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How to speak the Language of Music - The Nuts and Bolts of Music Theory.

Over the past few months, I have talked about a lot big global ideas but I want to talk about the nuts and bolts of music theory. Music theory teaches us the language of music in the same way as a child learns to speak their native language to communicate. We can live without music theory in everyday life but having it opens up a massive world of communication.

The Doubters

As a young man I was lucky to find learning easy but as a young musician I hung out with other musicians that were self-taught. I learnt from them that music theory was to be despised. It was for classical music and stuffy people who were all about being clever. They quoted the major bands of the day and said they didn’t need to understand music.

The Teacher

I also had a music teacher who was passionate about music theory and taught the power in it as a language. I tried to combine the passion of my friends with the passion of the teacher. I started writing songs and here I will share the most basic music theory you can learn.

Basic Beginnings

My first songs had edge and were upbeat. They were all Major chords because they were the best chords.

So, in any key there are 7 chords that work with that key. There is a lot of theory available, especially in my factsheets, to back this up.

There are 3 Major chords, 3 Minor chords and a diminished chord (also called a Minor b5 chord). In popular music the diminished chord isn’t really used and is often replaced with a straight Minor chord (but that is a story for another time).

My first 3 chords that I learnt on the guitar were A Major, D Major and E Major. All I knew at the time was that they sounded good together but my music theory tells me they are the Major chords of the key of A Major. So, my ears and my theory agreed.

I wrote all my songs fast and with 3 chords. Lots of attitude to get me through.

My fourth song caused a break through. The bridge needed to be a bit quieter, the words weren’t angry but reflective. I needed a new chord – a Minor chord.

Expanding with Theory.

My friends couldn’t help me and my ears didn’t have the knowledge so I went to my teacher. She said you need a Minor chord and she showed me how to play all the Minor chords in the Key of A Major. They were B Minor, C# Minor and F# Minor. My first response was anything that had a # sign next had to be hard to play but it turned out that they weren’t as hard as I thought. The F# Minor turned out to be the chord I was looking for and it blew my friends minds. Soon I was teaching them.

The Sky's the Limit

Now I hard 6 chords that all worked together, my new songs became much more interesting and I was teaching all my friends. I went back to my teacher and asked “is their more”. They smiled and my journey with music theory began. Everything I learnt I put into practice and taught my friends.

The journey is still going on, some 45 years later, and I am using what I learn to speak the language a lot more clearly and with more authority than when I started.

My advice is if you want to be good at anything learn the language, practice it and use it. I will be adding some more music language tips over the next weeks and months.

If you have enjoyed what I have written please follow me and get my posts sent to you so that you don’t miss any. Please comment. If there are any topics you are interested in let me know and I will do my best to post about them.

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