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Music Theory for Dummies

This Music Theory for Dummies page is part 1 of a 31 part series on musical notation and basic music theory. This page covers the basic ingredients needed to write or play music of any kind.

The three things we need are PITCH or a group of pitches (also called chords), PITCH DURATION and a BEAT.


Music Theory for Dummies

PITCH (or pitches) is what note or group of notes we sing or play. This can be a single voice or a group of voices. If we are talking about the human voice, than a group of voices would be called a chorus and when singing together they sing to create chords.

If we are talking about a group of notes played on instruments, then we call these bands and they play to create chords. Many times different lines are being sung or played at the same time and chords are only being implied.

Sometimes all voices whether human or instrumental, play in what's called unison. This is where everyone is playing or singing the exact same note.

CHORDS are generally at least two or three note groupings that create harmony in western music.

NOTE: We talk more in depth about this later in the course.

PITCH DURATION is how long you hold the note or group of notes, whether you are singing or playing an instrument. This is where we will discuss the various notes and rests.

We know how long to play or sing notes by learning to read music or by hearing it and singing what we've heard. This is how we all first learn music and it's how most rock, pop, folk, country and gospel musicians learned to play music.

BEAT is the rhythmic pattern the note or group of notes are sung or played to. This is where we will explore tempo and the various time signatures and what these mean.

Again, most of us learn to sing or play the beat in music by ear. It's the most natural way. However, learning how to read rhythms and beats, makes us more versatile and agile when we are writing and playing music.

Most drummers learn by ear, but when they learn to read music they are able to break down much more complicated grooves, phrases and fills.

To summarize: The Theory for Dummies page explains how music is a combination of pitches sung or played and held for different lengths of time and set to some kind of beat.

We will explore PITCH, PITCH DURATION and BEAT in this course. We will learn what they look like on sheet music and how they sound using guitar, bass, piano and voice.

Continue to Part 2, Treble Clef and the Treble Staff

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