Here’s a fantastic intro to reading lead sheets from Scott Devine. He goes over what he looks at immediately upon getting a lead sheet so that he understands the overall structure of the piece he’s playing. His four main points are:
- Time signature
- Key signature
- Common chordal movements
- Form of the piece
Here’s a fun video from Adam Neely about mashups, or as 13th century composers called them, quodlibets. He goes into some music theory about them, initially, highlighting that its their tempos that really allow them to work together. He also speaks about the I-V-VI-IV chord progression, which is used in a lot of pop music, as illustrated by that old Axis of Awesome video that mashed up about 500 songs to demonstrate it. 😉
Some compositional attributes that allow a lot of this music to be melded together include their overall use of notes from the major scale, which – if I understand this correctly – allows them to be more readily transposed to the same key; 4-bar phrase lengths, which allows them to fit passages of the same length together; and cyclic chord progressions that repeat without a strong sense of resolution, so they can keep going without end. Enjoy!
Like last time, the 2nd video for this lesson of Coursera’s Developing Your Musicianship class is a review of the prior lesson.
2. Review (5:03)
This video review begins with a 60-second rendition of Wade in the Water on piano, which was chosen because the melody is based on the minor pentatonic scale. Professor Russell says that he wanted to get the tune in our ears, and that we’ll talk about it more later. (See the bottom of this post for a Wiki link to the song, it has an interesting history.)
He then begins the actual review, saying that so far, we’ve spoken about the major scale, which he plays in C and then has his Berklee vocal group sing in solfege starting on Do, then the note names starting on C, and then the scale degrees. He says that, “Everything we do is gonna come right from that major scale.”
He continues with, “Now, first thing we talked about, or one of the first chords we talked about was the triad, the major triad – one, three, five.” The onscreen treble staff shows a C-major triad to illustrate what he’s saying. It shows a I-chord, which is C major, then a IV-chord, which if F major, and finally a V-chord, which is G major (because all of this is in C).
Moving forward, the Professor says, “The next thing we talked about was the tonal center. And, what is a tonal center?” The screen answers with text stating: The tonic or “Do” of the scale, or scale degree 1. He then adds, “Exactly, its that main note that you hear, the note that keeps coming back, the note that seems to work with all the other chords.”
Next, he speaks about the minor triads. “Major triads – one, three five,” he says while playing, “The minor triad – one, flat three, five.” The onscreen treble staff again shows the notes as he plays them. He says that with the major triad, we have a “nice, happy kind of sound,” and that the minor triad is “just a little bit darker.” He plays a little on the piano to illustrate each and says, “And, its amazing what one note can do to a chord.”
6. I IV V Chord Progression (5:00)
Professor Russell begins the video with, “So, we’ve talked about the major triad and minor triad. And if you remember, when we talked about the major triad, I constructed them starting on the 1 chord – in this case C major, the 4 chord – in this case F major, the 5 chord – G major, and then I went back to the one chord.” He plays the given chord on the piano for each of the three he mentioned. Then he continues with, “The reason why I did that is because those three chords, you hear all the time in songs.”
He explains that the 1 chord is also the tonic, the 4 chord is the sub-dominant and the 5 chord is the dominant chord. He calls the tonic our home base or tonal center. The 4 chord, or sub-dominant, is a step below the dominant chord, and the 5 chord, or dominant, has a tendency to go back to the 1. He says this is created by what is called the leading tone and that the dominant very often goes back to the tonic. He then says that we’ve all probably heard a dozen or so songs with those three chords in just the last few months alone and says that he’d like to play through a few progressions with those three chords and asks us to sing along using the root, or tonic, of the chord.
Yesterday, the 2nd lesson for Coursera’s Developing Your Musicianship class started. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, its a 6 week, 6-session, online beginner’s music theory class. I have mixed feelings about Lesson 1. I don’t think it really went into detail about any of the topics it covered. It seems more functional to me than theoretical, which is probably fine, but even in that regard, it hasn’t felt like there was a lot of guidance. Of course, that might be the nature of having a decentralized online class with no real two-way video interaction between the students and teacher.
Here’s the first part of the Announcement for Lesson 2:
Hello, and welcome to lesson 2! This week, we are going to continue our exploration of intervals, focusing on the perfect 4th and perfect 5th intervals. We are also going to dive into the world of triads—specifically major and minor triads, and how they are constructed. Finally, we are going to look at the I IV V chord progression. I am sure you will recognize it instantly, as it appears in countless songs.
Professor Russell goes on from there to say that he has enjoyed reading our messages in the discussion forums and loves how we’re sharing music from our cultures, our tips for learning music and our passion for music. I wish he’d compound that by answering some of the posts/questions on the forums. Its really been the other students driving the questions and answers there, so that lack of true guidance concern really extends outward from just the lessons.
I understand that its a free online class, but I’d have liked to have seen something like an FAQ or other document that at least takes questions from prior offerings of the class and answers them. My hope is that Berklee would have the resources to comb through this information and codify it. Of course, its possible that these issues are actually resolved in their paying classes, and this could be a way to get input about that for minimal cost. Nothing in life is truly free.
Like with the first lesson, I’m familiar with the concepts that this session will be covering. I know what triads are, although I’m no expert, and I have an understanding of what a I-IV-V progression is. I haven’t blogged about it yet, but I’ve been playing with them a little more during practice at night via the Cycle of Fourths. I’ll see if I can post about that a little more later this week.
Here are the titles for the videos in the 2nd lesson:
Lesson 2: Major & Minor Triads
I can’t believe it February already. For those of you who watch, happy Super Bowl. For those of you who live in NY, like me, I hope you’re ready for another snowstorm.
Here’s a video I mentioned a few days ago which is geared for beginner bass players. Its about how to identify and play chord progressions. The video is centered on what I believe is the most popular progression – the I-IV-V, and the presenter, Scott Grove, uses country music as his main vehicle for explaining it to us, because he says that country and 50’s style rock-n-roll are simple and easy to follow.
I’ve seen a bunch of Zander Zon‘s videos before, but not in a long time. Someone posted a link to his rendition of Pachelbel’s Canon for solo bass on Talkbass. In the thread, the OP asks how long it would take to be able to play that song like Zander. There’s no hard mathematical answer to his question, of course, and the rest of the thread explains that to him, as well as paths on how to get there and a discussion of Zander’s technique and its resemblance to flamenco guitar. But I wanted to share the video for two other reasons:
1. Its a beautiful rendition. See for yourself:
2. This rant/reaction to Pachelbel’s Canon on cello really reminds me of the video I posted from Axis of Awesome about 4-chord songs. I was amazed that this progression (if I’m using the right term) goes back this far and is still in use today: