Basics of Music Theory

Music theory is very important if you are going to create music, or if you just want to pass band class.

Music theory is like science, which is the study of laws. Music theory is more or less the study of the laws of music(wait, is music and science related? Who knows? Go ask your science teacher. )

Here I am going to cover the basics of music theory.

I had to rewrite this whole thing because the draft didnâ€™t saveâ€¦

1. Music Staff

This is a diagram of the music staff, which is the basis of all music:

2. Terms

Bracket

A bracket is a curved line that separates instruments into parts. For example, one bracket might incase all the instruments in the percussion section, another encases the woodwinds, brass, etc.

Treble Clef

The treble clef is usually associated with the higher notes and played on the right hand.

Bass Clef

Similar to the treble clef, this clef is associated with the lower notes and is usually played by the left hand

Time Signature

The time signature defines the length of the beats/pulses in a bar lasts. For example, the time signature 4/4 would last 4 beats, with each beat being a quarter note. A time signature of 3/2 would last 3 pulses, with each pulse being a half note. If the top number of a time signature is a multiple of 3, then it will be called a, â€śpulseâ€ť, and anything else is considered a â€śbeatâ€ť.

Bar

A bar is a time in a piece where music is played, and the length is determined by the time signature.

Barline

A barline separates 2 bars

Space

A space is located between 2 lines.

Line

A line is located in between 2 spaces.

3 Note Name

This is a diagram of the note names.

Notes will ascend and descend up and down the scale, repeating itself. For example, in this diagram, the highest note is the C on the 4th space on the treble clef. The next note would be a D, then and E, and so on. This also applies to the bass clef(but descending instead of ascending).

4 Information That You Must Know

Before you continue this tutorial, these are essential things you must know:

Each note in a scale has a different name assigned to it. For example, the tonic is the first note of the scale, and the leading ti=one is the seventh note of the scale.

You would also see vocabulary such as â€śhalf stepsâ€ť, and â€śwhole stepsâ€ť. A half step is an immediate note after or before a note, and a whole step is double that, for example:

A Key Signature is something that identifies whether a specific note is a sharp or a flat if it is on a certain line or space on the music staff:

The notes encased in the pink box is the notes affected by the key signature, as you can see with the red lines, the notes are aligned with the key signature. In this case, an A Major scale, the sharps are in the places of C E and F, so those notes will be affected by the time signature and will become sharps.

5. Scales

Next, I will be showing you a scale:

This specific scale is called the â€śC Majorâ€ť scale. The tonic note would be a C. A major scale is made by having the tonic note ascend like the following:

1. Tonic to Supertonic â†’ Whole Step
2. Supertonic to Mediant â†’ Whole Step
3. Mediant to Subdominant â†’ Whole Step
4. Subdominant to Dominant â†’ Half Step
5. Dominant to Submediant â†’ Whole step
6. Submediant to Leading Tone â†’ Whole Step
7. Leading Tone to Tonic â†’ Half Step

This is what a C Major scale would sound like.

Now, every major scale has a relative minor scale. To find the relative minor scale, you lower the tonic note my 3 half steps with the key signature staying the same:

And then this will be the minor scale(A Minor):

This is what it would sound like:

This is how you would make any minor scale:

1. Tonic to Supertonic â†’ Whole Step
2. Supertonic to Mediant â†’ Whole Step
3. Mediant to Subdominant â†’ Half Step
4. Subdominant to Dominant â†’ Whole Step
5. Dominant to Submediant â†’ Whole step
6. Submediant to Leading Tone â†’ Half Step
7. Leading Tone to Tonic â†’ Whole Step

6. Chords

Chords are the basis of all music, they are just notes that are stacked upon each other, creating harmony. All music is made out of chords, itâ€™s what gives the music its pattern and feeling. Without them, you will have a hard time creating and learning music.

There are different types of chords, with each one giving out its own feeling. You can alter that feeling by placing a different chord before or after it. Here are the sounds and diagrams of some of the basic chords, the treble clef will be the root chord(the first inversion, this will be explained later), while the bass clef will be the root note, meaning it will contain the base note of the chord:

Here are what they sound respective (in order, like in the diagram):

7. Chord Inversions

Inversions for chords are basically raising the bottommost note and putting it to the top, in this diagram, each inversion will be labelled:

This is what it would sound like:

8. What Chords Sound Good Together?

As Iâ€™ve said before, chords have their own feeling, for example, a minor chord would portray a â€śsadâ€ť feeling while a major chord will have a â€śhappyâ€ť feeling. But, what if we mix different chords up? You get a totally different feeling and message. Here are some examples of some chords that work well together:

Minor Minor 7th Chord and Major Triad:

This combination of chords gives a more â€śhappyâ€ť feeling, like dancing and having fun this is giving me some Mario vibes for some reason?.

Augmented Triad and Diminished 7th Chord:

These are 2 chords that are used so scarcely in music, because they are relatively hard to implement, but are really good for sounds that are distorted, for example, for a horror game or for suspense, can even be used to create intense music!

This is by far the best sounding chords that fit together so nicely in my opinion, it is kind of a â€śreliefâ€ť combination of chords.

There are much much more combinations that you can make, for example, dominant 7th chord and major triad, just experiment with chords and you might find one that is revolutionary.

9. Chord Progressions

Chord progressions are chords that are played next to each other, every sone has its own progression. Progressions are measured with roman numerals (I, II, III, etc.), with lowercase letters signifying minor chords and major ones are with uppercase letters for example:

And this is what it would sound like:

There are many different chord progressions out there. This chord progression shown above is one of the most used and nicest sounding chord progression, and itâ€™s probably the best chord progression to start with when making music. This is because it is relatively easy to harmonize with these chords, and it usually turns out pretty nicely.

9. Extra

If you donâ€™t fully understand this tutorial, hereâ€™s a more in-depth video that will help you:

If you have any questions about this, then feel free to reply to this thread. If there are things I got wrong, please reply or PM me(private messaging would be preferred) and tell me what I did wrong and I will be fixing this topic.

Thank you and I hope you learned something new today!

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Thanks to you, I have learned something new at piano, fun fact, my teacher never referenced this!

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Great information. I should really start looking into getting more used to sheet music. Iâ€™m a guitarist, super used to tabs. But pretty much everything still applies!

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This is an excellent guide to the basics of music theory. The only thing Iâ€™d think to possibly add is that itâ€™s usually nice (with plenty of exceptions) to end a piece on a perfect cadence, and even that is slightly more advance. But certainly I think this is enough information for somebody to make a great bop!

(For those of you who are unaware, all that means is that you go from the Dominant (Chord V) to the Tonic (Chord I) and fit the melody to that. Essentially, this means end the melody on the note of the key, and have the last chord as a chord I. Then have the Chord before that as a Chord V and fit the rest of the melody notes to that.)

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I literally learned more here about music than what I learned in 8 years at school, thanks again for your help and time to write this!

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Iâ€™ve learned more reading this than a whole year of online classes. TYSM!

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Wow, thanks for this. i took many music classs, but this taught me much more, and it is not even in my main language!

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A great resource is https://www.musictheory.net/ for anyone whoâ€™s looking to learn a bit more. I used + this learned basic music theory last summer.

edit: it also has paid apps for practicing.

This is a super well-written post OP! Thank you for creating it.

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I took piano lessons for a few years and I still learned a lot from this tutorial. People new to music composition would surely benefit from this post.

Thanks for taking your time to contribute this to our community!

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