All you need to learn the basic theory
Table of Contents:
1.0 - Introduction
1.1 - Where to start?
1.2 - The first 10 things to learn
2.0 - What Intervals and Steps are
2.1 - Interval guide
2.2 - Steps
2.3 - Tones and Semi-tones
3.0 - Understanding the Chromatic scale
4.0 - The major scale
4.1 - Triads
5.0 - The Circle of Fifths and Key Signatures Introduction
5.1 - The Circle of Fifths
5.2 - Key Signatures- How they work
6.0 - Chord Construction
6.1 - Extending
6.2 - Altering
6.3 - Suspended Chords
6.4 - Inversions
7.0 - The meaning of 'Diatonic' and what it does
7.1 - Diatonic in chords
7.2 - Diatonic in scales
7.3 - E# and B# DO exist
8.0 - Finding out what chords are in what key
9.0 - Natural Minor, Harmonic Minor, Melodic Minor scales Introduction
9.1 - Natural Minor Scale
9.2 - Harmonic Minor Scale
9.3.0 - Melodic Minor Ascending
9.3.1 - Melodic Minor Descending
9.4 - What chords do these scales go with?
10.0 - The Modes of the Major scale Introduction
10.1 - Using the intervals
10.2 - Using the Steps
10.3 - Using the modes over chords
11.0 - Applying #1-9 on the guitar Introduction
11.1 - Applying 'What Intervals and Steps are'
11.2 - Applying 'Understanding the Chromatic Scale'
11.3 - Applying 'The major scale and Triads'
11.4 - Applying 'Natural Minor, Harmonic Minor and Melodic Minor Scales'
11.5 - Applying 'The Modes of the Major scale'
1.0 - Introduction.
So you've seen people talking their heads off about "Lydian sharp 11 dominant 9" and you have no idea what they're talking about, or maybe you're interested in starting to learn music theory. Well, it's a great choice to come this route, as theory can make your music excel to great heights, and it lets you know what you're doing, and why. I chose to learn music theory because I wasn't much of a song writer and wanted my music to sound good. Plus, on the forums on this site, I would visit "Musicians Talk" and not know what was going on. So I've learned quite a bit and have prepared this list for you, someone new to music theory, or someone who needs a nice refresher. In this lesson, you will need no knowledge of previous theory, but you will need to know that the notes only go to G and what sharps (#) and flats (b) are. Also keep in mind you might see parts from other lesson I have written, as I can copy from them all I want, but if I didnít write the lesson, I will link to it. Have fun!
1.1 - Where to start?
Since I am an avid believer of not using steps, except for the major scale, you are going to have to learn what intervals are, and what steps are. Once you have learned how to get the major scale, all the #9, and b7 will come into the clear and become understandable. The major scale is the basis of which pretty much all chords and scales are derived from. If you've ever heard "1 3 5" or "1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7 1" you will know that those 'formulas' are in relation to the major scale.
1.2 - The first 10 things to learn.
This is a list for easy reference, and everything is explained down the in this article. 1, being the first thing to learn, etc.
01. What Intervals and Steps are
02. Understanding the Chromatic Scale
03. The major scale
04. The Circle of Fifths and Key signatures.
05. Chord Construction
06. The meaning of 'Diatonic' and what it does
07. Finding out what chords are in what key
08. Natural Minor, Harmonic Minor and Melodic Minor Scales
09. The Modes of the Major scale
10. Applying 1-9 on the guitar
I will go into each and every one of these so you, the beginner can understand them.
2.0 - What Intervals and Steps are.
First, I'll start with intervals and steps, as they are critical in learning how everything works, and they help you understand the major scale, and almost everything on this list. And interval is the space between one note and another. When you see 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1, those are intervals. Learning intervals is very important when learning everything in this article, because I dislike steps. I will get into that more in the steps section.
2.1 - Interval guide.
This is an easy reference chart to look at for naming intervals. This example is in the key of C, for simplicity, but can be applied to any root note to find the intervals of that key.
Interval | Name | Note.(In C)
1 | Unison (root note) | C
b2 | Minor Second | Db
2 | Major Second | D
#2 | Sharp Second | D#
b3 | Minor Third | Eb
3 | Major Third | E
4 | Perfect Fourth | F
#4 | Augmented Fourth | F#
b5 | Diminished Fifth | Gb
5 | Perfect Fifth | G
#5 | Augmented Fifth | G#
b6 | Minor Sixth | Ab
6 | Major Sixth | A
#6 | Sharp Sixth | A#
bb7 | Diminished Seventh | A
b7 | Minor Seventh | Bb
7 | Major Seventh | B
8 | Unison (Octave higher) | C
b9 | Minor Ninth | Db
9 | Major Ninth | D
#9 | Sharp Ninth | D#
The intervals repeat, where 2 = 9, 3 = 10, 4 = 11, etc. Notice that you're adding 7 to get the octave higher interval. For those who donít know what an octave is: An octave is the same exact note only played higher. Ex. Middle C on a piano, and the next C, going higher are an octave apart. Just like b9 is an octave higher than b2.
When dealing with intervalic inversions (more on that later, this needs to be said in the interval seciton) you need to know a couple things. You have 4 perfect intervals. Unison, Fourth, Fifth, and Octave. A perfect interval inverts to a perfect interval, and when you ad the interval numbers together, you will always get 9. So if you know a P4 inverts to another perfect interval, you know (9-4 = 5, P inverts to P) so a P4 inverts to a P5. Same thing with unison. Unison inverts to the octave. The other intervals (2, 3, 6, 7) are either minor or major, and a major interval inverts to a minor one, and vise versa. So with your formula, you can find that a minor third inverts to a major sixth (3 + 6 = 9). Then an augmented interval inverts to a diminished interval. A perfect interval goes right to diminished when its flattened, and all intervals go right to augmented when sharpenned. An inverted interval is the same as a normal interval but instead of going up the chart (1-b2, ex) you are going down. Heres a chart for your inversions.
P1 - P8
m2 - M7
M2 - m7
m3 - M6
M3 - m6
P4 - P5
A4 - D5
D7 - A2
P = Perfect
m = Minor
M = Major
D = Diminished
A = Augmented
Some intervals aren't used as much as others, but still exist. b10 is still an acceptable name, but will more commonly be call #9. 9ths, 11ths, and 13ths are used more often than their enharmonic (Enharmonic- Same note; different name) siblings.
2.2 - Steps, 2.3 - Tones And Semi-Tones.
Steps. These are what many beginners use to form scales and the such, but hereís what I'm going to do. I'll explain the steps and show you how to use them, but itís up to you whether you use steps or intervals. A choice! Steps can identify how far two notes are apart and they can (if you must) form scales. There are two common types of steps. A whole step and a half step. A whole step (Indicated by the letter 'W') which is two frets. E - F# is a whole step. I've seen people who think E-F is a whole step. It is not. Two frets! This makes a half step self explanatory. It's one fret. E-F, G-G# and half steps apart. This will all make sense after reading the section just below, 3. 0- Understanding the Chromatic scale. Right now steps might seem a little pointless but they play a big part in the next section.
Tones and semitones are the same as steps, just with a different name. I use steps throughout, but you can think of them as tones throughout:
T = Tone = Whole step
S = Semitone = Half Step
3.0- Understanding the Chromatic scale.
The Chromatic is very simple and easy to understand but it is important and it's very helpful to know. It makes it a breeze to memorize the notes on the fret board, and just know notes in general. The Chromatic scale is a series of 12 notes starting from any note (doesnít matter which one... You could use D# for all I care) and going up by half steps. Ex. Playing any open string, and preceding to play each note, going up by one fret each time will give you a chromatic scale. But... Thereís a catch! Not every note has a sharp/flat between them. This applies to all the notes except between B - C and E - F. There is nothing between B - C and E - F. Your chromatic scale (in C) is:
C C#/Db D D#/Eb E F F#/Gb G G#/Ab A A#/Bb B C
Remember the enharmonic notes! D# is enharmonic to Eb. It is indicated with a '/'.
Know it inside and out, as you should. Very important stuff. As short of a section this takes, it is just as important as the others.
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