Music Theory Q & A

Current Answer Source: Jeff Evans
If you have a music theory or other music-related question please visit our question form. If I know the answer, or can convincingly pretend to know the answer, it will appear below. Questions will be edited according to my own whims and arbitrary judgements. Your full name will not appear unless you really insist. Answers appearing below carry no warranty of any kind but may be useful in dinner conversation.

1: D# vs. Eb. Keywords: enharmonic
2: Cambiata in 3rd species. Keywords: Counterpoint
3: The Neapolitan chord. Keywords: harmony, altered chords
4: When to beam notes. Keywords: notation, beaming
5: Hearing the difference between 2/2 and 4/4, etc. Keywords: meter, beat
6: Slur combined with staccato?? Keywords: articulation
7: What's a tritone?? Keywords: intervals, counterpoint
8: Modulation vs. key change. Keywords: harmony
9: Why no B# or E# in the scale? Keywords: diatonic, chromatic
10: Are there any easier-to-learn forms of music notation? Keywords: staff, shape notes, solfege
11: Can you elaborate on the use of rhythm in Bartok's Mikrokosmos no. 148? Keywords: Bulgarian rhythm
12: What is a cadence? Keywords: harmony, phrase
13: What is cambiata? Keywords: counterpoint
14: A mysterious pair of notes - half notes beamed together? Keywords: bowed tremolo, notation
15: What does "plena voce" mean? Keywords: performance instructions
16: Please explain the circle of fifths. Keywords: intervals, key signature
17: Please explain "The Dominant Triads." Keywords: harmony
18: What is the difference between a parallel minor and a relative minor? Keywords: key signature
19: How do you recognize an interval? Keywords: ear training, notation
20: What is the difference between a chord in major and a chord in minor? Keywords: harmony, triad
21: What is a closed Chord? Keywords: chord voicing, chord position
22: What are the hand signs for solfege? Keywords: diatonic, scale
23: How do you tell which notes in a melody determine the chords? Keywords: harmonize, harmony
24: How to analyze the chord E D A B E? Keywords: harmonic analysis
25: What is the meaning of numbers 6/5, 4/3, 4/2, etc.? Keywords: figured bass, thoroughbass, harmonic analysis
26: Can you tell me how leading tones work? Keywords: counterpoint, harmony, scale
27: Please explain the terms "ostinato" and "drone." Keywords: composition
28: Should E# be played on the F# key if F# is in the key signature? Keywords: enharmonics, key signature, accidentals
29: Repeat bars within a measure Keywords: meter, pickup note, barline, repeat
30: Spelling a given scale in Sol-Fa Keywords: Solfege, scale, Fixed-Do, Moveable-Do
31: Why do most musical scales start on C? Keywords: Scale, Key
32: Should I take music theory? Why do orchestra parts keep changing clef? Why are the instruments in different keys? Keywords: Music Theory, Transposing instruments, Range, Clef
33: Could you please give me information about rests in music theory? Keywords: Rests, rhythm, notation
34: How would one play a piano chord with a book notation of G/B? Keywords: Chords, harmony, chord inversion
35: Where do the 5 tones with hand symbols in the movie "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" come from? Keywords: Solfege, Curwen, partial series, scale
36: How do you notate a 16th-8th-16th note combination on one beam? Keywords: Beaming, rhythm, meter, notation
37: What is a sixth chord? Keywords: harmony, sixth chord
38: What is an Italian sixth? Keywords: harmony, augmented sixth chord, French Augmented Sixth, German Augmented Sixth, Italian Augmented Sixth
39: What are the rules for writing a round? Keywords: counterpoint, circular canon, round
40: A jazz piece is marked with sextuplets but looks like 12/8 - Is this correct? Keywords: meter, jazz, swing
41: In tonal music, Why would it be wrong to leave unresolved 7ths or unresolved suspensions? Keywords: harmony, counterpoint, partials, harmonics, dissonance
42: What does "fp" (forte/piano) mean when under the same note? For instance in a measure with 8th-4th-8th note with fp under the quarter what dynamic should be used? Keywords: dynamics, performance instructions, performance practice
43: What syllables make up the supertonic triad? Keywords: scale degrees, triads, harmony
44: How do I count rests in my head? Keywords: rhythm, counting, simple, compound, rests, meter
45: Are there good interval hints to keep in mind when trying to distinguish between tones? Keywords: intervals, ear training
46: What is a bFlat7 *5*9 chord?? Keywords: chords, jazz chords, diminished chords
47: Is the division of the octave into 12 tones based on anything other than convention? Keywords: scales, steps, acoustics, keyboard
48: How do you know the difference between a major and minor interval? Keywords: intervals, major, minor
49: What mark is used to indicate a slurred note? Keywords: articulation, slurs, ties, phrase marks
50: What scale do these chords represent? Keywords: keys, minor keys, diminished chords, altered chords, dominant chords
51: What is a Cambiata voice as pertains to a boy soprano voice? Keywords: singing, tessitura, vocal range, cambiata
52: When playing in 5/4 time which beat gets the emphasis? Keywords: meter, metric accent
53: If an ornament has an accidental before it does it apply to the main notes if in the same bar? Keywords: accidentals, ornaments, turn, trill
54: Why is the sixth considered consonant, but the second is not? Keywords: tuning, temperament, overtones, partials, musical acoustics
55: Can you describe what is meant by "essential tones" in counterpoint? Keywords: essential tones, tonal counterpoint, voice-leading, dissonance
56: How can I write a chord progression in the Phrygian mode? Keywords: modal harmony, modes, Phrygian, Dorian, Mixolydian, Aeolian, Lydian, modal chords
57: Can you resolve a dispute between my daughter's teacher and her Theory Book about tying notes across the center of a 4/4 measure? Keywords: Ties, beams, metric division
58: Why is the vii dim 7 important in minor keys? Keywords: dissonance resolution, half steps, seventh chords
59: What are the scales in which the interval of (f-b)or (fa si) is augmented? Keywords: scales, modes, augmented fourth, diminished fifth, moveable Do, fixed Do
60: How should I count the eighth notes in the Moonlight Sonata? One-and-two-and doesn't seem to do it. Keywords: meter, triplets, cut time, counting rhythm
61: When can I use the chord IIb in harmony? Keywords: harmony, Neapolitan chord, altered chords
62: What chords make a 6-5 suspension in C minor if the bass is a b natural? Keywords: harmony, figured bass, diminished seventh, suspension, voice-leading, non-chordal tones
63: Does the Grand Staff arise from an older 10 line staff that was split in two? Keywords: Guido of Arezzo, conductus, chant, history of notation.
64: What is the meaning of major and minor in music? Keywords: Intervals, affect, scales, tonic triad.
65: Why doesn't 'Do, Re, Mi' start on the note A? Keywords: Guido, solfege, scales, Odo of Cluny, Ut Queant Laxis.
66: What should I call the chord E-Bb-Db-G#? Keywords: chords, enharmonic equivalents, diminished seventh chord.
67: The singer I'm accompanying wants everything in the key of Asia Minor -? Keywords: What keywords?
68: If an E major chord appears in a G major piece, has the music changed key? Keywords:Harmony, modulation, secondary dominants
69: What is this mysterious scale with a lowered 7th degree? Keywords:Modes, scales
70: I see an F natural in G major. Did the chord change? Keywords:Modulation, secondary dominants, harmony
71: What's the difference between a contemporary pedagogical composer and a non-pedagogical composer? Keywords: Bartok, Chopin, Bach, Kabalevsky, Shostakovich, Schumann
72: Why are some chord progressions "stronger" than others? Keywords:Harmonics, harmony, root progression, leading tones
73: When/why did the repeat become such an integral part of music? Keywords:Form, sonata, variation, through-composed
74: What makes that guitar riff work so well in Impossible Germany by Wilco? Keywords:Wilco, arpeggiation, ostinato, static harmony
75: What about software for constructing 12-tone arrays? Keywords:Serialism, tone rows, Babbit, Winham, Partitions
76: Can you help me learn to read notes for flute? Keywords:Flute, fingering chart, pitch reading
77: What is the difference between Natural, Harmonic and Melodic Minor? And modes...and parallel vs. relative minor... Keywords:Scales, keys, modes, relative minor, parallel minor
78: What does the V sign mean above a note? Keywords:bowing, upbow, accent mark
79: What is a drum roll and what is a ruff? Keywords:Percussion, ruffle, flourish, diddle, drag, dragadiddle, paradiddle
80: Why not use numbers instead of solfege? Keywords:altered tones, moveable do, tonality
81: Amin7 and C6 are the same notes? Keywords:harmony, figured bass, extended chords, triadic harmony
82: How to write melody in the pop genre? Keywords:melodic movement, range, compensated leaps
83: How should I mark two measures as repeating themselves? Keywords:Gardner Read, repeat marks
84: Are parallel voices wrong in double-choir counterpoint? Keywords:counterpoint, Jeppeson, Palestrina, independence of voices
85: Why is the perfect fourth considered a dissonance? Keywords:Counterpoint, harmony, partials, musical acoustics
86: How does tempo work in 6/8 time? Keywords:Compound meter, beats per measure, dotted note
87: How should I write in melodic minor? Keywords:minor mode, melodic minor, harmonic minor, natural minor
88: What happens to triplets in swing? Keywords:rhythm, swing, triplet, unequal notes
89: How could I smoothly join a song in F to one in Bb? Keywords:common-chord modulation, key
90: How do you tell the difference between C major and A minor? Keywords:harmony,circle of fifths,tonic
91: How long does a sharp or a flat last? Keywords:accidentals, measure line, precautionary accidental
92: What syllables would you sing for 16th notes in compound time? Keywords:rhythm, meter, Kodály,TakaDimi
93: How can you recognise an appoggiatura in music of the classical era? Keywords:counterpoint, appogiatura, dissonance, resolution
94: OK. How about a double appoggiatura in music of the classical era? Keywords:counterpoint, appogiatura, dissonance, resolution, ornament
95: What chords can be used to harmonize the natural minor scale, or minors like Hungarian, Persian, etc.? Keywords:triadic harmony, world music, modes
96: Why aren't tremolos just written out as regular notes? Keywords:ornament, notation, trill, bowed tremolo, performance practice
97: Is a perfect octave moving to a unison considered consecutive movement in counterpoint? Keywords:voice-leading, counterpoint, consecutive perfect intervals
98: A dotted half note equals how many eighth notes? Keywords:compound meter, dotted notes
99: I'm having trouble writing great melodies...when is it ok to use the accented passing tone? Keywords:non harmonic tones, suspension, passing tone, principles of melody
100: What is the difference between static and regular harmonic rhythm? Keywords:harmonic rhythm, chord changes
101: What's the difference between a diminished chord and a suspended chord? Keywords:triadic harmony, suspension, diminished intervals
102: What chord is formed by d, e, and g? Keywords:harmony,chord inversion
103: How can you tell the tempo? Keywords:tempo, metronome, performance practice
104: Why is there only A-G on the scale? Keywords:partials, scales, gamut
105: How do you know what to write when you are writing music? Keywords: (Just Do It)
106: If you have a triad (CEA) in the key of F, what is its name? Keywords: triads, chord inversion, Roman numerals
107: What kind of a chord is "Bes"? Keywords: chord names
108: Why are major chords made of 1-3-5? Keywords: musical acoustics, triads, partials, fundamental, overtones
109: Are repeat bars played in a Dal Segno section?? Keywords: musical form, minuet, trio, repeats
110: What is the difference between music notation and music theory? Keywords: music education, Ellington, McCartney,music theory, music notation
111: If major is happy and minor is sad, what are augmented and diminished? Keywords: Leonard Meyer, musical emotion, musical meaning, affect
112: Does changing the order of scale notes change the scale quality? Keywords: scales, modes
113: Is there a reason for all the first inversion chords in recitative? Keywords: Robert S. Hatten, St. Matthew Passion, dominant function
114: Objections raised about the mystery chord in question 102 Keywords: harmony, chord analysis, nonchordal tones
115: Please explain how to write harmonic suspensions using 4 3 Keywords: counterpoint, suspension, dissonance resolution
116: How do you write a countermelody? Keywords: counterpoint, harmony, tonal inversion, tonal transposition, Bach, Wachet Auf
117: What triad looks the same regardless of inversion (symmetrical)? Keywords: enharmonics, chord notation
118: What is it called when a minor song ends in a major key? Keywords: Picardy third, polyphony, consonance
119: What's the distinction between a dominant 7th on C and a dominant 7th in C? Keywords: dominant seventh chord, secondary dominant
120: Is there a convention for encoding words into musical notation? Keywords: Boethian, B durum
121: How can I fix voice crossing after transposing some parts? Keywords: counterpoint, Jeppeson
122: How was it decided that C major would have no sharps or flats? Keywords: hexachord, Guido of Arezzo, B durum
123: How to analyze measure 3 of the Adagio in Beethoven's 32nd Sonata? Keywords: Beethoven Piano Sonatas, chordal analysis
124: Why not put sharps between B-C and E-F and leave out G and G#? Keywords: scales, enharmonics, black keys
125: Why is the seventh degree not raised when cadencing in the Phrygian mode? Keywords: counterpoint, modes
126: When transposing from A minor to C major, what do I do with the G chord? Keywords: transposition, changing mode, harmony
127: Can you explain the logic behind this chord substitution by Joe Pass? Keywords: jazz harmony, tritone substitution, Joe Pass
128: Can you have a IV-ii plagal cadence? Keywords: cadences, harmony, cadential function
129: What's the purpose of a natural that comes first in a measure? Keywords: accidentals, precautionary, key signature
130: What is the difference between the harmonic a minor scale and the melodic a minor scale? Keywords: augmented second, minor scales
131: What are the numbers for the various chord inversions? Keywords: figured bass, thoroughbass
132: Please explain the following notation: B/F#, D7/A, Abm/Eb. Keywords: chord notation
133: Can you recommend some good books on composition of fugues? Keywords: fugue, counterpoint
134: Is there a convention for encoding words into musical notation? Keywords: Boethian notation, B durum
135: Can you explain 2nd chords, sus2 chords? Is there a m2 chord? Keywords: chords, color chords, resolution
136: Do you know of any instances in the classical repertoire in which a stringed instrument is given a specialized tuning in order to accommodate the music? Keywords: scordatura, open tuning
137: What's a slur with a vertical line through it? Keywords: editorial marking
138: How to find tonic and dominant triads in any key? Keywords: tonic, dominant, note names, scales.
139: Which notes align in 5 against 4? Keywords: Scriabin, rhythm, tuplets, quintuplets.
140: How do you tell what key a singer is in? Keywords: tonic, major, minor, accompaniment.
141: Do harmonic and melodic minors have special key signatures? Keywords: natural minor, melodic minor, harmonic minor, key signatures
142: The Pink Panther: fourths or fifths? Keywords: intervals, chord inversion, Mancini
143: Is it really common to use a whole rest for a measure in any meter? Keywords: Rests, notation, Gardner Read
144: What are the differences between modal and tonal harmony? Keywords: Modes, keys, tonal harmony, modal harmony, Joel Lester
145: Why are there transposing instruments? Keywords: Brass, harmonics, nodes
146: How can I write an ostinato following the circle of fifths? Keywords: Circle of Fifths, ostinato, dance bass
147: What is the name for a 'set of four musical notes'? Keywords: This answer is way too short for keywords
148: What's an appogiatura diminished 7 chord? Keywords: counterpoint, ornament, dissonance resolution
149: What's the opposite of a cadence? Keywords: cadence, authentic cadence, half cadence, anacrusis
150: How do I know a tune is modal? Keywords: scales, modes, Mixolydian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Aeolian
151: The philosophy of passing diminished chords analysis. Keywords: passing tones, diminished chords, functional harmony
152: A double question about the origin of chords and spelling of Dorian. Keywords: Rameau, counterpoint, modes, Dorian
153: Which is dominant, harmony or counterpoint? Keywords: counterpoint, functional harmony, chords
154: How do parallel thirds create a tritone? Keywords: counterpoint, tritone, augmented fourth, diminished fifth
155: How do you play 2 half notes beamed together? Keywords: orchestra parts, beaming, musical shorthand
156: Do the 1st inversion minor 7th and the 6th chord have different functions? Keywords: functional harmony, chord analysis, chord inversion
157: How can I learn to hear the individual voices in polyphony? Keywords: Active listening, Bach chorales
158: Describe accidents and how they effect the different types of scales. Keywords: Accidentals, scales, natural minor, harmonic minor, melodic minor, church modes.
159: A relative key riddle. Keywords: Relative major, relative minor, parallel major, parallel minor.
160: What is the logic behind this Corelli passage? Keywords: root progression, circle of fifths.
161: Why do composers use a raised fourth when moving to V in a minor key? Keywords: melodic minor, harmonic minor, augmented second.
162: How can I count crotchet triplets? Keywords: rhythm, sight reading, triplets.