Discovering Keys: Part 2

Applying Scales and Chords to the Study of Keys Part II In Part I of this article series, we illustrated how some of the most basic tools in our musical tool-box could be employed to achieve a functional, foundational understanding of the the concept of ‘keys’ in music. By reinforcing our knowledge of scales and chords and then distilling that knowledge for the purpose of understanding keys, we were able to able to reveal the infrastructure behind keys as a product of the common musical devices we know and use everyday. To further summarize: At the core of all keys … Read more

Discovering Keys: Part 1

Applying Scales and Chords to the Study of Keys From the beginning of this series, we set out to achieve a succinct but comprehensive understanding of what keys are and how they can help us in our musical pursuits. We started by presenting a common musical scenario heavily dependent on keys for its construction and learning potential (in this case, a snippet from Mozart’s Sonata No. 16 in C major, K. 545). We then highlighted some of the most basic infrastructural components we find in music (chords and scales) for the sake of reinforcing the knowledge base we’ll need to … Read more

What are Keys: Learning About Chords

What are Chords and How Can They Help Us Learn About Keys? It starts off by being just a thing you do, and why wouldn’t you? For piano or guitar—for pretty much any instrument on which you can easily play lots of notes at the same time, really. Whether you see it in the music you’re learning or try it out of pure curiosity, at some point you’re going to do it…. You’re going to play a chord. Chords have been a staple device in the music of the Western world for, well, a long time. Prior to the Baroque … Read more

What are Keys: Learning about Scales

What are Scales and How Can They Help Us Learn About Keys? Have you ever had conversation with someone about their bygone days of learning a musical instrument? Often the story goes: “You’re taking music lessons?” Nice. Yeah, I took some piano lessons when I was younger. I really liked it, but I really wasn’t any good. Think I learned Fur Elise and some Mozart and, you know, did scales and stuff…” It seems we’ve all heard of–or practiced–scales at some point. In terms of learning our instruments, practicing scales serves as an accessible method for improving our technique and … Read more

What are Keys and Why Should We Know About Them?

In the Key of… “In the key of…” — we rarely get far into our musical endeavors before we find ourselves faced with this phrase. Minuets in the key of G, Sonatas in the key of A, Nocturnes in the key of E minor, Fugues in the key of F#, and so on. But what does being “in the key of ” something really mean? As beginners, we learn that it in some way refers to the number of sharps or flats (generally referred to as accidentals) we encounter at the beginning of a piece. We learn that this key … Read more

Understanding Time Signatures and Meters: A Musical Guide

At the beginning of practically any score of music you have ever looked at and will ever look at, there are numbers and symbols which clarify how to interpret the music notation on the score in front of you. As a music learner, you’ve become familiar with these symbols and you know that the numbers tell you how to interpret the music’s rhythms, to count and keep track of the music in time, and that if you’re playing with other performers—the numbers help you stay together! Yet, there are so many numbers and so many ways for these numbers to … Read more

7th Chords, Their Arpeggios, and Why We Use Them

Chords are something we deal with everyday in music. Written down on a page, they can be as simple as just ‘A,’ or a completely terrifying ‘Amaj7#11b9’! By discussing the 7th chord, we start our journey into understanding the nature of extended chords, what they imply, and why they are not as terrifying as we may have thought. Delving further into chords gives us a much broader understanding of harmony in not just jazz, but all areas of music. So, whether you are playing classical, rock, jazz or even musical theatre, you will be able to apply this knowledge of … Read more

Three Step Guide to Master Italian Words in Music Theory

When faced with all the Italian words to learn for the graded music theory curriculum, one may find it overwhelming and disconnected, making it difficult to learn by rote. For this reason, I put together a brief guide to learning most of the Italian theory words in an easier, more logical way. First of all, let us take a look at a collated, alphabetical list of all ABRSM Grades I-V Italian musical terms by clicking on this link The list is close to one-hundred-and-fifty words, and is made of a list of verbs, adverbs, single or double words, and so on; … Read more

The Circle of Fifths: The Clock of Key Signatures

Since the 17th century, the Circle of Fifths has been a prominent tool utilized by professional musicians and composers throughout Western Culture. Knowledge provided by the Circle of Fifths is practical for many situations and will become automatic with consistent practice. Musicians such as Bach (Baroque), Beethoven (Classical), Schubert (Romantic), Jerome Kern (Jazz), John Williams (Film), Selena Quintanilla (Teejano), Lin-Manuel Miranda (Broadway), Beyonce (Pop), and Armin Van Buuren (EDM), are just a few whose music is built around the Circle.  The Circle of Fifths offers fundamental knowledge which can be applied to any genre or style of music. In this … Read more

Guide to Drum Kit Notation – Folk Music

Those of us who read Western Classical music notation are often guilty of assuming that it is the holy grail to musical literacy and competence, and that such notation can be universally applied to all musical styles. While Western notation is undoubtedly an incredibly versatile and adaptable form of communication, this assumption can be dangerous when trying to learn many styles of folkloric music, each with their own unique vocabulary, history, and notation. This article will explore the ways in which these styles of music are passed on, in some cases through notation and in others through aural tradition. We … Read more