Music Theory is Fun and Helpful

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This topic contains 27 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by cricket cricket 5 months ago.

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  • #62188
    fiddliferous1950
    fiddliferous1950
    Participant

    I started out very young reading music for piano. Do Re Mi, See Spot Run….that kinda stuff. I learned these little diddies that helped me remember the lines of the treble staff.

    Each line represented a musical note. the lowest was E, next was G, then B, then D and the F. My mother taught me to remember this phrase: “Every Good Boy Does Fine”. When I would look at the staff and see a note on the middle line I would recite “Every Good Boy” and stop right there because I knew that was a “B” note.

    For the spaces on the staff the lowest space (between E and G lines) was F, followed by A, then C and then E. This spelled “FACE”…easy to remember. So I knew that an E above an E on a line would be an E on a space and so on.

    Notes that are lower in pitch than the E on the first line are placed on “ledger lines”. The next lowest line below the E is a C, then an A for the second lowest ledger line. The space below that 2nd ledger line is an open G string on the fiddle. No need to learn any notes lower than this one. Phew!

    Identifying where these lines and spaces are on the fiddle fingerboard obviously would be next order of business and then practicing finding the written music notes on the fingerboard for fifteen minutes a day would see an incredible improvement in a very short time.

    If one were to spend 10 minutes a day studying music theory, the world of music would open up so much more clearly and the enjoyment of playing would be so much more rewarding.

    Learning sharps was easy, too. “Fat Cows Go Down An Easy Bank”. Flats were: “Be Earnest And Don’t Get Cold Feet”. The key of A has 3 sharps “Fat Cows Go”..F C G sharps. Etc….

    #62189

    Fayew3
    Participant

    I agree! I learned in band (clarinet) and that truly set me for life. I added in the bass clef (All cows eat grass) when I learned piano. Within the past two days, my brain has started to translate the notes I already know to the tabs. That means one day, I’ll remove the tabs because the notes for fiddle will be in my heart and fingers.

    I think it’s a great tool, but also training your ear and heart to listen is also a great thing.

    Thank you for these words to think on.   😀

     

    #62190
    Steve Srader
    Steve Srader
    Participant

    Fred thank You for this , I will use it , I have bought three books for dummies on notation but they all confuse me  , I am more of a monkey see monkey do kind of guy so videos are better for me , One of my goals for this year is to learn notation !

    #62191
    cricket
    cricket
    Participant

    That’s good stuff.  I learned it, too, but really can’t use it except to learn how something goes and then still have to play it by ear.  I can’t seem to read music and play something, same with tabs.  But I do like music theory…I learned quite a bit doing the opera with my daughter, like figured bass, ostinato bass, etc., used in the early Baroque days.  I wouldn’t have underwtood it much without having played the guitar..because to me, seems learning your way around on the guitar will open up the world of chord progressions, chord inversions, chord substitutions, harmonies, rhythms, etc.  Of course, I’m sure some folks feel the same about learning the piano, if not moreso.  But for me…guitar was the key to understanding a lot of what I do get about the workings of music.  Either way…I think learning some music theory is fun and helpful for playing any instruments.

    #62210
    fiddliferous1950
    fiddliferous1950
    Participant

    Yes, Fayew3, I remember the bass clef spaces as “All Cows Eat Grass”. I also remember the bass clef lines as “Good Boys Do Fine Always”.

    Steve, learning notation will help you immensely with developing a wider range of knowledge on the fiddle and how to apply it in a meaningful way. Having a background in theory will assist everything you do in music. I’m sure of it.

    Cricket, I remember transferring chords from the guitar to the piano and learning a great deal from the exercise. For example, I would take an E chord on the guitar and figure out the notes from the sixth string all the way over to the 1st string: E B E G# B E. Then I would take my left hand and make the chord E B E on the piano and my right hand and make this chord: G# B E. I then went on to realize that the right hand was playing a first inversion of a root E chord….etc., etc…. so I realized that if the melody note was a G#, I could voice the chord in such a way that the G# either showed up at the top or the bottom depending on how I wanted to voice it….

    #62213
    cricket
    cricket
    Participant

    Did you ever see the CAGE guitar system?  I recently heard of it, I mean, within the past ten years or so…so I never used it because I played too long and it was stuff I just realized by trial and error over the years…but I think it’s a very ingenious … the way somebody parsed out the chord inversions and relationships, placement, etc., on the guitar fretboard.  I would try to link it now, but there are lots of them out there to sort through and my battery thing is red again…lol…almost gone.  But to me, that system is very enlightening about just how chords work on the guitar at least…it might be boring for anybody coming from a different perspective.

    #62216
    fiddliferous1950
    fiddliferous1950
    Participant

    I remember reading about it years ago but have long since forgotten what it’s all about except changing chord shapes to configure an inversion while still keeping the root note in place.

    I just looked it up and it all came back to me. CAGED shapes for each chord you choose.

    As I’m sure you’re aware, it’s a similar thing for any stringed instrument, too.

    #62217
    cricket
    cricket
    Participant

    oops…I left the D off the end…CAGED.  I’ve been wracking my brains since i started playing the fiddle trying to envision similar things, but I can’t find what I’m looking for and it’s hard to put into words.  I’ve discussed it with John a little here and there…I can’t verbalize what I’m thinking though…and can’t find info on it either.  ONe day I should video the questions with fiddle in my hand.  Another thing, though, is i spend so much time in cross tunings…then, my questions relate to GDAE tuning.  I realize a lot of things, but there are “off fingerboard” components, kinda intangible things, that I need to envision and can’t havve any luck either asking the question or finding the answer…lol.

    #62245

    John Cockman
    Keymaster

    Fred, that’s the way I learned it too!

    #62253
    fiddliferous1950
    fiddliferous1950
    Participant

    Cricket, as I’m sure you’re aware, there is a similar system for the CAGED system for double stops on the fiddle. I wish I had my music computer here (it’s in NY) because I have it all written out.

    But here’s a quick overview: Take for example the C chord using various double stops. The first one might be the open “G” (4th string) and the “E” note on the 3rd string. Although the root note “C” is not present, this 2nd inversion (omit C) is useful as a C chord; can be found in an E minor chord, an A7 chord, etc.

    Next, take the C note stopped on the 4th string and the E note stopped on the third string. These notes (C & E) are also found in the A minor and A minor 7 chord, D7-9, C augmented (add G#) and a host of other passing chords, etc. These two examples show just a smidgeon of what’s available with just two chord shapes and as you know there are literally hundreds of them. 🙂

    That’s why music theory is so much fun to me.

    #62254
    cricket
    cricket
    Participant

    Thank you, Fred…I’m afraid you sorta lost me, though…lol…I don’t know the names of the notes once you stop them, but I think I get the gist…tell me if I’m right…but the “shape” of the C stop, moved up a string, becomes a G stop.  And same with moving those up or down, or same with other shapes.  Is that right?   We discussed that here some, very helpful…but…here goes my inability to even verbalize or even understnd my question…I guess on the guitar I have some kinda vision of what’s hppening away from the strings…imaginary spots left by no strings, but logically following what strings are there.  Probably makes no sense at all…lol.  Maybe having learned so young, I got some kind of crazy idea like that in my head that eventually made me feel comfortable in my understanding of the guitar fretboard…I’m searching for the same idea on the fiddle…like, there are 4 strings, perfect fifths apart…what completes the idea by not being there?  lol…maybe CAGED doesn’t tell that for guitar players either…it’s jut my thinking…I need to understand it in that way … it’s weird.

    #62303
    fiddliferous1950
    fiddliferous1950
    Participant

    Yes, Cricket, the answer to your first question above is yes.

    #62312
    cricket
    cricket
    Participant

    Ok…well one of these days I’m gonna find a way to make my other question comprehensible, or communicable.

    #62316
    fiddliferous1950
    fiddliferous1950
    Participant

    Cricket, if you think about this, maybe it will make sense:

    Take the 4th and 3rd strings (G & D). Build a G major scale beginning with the open G then stop the G string 1 whole tone up from the open G at the A note. Now stop the G string up two hole notes up from the open G string at the B note. Now move up 1/2 step to the C note. Now copy those steps exactly on the D string (D, E F# and G). Notice that the G scale has one sharp, an F#.

    Now take the D string and the A string and build an exact replica of the G and D strings by just moving over a pair of open strings. The scale you will build here will be a D scale. Notice it is played exactly like the previous scale with the same fingering, but notice that there are two sharps being played…an F# and a C#.

    The next pair of strings (A and E) has three sharps for the key of A…F# C# and G#.

    An Ab scale mimics an Eb scale in the same manner, etc.

    Once you learn these different scale shapes, they act a lot like the CAGED guitar exercises.

    Hope this helps..not trying to speak Greek. lol

    #62326
    cricket
    cricket
    Participant

    I don’t know where the notes are…lol.  That’s kinda hard for me to figure out.  Here’s my question…you have, on the fiddle, low  string (G), perfect fifth up (D), perfect fifth up (A), perfect fifth up (E).  Now, in my mind…I have to keep going…imaginary string number one (B), imaginary string number two (F), C, and then you are up to cello strings or viola strings.  Now, in my thinking, the imagiinary strings that continue on out from the real strings hold the key to how it all works…like if you made a C double stop on the middle two strings, then go up a string and you have G…now, the same shape D double stop, with two fingers close together on two strings, goes up to the third stop…and move that up a string to make A double stop…so, in my mind…I keep grappling about for imaginary connectors so that all of this ties together by what’s NOT on the fingerboard.  Somehow, as a kid teaching myself folk guitar, just plain old playing…I came to think the backwards fiddle tuned strings, EADG, a B, one of my fiddle imaginary strings, and back to E, but upsidedown perfect fifths, except for that B pulled out of the sky…I came to realize how smart somebody was to come up with that tuning…what all happens along the fretboard and in the imaginary parts not there that tie it all up.  It makes no sense…I know…but I’m always looking for that in the fiddle realm, and cello, viola, too.  I almost can’t even think it…let alone talk it…but it’s what i’m looking for.  Like, if you had more than 4 strings…what would they be tuned like…and how would the patterns of double stops then make sense, if you could see what wasn’t there.  I can’t even talk about it…lol.  My weird thought that helped me learn guitar as a kid…I guess I keep hoping i’ll find something similar in the fiddle.

    #62337
    fiddliferous1950
    fiddliferous1950
    Participant

    I used to tell my students “you can’t dig ‘half a hole’ but you can ‘halve a whole'”. Then I would go on to explain that a major scale is built by “two wholes and a half followed by three wholes and a half”. For example G to A is a whole, A to B is a whole, B to C is a half; and C to D is a whole, D to E is a whole, E to F# is a whole and F# to G is a half.

    The D scale is built the same way: D E F# G A B C# D; and the A scale is built the same way: A B C# D E F# G# A.

    Building a scale with flats is easy, too. Take for example an A Flat scale: Ab to Bb is a whole, Bb to C is a whole, now we need a half step so we go from C to Db, now we need a whole step so we go from Db to Eb then we need another whole step so we go to F then another whole step from F to G and then a half step to complete the scale up from G to Ab.

    Simply committing to the memory the saying “Two wholes and a half, Three wholes and a half” creates the ability for one to remember how to build all the major scales.

    In your imaginary strings above, you’re right with the B, but the F is really an F# and the C is really a C#. This is because of the examples I just made with the saying of whole steps and half steps.

    #62340
    cricket
    cricket
    Participant

    Thanks for correcting me on that, Fred…C#…I wasn’t thinking in that way, I guess.  Gotta get it right…lol.  But whatever the names of the notes on the strings…I still have to find a way to envision the missing links, in order to get the feel of the fingerboard.  I learned guitar by interval…I never was good with notes, but, apparently not that many people learned it that way…people I knew usually just said, the V note, or V chord, or II chord or note, or whatever…but when I was in the band I began to realize that’s not how most people think of it.  I still have a lot of trouble thinking in terms of notes…for whatever reason.  Anyway…the idea that there are imaginary strings set at logical intervals apart, to match the real strings and their intervals…maybe i’m just kinda wacko…lol…but that’s how I learned to feel comfortable (though not as good as I oughta be) on the guitar. And I’m grappling about on the fiddle for the same vision of how it all fits together.  To me, whoever came up with the guitar tuning was an absolute genuis…that’s a crazy way to tune…but it can do so much, so easy.  Lots of people like alternate tunings on guitar especially in Hawaii and around there, but I’m so hung up on the possibilities in standard on guitar I never felt the inclination to go to other tunings.  Opposite on the fiddle…there was a time I thought GDGD was standard tuning…lol.  I guess I still think THAT way, so GDAE, or down one for the viola and cello…is still foreign to me…my vision isn’t with it enough.  Like I said before, I can’t really find how to say it…it’s a vision of what’s not there, but would be if you put it there…kept going with endless strings…it makes things work out for me.  Maybe I just need the looney bin…lol.  I’ve never made anybody else understand my thinking on this.  Bad sign, hey?  I think that means yer just nuts…hope not.

    #62341
    fiddliferous1950
    fiddliferous1950
    Participant

    I think it’s genius the way a fiddle is tuned, too. We only have our index, middle, ring and pinky to work with and everyone knows how weak the pinky is. So, the scale starts on an open string and uses the index for the 2nd note, the middle for the 3rd note, the ring for the 4th note and rather than use that weak old pinky, it’s off to the next open string for the 5th note (strings tuned in 5ths, yahoo!) and then the index is used again for the 6th note, then the 7th note is stopped by the middle and the scale is completed by the 8th note being stopped by the ring finger. Now that, too is genius. lol.

    The pinky comes in real handy for unison notes and for other positions, scales, etc.

    For example, the Ab scale. The Ab is the first 1/2 step on the G string played with the index. The next note is the Bb played with the middle. The next is the C note played with the ring. And now….wait for it…the pinky has to play the Db. Then we jump to the next string and 1/2 step up from the open string (1 whole step from the Db) we play the Eb with our index finger. Then another whole step up we play the F note with our middle finger and then another whole step we play the G note with our ring finger and finish this scale off with a 1/2 tone step to the Ab with our…wait for it…pinky!

    #62344
    cricket
    cricket
    Participant

    Agh…I keep getting lost in all the notes…I can’t ever make sense of it…lol.  Scales don’t speak to me either, although I know they are there. Modes make more sense to me, but not if anybody calls out their notes…just intervals…sounds.  Anyway…yes, I’m sure what you say is absolutely right on…and you’ve discovered that-what-makes-it-genius, the fiddle tuning (not to mention you’re extensive knowing of the piano keyboard secrets and treasures)…I hope someday to figure it out enough to at least get the comfort level going I have with the guitar…and hopefully improve my playing some too…but the awesomeness, to know of that, I think, helps a person play better, just knowing the awesome realm of musical possibilities lying there on your fingerboard, in waiting…that’s so cool.  It’s like a special relationship a person can get with their instrument.

    #62345
    Steve Srader
    Steve Srader
    Participant

    Something to ponder , If you could no longer Speak , Because your voice was gone forever , You probably could learn to speak through a stringed  instrument using all the combinations of sounds possible ?

    #62354
    cricket
    cricket
    Participant

    Yes…I think so Steve.  What do you think?  That’s a very interesting idea. Have you ever just closed your eyes playing…?  Not the same thing…but blind musicians concentrate on the music better by not being distracted visually…totally different topic, I realize, but the whole thing is how well do we communicate through our playing?

    #62365
    cricket
    cricket
    Participant

    This is a great thread…thanks, Fred.

    #62368
    Steve Srader
    Steve Srader
    Participant

    My Mothers older Sister became blind by the time She was fiftyish , She could tell by your foot steps who you were before you even had a chance to speak , So being blind strengthens you hearing , she could hear the slightest movement or sound , there was no sneaking up on her ! lol

    #62376
    cricket
    cricket
    Participant

    I’ve heard some blind people can tell how crowded or empty a room is when they enter…makes sense.  There’s probably a lot of stuff people could do if one sense was dysfunctional…but, we function best intact, or as close as we can be to intact.  We met Doc Watson once back stage and it made me nervous to approach him…I was saying stuff before we got up there because he was putting his guitar in the case and I had no way of knowing if he was ready for us…lol.  We weren’t supposed to be back there…my daughter had bought tickets for me for Mother’s Day and then grabbed my hand and practiacally dragged me back to his backstage tent after his concert.  I guess we coulda gotten in trouble…she was only a teenager and she knew I’d love to meet him.  He was very nice.  But it seemd to me he didn’t know we were approaching …which is why I started jabbering right away like an idiot as we got inside his tent…lol.

    #62382
    fiddliferous1950
    fiddliferous1950
    Participant

    You’re welcome Cricket. Here’s some more fun with those dreaded “notes” you’re talking about.

    Staying with the subject of building a major scale let’s remember my little adage “Two Wholes a Half, Three Wholes a Half”.

    Look how easy it is to build a seemingly difficult scale such as one with say five sharps. We start with the root note of B.

    Once we play the B note we need to move up a whole step, so a half step would be the C natural note but we need a whole step so we have to raise this C to a C# in order to use a whole step. Now a whole step from this note would be a D# (not a D, that would only be a 1/2 step).

    Now it’s time for the 1/2 step because we’ve already used two whole steps to get to the D#. A 1/2 step from D# is the note E. So far we’ve played the notes B, C#, D# and E. Now we go to the second half of the adage “……Three Wholes and a Half”.

    So we have to move a whole step from the E (F would only be a 1/2 step) so we go to F#. Now another whole step from F# would be G# and another whole step from G# would be A# and a 1/2 step would be the note B…and we’re done building a scale with 5 sharps. (C# D# F# G# A#).

    If, at a jam session, someone plays a tune in B Major (with 5 sharps) we know what notes will need to be “sharped” when we play them on our instrument of choice.

    Knowing this type of theory helps so much to advance in playing music in a jam where you might be unfamiliar with a given tune.

    #62383
    cricket
    cricket
    Participant

    And for some crazy reason…they love to play in B at Bluegrass jams…lol.  Apparently it’s a good singing key.  I’ve had a hard time keeping up in B.

    #62397
    fiddliferous1950
    fiddliferous1950
    Participant

    When I was young – early twenties – singing in the key of B was not a problem at all, including high tenor. Now I’m lucky if I don’t have a coughing fit in the key of G on the melody line! lol.

    #62399
    cricket
    cricket
    Participant

    Us baby boomers turned into a buncha old people, didn’t we?  Lol…how’d that happen?  Well, back in the sixites or seventies when we’d all play, we didn’t know what key we might really be in, because nobody had tuners…we just all tuned up to somebody else and called it G, or whatever…played our G or D or whatever chords and licks and things.  I got a tuning fork that’s a 440 A that i used for playing the hymns in church…just so we’d stay in the right vicinity…I have had it for decades now and came up here and always played alone up here…at first I had a few gigs that the univeristy archivist got for me, when we first moved up here.  He was big into Kentucky music and had connections around, so I got to play my old ballads, etc., for various little things around here.  I used my tuning fork to know where I was. Anyway, NKU got very snippity and they fired him, he was the one who started their archives and even helped start up that university…but they got so weird acting and fired him as archivist…so…there went my gigs.  Once when a steamboat celebration came they had lots of openings for local unknown musicians, so my daughter and I got a little spot and we made CDs to sell at it…(sold 4 out of 200 we made…whoo-hooo…what a hit that was…lol)…anyway, the recording guy at the little local recording studio where we got our CD made set down this thing…strange thing I had never seen in my life…an electronic tuner…bigger than the ones people have now that clip onto their instrument…this was back around soemtime in the 90s…old fashioned days, ya know…lol…remember that, the 90s?  ANyhow, he set that down in front of me when he was setting up the mics and stuff, and I’m like…”What in the world is that thing?”  He thought I was amazingly stupid…I did’t use it.  I think I forgot my tuning fork that night too…so who knows how we were tuned…lol.  It never mattered to me, though.  Anyhow, once i got into the bluegrass scene here for three or four years, everybody had those tuners clipped onto their instruments…I would always just pull out my 440 tuning fork…that works better.  I tried to tell our band guy I don’t like tuning each individual string to a tuner, because then when you play chords, on guitar…the strings don’t sound in tune to me…I like to tune one string, then play chords to get the other strings sounding right…to my ear, anyway.  But…well, they all think a tuning fork is nutszo…but it’s just how I’ve always done it and I’m not seeing any reason to change at this point.  I’m an old baby boomer now set in my ways.  i learned things by interval, and that’s just still the only way I know to do things or envision the things I’m trying to play…I guess there ain’t no changin’ gonna happen with me an that kinda stuff.

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