Archive for June, 2013


Symmetry in Music – Musical Form

Thursday, June 27th, 2013
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Symmetry in Music – Musical Form

Have you ever seen a movie and came away feeling like something wasn’t right? Instantly, a movie may have popped in to your mind where you remember thinking that you invested a lot of time in to learning the characters only to reach the climax scene but then it felt like it suddenly ended.

Maybe it was a book. Maybe you felt like it took a lot of time to develop the story but not enough time tying up all of the loose ends.

In a more scientific sense, what do you see when you look in the mirror? You! Have you seen plants or animals that would have two exact pieces if you were to cut it in half? These are all examples of symmetry.
Music form
In science and math, symmetry is complex and although the idea of symmetry is more abstract in music and other arts, it’s no less important. Artists struggle to achieve symmetry in their works and they know that when it isn’t right, their audience knows.

Classical period composers understood symmetry well. Music theorists have long debated with conductors about the appropriateness of not playing all of the repeats in Classical period symphonies. Composers like Haydn may repeat large sections of his symphonies adding a lot of time to the performance.

Conductors argue that these repeats cause the audience to disengage (become bored) with the performance while music theorists argue that the repeats can’t be omitted because it robs the music of the symmetry the composer intended.

But how does any of this apply to you? Western music is generally organized in to four or eight measure phrases in order to establish symmetry. Listen to your favorite melody and if it’s an eight measure phrase, cut it in to two, four measure pieces. If it was written well, the last four measures should sound a lot like the first four. If the melody is in the key of C, it likely started with a C chord and ended on a C chord.

If you count the total number of measures in your favorite piece of music, it’s likely that each piece of the song will be about the same length. The verse and chorus will be about the same with the bridge possibly half as long for contrast. Performers who spend their lives playing music find that the rehearsal numbers written on the music are often the same, again, because of symmetry.

Of course, some composers use the lack of symmetry as a compositional device but in the end, even the strangest sounding music has symmetry. Listen to the works of minimalist composer John Adams and try to find the symmetry in the midst of the chaos.

When you’re writing music, think of symmetry in your melodies and when you’re playing consider how you will phrase the elements in order to give them that mirror image or symmetry. Next time you listen to music, watch a movie, or view a piece of art, see if you can find the symmetry. In art, when it feels or looks right, it’s because symmetry is present. We as humans are wired to find comfort in symmetry and discomfort when it isn’t present.

Finally…

Symmetry in music is an abstract concept and one of the best ways to learn about it is to look outside of music. Our world is beautifully and symmetrically made. Every day the sun goes up and later goes down. We wake up in the morning and go to sleep at night, and the waves hit the shore only to retreat and be replaced by others. Symmetry is everywhere and as musicians we naturally reflect that in our performing and writing.

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Piano Chords: Using Major, Minor, Diminished & Augmented Chords To Improvise

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013
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Piano Chords: Using Major, Minor, Diminished & Augmented Chords To Improvise

Here is a transcript of the video if you want to follow along:

Good morning. This is Duane and today I would like to talk about getting started improvising using just the four basic piano chords types. Major [chord] Minor [chord] diminished [chord] and augmented [chord]. When people start improvising I encourage them to take a real listen and use the basic chord. Now later you can use sixths and sevenths and ninths, elevenths and all that. Complex stuff that we would like to use but you don’t have to. You can start up very simply. Let me just play a little bit, using just those kind of chord and see if you can tell what they are.

[Duane playing piano]

I used all four kinds of chords right there, let’s take it slow, I went [Duane playing piano]. That’s C major [chord], A minor [chord], D minor [chord] G7 [chord] and then G augmented [chord] major, minor, minor [Duane playing piano] that’s the 7th chord I think I used and then [Duane playing piano] that’s minor, and then I think I went like this, C major, C diminished, minor, G augmented and then C.

You can play; you don’t have to play real complex stuff when you start out. Just take a simple melody, make up a silly melody; that was a silly melody but its a melody, and it’s a motif, Its a theme and I just played around with the music. I may not do the same thing around this time, so you’ll see. I’ll start on G this time.

[Duane playing piano]

Okay, so improvising can be very simple. In the right hand I’m just making up that simple melody, in the left hand I was using a simple swing bass. Now, a simple swing bass is just hitting a low root, whatever it is, if you’re playing a C chord you hit a low C and then the C chord. Then if your chord is A minor hit a low A and then an A minor Chord. Then if you are playing D minor hit a low D and then D minor Chord. Then if you are playing G augmented hit a low G and then play the G augmented chord. Then, [Duane playing piano]. That was kind of a swing along kind of swing base, notice that I’m doing the same thing I’m plying a C chord but I’m playing a little thing here before the rest of it [Duane playing piano]. It gives a little of rhythmic kind of a horse kind of plodding along; that kind of thing. If you want to do that that’s fine. Use your pedal to hook the low note to the chord then let it up; push it down again as you hit the new low note, hook it to the chord, and so on.

Combine that with something in the right hand and you’re off to the races as far a improvising is concern. Of course that’s is just one style, that’s kind of a fun kind of silly style. You can improvise in any style, of course. Let me do an entirely different style okay?

[Duane playing piano]

That was kind of a formal full chord style. I could play this [Duane playing piano]. I

I hope you recognize that I played the same chord progressions on all three or four of those improvisations. It’s just illustrating that the same chord can be used to play many many different styles and it’s all in improvisation. That’s not a song, by the way, I was using chords that I made it up as I was went along.

Okay, and you can do the same so have at it. See you tomorrow with another piano or tip. If you haven’t already signed up for my newsletter be sure to do that, come over to playpiano.com and sign up for my free newsletter. A lot of good stuff there about piano chords of all kinds, see you there. Bye bye for now.

Piano Chords: Using Major, Minor, Diminished & Augmented Chords To Improvise

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano_chords

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Enharmonic: What Does It Mean in Music?

Wednesday, June 19th, 2013
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Enharmonic: What Does It Mean in Music?

Good morning. This is Duane, and today I’d like to talk about enharmonic notes, enharmonic scales and enharmonic keys. Enharmonic, the word, means sounds the same, but it’s written differently.

For example, that key right there I could call either D-flat or C-sharp, is enharmonic. As I play it, you couldn’t tell whether it’s C-sharp or D-flat, but if you saw it on paper, it would either be a D-flat or a C-sharp. It would be written differently in other words, right?

The same thing is true of a scale. If that is D-flat or C-sharp, then this scale is also the C-sharp major scale or the D-flat scale. If I play in the key of D-flat (Duane is playing the piano), that’s also … I’m playing in the key of C-sharp. Those are inharmonic.

Let’s take a look a little deeper at that principle. If that’s D-flat and C-sharp, what is that? E-flat or D-sharp. What’s that? G-flat or F-sharp. What’s that? A-flat or G-sharp. What’s that? B-flat or A-sharp.

Now that’s pretty easy. There are some white keys, however, that are also enharmonic and you need to know about those. That note is F isn’t it? But sometimes—very rarely but sometimes—you’ll see E with a sharp in front of it. When you see that you will play the note that looks like F but it’s written as E-sharp. That note is normally played as E, but sometimes you’ll see a flat in front of F, and so that becomes F-flat. They’re enharmonic. I won’t explain the reasons for that right now. That’s a different subject and it takes a little while to explain … key orientation, but it’s still true that that happens once in a while.

These white notes here … that’s normally C, but what else could it be called? C-sharp, right? That note’s normally B, but it’s sometimes called what? C-flat, right? I can play it in a key, in an inharmonic key. I can play an inharmonic note. I can play an inharmonic scale.

That’s really all you need to know about inharmonic things. Thanks for being with me.

If you haven’t yet signed up for my free newsletter, be sure and do that. Come on over to playpiano.com. There’s lots of good stuff there about chords and chord progressions, and insights to music theory and so on, so be sure and take advantage of that.

Thanks a lot. We’ll see you tomorrow for another subject. Bye-bye for now.

Here is the video on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ZyzsQ5U84U

And here is an article in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enharmonic

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Why Do I Need To Learn Chords? I Just Want To Play Songs…

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013
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“Why Do I Need To Learn Chords? I Just Want To Play Songs — not learn all that music theory!” Over the years many people have said something like that to me. That’s pretty much like saying “I just want to operate on people — I don’t want to go to medical school and study!”

Of course, there are a very FEW people who can play most anything they hear without knowing what they are doing. Erroll Garner was one of those, and I just saw a guy on TV the other evening who could do that. And if you are that gifted, more power to you! You certainly don’t need to take lessons from me.

Please watch this 1-minute video on “Why Should I Learn Major Chords?”:

Then go to the web page on major chords: Major Chords – Learn all 12 fast!

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Piano Notes – For Absolute Beginners

Monday, June 17th, 2013
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Piano Notes – For Absolute Beginners

Duane: Good morning. This is Duane. This video is for absolute beginners only. If you already know the keyboard, then please leave right now because there is nothing here that will interest you at all. Lots of people don’t know the relationship of the piano keys to the piano notes that are on a sheet music for piano, so I’d like to show you how the two relate today.

Piano keys, as you know, go from A up to G. Then they repeat. [Piano Playing] I have another video on the subject of piano keys. If you don’t know them, then you probably ought to review that. The purpose today is to see how these notes, these keys on the piano relate to the notes on sheet music. I’ve prepared this chart. It’s called the Magic Keyboard Chart. I don’t know how well you can see it, but it’s designed to slip behind the keyboard.

What it does is it slips right behind the keyboard and stands there. I line up C on the chart. Let me show you. There’s a chart named C, D, E, F, G, and so on. This is a treble clef for the right hand. This is a bass clef for the left hand. I line up the C with middle C there, and then that shows me exactly what the notes are but more importantly how they relate to the notes on the staff.

For example, if I go up to F or G or A, I can see on the staff that note. A on the keyboard relates to that note on the staff. B on the keyboard relates to that B line. C relates to that space. E relates to that line. Notes on the staff are based on lines and spaces. There are five lines – one, two, three, four, five – and four spaces. The names of the line are E, G, B, D, F. The spaces in between are F, A, C, E. Pretty convenient because F, A, C, E spells the word what? Face. F, A, C, E.

If you need a little memory jogger for that, I have a memory jogger over here called “every green banana draws flies” for the lines and the spaces spell the word “face.” In the bass cleft, you see that they line up with the bass clef too. The bass clef lines are G, B, D, F, A. I’ve suggested to my students that “grizzly bears don’t fly airplanes” is a good way to remember that. There are other ways, of course. The spaces are “all cars eat gas.” There is a thirsty car right there.

This simply lines up on the keyboard like so, and it directs you to the notes in the bass clef and the treble clef. It’s very, very basic. Very much for beginners. This chart, by the way, is not for sale. So don’t ask, okay? It comes free with one of my courses called “How to Play Chord Piano.” If you’re just starting in piano, that would be the course you should take. You can go to the URL if you want to at www.chordpiano.com and hear about that.

I just thought I’d show you how the keys on the keyboard [piano playing] relate to the notes on music. People use those terms kind of interchangeable, and I’ve even been guilty of doing that too. When you play [piano playing] that, that’s called a key. When you indicate a note on the staff, that’s called a note. A key is a note. All right? Thanks for being with me. I hope this has helped a little bit. If you’d like to learn more about the keyboard and more about music and more about chords and so on, then come on over to www.playpiano.com and sign up for my free newsletter. www.chordpiano.com is where the course is located. If you want the free newsletter, come on over to www.playpiano.com. Thanks.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H32VUmzTtN0

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