9th chords are 5-note chords that include the root of the chord, the 3rd, the 5th, the 7th (dominant 7th, not major 7th) and the 9th. People with large hands can play them with one hand using all five fingers, but for most of us, including me, we need to devise a way to play a 9th chord all in the left hand while our right hand is playing the melody of the song, or improvising a melody.
To do that, take any major chord and put it in second inversion. That means the root of the chord is in the middle, with the 5th below and the 3rd above. Then add the 7th degree of the scale (the dominant 7th, not the major 7th) and then move your index finger up a whole step to the 9th.
There are LOTS of people who learn to play the piano without ever learning very much about music theory, and that’s a shame. Why? Because music theory is the understanding of what you do at the piano and why you do it. Without learning music theory, notes are just black spots on paper and keys are just those things you play when you learn piano.
Music theory is sometimes the wicked step child of the music world. Music theorists are sometimes not considered “real” musicians because they spend more time sitting at their desk than they do playing music.
What if the world was full of automobiles but nobody knew how engines actually worked? What if automakers knew how to make the parts and put them together but nobody knew how the engine actually worked? How about us? What if nobody bothered to try to understand how the human body worked? We wouldn’t have the many medical advances we have now.
The same is true with music. Although music is considered an art, most music uses a set of rules to make it sound pleasing to our ear. Without knowing these rules, composers cannot make music sound the way we as listeners expect it to sound.
There are, of course, composers who are known for breaking the rules but like the old saying goes, you can’t break the rules until you first know the rules.
A music theorist studies the way music is constructed. Without music theorists, we would never have made a uniform system of music notation, we wouldn’t have scales, chords, musical form, or many of the other musical concepts we as students study every day.
Some of the areas they study are pitch, rhythm, harmony, melody, scales and modes, Texture, timbre, dynamics, articulation, composition, orchestration, and much more.
How Do You Become a Theorist?
The majority of music theorists work at colleges and universities throughout the world. In order to become a music theorist, you must earn at least a bachelor’s degree in music theory but most also bundle this degree with a composition degree. Realistically, a music theorist must earn a doctorate degree in theory before they can be employed as a theorist. Finally, many music theorists are pianists because much of music analysis is made easier with the use of a piano.
If your goal is to write music for a living, a music theory degree is extremely helpful. Having an expert knowledge of the mechanics of music will make you a better composer. Most of the best composers have a large amount of formal training in music theory and because of that, have spent years teaching at a college or university.
It’s also important to note that studying music theory is highly important for any musician. A musician must know how scales, chords, and key signatures work before they can play music so even if you don’t think you’ll be interested in studying music your whole life, even learning basic music theory is essential!
There are a variety of websites and books that can help you learn the basics of music theory. Additionally, we will be posting a series of articles about music theory that are sure to help you grasp the basics. But if you just want to learn piano be sure to have your teacher (or yourself) include music theory in the curriculum!
For a GREAT course in music theory, please click here: Music Theory!
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The circle of 5ths is a drawing used in music theory. It helps one learn and understand chord progression, 24 major and minor scales used in music, keys and accidentals that occur, the order of sharps and ﬂats and how to construct the major and minor chords. It is a basis of western music theory. The circle may be confusing when you look at it for the ﬁrst time but once you recognize how it works, it is of great help to the music students to comprehend music relationships. It plays a major role in the music industry as it helps to create great chord progressions.
Thanks to Wikipedia for this excellent image of the Circle of 5ths.
The diagram resembles a circularwall clock with 12 musical notes around it. The notes are a prefect ﬁfth apart from each other. At the top of the circle which is like the 12 o’clock position is the C major note. As you progress clockwise around the circle move ﬁve keys and you ﬁnd the other note G, which is at the 1 o’clock point. The next ﬁve intervals after G is D, a perfect ﬁfth after D is A. The movement goes clockwise through all the 12 notes C-G-D-A-E-B-F#-Db-Ab-Eb-Bb-F till you ﬁnally return to point C in perfect 5ths. A major key is in capital letter while minor is in small letter.
At the base of the circle, the notes F#, C# and B contain two spellings Gb, Db and Cb simultaneously. This indicates enharmonic notes meaning they are equal. Therefore B and Cb are equal, C# and Db and also F# and Gb. The C major note does not have sharps or ﬂats. G has one sharp followed D which has 2 sharps, A has 3 sharps and so on. In determining the ﬂats in a key, go counter clockwise with F having one ﬂat, Bb 2 ﬂats and so on. Therefore when you go clockwise you add a sharp and when you go counter clockwise you add a ﬂat in the circle.
The circle of 5ths is used to play common progressions on western music like the I-IV-V used in country music or rock. Here choose any key you would like to play the chord progression – say D. To get the IV chord go clockwise ﬁve positions to the G note. The V chord after perfect ﬁfths is note A. Thus the key for I-IV-V at D is D-G-A. By using this circle you can make the same chord progressions in different keys. This is useful to song writers in composition using several keys.
The circle of 5ths is therefore important as it helps students determine the key of music in which they might be playing. It also enables a person learn about the scales. The student uses the circle to ﬁnd out the sharps or ﬂats in a key and determines which notes are to be lowered or raised. To determine the sharps in any key move clockwise from C and the ﬂats counter clockwise. One can also learn on the major of a minor key as they are put together in the diagram and have similar key signature. This technique is also useful learning to play a guitar for the ﬁrst time as one can understand chord progressions.
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