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.