Teach Yourself Music Theory – 13.) Pitch-Class Collections of Natural Minor Scales

Continuing with the idea of pitch-class collections and how they can form scales, let’s introduce a new scale: the natural minor scale.

To make a natural minor scale, one has to have a collection of pitches that in ascending order go in an intervallic pattern of whole-step, half-step, whole-step, whole-step, half-step, whole-step, and whole-step back to the original pitch. One can also think of this as M2-m2-M2-M2-m2-M2-M2.

Take a look at the composition below, write the pitch-class collection, and then arrange the pitches into an ascending manner fitting the pattern of the natural minor scale:

If you did it correctly, you would get {F#, G#, A, B, C#, D, E, F#}, which means this composition uses a F# minor scale…

…but wait, don’t the same pitches used also make up the A Major scale?

That is correct! For every major scale, there is its own relative natural minor scale. All you have to do is go down a minor-third interval (or up a major-sixth interval) from the original major scale to find the relative minor scale. So C major is A minor, G major is E minor, E major is C# minor, etc.

Now, how can well tell if a song is using a major or minor scale? well, that will be saved as a topic for next time.

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Tip #113 – Avoid Rewriting with a D.S.

Sometimes when you are reading a score, you will notice a section that says D.S. al Coda or D.S. al Fine. Both can be used as a way to indicate to the performer of your music that you want a section to repeat in a particular way without having to rewrite the section yourself.

Not only will this save time and energy, but it will clearly communicate the message – if done correctly.

D.S. is short for Dal Segno, which means “from the sign.” When you come across a measure in the score that has D.S. above it – it means to repeat back to the measure with this sign right above it:

If the sign is D.S. al Coda, that means there is an extra step. Once returning to the sign shown above, the performer will play till they reach this sign:

…and then jump forward to an area marked “coda.”

If the sign is D.S. al Fine, the performer will play till they reach a measure marked Fine – or end.

Once again, this is a simple tip to help save time to avoid rewriting repeated sections.

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Tip #112 – Avoid Rewriting with a D.C.

Sometimes when you are reading a score, you will notice a section that says D.C. al Coda or D.C. al Fine. Both can be used as a way to indicate to the performer of your music that you want a section to repeat in a particular way without having to rewrite the section yourself.

Not only will this save time and energy, but it will clearly communicate the message – if done correctly.

D.C. is short for Da Capo, which means “from the head.” When you come across a measure in the score that has D.C. above it – it means to repeat back to the beginning!

If the sign is D.C. al Coda, that means there is an extra step. Once returning to the beginning, the performer will play till they reach this sign:

…and then jump forward to an area marked “coda.”

If the sign is D.C. al Fine, the performer will play till they reach a measure marked Fine – or end.

Once again, this is a simple tip to help save time to avoid rewriting repeated sections.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read! Feel free to comment, share, and subscribe for more daily tips below! Till next time.

Teach Yourself Music Theory – 12.) Pitch-Class Collections and Major Scales

Read, analyze, play, and/or listen to this compositional segment below:

Now, write out all of the note letter-names that you see where used in this small composition.

You should get (in order of appearance): { A, C#, E, F#, D, B, G#}

What we have written above is the composition’s pitch-class collection, or a collection of all the pitches listed by their letter-names used.

Time to introduce a new concept. A scale, which is a pitch-class collection but organized in a ascending/descending manner in an alphabetized way.

Which… using the same example above, if we put the pitch-class collection in an alphabetical order, it would be: {A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G#}

So, what kind of scale is this? Well, to spoil the answer – this is a major scale. But how can we tell? Just look at the intervallic distances between the notes.

A major scale is made up of a pattern of notes set apart from each other in an ascending manner of whole-step, whole-step, half-step, whole-step, whole-step, whole-step, half-step (which returns to the starting pitch). You can also think of this as M2-M2-m2-M2-M2-M2-m2.

So now, let’s take a look back at our pitch-class collection:

Does it match the pattern of the major scale interval formula? Yes it does!

Try now for an exercise by taking any starting pitch and see if you can build a major scale of your own!

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Teach Yourself Music Theory – 11.) Counting Rests and Pickups

By first glace, how would you count the rhythm of the piece below?

It may seem tricky, but there is an easy way to figure this out!

First, let’s talk about the rests. As you know from before, a rest has its own value similar to that of a note. The difference is that with a rest, you don’t make any counting sound for that symbol. One way to practice counting a rest in to count in your head, instead of out-loud. Other ways are to quietly say “rest” or “shh” in a whisper tone.

Now let’s talk about that incomplete measure, also known as a pickup or anacrusis.

Simply, count it as the final beats of what would have been a complete measure. So, in this case of a simple quadruple meter type, this anacrusis would be counted just as 4 because it is the last beat of this particular incomplete measure.

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Teach Yourself Music Theory – 10.) Counting Rhythms in Compound Meter

Continuing from last week where we talked about counting rhythms in simple meter, let’s talk about what to do in compound meter.

As always, establish the tempo of your basic pulse/beat. This will match to be the dotted quarter-note value of the compound metered measures.

Using a compound quadruple meter type, let’s count the basic pulses. Similar to the simple meter exercise, the dotted quarter-note beats will also be counted in a repeating “1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1…” like the example below.

Remember how in compound meters, the beats themselves can easily be divided into threes. So, we will count these eighth-note divisions as “1, trip-, let, 2, trip-, let, 3, trip-, let, 4, trip-, let, 1…” like the example below.

Now how about sixteenth-notes? Those will be counted like “1, ah, trip-, ah, let, ah, 2, ah, trip-, ah, let, ah, 3, ah, trip-, ah, let, ah, 4, ah, trip-, ah, let, ah, 1…” like the example below.

Once again, similar to what was discussed when talking about simple meters, any note value longer than the basic dotted quarter-note pulse will hold the count and omit the counts that occur during it.

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Teach Yourself Music Theory – 9.) Counting Rhythms in Simple Meter

You might have heard musicians joke about counting, one way or another. Saying that they only know how to count up to 4, or that counting is their life as they wait several measures before hitting a single note.

That brings us to today’s topic about music theory. While it is great that we can read a score and identify rhythms – how do we know what they sound like?

Let’s start off by looking at a piece of music in common time. The meter type is simple quadruple, so we know that beats are grouped into four within each measure.

First, establish a tempo (speed) for your basic pulse/beat. Your beat will match that of the quarter-notes; just as a rule of thumb. Now, count the quarter-notes in a repeating “1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, 1…” pattern as shown below.

Great! Now let’s try eighth-notes at the same tempo. Remember that eighth-notes are shorter in value and are in-between the quarter-notes. Count these at “1, and, 2, and, 3, and, 4, and, 1…” just like the example below.

Sixteenth-notes are even shorter and will be counted as “1, ee, and, ah, 2, ee, and, ah, 3, ee, and, ah, 4, ee, and, ah, 1…” just like the example below, too.

Now, what about notes longer than a quarter note? Essentially, you will hold the count of the longer note and omit saying the beats that occur during it. For example, a measure of two half-notes would count “1… 3…” while omitting counts on 2 and 4 because the notes are held over those beats.

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