Music Theory 101

Contents

Introduction

Music Basics 101
The Major Scale
The Minor Scales
Chord Construction
Pentatonic/Blues/Jazz Scales
Introduction

I look around the music forum and find some awesome music, yet something doesn't feel right. The fact that notes can be cleverly arranged is one thing, but a lot of times people use the wrong notes, going in and out of different scales and modes. This drives me, as a musician, completely nuts. So, I am putting down in this thread all my knowledge on musical theory so someone might be able to actually know what they create.

The Major Scale
Vocabulary

Major Scale: A scale consisting of whole whole half whole whole whole half steps.

Step: The distance between two notes. One whole step is NORMALLY is like a white key to an adjacent white key on a piano (except for B and E) , or always 2 frets on a guitar. A half step is the distance between a white key and its adjacent black key (except for B and E), or always 1 fret on a guitar.

Sharp (♯): The letter note raised a 1/2 step.

Flat (♭): The letter note lowered a 1/2 step.

Mode: The different variations of a scale with the same notes, just in
different orders.

Roman Numerals (I, V, VII): The degrees of a scale. For example, the third note in the C scale is E, so the note E is the III of that scale.
Everything in music is based around the Major Scale. The Major scale consists of these steps: whole, whole, half, whole whole whole, half. The ideal major scale to learn with is the key of C. In C, the notes are as follows: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. In C, there are no accidentals, sharps or flats. Now, there are seven modes to the major scale. A mode is simply the major scale played in different orders. The modes are all based of the different degrees of the scale. The Ionian is based of degree 1, or I. The Dorian is based on the II of the key. The Aeolian is based off the sixth, or VI of the key. Here are all the different keys and their degrees.

Major Modes

I- Ionian (Major Scale)
II- Dorian
III- Phyrgian (pronounced "Fridgian")
IV- Lydian
V- Mixolydian (7th Scale)
VI- Aeolian (Natural Minor)
VII- Locrean (Diminished Scale)
Lets take C Dorian for example. The I of C Dorian would be D, since the Dorian scale is based of the second degree of the Ionian, or Major scale. The C Dorian would then consist of D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D in that order.


Ionian Mode in C

C D E F G A B C
Ionian Mode in Steps

Whole Whole Half Whole Whole Whole Half
Ionian Scale in Degrees

I II III IV V VI VII I



Dorian Mode in C

D E F G A B C D
Dorian Mode in Steps

Whole Half Whole Whole Whole Half Whole
Dorian Scale in Degrees

I II III♭ IV V VI VII♭ I



Phrygian Mode in C

E F G A B C D E
Phrygian Mode in Steps

Half Whole Whole Whole Half Whole Whole
Phrygian Scale in Degrees

I II♭ III♭ IV V VI♭ VII♭ I



Lydian Mode in C

F G A B C D E F
Lydian Mode in Steps

Whole Whole Whole+Half Half Whole Whole Half
Lydian Scale in Degrees

I II III IV♯ V VI VII



Mixolydian Mode in C

G A B C D E F G
Mixolydian in Steps

Whole Whole Half Whole Whole Half Whole
Mixolydian Scale in Degrees

I II III IV V VI VII♭ I



Aeolian Mode in C

A B C D E F G A B
Aeolian in Steps

Whole Half Whole Whole Half Half Whole
Aeolian Scale in Degrees

I II III♭ IV V VI♭ VII♭ I



Locrean Mode in C

B C D E F G A B
Locrean in Steps

Half Whole Whole Half Whole Whole
Locrean Scale in Degrees

I II♭ III IV V♭ VI♭ VII♭ I

Minor Scales

Now that we have already explained the Aeolian Mode, Locrian, Phrygian, and Dorian Mode, its time for other Minor Scales. Now, we now that the III, VI, and VII are flatted in all of the above minor scales, but there are some exceptions. There are two other Minor Scales called the Melodic and Harmonic Minors. The Harmonic minors is consider more of a mode than a traditional scale, as it has two flatted thirds. These scales cannot be associated into any key, and instead are modified out of that key.


Tonic Harmonic Minor based off A Minor

A B C D E F G♯A
[Box = Tonic Harmonic Minor in Steps]
Whole, Half, Whole, Whole, Half, Whole, Half, Half
[box = Tonic Harmonic Minor in Degrees]
I II III♭ IV V VI ♭ VII I[/box



Tonic Melodic Minor based of A Minor

A B C D E F♯ G♯ A
Tonic Melodic Minor In Steps

Whole, Half, Whole, Whole Whole, Whole, Half
Tonic Melodic Minor in Degrees

I I III♭ IV V VI VII I
Chord Construction
Vocabulary

Chord - A scale represented usually by the I III and V degrees, played all at once.

Arpeggios - A chord played that each single note is played up and down in pitch.

Lower Case Numerals (ii iii iv) - Minor key

Degree Sign: ( ° ) - Diminished Key

Aug - Augemented

Sus - Suspendend



Now that we have discussed the Major Scale, its time to discuss the chords of the major scale. The chords of the major scale has to follow the Major Modes, or else you are meshing too many scales at once.

To play the major scale in chords, you must start with I. Let's go in C. The C major chord would consist of I III V, or C E and G. Now, we only change from a major chord to any other chord when a III, V, or VII is changed. Here's a chart of all the degrees with their respective chords. For most chords, both the lowest and highest note played in the chord is the root.

Lets take a look at the seventh chord below. It consists of a I III V VII♭. Now

I (Ionian) - Tonic - C - Major - I - I III IV I
II (Dorian) - Supertonic - Dm7 - Minor 7th - ii7 - I III♭ V VII♭
III (Phrygian) - Mediant - Em7 - Minor 7th - iii7
IV (Lydian) - Dominant - F or F5♭ FA ug - Major or Major Flatted Fifth or Augemented - IV or IV5♭ or IV Aug
V (Mixolydian) G7 - Subdomiant - Seventh - V7
VI (Aeolian) Am - Submediant - Minor - vi
VII (Locrean) B° - Subtonic - Diminished - vii°
 
Last edited:
Level 23
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Jun 14, 2005
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You might want to add something about how you can find the major scale in different keys using tones and semi-tones. Also maybe try adding the names of the degrees of a scale, eg like Tonic, Supertonic, Mediant, Subdominant, Dominant, Submediant, Leading Note.
 
Level 2
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To think I'd find a music theory post on a Warcraft 3 modding site, rather than a guitar website.. :grin:

Thanks so much for this, though, keep it going PLEASE!
 
Level 5
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I'm very surprised to see something like this on the hive. Didn't think anyone here really had musical knowledge.

My only complaints are the formatting (
blabla
tags), and the simple reason that most modes other than major and minor (mostly natural, sometimes harmonic in middle-eastern music) are really just baggage most of the time, so I think it's kind of silly to spend all that time on them.

...I'd really like to see the blues scales here. Glad to see it's in the outline, by the way. Most people forget that jazz exists when they start talking about scales.
 
I'm very surprised to see something like this on the hive. Didn't think anyone here really had musical knowledge.

My only complaints are the formatting (
blabla
tags), and the simple reason that most modes other than major and minor (mostly natural, sometimes harmonic in middle-eastern music) are really just baggage most of the time, so I think it's kind of silly to spend all that time on them.

...I'd really like to see the blues scales here. Glad to see it's in the outline, by the way. Most people forget that jazz exists when they start talking about scales.
blabla


Jazz and Pentatonics will be included, you need to explain everything else before that though, because the blues tends to use pentatonics with different major modess + chromatics, and without explaining EVERYTHING first, its hard to understand.
 
Level 1
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Sep 28, 2005
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Excellent thread idea. Massive n00b here but I have tinkered with composing game music before. I think an important thing to take note of is that tension music doesn't necessarily resolve, i.e. you don't have a catchy riff that comes round and finishes in the right place. Tension music, particularly that in horror games, tends to have overlapping sections that don't always come in and out in phrases of 4 as "proper songs" would.

Most people who are composing music for computers will be using midi ect. Programs like FL have automatic scale templates built into them, so you don't actually have to know how to construct the scale, just which one to pick for the given theme. That may seem undermining to "real" musicians but I think you'll find the original WC OST and most game soundtracks use virtual instruments. You can't pass a synth trumpet or strings off as "real" in popular music because in popular compositions you're rarely using more than five or six instruments at a time. When composing game soundtracks, though, the scale is completely different and the crappy synthetic sounds are generally swamped in reverb to humanize them a little bit.
 
Level 33
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@YoshOne

Not necessarily. A lot of composers first have a midi score which they polish and then give the actual musicians to play. A lot of modern game OSTs do not actually use synthetic instruments (the best orchestral string instruments to date are the high end LA Scoring Strings and even these samples cannot pass off as real to the trained ear).
 
Level 5
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A lot of modern game OSTs do not actually use synthetic instruments (the best orchestral string instruments to date are the high end LA Scoring Strings and even these samples cannot pass off as real to the trained ear).

Inon Zur uses full orchestra, but Jeremy Soule mostly uses synthesis. The only way I can tell is that most everything of his is so amazingly flawless that it could never be a real performance. (That, and little things like strings never using vibrato except for in solos, or harps that sound ridiculously better than real harps, or phrasing that would be nearly impossible for a real orchestra to do well, but easy for someone with a MIDI controller and slider.)

Some of my favorites of his, like the Oblivion OST, use live solo instruments (sup flute and clarinet), but the majority of it is still synthesized, and sounds amazing nonetheless. The trouble with synthesis is that there's often a limit to what you can do while still sounding realistic.
 
Level 5
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If there's any interest, I wouldn't mind continuing this, delving into chords and progressions in seventeenth-century style.
 
Level 17
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Im interested =D Also it was a nice tutorial and would be great for people knew to music theory. Also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chord_progression if that helps anyone =D.
Furhtermore Yey to musical stereotyping and how all pop(ular) music sounds the same and how jazz has turned into stereotyping. Like most of the other genres ^^

Note: Jazz Scales would be nice =D
Also learn to play any pop song
Major major minor major.

And to go to the relative minor go down 3semi tones. Visa verca. Necroposting or updating who knows.

Final note

17th centuary sounds interesting:
 
Level 1
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Apr 26, 2018
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Thanks for sharing all this stuff but there are a lot of famous producers who don't necessary go by the books. Mobb Deep's producer is one of them. You should watch there little 15 minute segment on Netflix, where they profile different producers. This guy (Other half of Mobb Deep who is still alive) - the producer almost never does anything in key. It's pretty interesting.
 
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