Copyright  2009


Music Theory Musing #1

January 31st, 2007

The idea of music theory I want you to have is that it is not a set of rules or instructions, but a tool you can use to aid your musical development. Music theory does not tell you what to play or not to play. That will always remain up to you. Knowing music theory won’t make you less creative. (It’s only the people who haven’t learned theory that say this, by the way.) You are as creative as you are. Nothing will change that. All music theory will do is give you more tools with which you can express your musical creativity.”………………

I love that statement on the terrific website   

Music theory is a great tool.  It is also provides some great shortcuts to playing better sooner, which is what I’m always after – I want to sound AGAP (as good as possible) in the shortest time.  I’ve looked at this way for the 37 years that I’ve been playing keyboards (I admit that I’m a bit lazy, I hate to practice but love to play).  Once I could keep steady time while playing, I wanted fast improvement for soloing.  Enter the reciprocity of Major Scales Theory.  

What it means is – master any Major scale and its associated fingering (remember I’m a keyboardist) and you also have facility with all seven modes and fingerings!  This works for the scale tone chords in the Major key that you are working in – triads, seventh and ninth chords. 

 A quick example is a simple ii, V (or V7), I progression in C Major.

ii –   Dm (or Dm7) – minor or minor seventh chord

V7 – G (or G7) – Major or Dominant  seventh chord

I  –   C (or CM7) – Major or Major seventh chord

 Play the chords with your left hand and solo with your right hand using only the C Major scale – and fingering – over all three chords.  You’ll actually be playing d-dorian mode over the Dm, G-mixolydian over the G or G7 (dominant seventh) and Ionian mode (C-Major) over the tonic C (CM7) chord. 

Transpose this to all 12 major keys and pay attention the modes that you are playing for each chord.  Another shortcut here is to practice in the Major keys most commonly used – C, D, E, F, G, A, Bb and Eb.  Most other major keys are less often used – but you should know them too!

  A quick review of scale tone seventh chords for any Major key ( illustrated in C Major)

and the “mode” of the C Major scale used for that chord:

I7 – CM7 – C Major seventh (C,E,G,B) – Ionian mode or C Major scale.

ii7 – Dm7 – D minor seventh (D,F,A,C) – dorian mode

iii7 – Em7 – E minor seventh (E,G,B,D) – phrygian mode

IV7 – FM7 – F Major seventh (F,A,C,E) – Lydian mode

V7 – G7 – G Dominant seventh (G,B,D,F) – Mixolydian mode

vi7 – Am7 – A minor seventh (A,C,E,G) – aeolian mode

vii7 – Bm7b5 – B minor seventh w/flat 5 – locrian mode

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