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Learn Music Theory Now! Now!

As the title says, learn music theory now! Sorry to be bossy about that, but composers either need to understand music theory or need a musician friend who is a theory expert, ready and willing to assist you at the drop of a hat (those kind of friends are hard to find, so you’d better have some bribery money available… preferably cash).

Before tackling one of the biggest problems that students dread in music theory, here is a list of other music theory subjects of interest. You can either link to these important topics or read on after the following bullet points:

key signatures,

music intervals,

melody,

harmony,

chord voicing,

scales,

modes,

phrasing,

cadences,

music form,

instrument ranges,

music orchestration,

music ensembles,


music terms.

The biggest problem that my past students have trouble with in theory is the concept of time and rhythm. Without going into exhaustive detail with respect to this large topic, here are some of the main components of rhythm that a musician should become familiar with:

• beats and pulses;

• measures and barlines;

• time signatures, both simple and compound;

• note values, both individually and relative to other different note values;

• rest values;

• commonly used rhythms;

• tempo names in different languages;

 
I’ll go through the above points quickly as an overview. Beats and pulses are generally interchangeable terms in music. Your heart rate is a beat. The faster the music is, the faster the beat is.

Measures divide music into segments. In a waltz, for example, you may find yourself able to count the beat of the waltz as such: one, two, three, one, two, three…). Thus, the waltz has three beats per measure. Vertical lines called barlines divide measures.

Time signatures are represented like a fraction, but without the horizontal line separating the numerator and the denominator. A time signature appears just after the key signature, on the left hand side of the first line of a piece. The numerator signifies the amount of beats in a measure (three for the waltz). The denominator symbolizes the type of beat (usually a quarter note in a waltz). As a final note with respect to time signatures, the difference between simple and compound time lies in the numerator; compound time always has a numerator of six, nine or twelve.

Here are commonly used note value names: whole, dotted half, half, quarter, eighth and sixteenth. The whole, dotted half and half note have durations of four, three and two quarter notes each, respectively. The eighth and sixteenth notes are twice, and four times as fast as a quarter note respectively.

Rests are symbols that represent silence. Sometimes a composer wants an instrument not to play, or take a temporary break from sound in a passage of music. In these cases, rests are used instead of notes.

Many commonly used rhythms add up to a quarter note. Keeping in mind that four sixteenth notes are equal to a quarter note, here are various rhythms, all of which add up to a quarter note beat.

• a dotted eighth, followed by a sixteenth;

• a sixteenth, followed by a dotted eighth;

• an eighth, followed by two sixteenths;

• two sixteenths, followed by an eighth;

• a sixteenth, followed by an eighth, followed by a sixteenth;

• a triplet of eighth notes;

I know, I know! I haven’t actually explained what a dotted eighth is. Then again, I haven’t talked about what a dot in music represents. A dot that is placed to the right of a note is worth half of the value of the note that it follows. The other mystery term in the above bullets is the triplet. Simply put, triplets of eighth notes are equal to two eighth notes in duration. A triplet is simply a composers way of trying to squish three notes into a quarter beat instead of two.

Tempo, an expression and other routine musical instruction, are often expressed in Italian, French, German and English. Of the four, Italian is the most predominant. Any musical term can be googled or a music dictionary would suffice; preferably Dan and Joe’s Piano-Ictionary, available as a bonus at www.pianolessons101.com

Here's an chart that notates and explains some of what has been addressed in this page:


 




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Piano Music | Chamber Classical Music | Inspirational Orchestral Music | Classical Composers | Name That Music | Free Composition and Piano Lessons | Piano Music Notes | Learn Music Theory | Finale Music Writing Software | Composing Music to Films | Writing Classical Score | List of Instruments | Music Sound Recording Studios | Multitrack Recording Process | Music Mixing Advice