Introduction to music

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Introduction to The Course[edit]

The main purpose of this course is to explore basic music theory so thoroughly that the student-musician will be able to extend that knowledge to the more comprehensive concepts that will follow. Thus, it will be easier to understand music and the physics that accompany it up to whatever level suits your needs. Music history and the physics of sound are included for students who wish to expand their knowledge beyond that of learning a single instrument. Anyone wishing to write music using music notation software is well-advised to understand what we humans hear and why we hear it the way we do. Students who find the section on acoustics -- the physical basis for sound -- initially uninteresting may even skip it at first, but eventually, the serious student/musician will need to understand what causes musical sounds and why we hear those sounds. That's what makes this a course, rather than simply "A How to Play the Ukulele" handbook.

Music theory is a lot like grammar. Languages are invented for the purpose of communicating. Most of the time we communicate with others, while there are times when we communicate with ourselves. Mozart and only a very rare group of other people were able to keep everything organized in their heads. Most people need to keep a notebook to remind them of what they have learned. And a course such as this relies upon everyone being "on the same page," if we are going to learn together, which is the best way to learn. While this course will benefit the lone learner, learning with others is often a better approach, and that can be done online -- and for free. DRM

What is music? Music is a general melody of sounds that unify the mind and soul. Not even language differences can stop music from reaching out to our selected audience. Even before recorded history, people created music, whether through drumming, singing or chanting. Some of our strongest emotions may be brought on by listening to a piece of music. In this modern age, we hear music around us almost all of our waking hours, in one form or another: radio, television or film music and our personal music (iPods, MP3 players, etc.) is with us throughout the day. Most of us listen to recorded music or go to performances regularly, and some of us play a musical instrument. In earlier time modern audio recording technology, music was available only in the presence of a musician, or to those who played an instrument or sang. Music varies in genres, pop, rock, R'n'B etc.

Musical concepts[edit]

A basic definition of music (in the Western World) is the chronological organisation of sounds; that is, making certain sounds at certain times, which make melodic, rhythmic and harmonic sense.

The first, most basic concept, is keeping the sounds "in time". This leads us to some of the first few musical concepts: beat, rhythm and duration.

  • Beat is the regular pulse which provides a `timeline` for the rhythm to anchor itself to.
  • Rhythm is essentially repeated patterns of long or short, stressed or unstressed sounds or silences which fit into the main beat.
  • Duration is the length of notes or sounds or silences which facilitate the rhythm.

Music is also the relationship between sound and silence. Duration and rhythm apply to silence in the same manner as they apply to sound.

One way to look at how we perceive music is as horizontal and vertical patterns. We hear melodies as a horizontal pattern. The notes (and silences) are heard one after the other over a period of time.

We hear chords (groups of notes played simultaneously) in a vertical pattern. A mixture of one or all of these: melody, rhythm, chords, and silence form musical patterns.

Rhythm[edit]

Rhythm is the most basic concept of music. In all cultures worldwide, the most simple and basic forms of music are purely rhythms. A rhythm is a pulse; a repetition of sounds in a pattern. Simple rhythms can be recognized straight away. Tapping rhythmically at a drum constitutes tapping it at timed intervals in a pattern. The most common rhythmic pattern in modern-day Western music is time (say four-four time). This is where four pulses come one after the other, with the first of each four being given emphasis (known as an accent). Try this exercise:

  • Say the words "one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four..." etc. continuously, and at even time intervals.
  • Now each time you say "one", say it slightly louder: "one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four..." etc.
  • You have just been saying the words "one", "two", "three" and "four" in time.

Reading[edit]

Tutorials[edit]

Melody[edit]

In music, pitch is used to describe how high or low a note sounds. Anyone would know the difference between a high-pitched scratching of fingernails across a blackboard, and the low, rumbling growl of thunder. When Maria tells the children in The Sound of Music that "the first few notes just happen to be...do re mi", she was referring to pitch. Using pitch, together with rhythm, we can start to construct melodies. Without rhythm, notes would just be long, sustained sounds. Without pitch, each sound would be the same (for example, the beating of a single drum).

Dynamics[edit]

In music, we use the word dynamics to describe how loudly or softly a note is played. Dynamics falls under the wider category of expressive techniques, which are instructions for the performer to play loudly or softly, smoothly or detached, and many other effects.

Timbre (tone colour)[edit]

In music, the "colour" of a sound being produced is referred to as timbre, or tone colour. Timbre is the difference between the harsh, scratchy sound of an electric guitar with distortion; the glassy, rounded sound of a piano; and the bird-like whispering sound of a flute. All these instruments could play exactly the same note, yet anyone would be able to recognise instantly an electric guitar from a piano from a flute.

Structure[edit]

Musical structure is usually defined by several things including scales and/or arpeggios , rhythm, key signature, melodic patterns, variations Etc. To keep this particular paragraph concise, all or some of the elements of music theory can be used in the structure of a musical piece. Many composers that listen to Bach are fascinated by the palindromes, variations and inversions of patterns contained in its compositional structure, most of which will never be noticed unless you plan on going through the notation with a magnifying glass.

--Subnote, Colhsh: Musical Structure also refers to the overall layout of a musical work as a whole, these come in several forms the simplest form is Binary form, in which there is one section of music "A" which is then juxtaposed against a contrasting "B" section which finishes it, giving the piece an "A-B" structure. An expansion on this is ternary form which is the same as binary, except that the "A" section is repeated, making the overall structure "A-B-A"

Another musical form that was popular during the classical era is that of the Rondo form, in which there is an "A" section that is repeated throughout the work, but is interrupted by contrasting episodes, making any work in a random form typically have the structure of "A-B-A-C-A-D-Etc."

Larger structures include "Sonata form," which was developed in the Classical Period. The "Sonata form" often is the structure of the first movement of a Sonata, Symphony, and Concerto. The Sonata form is comprised of four sections.

  • Exposition - Introduces a main theme in the tonic key, and a subordinate theme in a related key - often the dominant, or if in a minor key - the relative major.
  • Development - Develops and elaborates the themes and explores new and exciting key centers.
  • Recapitulation - Returns to the tonic key and states the main theme and subordinate theme. The subordinate theme is often reworked to stay in the tonic.
  • Coda - Concludes the piece.

Texture[edit]

Texture refers to the layering of sounds on top of each other. It describes the depth, nature, and relationship of those layers of sound, or voices. It can describe the vertical and horizontal relationship between the voices. Some common textures are:

  • Monophonic texture: A melody by itself, without harmony, and without another melody. For example, singing in the shower, monks chanting, or a fife and drum corps.
  • Polyphonic texture: Two or more melodies, heard at the same time. For example, singing "Row, row, row your boat" as a round, or a Bach Fugue.
  • Homophonic texture: A melody accompanied by harmony, or by less important melodies. Most popular music is homophonic, and much classical music as well, such as Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata, or a church hymn.
  • Mixed texture: More than one musical texture. For example, singing a round (polyphony) accompanied by guitar chords (homophony).

Texture can also be described with such terms as thick, dense, or open.

See also[edit]

School of Music

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