A beginner bassist's foray into the unknown

Posts tagged “Fundamentals of Music Theory

Coursera – FoMT Week 2 / Video 2

So, this 2nd video for Week 2 of Fundamentals of Music Theory is called Sharps & Flats. It finds Zack and Nikki seated behind a piano. Zack begins the lesson by recapping that last week we discussed the concepts of tones and semi-tones. We picked the note “C” and applied the pattern “tone – tone – semi-tone – tone – tone – tone – semi-tone” and called the result the major scale. He explains that we can pick any other note, apply the same pattern, and the result is still the major scale. So, we’re going to refer to that sequence of tones and semi-tones as the major scale pattern.

He picks a note on the piano – G – and applies the major scale pattern starting on it. He says to notice that when we played the major scale pattern starting on C last week, we played only the white notes. We didn’t play any of the black ones. When we started on G and played the pattern, we needed to play one of the black ones. This note is called F#.

Nikki takes over from here and explains that the note is called F# (F-sharp) because it is one semi-tone sharper or higher than F. However, she continues, by the same rationale, we can also say that its one semi-tone lower than G. We could then call it Gb (G-flat) – which means one semi-tone lower or flatter than G.


Coursera – FoMT Week 2 / Video 1

The intro video for Week 2 is brief, at 33 seconds. Like the first week, its given by Dr. Michael Edwards. He tells us that this week’s lecture is given by Dr. Zack Moir and Dr. Nikki Moran. Zack, we know from the previous week. Nikki’s specialization is in music as social interaction.

He says that this week’s lecture will build on the previous one. It will delve specifically into sharps and flats and how they are used. Key signatures, minor scales and minor keys will also be discussed, and finally, how to extend the music staff to represent a wider range of music. So, it appears that some of it focuses on reading or understanding notation and some will delve into theory. This should be interesting to compare with the other Coursera class that I took – Developing Your Musicianship – which examined the major scale and minor pentatonic scale, but didn’t go into the minor one at all.

Here’s the “Meet the Team” entry for Nikki:

Dr. Nikki Moran

NikkiNikki Moran joined Music at Edinburgh in September 2007 after postgraduate research at Open University and University of Cambridge, and a teaching post at the University of East London. During her BMus degree at City University, London, she studied classical viola performance at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and took weekly classes in North Indian classical music performance with Prof. Gerry Farrell. Nikki subsequently studied as a sitar student of Pandit Arvind Parikh in Mumbai, India. From 2002 to 2007, busked regularly and led workshops in North Indian music for schools and community music projects. Nikki enjoys everyday music making with local ensembles and friends. She plays viola regularly with ensembles in Edinburgh and Glasgow, including Grey Area and GIO (Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra), and occasional gigs/concerts with groups including Edimpro and Orchestra of the Canongait.

Coursera – Fundamentals of Music Theory Week 2

Week 2 of Fundamentals of Music Theory is called Keys and Intervals. Its comprised of 8 videos, which run for an hour, altogether. Looking at the titles, they seem to be concerned with the construction and identification of music notes.

FoMT_logoThe 8 videos in this 2nd lesson are:

  1. Introduction to Lecture 2 (0:33)
  2. 01. Sharps & Flats (06:19)
  3. 02. Keys and Key Signatures (12:59)
  4. 03. Minor Keys (09:31)
  5. 04. Intervals (06:11)
  6. 05. Ledger Lines and Clefs (04:45)
  7. 2.02.1 – EXTRA VIDEO – Key Signature Demonstration (11:02)
  8. ANOTHER EXTRA VIDEO – Interval Identification Demonstration (08:07)

In the class Announcements, two extra notices were given, regarding the 7th and 8th videos in this week’s lesson. The first is about the Interval Identification Demonstration. It basically says that the instructors have noticed that people are looking for more information about how to identify intervals and ways to practice doing so. They recommend musictheory.net for practice exercises and explain that their video talks through the process of identifying intervals.

The other extra video, Key Signature Demonstration, is similarly meant to help clarify questions about working out key signatures, so my assumption is that it will delve further into the Circle of 5ths/Circle of 4ths.

Coursera – FoMT Week 1 / Video 7

FoMT_logoThe 7th and last video for Week 1 of Fundamentals of Music Theory is an extra called “Modes deconstruction“. It runs almost 7 mins long. When the file is opened, the title screen calls it something a little different – “Thinking about the modes and hearing their different ‘sounds’ (a rough illustration…)”.

This one’s a bit different from the others. Moir and Worth are present, seated at a piano in more casual wear, and Moir explains that they’ve been looking through the online forums (something that sets this apart from the Developing Your Musicianship class right off the bat, and in a good way) and found that some people understand the concept of modes, but don’t quite know what they’re supposed to sound like.

He continues by walking us through the notes of C-Ionian and D-Dorian. C-Ionian is the major scale, starting on C. D-Dorian uses the same notes but starts on D. They look like this (the numbers show their scale degrees):

  1 2 3 4 5 6 7
C-Ionian: C D E F G A B
D-Dorian: D E F G A B C

So, its the same notes, but we’re starting from a different place. Some people are confused about why this should sound any different, since its the same set of notes. Moir explains that although the notes are the same, their relationship with each other changes. What he means by this is that their function in the scale is different.


Coursera – FoMT Week 1 / Video 6

The 6th video for Week 1 of Fundamentals of Music Theory is a 4:15 second piece called “Primary chords and their application“. Dr. Worth begins the video by recapping that we’ve found 7 triads that we can derive from the major scale. I believe that what he’s referring to are triads with root notes started on each note of the scale. So, in C-major (C-D-E-F-G-A-B) we’d have a triad with a root of C, one with a root on D, the next on E, etc.

He says that we’re going to focus on the 3 major ones, which are C, F and G. I believe that those are major because we’re working in the key of C, and in that key, [C is the 1], [F is the 4] and [G is the 5] – which is also called a I-IV-V chord progression. In a major tonality, the 1, 4, and 5 are major.

Worth explains that these chords are important in common practice classical music, jazz, pop, rock and folk music. Their use is sometimes referred to as the “Three Chord Trick”. Yes, that does sound like a derogatory name for a musician. He then walks us through each of the three triads that we’re going to look at.

  • The C-major chord, which starts on the tonic, or 1, and is called the Tonic triad
  • The F-major chord, which starts on the 4th degree and is called the Sub-dominant triad
  • The G-major chord, which starts on the 5th degree and is called the Dominant triad

Now, these are just names. The names tell us their function in the scale they’re derived from, but I personally just think of them as the I, IV and V. This also helps me figure out which finger and fret to use to find them, based on where the tonic, or 1 is. Of course, that’s because I still use this info with one of two major scale patterns that I know.

What he says next is important to bassists and applies to most Western music: When we’re harmonizing a melody its normal to have a melodic note be a member of a chord that’s backing it. We can expect to hear a strong melody note existing in its chord.


Coursera – FoMT Week 1 / Video 5

FoMT_logoThe 5th video for Week 1 of Fundamentals of Music Theory is called “Introduction to chords“. Its about 9 1/2 mins long. Dr. Worth begins the session by explaining that with scales so far, we’ve been working sequentially, in a linear fashion, sounding one note at a time. However, its very common in music to sound multiple notes at the same time. This sounding of several notes together is called playing a chord.

My understanding of chords is that they’re the odd-numbered notes in a scale. So, if a scale has 8 notes, the chord tones are the 1, 3, 5 and 7. People also include the 8 because its the octave, making it the same as the 1. The even-numbered notes are notes in the scale, but aren’t chord tones. Also, these odd and even numbers are called scale degrees. So, the first note is the 1, the second note is the 2, and so on. I believe they also call this the Nashville Number System.

Dr. Moir jumps in to say that before we continue, we must recap the difference between the C major scale and the A Aeolian mode, or Natural Minor scale. So, C major is played using the notes C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C. That’s fairly straightforward. A Aeolian is built by playing the notes of the C major scale starting at the 6th scale degree, or the note A. So, its A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A.

The Dr.’s then proceed to play both scales on the piano while showing the note names by letter as well as tone & semi-tone formulas onscreen. The formulas show us whether to move one fret or two frets on a bass before we land on the next note in the scale/mode. For pianists, using only the white keys, the formulas reveal whether to move forward by 1 or 2 keys at a time to get to the next note.


BassMatter – Learning Modes on Bass

Here’s a great video from Ryan McClelland of BassMatter that talks about the modes of the major scale and gives examples of them all in play on the same song. Some of it around the middle and end might go over the head of people who are completely new to scales and theory, but listen through it. He shows how each of the modes relates to the C major scale (or Ionian mode) and the playthrough really shows how seamlessly they can fit into a song if they’re in the same key.

BassMatter Core Lesson #16: Learning Modes on Bass and the Power Behind Them

This is a great supplement for those of you who took Fundamentals of Music Theory from Coursera. The 4th video from Week 1 deals with the modes of the major scale, and Ryan’s video dovetails nicely into it.