As many of us, including myself, are coming at session with very little experience with theory, I thought I would blog about what I am learning as I do, and how understanding these things let’s you better work with the music we play, and predict things that will/won’t work for harmonizing and such. I’m going to come at this from two angles; conceptual, and then following with correct-ish terminology that I’m learning. Knowing terminology can help you communicate with other musicians a lot faster, so there can be less talkin’ and more playing. ^^ Finally, I’m going to open up the comment section for thoughts, including mine, on what the post talks about, and where things may be more confusing and how I clarified things to better sit in my brain.
First thing to tackle is, what is this “Key” thing people talk about, i.e.,
“This new tune is in G Major, with the third bits descent using A minor melodic.”
A key is a summary term that tells you three pieces of information:
- Which group of pitches(notes) the song will use;
- The home note the song most likes ( aka the tonic), and
- The respective relationships between the notes that are most used for the melody (scale).
Example: G Major
The home note for this song would be “G” (open first string/second string third fret/fourth string second forward fret, any of those) , and
the word “major” tells us the relationship between the rest of the notes used is WWhWWWh, where W indicates a whole note between each note, and h indicates a half note change. If you think of a piano, it can help.
Whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, half step. (G A B C D E F# G)
So now we know which notes the song is going to build itself out of, where it’s likely to start or finish (on the tonic), and a little about the feel of the song. Each type of scale has a different feel to it.