Monday, July 30, 2012

Dominant 7th Chords

Now we're ready to delve deeper into chords and how we can add spice to our music. First, we are going to look at making a major 7th chord into a dominant 7th chord. It's really very simple. All we do is flat (lower a half step) the 7th: C, E, G, Bb (b = symbol for flat). Or if you want to think of this in scale degrees it would be 1, 3, 5, b7. The symbol for this chord would be C 7.

This dominant 7th chord can be played in all the inversions: 1st inversion (E, G, Bb, C), 2nd inversion (G, Bb, C, E), and 3rd inversion (Bb, C, E, G).

Now lets look at doing this with a different major chord:

F M7 = F, A, C, E

F 7 = F, A, C, Eb

ROOT = F, A, C, Eb
1st inversion = A, C, Eb, F
2nd inversion = C, Eb, F, A
3rd inversion = Eb, F, A, C

Now we're going to do this with the G7 chord:

G M7 = G, B, D, F# (# = symbol for sharp, which means raise the note a half step)

G7 = G, B, D, F (root)

1st inversion = B, D, F, G
2nd inversion = D, F, G, B
3rd inversion = F, G, D, B

Notice we have made this chord a dominant 7th (or 7th) chord by flatting the 7th, which made the F a natural F instead of an F#.

One of the keys to jazz is the 7th chord. 7ths are added to almost every chord in jazz music. It is much more complex than that, but that is one of the first rules of thumb in jazz.

Now we are ready to learn how Roman Numerals work in music, which we will venture into on the next post.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!!!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Chord Building: Adding the 7th

Let's enjoy the evening and take a look at major 7th chords.

Now we're going to look at adding one more note to the major triad, making it a 4 note chord;therefore, no longer a triad, but a major 7th chord. Here's how we do it -

C, E, G, B (1, 3, 5, 7)

Just by adding another interval of a 3rd on the top, we have built a C major 7th chord. It can be symbolized in two different ways - CM7 or C Maj 7.
We can also invert this chord, just as we did the C major triad:
Root = C, E, G, B
1st inversion = E, G, B, C
2nd inversion = G, B, C, E
3rd inversion = B, C, E, G
We now have three inversions because of the added interval

Let's look at the intervals of these inversions now:
Root = C, E, G, B - this is three 3rds built one upon the other
1st inversion = E, G, B, C - here we have a 3rd (E to G) on the bottom, a 3rd (G to B) in the middle, and an interval of a 2nd (B to C) on the top.
2nd inversion = G, B, C, E = again we have a 3rd (G to B) on the bottom, a 2nd (B to C) in the middle, and a 3rd on the top.
3rd inversion = B, C, E, G - on the bottom, we have an interval of a 2nd (B to C), a 3rd (C to E) in the middle , and a 3rd (E to G) on the top.

Notice that there are no 4ths in the chords because the 7th (scale degree) has been added.

Next time we will look at building a dominant 7th chord.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Let's go back to building chords. We talked about building triads with intervals of 3rds and now we're going to look at playing the same triads as different intervals. The notes will all be the same, but in different positions. For example:

G                                                                                                       C
E                                                                                                       G
C      is the root position of C major triad. It can also be played as   E . This is what is called the 1st inversion of the same chord, same notes, different positioning of the notes. This same chord can also be played as  E, C, G    - This is called the 2nd inversion of the C major chord.

In  both of these inversions, 1st and 2nd, notice how the different positioning changes the intervals.

E  = E to G is still an interval of a  3rd, but on the bottom, in the 1st inversion and G to C is an interval of a 4th, on the top.

G = G to C is the interval of a 4th, but on the bottom in the 2nd inversion, with C to E being an interval of a 3rd, on the top.

For some students it may be easier to think of the triads in terms of scale degrees instead of intervals, so let's take a look at that. If you would like you may refer to an older post about major scales that looks at scales degrees and how they work.
With the scale degrees being 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8,  for each scale (C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C) you can look at how the notes line up with the degrees. C=1, D=2, E=3, F=4, G=5. etc. So if you take scale degrees 1, 3, 5, you will have the notes C, E, G which are the C major triad.

Any questions or comments are welcome. Hope this is helpful.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Head Trauma and Music (con't)

Since I began teaching I have had quite a few students with different types of head/brain trauma. I will tell you a bit about a couple of them in this post.

One student had only a small portion of their frontal lobe. The last week they were in the womb they  had a stroke that  totally deteriorated a large portion of their frontal lobe, therefore leaving them with limited short-term memory. Having this information I knew that it would take a lot of repetitive teaching of each lesson if I taught a regular piano method, so I chose to create a method that would jump-start the long term memory. In doing this the student began learning to play songs quickly by playing what they heard. Then as they progressed, reading music was easier because they had had the written music of what they were playing in front of them as they played.

Another student was hit by a car and acquired a head injury/brain trauma. They had piano lessons a couple of years before and played saxophone in band at the time. Six months after the accident they came to me for piano lessons. They could no longer play in band because the noise of multiple instruments was too much ( which I totally understood). I have seen this student make strides in so many ways. They remembered all of the basics of piano playing, but they too had a little disconnection with the hand/eye coordination. I began doing eye exercises with them, along with a piano method created for them, and have seen such an improvement. I also spoke with their eye therapist and was told that this students reading has improved very rapidly because  they are taking piano lessons.

The reason music plays such a huge role in head/brain trauma healing is that it makes both sides of the brain work at the same time and they are finding new pathways to "replace" pathways that have been damaged. It helps with reconnecting with things that one could do before the trauma, but not afterwards.

I've taught many students with things like head/brain trauma to strokes, etc. From personal experience and working with others, I can say, without a doubt, that music is a healing tool.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Head Trauma and Music

Let's take a break from theory and talk about music and head trauma. It may seem like a strange turn in subject, but I am  very familiar with head trauma and teach people with head/brain trauma.

I want to keep this short and simple, but also be concise on why I do what I do. As a teenager, I played classical music ( piano). At the age of 15 I acquired an acute head injury. When I went home from the hospital the first thing I did was sit down at the piano to play one of my favorite pieces. It was quite a shock when I absolutely could not play. Reading the notes and knowing where they were on the piano was no problem. I just had a disconnect with my  brain sending the information to my hands. My hand/eye coordination just wasn't there. For many weeks, months I kept going back and trying, but my ability to play was gone....or so I thought.

They didn't know a lot about head/brain trauma back then, but I had an older brother that was watching me very closely. One day he asked me why I wasn't playing anymore and I told him I just couldn't make the connection. Months later, maybe a year, he gave me a book on jazz improvisation. It was all about playing lead sheets with Roman numerals. It was all new to me, but made total sense. A few weeks later he got the music director of the college he was attending to give me jazz piano lessons. It all came so easily to me and I began playing again.

Since then, I went to college, majoring in music (keyboard) and began teaching a few years later. I was afraid to share this with my students, thinking they would think I shouldn't be teaching. But then I realized that we all learn differently and that I could help people like me learn to play.

In the next post I will share with you the progress some of my students with head/brain trauma have made and are still making.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Building Chords

It's a beautiful evening, so lets relax and take a look at music theory.

We will look into building basic chords. Chords are built with intervals. First we will begin with triads (3 note chords). Once again we will use the C major scale to demonstrate chord building:

C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C (or scale degrees: 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8 )

To build the C major triad you will use 3 notes - C, E, G (scale degrees 1, 3, 5). Notice that these notes are just two intervals - a 3rd with a 3rd on top. Let's look at this chord vertically to see the intervals:

G (5)
E (3)
C (1)

Go to a keyboard and see that the distance from C to E is a 3rd, as is the distance from E to G. Therefore, a triad is two intervals of 3rds. If this seems a little confusing, refer back to the post on intervals. In music theory, it is always good to have notes (posts) to refer back to.

The three major chords of the key of C are C, F, and G. Let's build these chords, just as we did the previous chord, except without the scale degrees:

G        C        D
E        A         B
C        F         G

The notes that are in bold are the root of the chord and identify which note it is: C is C major triad, F is F major triad, G is G major triad.

You can build triad chords this way using any scale.

In the next post we will talk about using roman numerals and how they relate to scales and chords.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Music Therapy

As I was sitting with my 5 month old niece in the hospital, a music therapist came in and played the harp for her. It was so soothing and comforting. Music therapy is such an amazing tool in healing. One of my piano students is entering the music therapy program this Fall. It will be fun and interesting to follow her through this journey.

Intervals - the distance between two tones

Now we will look at building intervals. First we need to know what the term interval actually means:
An interval is the distance between two tones. It's as simple as that. So the interval of a 2nd is two half steps (or one whole step), a 3rd is two whole steps, a 4th is two whole steps and one half step (figure 1)

fig. 1


1  2  3  4 5  6   7  8

In other words, from C to D (1 to 2) is a 2nd, C to D (1 to 3) is a 3rd, C to F (1 to 4) is a 4th, etc. This is where the scale degrees come into play.

Next time we will venture into building chords.

 If you have any questions or comments on any of the posts feel free to comment or ask.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Scale Degrees

Ok, now that we've covered the major scale pattern, we're going to go a little more in depth. Scale degrees play an important part in understanding scales, intervals, and chords. There are 8 tones in a major scale: C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C
                     1, 2, 3, 4,  5,  6,  7,  8
These scale degrees are important in many ways. First of all, when we look at the major scale pattern (ws, ws, hs, ws, ws, ws, hs) we will notice that the half steps fall on degrees 3 & 4 and 7& 8, in all major scales.
Secondly, when forming intervals we use scale degrees: 2nd,3rd, 4th, etc. We will go into forming intervals in the next post.

Hope this clarifies scales for those of you that want simplified music theory. :)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Major Scale Pattern

One of the key elements to understanding music theory is knowing and memorizing the scale patterns. First we start with the major scale pattern, which is:
whole step, whole step, half step, whole step, whole step, whole step, half step

A half step is one key to the very next key, whether it is white or black. A whole step is two half steps, meaning there will be one key between. For example, C to C# is a half step. C to D is a whole step.

This pattern works with any major scale (C, G, D, A, E, B, F#, F, Bb, Eb, Ab, Db, Gb). If you begin with the first note of the scale you are wanting to play and follow the major scale pattern, you can learn to play any of the major scales.