Monthly Archives: February 2016

The Pachelbel Progression

Posted on February 29, 2016 by songtive

This time we’re going to learn about one of the most popular chord progressions ever. How popular? Well, enough to be part of these musical hits:

  • Cryin’ – Aerosmith
  • Graduation – Vitamin C
  • Basket Case – Green Day
  • Hotel California – The Eagles (a minor mode version of it)
  • Valley of the Damned – Dragonforce
  • Changes – David Bowie
  • Go West – The Village people (yep, even them)

As you can see, a wide variety of styles include this simple-yet-effective chord progression: from rock and roll, to punk rock, disco music, heavy metal, power metal, glam rock… the list is huge!

The Progression

In the 1600s, there was this popular musician called Johann Pachelbel, who made it into the musical hall of fame due to his widely known work “Canon in D”. A canon was a musical form that consisted in starting a melody and then adding up successive melodic lines based on the same harmony that the first melody created, developing a complete and quite beautiful musical effect by overlapping each line using the chord progression (i.e. underlying harmony) as an unifying element. You can listen to it by yourself:

The cello starts the melody, and the underlying harmony that comes within gives the point of entry for the first violin and the other instruments. The notes are:

||: D – A – B – F# – G – D – G – A :||

If you take the notes and understand them as the root of their own chords in the D major key, you get the following chords:

And, if we rewrite it as a chord progression chart, we get the following:

||: I – V – VI – III – IV – I – IV – V:||

This way, you can transpose it to ANY OTHER MAJOR KEY without giving yourself the trouble of figuring out the chord types, since a chord progression chart works for every key Let’s see an example in the key of A major:

Why does it work so well?

The answer lies, as Brahms said, in the bass: the motion of these roots generates a Descending 4th’s Progression (1 – V; VI – III; IV – I) which sounds good because of the logic pattern it suggests to our ears. Just check it out by listening to the cello part again at the beginning of the ‘Canon in D’!
Even when the pattern is interrupted when moving from IV to V at the end of the progression, it sounds good due to the authentic cadence pattern it creates when you repeat the progression: IV – V – I (being I the beginning of the progression all over again). This chord progression just had all the elements that make it harmonically effective!

How can I use it?

  • Enter the Songtive.com and start a new song (or for better sound quality use our iPhone/iPad/Android app)
  • At the Song preferences tab select a key – I’m using D major for discussion purpose – select a time signature and sidescroll the metronome for setting the beat
  • In the line below just input the Pachelbel Progression and press the ‘+’ button at the right
  • That’s it! You just created a Pachelbel Progression to compose or improvise over!
  • Try to land on the chord tones as they come. This is called “playing the changes” in a jazz context, and it’s a very useful resource to make wonderful melodies

Tutorial 2 – Minor Scale Construction and Introduction to “Circle of Fifths”

Posted on February 25, 2016 by songtive

In our first post we were talking about the names of notes, it’s placement on keyboard, Major scale construction method and how “Piano Companion” application can help you in memorising all these musical things. Today, we are going to discuss how to build a Minor scale using the same method as we used for a Major scale creation. We will also introduce a very handy tool – “Circle of Fifths”.

As you can remember from the previous post (Tutorial 1 – Note Names, Placement and Major Scale), to construct a Major scale we need to know the specific order/pattern of gaps/steps or (in musical terms) “intervals” between notes. You probably already know that these intervals are called “semitones”. The order/pattern for the Major scale is 2-2-1-2-2-2-1 and the easiest way of figuring it out – was counting gaps between white notes on keyboard from “C” to another “C” note. We can apply the same concept to create any Minor scale. We just need to find out which Minor scale has all white keys in it as well. There is a great musical feature in the application, that will help us to do that. If you open the main menu of “Piano Companion” you will see the button “Circle Of Fifths”:

When you press the button, you will be redirected to another screen, where you actually can see the “Circle of Fifths”:

 Ok, you all probably have a question in you mind: “How this tool can actually help me to find the key, that I am looking for?”In our case it is A Minor scale, which has all white notes (which has no flats and has no sharps). Please have a look at the circle again:

 

There are 3 sections in the circle:

  1. Purple section – It represents Major scales.
  2. Peach section – It represents Minor scales.
  3. White section – It represents sharps and flats that each of these key has.

Can you see that a letter “A” is underneath a letter “C”? You can also see that there is a white section underneath both letters “C” and “A”.

Basically, that means that a “C Major scale” has no sharps and flats, as well as “A Minor scale” has no sharps and flats too. This is exactly what we were looking for, isn’t? The same rule applies to other letters of the circle. According to the picture, it’s clearly seen that a “G Major scale” has 1 sharp as well as “E Minor scale” has one sharp too. A “D Major scale” has 2 sharps, whereas a “B Minor scale” has 2 sharps as well and etc. Now you can tell for sure, that a “C Major scale” and “A Minor scale” has all the same notes, only the root note/ starting point is different. These scales are called “Relatives”. So, if you ever want to find out which Minor key has the same amount of sharps or flats as your chosen Major scale (and opposite), you can always use a “Circle of Fifths” as your guide.

This is not all that a “Circle of Fifths” can assist you with. It has much more information that it may seem from the first glance, however we will talk about this handy tool deeper, a little bit later. Right now, let’s come back to the main goal we were aiming for – Minor scale construction. Please go back to your main menu of the “Piano Companion” and choose a “Piano”:

Here is our piano roll, but with note names on it, just to make the process easier:

img_56e19cabed3f6

If you press the keys from A to A, you will hear the A Minor scale. So let’s have a look at the specific order/pattern for Minor scales. We are sure that you all understand, this order/pattern is different, than the one for Major scales. How do we determine it? Once again, all you need to do is look at the keyboard and count how many gaps/steps there are in between each note of the scale. Have a look at the picture below:

Cool, now we can confidently tell that the specific note order is 2-1-2-2-1-2-2, which is the order/pattern of gaps/steps that applies to any Minor scale. With this pattern you will be able to create any Minor scale!

There is one more interesting fact about the name of a Minor scale. It has another more specific name – “Aeolian scale”. If you remember the Major scale is also called – “Ionian scale”. Don’t forget, you can always check these scales in “Scales Dictionary” of the “Piano Companion” application:

As you can see, we have emphasised some “little circles” on the picture. There are two types of them:

  1. Fully coloured circles – represent 1 Tone/ 2 semitones
  2. Half coloured circles – represent 1 semitone.

That means if you forgot the specific sequence of intervalic gaps for “Ionian” or “Aeolian” scales, you can always refer to this “circle pattern” because it is equal to the“numeric pattern” of “2-1-2-2-1-2-2” or “2-2-1-2-2-2-1”.

That is all for today and If you find our articles useful, just keep an eye on our blog, as this is just a beginning. New posts will be added frequently. Keep on doing music!

Tutorial 1 – Note Names, Placement and Major Scale

Posted on February 13, 2016 by songtive

If you are willing to be a musician and want to express your own ideas and feelings, it is really essential to learn at least some basics of music theory. Especially if you are thinking about writing your own songs and musical compositions. For many people who has never been a musician, a “Music Theory” sounds scary and seems complicated at the first glance, but in a reality it isn’t, depending on the way it’s presented of course. Luckily we are living in the world of technology and have so many tools, resources available, for such an easy learning of anything we want to. A Piano Companion is a wonderful application that will make your music learning process as simple as possible, without a touch of any musical instrument or even a computer. All you need – is just your phone or your tablet. Here at Songtive Blog, we will attempt to explain a “Music Theory” subject and how a “Piano Companion” can help those of you, who have never learnt or have just a little knowledge of music theory, but really would like to give it a try and improve own musical/composition/songwriting skill. Shall we start our trip into the world of music?

Today is our first tutorial and we are going to start from the very beginning! We will learn how the music notes are placed on the keyboard, how are they called (their names), what a major scale is and how to create it. Before we carry on, we would suggest you to download the Piano Companion app to your device and open it. In case if you are still thinking about downloading the application and not ready yet, you can just open any other virtual keyboard. Having the keyboard in front of you will make an understanding of a topic much easier. However, when you open a “Piano Companion” you can see the following picture on you screen:

 Please choose a “Piano” button to open the keyboard.

Great! This is your piano roll and you can follow the tutorial. However, this a pure keyboard, with no note names on it. That is why we are including another picture with the same app’s keyboard but already named one. Please have a look below:

 As you can see, each key has a letter and those letters are the real names of the notes. There are only 7 letters/notes that you need to learn in this specific order:  C-D-E-F-G-A-B.  This pattern repeats again and again throughout the entire keyboard: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C an etc. Now, if you press the keys in this order, you will actually hear what we call a C Major scale. Note “C” itself and a “C Major scale” are the starting points for beginning of learning a music theory.

Take a look at the following screenshot from Scale Dictionary in Piano Companion:

 

You may have a question in your mind, why is this specific order which starts from the note “C” is called a “C Major scale”? To provide you with the answer to this question, we need to explain what the music scale is, isn’t it? In simple words, a music scale is a melody that consists of 7 notes (actually 8 notes, but the 8th note is always the same as the 1st note) but always arranged in ONE SPECIFIC ORDER.

Don’t be afraid, everything is not that complicated as it may sound! Have a look at all the white keys on the keyboard! One again, If you start on the “C” note and press white keys one by one, going from the left to the right until you reach a “C” note, this will be that SPECIFIC ORDER for a “C Major scale”. This order will help you to create any major scale in the future, but we will talk about that later on.

You’ve just had a chance of playing a “C Major scale” by pressing the “C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C” keys on your keyboard. So what can you tell about the actual sound? We are pretty sure that even if you’ve never heard a word – “Major Scale”, by playing it just now, you could have heard that it represents a happy, uplifting sound. Doesn’t it? And this is a truth! Any major scale – is all about happy sound. There is also one more interesting fact about it. A Major scale has another more specific name, rather than just a Major. It’s called – “Ionian”. If you stay tuned with our blog posts you will find out why is it called like that, but in the meantime, let’s answer to the main question: “How do we create a major scale?”

Please have a look at your keyboard in the application and look at this picture afterwards as well:

To create our “C Major scale” we had to leave out all the black keys. But these keys actually represent the necessary gaps to achieve this beautiful sound. From the picture above, you can see that there is a black key between “C” note and a “D” note, the same applies to “D and “E”, or “F” and “G” and etc.

These gaps between keys are called “tones” and “semitones”.  We can also call these gaps as “steps” to make it easier for understanding. For example: 1 semitone is one step between each key, whereas 1 tone = 2 semitones or two steps between keys.

 Let’s say we want to calculate how many steps there are from the “C” note to “D” note. Looking at the keyboard, it’s clearly seen that a journey from “C” (white key) to “D” (white key) first brings us to the black key in the middle. This is the first step/semitone. Then we arrive at the white D key, which represents another step/semitone. All this means that there are 2 steps/semitones between the “C” note and “D” note. If you check your keyboard carefully, you will detect that most of the notes from the “C Major scale” have gaps of 2 semitones. But here is only 1 step/semitone between the “E” and “F” note, as well as between “B” and “C” because these are not separated by a black key.

All you need to do, is just to calculate the gaps between each note/letter of the scale. Once you’ve done it, you will end up with these calculations:  2-2-1-2-2-2-1. THIS IS THE SPECIFIC PATTERN/ORDER for any Major scale. You can use it to create any Major scale starting from any note that you want. So, let’s practice by creating a “D Major scale”.

As it has already been told, we have to use a sequence  2-2-1-2-2-2-1 of steps/gaps to create another major scale. You can see the steps between semitones in the scale details:

It will be very useful if you take a piece of paper and write the 8 letter/note progression on a piece of paper, starting from “D” and going up until reach  a“D” again. This would look like:  D-E-F-G-A-B-C-D.

Great! Let’s start from a “D” and according to the order, our next note of the scale will be 2 steps/semitones away from the starting point. That means If we start from “D” and go up with 2 steps (the first step will be from D to black key D#, the 2nd step will be from D# to E), we reach our destination–note E.  Relying on the 2-2-1-2-2-2-1 order, the next step you need to make consist of 2 semitones too. From the note E we need to go up with 2 steps, which makes our destination F#. Please complete all the steps until you reach your second “D” note of the scale. You can check yourself by playing the notes that you’ve written down. Can you hear that the scale sounds like a major? If you are not sure, you can close your piano roll for a while, go back to the main menu of Piano Companion and choose “Reverse Scale Lookup”.

Then you will see a piano roll again on the left side of the screen. Press a “D” note on the keyboard. A dropdown menu will appear and you will need to choose a “D Major scale”. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be able to see this picture on your screen:

 Now, you can compare what notes have you written down for the “D Major scale” practice exercise and what the actual notes are. But we really hope that the information that we’ve provided for you today, was useful and your exercise was completed successfully.

The huge benefit of knowing how to create music scales, is that once you have created a music scale as well as  selected the notes which you will be working with, you can never go wrong if you use this 7 notes of the chosen scale, in your own songs/compositions.