As some of you may know, Music Theory (the explanations and meanings about how music works, and the science and notations that explain it) really interests me. In college, music theory was somewhat of a challenge to me. Because it was such a challenge to me, I ended up taking more of an interest in it after college. I see now how vital this knowledge is for young musicians. I have grown passionate about incorporating music theory into every lesson I teach. No matter what age or level of my students, I try to include theory. To be a fully engaged and educated musician, it is important to understand the language of music. Understanding theory helps one relate to other instrumentalists in any genre or style. It can be so easy to fall into the trap of ‘I’m learning the violin’, and then only think about playing the instrument. In reality, being an instrumentalist is just one part of being a musician. Yes, you need to learn the intricacies of your instrument. But what about rhythm, scales, intervals, harmonies, chords, vocabulary, ear training and notation?
Recently I have found some more great resources to use during lessons. If you have questions about them, please let me know.
For me, there will always be more to learn. This is somewhat intimidating, but also exciting!
Happy Thursday everyone!!
Circle of 5ths
In Western music, a chromatic scale is the pattern of 12 notes spanning one octave. Each note is separated by a half step, or semitone. The Circle of Fifths is a diagram that displays these 12 notes of a full chromatic scale. If the circle of 5ths is memorized and understood fully, it can be a powerful tool to help any musician know the key signatures of relative major and minor scales. In violin lessons, this is something I encourage my students to learn. Whether trained in classical, jazz, folk, or other styles of music, this knowledge would be helpful to any musician.
Happy Theory Thursday! Have fun memorizing you Circle of 5ths.
DOUBLE STOP: Playing two notes at once on a stringed/bowed instrument.
*One of the first recorded printings of double stop notation is credited to Carlo Farina in his work Capriccio Stravagante from 1627. That's 389 years ago, or 15 generations ago. Maybe your great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents knew Carlo! (that's 13 greats). You can try to find out. He was born in Mantua Northern Italy.
Capriccio (italian): usually fairly free in form and of a lively character.
Stravagante (italian): eccentric or outlandish
Happy Theory Thursday!
In my past 'Theory Thursday' blogs I have talked a bit about the physics of sound. The below video is a great expansion upon that topic! If you are interested in the physics of sound, nodes, antinodes, and learning more about harmonics be sure to watch this great explanation from Patreon's 'Crash Course' Series. They have a few other videos about the physics of sound as well.
Have a great day!
Modes, Scale Degrees, and Ratios in Western Music
Pythagoras, an ancient greek philosopher and mathematician, discovered that music could be expressed in perfect numerical ratios. He believed music could unlock the unseen order and harmony existing in nature through the use of these perfect ratios. He is known as the Father of Mathematics, of Geometry, of Music, and of Philosophy. Important guy I think!
1.) Modes: In Western Music, a mode is a a type of scale with a certain set pattern. It is inspired by Pythagoras’ theory. For example: there are 5 major modes named after Ancient Greek subgroups: Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian. I may explain these in more detail later, but for now, just know they are each a set pattern of 7 notes including 5 whole steps and 2 half steps, called diatonic scales. Each one is a different pattern. The Ionian mode is very familiar to us: it is the scale from The Sound of Music- Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Ti Do , a Major Scale.
2.) Scale degrees:To establish order and understand theory, names and numbers are given to each note in these diatonic scales.
7- leading tone (sometimes subtonic)
So continuing with The Sound of Music:
Do-tonic, Re-super tonic, Mi-mediant, Fa-sub dominant, Sol-dominant, La-sub mediant, Ti- leading tone (sometimes subtonic), and 8(1)-tonic again.
*Octave (Do to Do, 1-8) has a ratio of 2:1
*Perfect 5th (Do to Sol, 1-5) 3:2
*Perfect 4th (Do to Fa, 1-4) 4:3
Very thought provoking, isn't it? Math is everywhere, there is order amidst what may seem to be chaos, and music has the ability to unlock the harmony in this world.
The vibrations of sound are measured in cycles per second. The unit to measure sound is called Hertz (Hz). This has no relation to Hertz car rental by the way... ;)
The human ear can register 20 to 20,000 Hz. This changes as we age. The violin's range is about 220 Hz to around 3,500 Hz. In orchestra, we tune to A 440 Hz. The image below shows a sine wave of A 440 Hz and then the A an octave above it.
Below are some interesting videos you should check out. More proof for how much of an impact sound, music, and this form of energy have on our daily lives. Music can move you! Literally.
**Ferrets have one of the lowest Hz wave frequency ranges of hearing (as low as 10 Hz). They have a strong ability to sense and map the direction of where a sound came from. Bottlenose dolphins have some of the highest frequency ranges of hearing (going above 150,000 Hzs. That is 7 times more sensitive than the human ear). These animals can hear things humans are incapable of. That is pretty cool!
**The term Hertz was named after Heinrich Hertz, a German physicist who proved the existence of electromagnetic waves.
Below is a link that illustrates different instrument ranges. Can you find the violin?
What to learn even more about the physics of sound?
Have fun exploring the science of sound waves!
Have you ever wondered what the intricate symbols in front of music are? You have probably seen them. There are actually a few different symbols. They are called Clefs.
-Clef is a French term for ‘key’.
-A clef indicates the pitch of the note heads on the Staff (the 5 ledger lines on your sheet music).
In the picture below I have included the three clefs used in string orchestras.
So why are there different clefs you may ask....
I am glad you asked! It is for different ranges. The violin for instance is tuned in a higher range, the viola is in a middle range, and the cello and double bass are in lower ranges.
-The Treble Clef is also called the G Clef:
its circular swirl encircles the G above middle C on the piano.
-The Alto Clef is also called the C Clef:
its two curves meet at middle C.
-The Bass Cleff is also called the F Clef:
its two dots encircle F below middle C.
The different clefs help the notation to remain more centralized within the staff.
Middle C or C4 in scientific pitch notation is the 4th C on a standard 88 key piano keyboard.
On the piano, two clefs are used on every page of sheet music. This is called the grand staff.
The Treble Clef and the Bass Cleff are combined with a brace. The Treble Clef indicates all of the notes the right hand plays and the Bass Cleff indicates all of the left hand notes.
This was a lot of information. But don't be overwhelmed.
If you are a violinist, all you need to know is the Treble Clef.
Lucky you! Remember that the swirl encircles the G and you are all set!
Have you ever heard this referenced in orchestra or a music lesson? Or does this conjure up images of a dance move? Or maybe you think of that one time you tripped and fell down the stairs because you just forgot to extend your foot a full step (that’s probably just me, hopefully that’s just me).
Anyway, a half step is the smallest interval in Western tonal music. It is sometimes called a semitone or a half tone. In my lessons I will refer to these as half steps.
In violin playing, these little guts indicate when two of your fingers are closest together.
For example: An e♮ (natural) to an f♮ (natural) is a half step.
Happy Half Steps Everyone!
Vibrato: A rapid fluctuation of pitch slightly higher or lower than the main pitch.
Three Types for Violinists:
I have also included in this discussion a video of a guitar's visual string vibrations. This showcases the wavelengths and different frequencies of sound I spoke of in my first Theory Thursday blog. The high and low frequencies can be visually seen in this performance. The same thing happens on the violin and other stringed instruments. See if you can differentiate between higher frequencies (smaller and condensed wavelengths) and the lower frequencies (larger and broader wavelengths). Do any of you hear vibrato in any of the notes? Or see it?
Stay sharp my friends! (unless the accidental tells you differently)
Theory Thursday No. 1:
We will start off with the basics. The definition.
Music Theory (noun)-The study of the theoretical elements of music including sound pitch, rhythm, melody, harmony, and notation.
○Sound-mechanical vibrations transmitted through an elastic medium, traveling in air at a speed of approximately 1087 feet (331 meters) per second at sea level.
○Pitch-the degree of height or depth of a tone or of sound, depending upon the relative rapidity of the vibrations by which it is produced.
○Rhythm-the pattern of regular or irregular pulses caused in music by the occurrence of strong and weak melodic and harmonic beats.
○Melody- the succession of single tones in musical compositions, as distinguished from harmony and rhythm.The principal part.
○Harmony-the science of the structure, relations, and practical combination of chords.
○Notation-a system of graphic symbols for a specialized use, other than ordinary writing:
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