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.
The 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.
Here’s something interesting that expands on basic chords. Previous posts have gone over major and minor triads, including how they’re derived from the major and minor scale, respectively. They’re the two most basic chords in Western music and are each comprised of 3 notes – the root (or 1), a variable 3rd (major or minor) and the 5th degree of the given scale. So, they’re spelled out as:
- Major triad: 1 – 3 – 5
- Minor triad: 1 – b3 – 5
There are apparently three other chords that are variations of the triads. Two of them alter the 5th chord tone, which generally remains the same in a major or minor triad (which is why the 5th is called a perfect fifth). The last one replaces the 3rd with a 4th, regardless of whether its major or minor. These triads are called the Augmented, Diminished and Suspended triads.
The 5th video for the 6th, and final, lesson of Coursera’s online Developing Your Musicianship class is the last actual lesson video. The final one for the lesson is going to be the student ensemble performance, as usual.
5. Practicing What You Know and Moving Forward (4:00)
In his final video, Professor Russell opens by thanking us for joining him on this six-week journey and sends hope that all of the information that we learned will be applicable to our musical situations. One way to do this, he says, is by continuing to practice for 15 minutes every day. So, what should we practice? His suggestion is that we take everything that we did in the key of C and transpose it to another key. He reminds us that there are 12 keys, and they we started in the key of C because there are no sharps or flats. He then shows us the G major scale and tells us that there’s one sharp in the scale: F#.
Specific items he suggests practicing include:
- The I, IV and V major & minor triads in the key of G (G, C, D)
- 7th chords for the I and IV (G Maj7, C Maj7)
- Dominant chords for the I, IV and V (G7, C7, D7)
- The 735 voicing for the dominant chords
- The minor pentatonic scale in G
Video #3 for the 6th, and final, lesson of Coursera’s online Developing Your Musicianship class reviews all of the chords that were introduced in prior lessons: the triads and 7ths.
3. Review: The Major and Minor Triad, Major 7th and Dominant 7th Chords (7:51)
Continuing from the last video, in which he spoke about the major scale, Professor Russell opens this video with, “Now, another thing we learned was a major triad and a minor triad. These were the first chords we learned and we’re going to get those chords right from the major scale.” He plays a C major scale on the piano and then explains that a major triad would consist of the root (the 1st degree of the scale), the third (3rd degree of the scale) and the fifth (5th degree of the scale). He calls what he just played the 1-chord, “because its built upon the first degree of the scale.”
He further explains that if we played the 4-chord, or 4 major triad, that it would be built on the 4th degree of the scale, which is an F (F-A-C) and the 5-chord would be built on the 5th degree of the scale – a G (G-B-D). Those three chords are called C major, F major and G major (the 1-chord, 4-chord and 5-chord in the key of C) and they’re used in a huge amount of songs.
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.”
Peer review for the second week’s homework assignment for Coursera’s Developing Your Musicianship class began today. Like before, we have to review 5 assignments by Sunday and submit them. This week’s submitted homework was short, so I did 15 tonight. Each assignment that we graded had to be assigned one of these 3 scores:
0 = Disagree
5 = Somewhat agree
10 = Agree
Along with providing a score for each question, we have the option to include a comment as well. Under each comment field, a tracker lets us know how many words were written in our response.
Lesson 2 Peer Reviews
Our task was brief this week – write out the notes of the C major triads on a treble clef. We had to include the I (tonic), IV (sub-dominant) and V (dominant), making this C-F-G. We then had to upload a picture or scan of our work.
All of the assignments I looked at got the notes on the staff right. This was probably due in part to all of the triads in the C major scale being spelled out in the 4-page study guide. Some students provided more detail than others though, including solfege names and other information.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I like the solfege a lot. Its precise, which I appreciate. I need to learn it more. I think everyone knows do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti-do, but there are other names that fit in-between these that I’ve only seen a few times and need to familiarize myself with.