Music Theory Answers

Here you will find real-life music theory information that will help you become a better player. Click on the link for the topic that interests you. If you have a question or you want to know more about an existing topic, please use the form below (coming soon) to contact me with your question. I will respond promptly.

Table of Contents

Backcycling - Add harmonic movement.

Chord Basics - Where do chords come from?

Chord Extensions - Add notes for bigger and grander tonality.

Chord Names - Chord construction made easy.

Chord Progressions - Put chords to work for you.

Chord Substitutions - Add variety to your improvisation.

Circle of Fifths - Why do I need to know this?

Enharmonics - A note by any other name...

Harmonic Minor Scale - Getting an exotic sound.

Improvisation - How modes, arpeggios, and chords relate.

Intervals - The distance between notes.

Melodic Minor - The Jazz scale.

Modes - Where do modes come from?

Modulation - Going from one key to another.

Parallel Minor Scale - Comparing the Major and Minor scales.

Scales - The Major & Natural Minor scales explored

Scales, exotic - Use colorful scales to add variety to your playing.

Scales, harmonized - Harmonize exotic scales.

Scale Degree - The Music yardstick.

Secondary Dominant Chords - Add movement to a chord progression.

Transposing - Writing music for band instruments.

Many Great Musicians Don't Known Music Theory

There are plenty of legendary musicians who supposedly could neither read music nor understood it's theoretical workings. Click here for a list of famous musicians who became famous with little knowledge of what they were doing.

These musicians were able to accomplish this by virtue of their superior aural abilities. They could hear notes and chords and remember them the way most of us can hear and remember words. They also have (or had) the ability to "paint" new images with the sounds they have stored in their heads.

However, as talented as these musician are, many of them teamed up with knowledgeable and talented arrangers to flesh out their musical ideas. The Beatles had George Martin and Michael Jackson had Quincy Jones. On the other hand, others like Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn were able to achieve musical greatness without much formal musical education or help. Before you start thinking, “That’s the path for me,” you should consider how nervous Eric Clapton got when he sat in with Aretha Franklin’s band. All the musicians were reading charts during the recording session. Clapton had difficulty keeping up.

Another interesting list that is quite telling is the one that shows all the famous musicians who were masters of music theory but had little or no aural ability. Click here for the list. If you bothered to follow the link, you can see that it is a very short list. Now, ask yourself, "How good is my aural ability." My guess is that it is better than most people's but not quite good enough to get a recording contract. That’s where music theory can help.

The ear is a mysterious organ that can be trained to make you a better musician. However, you also have another organ that can help you -- your brain. There is no reason to not take advantage of your ability to see patterns and understand relationships. This kind of training is meant to augment your aural ability not replace it. Miles Davis is the only serious musician I have ever heard of who dropped out of Juilliard because he thought music theory was stifling his creativity. So, if you are a student of Juilliard, you are allowed to say that. However, for the rest of us, anything we can do to improve our playing is worth pursuing. You learn music theory because it can make you a better artist. Once you become a musician like Miles, you are free to ignore it.

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