27 September 2007
This resource is a short video designed to illustrate how two systems interact in the music theory. The goal of this resource (and the others from this contributor) is to help you avoid areas of confusion which can impede (slow down) or prevent the learning process. Not to mention that confusion is generally painful and not what we want. We want this to be fun and educational.
Many people get confused at this beginning point in the music theory education because they must be able to understand that while there are 12 (twelve) notes in a "chromatic" scale, there are only 7 (seven) notes in a "diatonic" scale. It may be helpful to think of the chromatic scale as the foundation of a house upon which a diatonic scale is built according to a formula.
The term "diatonic" means of the "key" or conforming to the rules of the "key" (the term "key" will be addressed a little further on in this description.
If you look at a piano keyboard, you will see black keys and white keys. The arrangement of these keys reveal the structures we are introducing here, but they are not necessarily self-evident.
People are smart and many have become great players without the ability to read the notational system for music or having any understanding of the theory. Some people learn how to read music, but struggle to improvise beyond the notes that are written down (called the notational system). These resources are for those who wish to understand the theories.
There is a basic order of notes which are named from the alphabet,
A B C D E F G ,
BUT there are only seven note names. This aspect immediately may cause confusion because these seven names must be "fitted" into place on top of twelve units, which are known as "steps". The black keys on the piano keyboard represent how this aspect (beginning to build on the foundation) is accomplished. The black keys are called "accidentals" and have symbols applied to them which are known as sharps and flats, which symbols are applied to the seven alphabetical note names. A sharp raises the note name by one-half step. A flat lowers the note name by one-half step. These terms refer (and conform) to the direction of movement from one note to another and theoretically lead to "keys"(here again a possible confusion as the "key" of a song is not the same as the "key" on a piano or guitar keyboard and certainly not the same as a "key" used in a lock), "chords" and "progressions", all of which are derived from the scale.
It may also be helpful to differentiate the materials discussed here,( music theory ), from music styles. There are many styles of music, and many grow out of these basic elements. There are also many other music styles and systems indigenous to cultures around the world. This discussion is about the elements of classical and popular music (theories) of the Western world, Europe and America. Again, not styles, not aesthetics. The elements presented here are names and numbers which have been applied to frequencies of vibration known as sound. Consequently, there is no opinion involved in this matter, (other than whether this contributor's approach is of any value compared to the wealth of the same information you may find elsewhere if you know how and where to look).
The term "chromatic" means proceeding step by step and in this introductory case there are 12 (twelve) steps in a chromatic scale. The distance (this is called an "interval") between each step is called one-half (1/2) step and this can be another area of confusion (as humans, we walk step by step, in music each step in sequence is actually one-half step). One whole step is equal to two half steps. The definition of the whole (1) step is derived from the formula for a major scale (which is also a diatonic scale).
The formula for a major scale is
1 + 1 + 1/2 + 1 + 1 + 1 + 1/2 .
The numbers in the formula refer to the counting of "steps". 1 = one whole step, 1/2 = one-half step. In order to avoid confusion with the numbers, convention has applied roman numerals to these 7 (seven) diatonic "steps" since the 11th century A.D. when Guido Aretinus created the notational system for music (how it is written down). The notational system for written music is yet again another system, so you may see that there are several inter-related systems operating at once.
The resource presented here in the form of a short video may give you a brief over-view of what all these words are trying to convey to you, which is,
if at first, it may seem confusing. Usually, as in this contributor's experience, the playing of music is taught with the notational system and no mention of the theoretical aspects (addressed here) is made. This contributor was taught to play a clarinet at age seven, and did not discover the theory until age 14. Maybe it took about 25 years of practice and study to fully grasp the entirety of it and the learning never stops.
In case the whimsical nature of the video is not clear, the scale proceeds from the bottom left of the container in a counterclockwise direction.
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