If MUSIC THEORY Is Confusing, Learn These 3 THINGS

If MUSIC THEORY Is Confusing, Learn These 3 THINGS

Tommaso Zillio

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three music theory basics

Everyone says that it’s important to learn music theory, but what are the most important things to learn first?

Should you be learning about negative harmony and super-mega-lydian before you learn how to play a pentatonic scale?

No! There is actually somewhat of a logical progression you should go through when learning music theory, so you can learn the things that you will actually understand and use in your music first.

So instead of randomly bouncing between different youtube videos learning about whatever the fanciest new music theory concept is, you should find a guitar teacher that can actually teach you music theory in a way that makes sense.

(Hint: you are reading an article from a music theory teacher right now...)

If this isn’t an option, or for whatever reason learning music theory is incredibly time sensitive, then I got you covered. I just posted a video lesson on the three most important aspects of music theory to learn right away.

If music theory is confusing for you or you don’t know where to start, this lesson will be a massive help:

P.S. Did you know all 3 of these basics? If you didn't - just imagine how many other wonders there are in music theory, and how they can help you create the music you want!

All of the things that I mention in this video have a lot to do with chords, which is one of the most important aspects of music theory to develop an understanding of. If you feel like you don't fully understand chords, or you just want to learn more, check out my Complete Chord Mastery guitar course

Video transcription

Hello internet, so nice to see you! Today I want to talk about the three most important basics of music theory. Those basics are so important that I'm always surprised when I encounter people who have been studying music theory for years. And they didn't know about them. Wow. But they're super simple. That's the point. And indeed, if you guys are just starting in learning music theory, these will be a good point to start, okay.

Now, whenever you go around the internet, and they you watch those, this is the basic music theory videos, they always tell you about notes, and chords and how to write a major scale and how to write the find the notes in the chord in the C chord. Okay, this is all good. I'm not saying no, but I wouldn't even start there. I will start here. I will say these.

Listen, you have several notes, you have 12 notes in total that you can play in many situations in music, you play several of those notes at the same time. Whenever you play a group of notes at the same time, we call that group A chord. Some chords are really nice. Some other chords are less theme. But they're all chords. Okay? So basic numbers zero, because we're not there yet is that chords are sets of notes.

Okay. That's important to know, notes are single sounds, chords, so when you put many of them together. Okay, great. So now, the basic number one, when they give you a chord chart, which means they give you a chord progression, they write down those chords, okay, and you want to write a melody on top, or you want to solo on top.

Principle number one tells you this, when a chord is playing, the notes of that chord will always be good notes for your solo or melody. So preferentially you should play or start playing from those notes. It's not an absolute rule, but all the chord while it's it is absolute, that the notes of the chord will sound good, it's not absolute, that you have to start or play those. But every time the notes of the chord will sound good.

So if my chord progression start from the C chord, and as you're gonna learn in one of my other videos, the notes in the C chord and the note C, E, and G, C, E, or G. When I want to solve on the C chord, I can play a C note or an E note or an G note. Okay, and those three notes sound good all the time. This is the principle behind what we call chord tone soloing.

If you want to learn more about that, I actually have a free course about that free course on chord tones, soloing, check it up on the top right. Indeed, when they give you the chord progression or a chord chart, what they are telling you essentially is that in that moment in time where the C chord is written, the notes do not require any justification or the notes of the C chord, C, E, and G. All the other notes can be played because you can always do everything you want the music, but to sound good.

Those are the notes we require some justification. And these we're gonna cover in another video another time, just take this principle, whenever a chord is playing the notes of that chord with sound good in the melody or the solo every single time. Principle number two, let's say you have a melody. The melody could be literally anything that you can sing.

Okay, if a melody of a solo you have a sequence of single notes, and you want to find the chords that work under this melody, this is a procedure called harmonization. Okay, you have a melody. You want to find the chord, you are a singer songwriter, and you are singing a melody. You want to find what chords work under that.

You are a guitar player, you're writing a solo and you want to find what chord work under that because most of the time we've worked from the chord to the solo, but sometimes it worked from the solo to the chords. We can the principle principle number two says the chords that contain the note of the melody will always sound good under that melody. Will other chords sound good? Yes. Again, you can do whatever you want the music some of some of the other chords can sound good.

It's not required that the notes of the melody are contained In the in the chords you use to harmonize it. But every time the chord contains the note that is playing in the melody in that moment, that chord will sound good. Okay? Every single time, those chords will not need to be justified, that's called work. Okay, then of course, since there are several chords that contain even a single note, okay, if your top note if your melody note, it's C that are several quarters contain the C note, if we say only with chords of three notes, you have the C major chord, the C minor chord, the F major chord, the F minor chord, the A minor chord, and the A flat major chord. And they all contain the C notes and all those chords will work. But of course, then the melody will go to another note.

And this other note can be harmonized with different chords. And at this point that you have to make choices, because some of the chords you play under here and some of the chords you play under there may not agree with each other. So at that point, yes, we need to get to know a little bit more about harmonium chords to see exactly what is going on and how to pick the best chords.

Again, the principle is start choosing the chords that contain the note of the melody. And That's principle number two. basic principle number three, if you are playing a chord progression, there is a way to make these chord progression sound as smooth as possible, let's say the chord progression, it's C go into G C major, the C major chord going to G major. Okay, we know the C major chord contains the notes C, E and G. We know that G major chord contains the note G.

But if I just play them this way. Well, that's not doesn't sound bad, but it's not the smoothest possible option. You see, if I play it this way, you see that the C note here moves into a G note here, the E note moves to a B note, the G note moves to D note and especially these G note here the movement of the G note. It's kind of a waste because we have a G note here and we have a G note here too. So how about we make these G notes stay exactly where it is okay. But now, the G note says is actually.

And what do I do with the other two notes? Well, I tried to pick the closest note the C note could go down to a B or up to A D. And it's pretty close either way, but the E note can go down to a D and it's close. If I want this enough to go up to a b, it's pretty far away. So what I'm doing is this the C note goes to B. The E note goes to the the G note stays where it is. And same thing goes to cause this way.

This principle is called voice leading it just means that you make the notes move as little as possible, you pretend that a singer is singing those two notes, another singer is singing, those are the two notes. And a third singer is singing those two notes. And you try to make those singers move their voice as little as possible.

Now there is an immediate exception to the principle of voice leading is that the lowest note that you play can do whatever the hell you want. Okay, so if I am playing for instance D so I have C C E G, then when I play the G chord and voice leading the top three notes, but the lowest note that can go from C to G so

why we do that? Because we found out by experiment that your ear doesn't really care if the bottom notes move a lot. Okay, it cares if the top notes move a lot or not. Again, this is not a rule. It's a principle. Essentially you do this every time unless you have a good reason to do otherwise. If you like the sound of this note moving here, the C major going down to this G major already the C major to the C major Hawaiian style okay, then they're definitely can move all the notes.

But if you don't have a good reason if you don't want to give a specific effect he feel just as searching for the default thing to do always voice lead, that will be the third principle. So again, the three principle, you can go from a chord progression to a melody. So creating a solo, improvising a melody, all these kinds of things by picking notes of the chords it is playing in that moment, the principle of chord tones, soloing, you can go from a melody to a chord progression by using chords that contain the notes in the melody, the principle of harmonization.

And you can make chords change into each other by moving those in the notes of the chord as little as possible. The principle of voice leading those three are the real basic principles of music theory. I mean, not the only one. Those are the three most basic principles of music theory. And several people have no idea about all that.

Now, it's a good moment for you have to start learning what notes are in every chord, what notes are in every scale and all this kind of thing, because now you know what you can do with that. I mean, what was the point before of knowing that the C chord contains C, E and G if you don't know what to do with it right?

Now, you know, and now you can do something with that. If you need more help understanding all these I do have a playlist for people who are just starting in music theory. And you want more help on this. I have lots of free material and even paid courses for you to learn music theory. Right now I'm leaving you with the link to the playlist for beginners. If you're starting music theory, watch all that playlist, learn everything there isn't that and then write me and then we can go from there. This is Tommaso Zillio for musictheoryforguitar.com and until next time, enjoy.

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