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What Is Musical Interpretation? theory

Musical interpretation is, in a word, storytelling. In a story, there are characters—in music, themes. In a story there is development—in music, variations on a theme, ornamentation, harmonic tension. In a story, there are scenes; in music, sections. In a classical story, the hero...

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The Language of Music theory

Music is a language. Like spoken language, music is rhetorical. The language of music has grammar and punctuation. It has phrases and sentences, loud and soft, fast and slow, accents and dramatic silences. In speech and music alike, timing is everything.

As in speech, in music we need to...

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How to Play a Piano Scale theory

Piano scales are one of the biggest stumbling blocks for most piano students. In this lesson, you’ll learn how to build any major scale at the piano; starting from any note.

We’ll focus on major scales since they’re best suited as a starting point. (There are three types of...

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How to Learn the Sharps and Flats theory

With up to seven sharps or seven flats in a key signature, it can seem daunting to try to remember the order—yet there’s a simple shortcut that makes it easy.

You just need to remember three simple things: 1. Sharps raise notes, while flats lower notes. 2. The first sharp and first...

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Music Modes theory

Why does a piano keyboard look the way it does? The answer has to do with music modes. The modes are types of scales. A scale is simply a specified sequence of intervals from one note to the same note an octave higher, say, from A to the next higher A.

In order to understand this point it is...

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Consonance and Dissonance: Apollo and Dionysus in Music? theory

This is a lecture by the eminent pianist Carlo Grante, which he gave as part of a lecture series "Music Explains Itself" for the Accademia Merano in Italy. Carlo is one of my musical mentors, and he kindly asked if he could use a clip from my TEDxSalzburg talk on this subject, "What Makes Music...

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What is Voicing? theory

You may have heard pianists talk about “voicing.” If you’ve been confused it’s certainly understandable, since the term actually has several entirely different meanings in piano playing. This lesson will clarify the different meanings of "voicing” as it relates to...

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Dominant Seventh Chord theory

The simplest way to think of a seventh chord is three thirds stacked on top of each other.

The dominant seventh is the most important of the seventh chords and is fundamental to Western harmony. A useful shortcut is to think of a dominant seventh chord as a major triad with a minor third on top....

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Key Signature Chart theory

This Key Signature Chart is designed to help you learn all the key signatures easily. It’s written with increasing sharps and flats.

It’s essential for all musicians to memorize the key signatures. As you study it you’ll quickly learn its patterns and discover that it’s...

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Key Signatures theory

Key signatures are designed to simplify music notation by indicating the key. Without them, composers would be forced to write accidentals (sharps and flats) every time they’re used, which would greatly complicate reading music.

Because each key signature indicates two keys (one major and...

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Chord Inversions theory

Chord inversions are “spellings” of a chord with a note other than the fundamental in the bass. Let’s take a simple example:

The C major triad consists of the notes C, E and G, in that order:

As long as the C is on the bottom, the chord is in root position. Both the above...

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Circle of Fifths theory

The Circle of Fifths depicts all key signatures in order of increasing sharps and flats:

It’s a very easy way to learn the key signatures by depicting them graphically. With C major at the 12 o’clock position, the Circle of Fifths starts with zero sharps or flats, also called ...

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