Piano Music Theory In A Nutshell

Piano Music Theory In A Nutshell

Posted by Jay Stacks | March 16, 2016 | Music Production

Music theory? I know that’s a subject we all hate but honestly if you want to make better beats & instrumentals this is the article for you. Not only will you learn how to make chord progressions, you will learn how to make sweet melodies in any genre. Hope you learn something for this article because I know I have.

01234567
MajorbCF
b
Bb
e
Eb
a
Ab
d
Db
g
Gb
c
Cb
f
#CG
f
D
c
A
g
E
d
B
a
F#
e
C#
b
MinorbAD
b
G
e
C
a
F
d
Bb
g
Eb
c
Ab
f
#AE
f
B
c
F#
g
C#
d
G#
a
D#
e
A#
b

You can find all the major scales using this chart, this is how its done.

1) First we pick our scale, for example lets say we want the A major scale.

2) We find the “A” in the chart, ONLY looking at the CAPITAL letters for now. You can see it’s the 6th column, 3rd row.

3) Look above and you will see its underneath a number, in our case its 3. This means that there are 3 sharps in the A major scale. Why sharps? Because the “A” is sitting in the “#’s” row. If it was in the “b’s” row, it would mean there were 3 flats (i.e the Eb major scale).

4) So now we know that the A maj scale has 3 sharps, now we need to know which notes are sharps. This is where the lower case letters come in. You’ll see underneath every CAPS letter is a lowercase letter, these show which notes are sharpened or flattened in each scale. All we have to do is count backwards. So in our example of A maj, the sharpened notes are G, C and F. You see how we got there?

5) And that’s it, now we have the A major scale, it should look like this – A B C# D E F# G# A

Notes

Don’t get sharps and flats confused with major and minor, they are completely different things. There is a C# major scale and a C# minor scale, there is an Eb major scale and an Eb minor scale.
The above steps are to find a major scale. I will show you in a minute how to find a minor scale.
You’ll notice there is no “C” in the chart, this is because the C major scale has no sharps or flats. Its just; C D E F G A B C
Minor Scales

Now you know how to find a major scale, you can easily convert it to a minor scale. All you need to do is flatten the 3rd, 6th and 7th notes in the scale.

So sticking with our “A” example, the A minor scale looks like this:

A B C D E F G A B

Remember in the A maj scale the C, F and G were all sharp, we flattened them and now we have the minor scale.

Another example:

E major scale – E F# G# A B C# D# E

E minor scale – E F# G A B C D E

Chords

Okay so now you wanna know how to play chords within your scale, this is the easiest part. Every chord, just like scales, follow a pattern. Let me explain what i mean.

C major chord – C+E+G

D major chord – D+F#+A

What do these two chords have in common? They both use the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes in their respective scale.

C maj scale – C D E F G A B C

D maj scale – D E F# G A B C# D

Using this rule, you can find the major chord in any key by simply playing the 1st, 3rd and 5th notes in the scale.

Every chord has its own “spelling”. Using these spellings to find chords in a scale instead or memorizing individual notes means you have much less stuff to remember. And as you practice, you should naturally pick up which notes to play.

So here are the spellings for some of main types of chords (there are loads). Remember, these are the notes within the scale you play.

Major

1 3 5

Minor

1 b3 5

Major 6th

1 3 5 6

Minor 6th

1 b3 5 6

Major 7th

1 3 5 7

Minor 7th

1 b3 5 b7

Dominant 7th

1 3 5 b7

Diminished

1 b3 b5

Diminished 7th

1 b3 b5 bb7

Power Chord

1 5 8

Augmented Chord

1 3 #5

Sus 2

1 2 5

Sus 4

1 4 5

Notes

When you see a “b” in a chord spelling, that means you flatten that note. For example, the minor chord spelling is “1 3b 5”, which means you play the 1st note, the 3rd note (flattened) and the 5th note.
When you see “bb”, thats simply means you flatten the note twice (see the diminished 7th chord)
People usually use Roman Numerals instead of numbers, i am pretty much self taught, so I don’t do it that way. Don’t let the Roman numerals fool you.
To finish off…

 

Hope that helps someone, learning theory was a huge pain in the ass for me, so i hope i’ve made it easier for some people to understand. These are just the very basics, so once you get your head round major and minor scales and chords, it will be a lot easier to get into more advanced stuff. Remember i’ve only showed you two types of scales, there are hundreds of different scales each with its own sound and character. The chord spellings are still the same, if you find a list of scales (google), you can use these chord spellings to find chords in all those exotic scales.

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