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.

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!

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 – 1.) Reading a Score

One of the most debated parts of music is the use of Western notation as well as the need to understand it. Even though this is the most common form of writing down music, most famous musicians tend not to know how to “read” it. Thus, it has come up for query as for the necessity to learn how to use this form of notation, as it doesn’t appear to have direct affect on success commercially or communication-wise. While the need may be up for question, excuses are certainly not. There is nothing standing in your way from learning how to read music and use it to compose, but yourself. Think of this as a language opportunity; and the more languages you know, the better you are when communicating your ideas to other musicians. It would be a shame for you to work hard to get into a recording studio, only to not be able to tell the players what you want in sound. So let’s start with the fundamentals:

When looking at a score, or the physical musical notation for a piece of music, you will see a bunch of dots and lines. Each dot symbolizes a pitch, which is a particular tone that you hear. In this common practice of Western notation, the pitches are grouped into musical tone letter names of – A B C D E F G… repeating back to A and continuing on to infinity!

Take a look at a keyboard. All the white keys on the piano match the letter names mentioned above. You’ll also see that the groupings of white keys around the black keys are always 3-4-3-4… with the group of 3 being C D E and the group of 4 being F G A B constantly repeating. And now it is time to introduce our friend: middle C. Middle C is also called C4 because it is the fourth C (counting from the left) on a keyboard. This will serve as a placeholder in many situations, as seen coming up next.

Now, these pitches are organized on a staff consisting of five lines and four spaces. The higher the pitch/dot is placed on the staff, the higher it sounds to the ear when you play it. And the opposite is true as well: the lower the pitch on the staff equals how low it will sound acoustically. So, now you might be wondering as to which line or space represents what pitch letter name – and the answer to that question is that it all depends of the clef. A clef is a symbol found to the far left end of any staff that tells the pitch representation.

First one is the treble clef, or otherwise known as the “g-clef.” It has that name from looking like a cursive “G” and having the swirl wrap around the line where G will be. Notice where C4 is in relation to this clef. Typically, treble clefs are used for high voices. So how about the low sounds? For that, we have the bass clef, also known as the “f-clef.” Once again getting its name from its shape, the two dots of the clef hug the line where F will be. Last, but not least, is the “movable” c-clef. The shape of this clef looks like two backwards “C”s connecting to each other in the middle – and the line on which they touch tells us where middle C is. Easy to remember. Reason why it is called a movable clef is because the clef can be on any line! If it was on the first line at the bottom, it would be a soprano clef; second line above, a mezzo-soprano clef; third middle line, alto clef; fourth line, tenor clef, and fifth top line, baritone clef. Alto clef, however, is by far the most commonly used.

One last final clef is the choral tenor clef, which looks like a treble clef, but with an “8” at the bottom of the tail. This tells us that the music sounds to our ear an octave, or eight letter names, lower than how it is visually written.

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.