When most people think of “music theory,” they’re haunted by some pretty scary visions. You might imagine complex math equations … or professors babbling about counterpoint … or you may hear voices in your head about enharmonics, cadences, modulation, and a bunch of other chaos.
But when you cut to the heart of music theory, it’s surprisingly simple. No, really…. In fact, it’s so simple that it’s kind of funny that it has a bad reputation at all.
When you look at the chromatic scale – the basic 12-note pattern that is the mother of all music theory – it’s really very friendly. In fact, it’s so simple because it can easily be divided into six simple patterns. And these six patterns form the central framework of music theory.
In a nutshell, the chromatic scale can be broken down into:
- one group of minor-seconds (b2) and major-sevenths (7)
- two groups of major-seconds (2) and minor-sevenths (b7)
- three groups of minor-thirds (b3) and major-sixths (6)
- four groups of major-thirds (3) and minor-sixths (b6)
- six pairs of tritones (1 and #4/b5), and
- twelve related subdominants (4) and dominants (5)
Once you understand the chromatic scale at this atomic level, you can start to build cool and interesting patterns – like scales, chords, and progressions.
Sure, some knucklehead musicians will scoff at the idea of mastering these fundamental intervals. But the last laugh is on them. Because it turns out that all melodies and harmonies are based on these basic relationships between notes. So the better you get at recognizing them, the faster you’ll become the master musician and songwriter you’ve always wanted to be.