape those opportunities may take. This past weekend I was fortunate to be busy with quite a bit of music making. Three gigs in two days can be exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. The thing is, these gigs represented three completely diverse musical environments in terms of venues, musical styles and performance expectations.
  • Gig #1: A wedding ceremony recessional and cocktail hour music. 
  • Gig #2: Swing dance music for an energetic swing dance society's monthly dance. 
  • Gig #3: A church service commemorating the 320th anniversary of a large New England Congregational Church. 
I wanted to focus on gig #3 and one of the practical music theory applications I relied on to get me through the performance of one of the songs.
As we prepared to perform with the church choir, this piece was on my music stand. As I was playing guitar, I was a bit taken aback by the lack of a guitar part... (Full size version)

The expectation was that I play a guitar accompaniment with just this copy of music to use as a guide. 
Here are a couple of the thought processes that informed my playing:
  • Knowing this was a simple church hymn, I surmised that the chords would be basic triads or (at most) 7th chords.
  • This style also relies more often than not on root-position chords.
  • Without a lot of accidentals, I figured the chords were mostly diatonic to the key of G (Than You Circle of 5ths!)
  • I quickly scanned the page and started constructing triads or 7th chords out of the stacks of notes.
Bottom line... How do you turn a page of music like the one above into a practical lead sheet?
A practical lead sheet would look something like this:

Let's see how you do with this on the spot musical analysis (Uh Oh, the gig starts in 5 minutes!)

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Composing for Concert Band

We have been studying the role of transposition in writing for instruments. We will see that in action as we try our hand at composing for a concert band. The Noteflight template I have set up for you is along the lines of the instrumentation for the GHS Concert Band. As we work through this, we will discuss instrument ranges and other related topics. Check out the score...

Writing for Band
The template is a score view of the concert band. There is no established key (well, C by default), so you have the freedom to change to a different key if you so desire. Please refer to the link on instrument ranges if you are unsure how high or low you should write for a given instrument.

Instrument Ranges for Reference

I would like to use these examples that you write for sight-reading with the band. Perhaps we can try some of these out before the end of the school year and you , as composers, can be there for the performances.

Check out some published scores to get a sense of what a completed score for band might look like.

Sample Scores

Transposition Follow-up Work

You have all received feedback on your initial work on transposition. Please review those notes in Kaizena and apply what you learned in the following examples...

Transposition II

Please submit this follow-up work to Kaizena in the box labeled Transposition II

Friday, May 29, 2015

A Little Transposition Work

Follow the link to a PDF with various melodies written for a number of different instruments.
Your job will be to use the correct transposition for each melody to bring it to either concert pitch or the correct pitch for the indicated instrument.

Once completed, please submit your work to Kaizena and the box labeled "Transposition"

Thank You

Thursday, May 28, 2015


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.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The 7th Chord: Secondary Dominant

When we first started discussing 7th chords, I gave you some examples of the something called the secondary dominant. Here I have linked a thorough and well-written explanation of what a secondary dominant is, how it sounds, and how it might be used.

Secondary Dominants

Check it out!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

7th Chords- Update

We have spent a good deal of time exploring the possibilities of the triad. That three note chord forms the bedrock of much of Western harmony. Harmony does go further or perhaps we could say higher. While the triad explores the sound of the root, 3rd and 5th, it leaves untouched any other notes that might add to or enhance the sound in our harmony.
The 7th chord is an opportunity to promote the triad by simply adding the 7th on top of our 3-note triad. No longer content with a the snowman on our staff, the 7th chord gives us four notes to play with.

Here is a basic tutorial on the 7th chords in Major and the three forms of minor we have explored: natural, harmonic and melodic.

7th Chord Tutorial

There are five basic types of 7th chords and this tutorial demonstrates how they are constructed and how to identify the chords.

The Makeup of 7th Chords

Please take some time after reading through the tutorials to practice working with 7th chords:




Now, try your hand at identifying and constructing some seventh chords on your own.

Here is the worksheet

Please submit your work for feedback through Kaizena
You will find a dropbox labeled "seventh chord work"

If you are unsure of the process of identifying and constructing sevenths, please refer to the tutorials above.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

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.

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.

Monday, May 4, 2015

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, April 27, 2015

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

Friday, April 17, 2015

Learn the Rules so You Can Break Them Part II: Deconstructing Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach is often considered the father of Western music and his compositions form the backbone of our understanding and analysis of music. (Yes, you can blame him for music theory...)
We have been talking about learning the rules before you break the rules. We have even taken some Bach melodies and created variations of our own design.
Today, we will take this excerpt from Bach (which closely aligns to the "rules" of composition) and see what sounds we get when we experiment. We will come back to this example later and consider the analysis of what Bach has written, but for now let's have fun with it.
This piece is written in 4-part texture.

Soprano-top line, Alto-second line, Tenor-top line in bass clef, Bass- bottom line in bass clef.

See what happens when you alter any or all of the lines to create something new from Bach.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Learn The Rules So you Know How 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 most recent melody you composed in this post. Think about the key signature and the chords involved. 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 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...

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Work flow and Student feedback

I am interested in giving you guys open, transparent, constructive and meaningful feedback on your work. I don't think Google classroom is offering those opportunities. To that end I am looking to try out Kaizena, which, on first perusal, seems to offer those possibilities.
Today we are going to try and make this work for our class and content.
Kaizena is designed to give and receive feedback and since I strongly believe that assessment should be a conversation and not a spreadsheet the feedback is the important thing.

First we need to start with a sample of your work.

Here is a link to a shared PDF file from my Google 

This link should open up a view only key signature assessment. You will need to Save a copy of this in your own google drive (I would recommend you create a folder with a label such as Harmony and Theory Work).
You will complete the work and save your results in your created Google folder.

When you are finished with your work, you will request feedback from me through Kaizena. I have included a link to my feedback request page on the classroom blog (under the links section).
You can also use this link: Request Feedback from Mr. Trombley

You will need to agree to permissions and fill out a bit of information...
Well here is a video to demonstrate what to do...

Ideally, when everything is set properly, we should be able to have a meaning back and forth about your work.

For our purposes today, you will drop your key signature work into the dropbox labeled: HT Key Signature Assessment  

Monday, April 6, 2015

Melody Writing

Hello! I'd like us to have a go at melody writing today. This is a bit of an exercise in theory training masked in creativity (always good to have those two things working together).

I have written out a rather basic accompaniment and you folks will be charged with writing an awesome melody to go with it.

In class we will discuss how modes can be helpful in navigating note choice, though that may be something you don't want to think too much about when your creativity takes over. We'll see what side wins out...

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Common Practice Progressions and Composition

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?**

Monday, March 30, 2015

Modes of Major

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

Before we start composing, let's try to construct and identify some of the these modes and minor scales... Mode and Minor Worksheet

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, March 27, 2015

Major and minor shifts

We have been focusing on the connection between Major and minor. What happens when we play with tonality? This video should be self-explanatory...

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Compose in harmonic minor

Please follow this link to a short compositional assignment using the harmonic minor scale.

8-Measure Harmonic minor composition

Join Google Classroom

To help facility work flow, I am going to begin using a Google Classroom page.

Our class content will still appear on our blog, but the collection of much of your work will happen in the Google Classroom.

Here is some information about joining the classroom...

The class code can be found at the top of our blog!


Monday, March 23, 2015

Minor Scales: There is a difference...

Our last post discussed the relationship between Major and minor scales. Every Major scale has a minor scale embedded inside of it. You can find that scale by simply staring on the 6th degree of the Major scale.
We call that scale the relative or natural minor scale. This isn't the only type of minor scale however.
Today's post will focus on two variations on the natural minor scale: harmonic minor and melodic minor.

Harmonic minor:
The harmonic minor scale is a simple variation of natural minor that makes a huge difference in sound and function.

Here again is the pattern of the relative or natural minor scale.

Now we'll check out the harmonic minor scale.

You will notice we raised the 7th degree of the scale. This gives us an unusual interval between the 6th and 7th notes in the scale. This interval gives the harmonic minor scale a unique sound and helps explain the function of the scale.

Melodic minor:
The melodic minor scale uses a similar alteration as the harmonic minor scale.

You will notice in melodic minor we raise both the 6th and 7th degree of the scale. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Major and minor: It's All Relative.

If you have access to a circle of fifths you may have noticed how the key signatures are ordered and paired.

On the outer edge of the circle you have the names of the Major scales associated with the illustrated key signature. Did you notice that another key signature, a minor key signature, is indicated in one of the inner layers?
We call that minor scale the relative minor scale of the Major key. You will probably see why the two scales are related based on this image...

The scales use the same notes but simply start and end on different notes. That's all it takes to transform the sound of the scale. It moves the order of W and H steps just enough to make a big difference.

When composing in a Major or minor tonality, you need to be aware of the differences in these scales and choose notes accordingly. Composing a minor piece that focuses on the notes C, E, and G will thwart the minor sound as the listener will hear a Major tonality. A melody in the key of a minor will probably highlight notes such as A, C, E to help establish the minor tonality.

Try it yourself...

Take a moment to compose a simple 8-measure melody in one of the relative minor keys. 
Your melody will use the key signature of the relative Major scale, but will highlight the minor sound.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

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
Your name should appear in the composer heading.

Thank You

Friday, March 13, 2015

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

Thursday, March 12, 2015

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

GHS Harmony and Theory: Knowing your intervals: Evaluating your understand...

GHS Harmony and Theory: Knowing your intervals: Evaluating your understand...: It is important that you evaluate your understanding of interval construction and identification. To that end, here are two trainers from mu...

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

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.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Interval Composition

Today we will compose a short piece that highlights the use of various intervals. We have studied harmonic intervals. These are intervals that are stacked on top of each other and sound together. The piece you will compose will use harmonic intervals as well as melodic intervals (the interval between notes played one after the other, like in a melody). I have started a Noteflight template which you will use to create your composition.

Interval Composition

Monday, February 23, 2015

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.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

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.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Melody writing: Theme and Variations on Bach

Today we are going to try our hand at melody writing with the help of J.S. Bach. He was known as something of a writer of good tunes...

Here are 4 examples of simple melodies written by Bach:

Take a look at what Bach has done. What do you see what do you hear and what do you think? We will discuss these melodies in class and you will ultimately choose your favorite to complete a bit of writing yourself.

Follow this link to a Noteflight writing assignment in which you will create your own variations on these simple Bach melodies.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Helpful Review and Reinforcement Resources

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.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The 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.

GHS Harmony and Theory: Welcome to Harmony and Theory!

GHS Harmony and Theory: 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.