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Bach's Musical Signature theory

Question: How do I calculate Bach’s musical signature?

– Alfi M.

Albert’s reply: Bach often wrote his name in musical notation, sometimes hiding it in his works. In German, the note B-flat is called B, and B natural is called H. Thus, B-A-C-H in German is played B-flat, A, C,...

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Bach's Ornaments theory

Question: Great Web Site!

I am studying the Bach B Minor Invention BWV 786. In the Explication, the manner of execution of the trill is very clear, and yet one can find conflicting interpretations in the recordings and in edited manuscripts.

It seems that most performers allow themselves...

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Common Chord Progressions theory

This lesson will introduce you to the most common chord progressions, so widely used that they can be found in virtually every piece of tonal music regardless of genre or era. Astonishingly, the following chord progressions are used as frequently in Renaissance and Baroque music of centuries past...

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Difference Between Motives and Phrases theory

Question: Hi Albert,

Would you be so kind as to help me get clear on the meaning of “motive”? Also can you differentiate a “motive” from a “phrase”? I want to follow your instructions for the proper way to practice but I’m confused on these two terms....

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Difference Between Pitches and Notes theory

Question: What are the two pitches in music called?

Albert’s reply: There aren’t just two pitches in music, there are as many pitches as there are colors.

Yet pitches aren’t the same as notes. A given note can be tuned to a different pitch. This means that it can be adjusted...

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Distinguishing Minor from Major theory

Question: How can I distinguish minor from major pitches?

Albert’s reply: Major and minor aren’t properties of single notes or pitches but rather of groups of notes. Major and minor can refer to keys, scales, chords and intervals. Let’s look at them in turn.

Keys and Scales

...

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Fugue Analysis theory

Question: I’m starting to learn Bach’s Fugue in D major from Book 1 of the Well-Tempered Clavier. I’ve read your extremely useful article, How to Learn a Fugue, and I have started to practice the fugue accordingly.

My question is related to the structure of the fugue (of this...

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How to Practice the "Moonlight" Sonata theory

Question: Albert,

I am very impressed with this website. It is sure to help many people as it has helped myself. I am going to be playing the “Moonlight” Sonata in 22 days at my high school for a talent show and I would like to know an efficient way to practice it – aspects...

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Key Signatures and Accidentals theory

Question: I am currently working on naming the keys of melodies with accidentals, then re-writing them with key signatures. How can I go about doing this? I have forgotten the steps my teacher taught me last week so some help would be very much appreciated. :)

– Selina (Langley, British...

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Major and Minor Chords theory

Question: How do I determine the difference between major and minor chords?

– Antonia (Charlotte, North Carolina, USA)

Albert’s reply: Major and minor chords are both triads. A triad consists of three notes, each of them a third above the previous. (This is the case when the chord...

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Major and Minor Keys theory

Question: This may be very basic, but could give me a broad overview of major and minor keys and scales?

My real question is, for every major there is a minor in the same exact key, so what’s the difference and how can you tell which is which in a piece of music, for instance whether it in...

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Melody Writing theory

Question: What is the definition of the following?

  1. Tendency tone
  2. Stable tone
  3. Active tone

– Timothy (Ibadan, Oyo, Nigeria)

Albert’s reply: These are harmonic terms having specifically to do with melody writing and voice leading. Let’s take stable tones first. These are the...

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