Music Theory Concepts Every Musician Should Know

Music lives in our hearts. It is like supper for our souls. Musicians use various instruments to play music. But there must be a uniform study text for musicians and aspiring musicians to learn the instrument.

Before understanding, what music theory means, let us understand what music is. In simple terms, it is a collection of various sound-notes put together in rhythm to create something that can please our ears. Even raindrops dropping on a rooftop sounded like music to some people.

People then wanted to understand and learn these sounds that led to the invention of music theory. Just like other subjects; mathematics, science, one can also study music as a subject.

Music theory translates sounds into readable symbols and notes. It is the language of music. Whether you're a rapper or a musician or a composer or a producer, Music theory will be super helpful in creating better music. Let us take look at all the vital music theory concepts.

Musical Alphabets

We know that to learn any language, we need to know all the Alphabets, to form words and sentences. We have alphabets in Music theory too. There are 12 musical notes (7 natural, 5 sharps and flats).

Music is a set of musical notes all the notes have letters assigned to them. The musical alphabet consists of only seven letters, they are:

A B C D E F G, these are called the natural notes.

It is until the letter G because when the notes are played in order, what’s supposed to be H sounds identical to A. Hence, the cycle starts from A again. It is the same in numbers. One cannot add new numbers after nine but will have to use the pre-existing ones to form new continuations.

These sets of letters are called octaves. An octave is a set of notes played in increasing or decreasing pitch- ABCDEFGA or GFEDCBA.

The alphabets are never-ending, if you go beyond G, you will have the next highest A and if you go beyond A in the opposite direction will get the next lowest G.

Sharps and Flats

The remaining notes in between the natural notes are the sharps and flats.

Although there are only seven letters in the musical alphabet, that does not mean there are only seven notes. There are other notes too. Notes A to G is natural notes which also called regular notes.

The rest five, that lie in between them are denoted by these same letters but with a sharp symbol (♯) or a flat symbol () as a suffix. Sharp notes have a higher pitch than the regular ones. Example, G# is of higher pitch than G.

On the contrary, a flat symbol denotes a pitch that is lower than a natural letter.

Example, Gis lower than G.

Chords

The next important concept is chords. In music, chords are a collection of notes played simultaneously to produce sound. They are also known as the colours of a song.

A group of three notes that produces a chord is known as Triads. Following are the types of triads: Minor, diminished, augmented and major.

Triads are built-up of 1,3 and 5 of any scale.

For example, for an A major,
A B C D E F G A
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1, 3 and 5 are ACE, and that is how you build a chord.

Most of the chords are triads, to add new chords these triads are customised, some extra notes could be added or changed.

Chords build the structure of a song they identify its tone. Different chords when played one after the other make a chord progression, that’s how you produce a song.

You should use roman numbers (I, II, ii ..) to write chord progressions. It is called the Nashville Numbering System. The ‘I’ denotes the root note, ‘IV’ the fourth and so on. The I IV V I is a popular chord progression. You can use lower case roman numbers to denote minor notes. 

Intervals

To become a full-fledged musician, you need to know many concept in detail. The next crucial concept is intervals.

In simple words, an interval is a distance between two notes or the difference in pitch. But do not get confused by its easy definition, it is more complicated than that.

One can measure the distance in terms of whole steps and half steps. Intervals allow you to relate notes in all scales and positions. There are two types of intervals.

Basic intervals: The position of the note in the scale is numbered, to apply in all keys and scales.

Intermediate intervals: In this, one can name the notes by their position and their size. The size is the distance from the lower to a higher note.

Example:

The interval from C to D is a ‘second’, but from C to F is a ‘fourth’. One second it includes two notes, likewise in fourth, there are four notes.

Conclusion

Now you know the basic and important music theory concepts. But let’s not forget that you don’t need to know these just for the sake of ‘knowing’. When used correctly, you can take your music to the next level, because now you understand how music works.

After all, music is a language every person understands. You might not know Spanish though you like listening to Spanish songs. Music has the power to unite people from any part of the world. Learn these concepts well and try implementing them in your work.

About the Author Wendell A Wiese

I'm the lead researcher and content manager at PianoNadu. I test various different digital pianos and share our unbiased reviews here. We test them on various different aspects and make sure it passes our quality criteria. During my college years, I was a part of my college band known as DMT. I was the Pianist in our band. My love for playing the piano grew during middle school. Read more about me here

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