Music Theory For Dummies
eBook - ePub

Music Theory For Dummies

Michael Pilhofer, Holly Day

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eBook - ePub

Music Theory For Dummies

Michael Pilhofer, Holly Day

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About This Book

Tune in to how music really works

Whether you're a student, a performer, or simply a fan, this book makes music theory easy, providing you with a friendly guide to the concepts, artistry, and technical mastery that underlie the production of great music. You'll quickly become fluent in the fundamentals of knocking out beats, reading scores, and anticipating where a piece should go, giving you a deeper perspective on the works of others —and bringing an extra dimension to your own.

Tracking to a typical college-level course, Music Theory For Dummies breaks difficult concepts down to manageable chunks and takes into account every aspect of musical production and appreciation —from the fundamentals of notes and scales to the complexities of expression and instrument tone color. It also examines the latest teaching techniques —all the more important as the study of music, now shown to provide cognitive and learning benefits for both children and adults, becomes more prevalent at all levels.

  • Master major and minor scales, intervals, pitches, and clefs
  • Understand basic notation, time signals, tempo, dynamics, and navigation
  • Employ melodies, chords, progressions, and phrases to form music
  • Compose harmonies and accompanying melodies for voice and instruments

Wherever you want to go musically —as a writer or performer, or just as someone who wants to enjoy music to its fullest — this approachable guide gives you everything you need to hear!

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For Dummies
Part 1

Getting Started with Music Theory

Get to know music theory basics.
Understand notes and rests.
Read time signatures.
Figure out beat patterns and rhythms.
Chapter 1

What Is Music Theory, Anyway?

Checking out a bit of music history
Getting to know the basics of music theory
Finding out how theory can affect your playing
One of the most important things to remember about music theory is that music came first. Music existed for thousands of years before theory came along to explain what people were trying to accomplish when pounding on their drums. So don’t ever think that you can’t be a good musician just because you’ve never taken a theory class. In fact, if you are a good musician, you likely already know a lot of theory. You simply may not know the terminology or technicalities.
The concepts and rules that make up music theory are much like the grammatical rules that govern written language (which also came along after people had successfully discovered how to talk to one another). Just as being able to transcribe language made it possible for people far away to “hear” conversations and stories the way the author intended, being able to transcribe music allows musicians to read and play compositions exactly as the composer intended. Learning to read music is a lot like learning a new language, to the point where a fluent person can “hear” a musical “conversation” when reading a piece of sheet music.
Plenty of people in the world can’t read or write, but they can still communicate their thoughts and feelings verbally just fine. In the same way, plenty of intuitive, self-taught musicians have never learned to read or write music and find the whole idea of learning music theory tedious and unnecessary. However, just like the educational leaps that can come with learning to read and write, music theory can help musicians master new techniques, perform unfamiliar styles of music, and develop the confidence they need to try new things.

Unearthing Music Theory’s Beginnings

From what historians can tell, by the time the ancient world was beginning to establish itself — approximately 7000 B.C. — musical instruments had already achieved a complexity in design that would be carried all the way into the present. For example, some of the bone flutes found from that time period are still playable, and short performances have been recorded on them for modern listeners to hear.
Similarly, pictographs and funerary ornaments have shown that by 3500 B.C., Egyptians were using harps as well as double-reed clarinets, lyres, and their own version of the flute. By 1500 B.C., the Hittites of northern Syria had modified the traditional Egyptian lute/harp design and invented the first two-stringed guitar, with a long, fretted neck, tuning pegs at the top of the neck, and a hollow soundboard to amplify the sound of the strings being plucked.
A lot of unanswered questions remain about ancient music, such as why so many different cultures came up with so many of the same tonal qualities in their music completely independent of one another. Many theorists have concluded that certain patterns of notes just sound right to listeners, and certain other patterns don’t. Music theory, then, very simply, could be defined as a search for how and why music sounds right or wrong. In other words, the purpose of music theory is to explain why something sounded the way it did and how that sound can be made again.
Many people consider ancient Greece to be the actual birthplace of music theory, because the ancient Greeks started entire schools of philosophy and science built around dissecting every aspect of music that was known then. Even Pythagoras (the triangle guy) got into the act by creating the 12-pitch octave scale similar to the one that musicians and composers still use today (see Chapter 7). He did this via the first Circle of Fifths (see Chapter 8), a device still religiously used by musicians from all walks of life.
Another famous Greek scientist and philosopher, Aristotle, is responsible for many books about music theory. He began a rudimentary form of music notation that remained in use in Greece and subsequent cultures for nearly a thousand years after his death.
In fact, so much music theory groundwork was laid in ancient Greece that substantial changes didn’t seem necessary until the European Renaissance nearly 2,000 years later. Neighbors and conquerors of Greece were all more than happy to incorporate Greek math, science, philosophy, art, literature, and music into their own cultures.

Putting the Spotlight on Music Theory Fundamentals

While it would be nice to be one of those people who can sit at any instrument and play beautiful music without any tr...

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