Monthly Archives: March 2016

Tutorial 3 – Explore New World Of Music with Scale Spelling

Posted on March 18, 2016 by songtive

In our previous posts (Tutorial 1 – Note Names, Placement and Major Scale and Tutorial 2 – Minor Scale Construction and Introduction to “Circle Of Fifths”) we were talking about a method of constructing Major and Minor scales, as well as we’ve introduced a very handy music tool – “Circle of Fifths”. Today, we are going to introduce another very important music concept – “Scale Spelling”. With a help of that we will discover the whole new world of music scales which is far wider than Minor and Major.

As everyone already knows, all notes in a scale have letters. We also know that there are 8 notes in a scale, with 7 distinct ones. Now, all notes/letters from the scale also have a corresponding number. These numbers are referred to as “scale spelling”. Please open a “Piano Companion” application and choose “Scales Dictionary”.

By the application default settings, the first scale that you see is a Major scale. Just have a look at the numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) – this exactly what we call a “Scale Spelling”.

Let’s choose “Aeolian” (Minor) scale from the list.

Can you see that the “Scale Spelling” for Aeolian scale is different from the Ionian one (Major)? As you may guess, if you chose any other scale from “Scales Dictionary” it will be different too. But let’s take a closer look at Ionian and Aeolian scale spellings.

It will be very helpful, if you take a piece of paper and write down a C Major scale and put 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 (1) above every note of the scale. If you do it correctly, that’s how it should look like:

 Each note of the scale has it is own number, which we always write above the note names. Let’s write a C Minor and the “Scale Spelling” for Aeolian scale above it.

Even if you never learnt music before, we’ve already mentioned that “b” – flats are responsible for bringing notes DOWN for one semitone, whereas “#” – sharps are responsible for bringing notes UP for one semitone. As you can see the spelling for Aeolian scale (Minor) has b3, b6 and b7 in it. The notes that are below these numbers, also have flats: Eb, Ab and Bb. Isn’t that simple? The scale spelling is like a clue for any musician. Let’s say, you know only a construction method for a Major scale using specific pattern (2-2-1-2-2-2-1) and have no idea how to create any other one, but there is a scale spelling for Minor scale in front of your eyes. By writing your Major scale and putting this scale spelling above the notes (1, 2, b3, 4, 5, b6, b7, 8) you’ll be easily able to add necessary flats to notes and finally get your Minor scale. The same method applies to any other existing scale in the music world. However, you should follow 2 simple rules:

1) The letters (notes) MUST always correspond to the assigned number (spelling).
2) There may not be notes that share the same name in the scale

What does it mean? Literally, you just need to choose correct enharmonic names for your notes. For example in C Minor (Aeolian) you can’t put “D#” under the number “b3” because “D” is already referred to your second note, the number “2” of the spelling. The same applies to “Ab” and “Bb”. You can’t put “G#“ and “A#” instead. We are quite sure that this fact is very obvious, but still sometimes people can forget, so keeping this tip in mind will help not to make mistakes.

Ok, the time has come, to find out why a Major scale is called “Ionian”, and why a Minor scale is called “Aeolian”. The reason why these scales have more specific names, simply because there are different types of Major and Minor scales. Most of the scales can be divided into Major and Minor families. So let’s have a look at 7 scales that are mostly used in today’s music:


IOANIAN - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
DORIAN - 1 2 b3 4 5 6 b7
PHRYGIAN - 1 b2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
LYDIAN - 1 2 3 #4 5 6 7
MIXOLYDIAN - 1 2 3 4 5 6 b7
AEOLIAN - 1 2 b3 4 5 b6 b7
LOCRIAN - 1 b2 b3 4 b5 b6 b7

The picture above points us to the different types of Major and Minor scales that have all white notes in it like C Ionian and A Aeolian. There is exactly the same thing for D Dorian, E Phrygian, F Lydian and etc. As we’ve mentioned earlier all scales can be divided into 2 families: Major and Minor. In this case we have:

Major scales:

  1. Ionian
  2. Lydian
  3. Mixolydian

Minor scales:

  1. Dorian
  2. Phrygian
  3. Aeolian
  4. Locrian

The most used scales in Popular music are Ionian, Aeolian, Mixolydian and Dorian. Less used is Lydian, because of the #4 which gives quite dissonant sound, that may feel unpleasant the ears. The most famous example of Lydian scale use, you can hear in known by everybody “Simpsons” music theme. Phrygian and Locrian are common in soundtracks and background music for Horror movies. Just have a listen, and you will understand why! These scales often used in Metal music as well.

The most accurate definition of the scale family would by checking thr 3rd note of the mode. If the 3rd number of the scale spelling is flattened, then it belongs to the Minor scale family. By the way, have you noticed that there are more Minor scales than Major ones? There is exactly the same thing for chords. There are more Minor chords that you can construct from the scale, than Major ones.

If you have a proper look to the scale spellings of these modes (scales), you’ll see how easy it is to construct any mode you like, if simply have a scale spelling in front of your eyes. All you have to do is just to construct Ionian scale and flatten or sharpen necessary notes, according to the spelling. Isn’t that simple? It’s definitely is!

We believe that we’ve shared enough information for today and there is a lot to think about and experiment with. And don’t forget to check out your “Scale Dictionary” in “Piano Companion” which has so many more scales to play with!

 Just keep an eye on our blog and you will find so much more interesting about music.

The Cadences

Posted on March 15, 2016 by songtive

This time we will talk about cadences, one of the most useful harmonic procedures available to every composer or songwriter out there! Every musical hit you know uses it, every song you like it also makes use of it, which makes it very convenient to learn.

Classical music, rock music, R & B music…you name it: they will use cadencial procedures to make effective chord progressions. Check out these songs

(1:02 to 1:03)

… and

(0:53 to 0:54)

That conclusive effect you can listen in such timeless classics, that seems to create a “landing” feeling, is what we call cadence.

What’s a Cadence?

Long time ago, in the 1600s approximately, with the appearance of tonal music – major mode and minor mode – harmonic resources known at the time were refined into the single concept of consonance we already reviewed, and chords as we know them were conceived – major, minor, augmented and diminished triads.

Every major, augmented or diminished chord has a property, a single note that will make it tend naturally to other chords. That single note is what we call leading tone, and when you move that leading tone to a chord that has the note it leads to, you create that conclusive effect – in music theory you call this resolution, a release of the tension created from this leading tone movement. This leading tone can be found in the VII degree of each major or minor scale moving to the root of said key/chord, for example: B would be leading tone to C major/minor, F# would be leading tone to G major/minor, and so on.

How can I do it?

Let’s take Bohemian Rhapsody as our example. When you hear the line “nothing really matters to me” you hear a F7 chord playing behind, and when Freddie reassures it repeating “…to me” you hear an F chord and then a Bb major chord. Let’s take it to our chord chart, and for discussion purposes we are repeating the progression over and over:

Analyzing this simple 3 chord fragment, we get some valuable information:

  • From F to A#/Bb – when the conclusion effect arrives – there’s an Ascending Perfect Fourth interval
  • F chord contains a A note, which is leading tone to A#/Bb
  • When F moves to A#/Bb, the leading tone (A) moves to the root of the chord (A#/Bb)

And this is how the cadence is achieved!

Let’s practice in another key! We are taking D major/minor as an example:

Move from V or V7 to I to perform a cadence!

How can I use it?

Every time you want to end a musical or text line, a cadence will be the most ideal resource to do this. Why? Because of its conclusive effect it will create a clear distinction between phrases and moods, therefore creating symmetry and balance throughout the whole song!

The perfect way to do this

So follow these simple steps!

  • Enter the and start a new song (or for better sound quality use our iPhone/iPad/Android app)
  • At the Song preferences tab select a key – select a time signature and sidescroll the metronome for setting the beat
  • In the line below just input the Cadential Pattern like V – I or V7 – I and press the ‘+’ button at the right
  • That’s it! You just created a Cadential Pattern to conclude your musical thoughts!
  • Now combine it with common-tone chords adding a Cadential Progression at the end to create a musical phrase, for example: I – IV – V – V7 – I

Making a Good Chord Progression

Posted on March 8, 2016 by songtive

How is ‘good’ defined when it comes to music? Have you ever wondered what makes a chord progression ‘good’? All of them are excellent questions that we are trying to answer on today’s topic!

Music History 101:

Back in the day, in the 1200s or so – really way back – music was considered an exclusive form of art, and as such, not suitable for everyone to perform and don’t even think about learning it! This was because the Catholic Church was the prevailing power in that time, and considered that such a beautiful gift like the music should be used for the sole purpose of praising God, leaving any other purpose in the heretic area, and as a prevailing power, the Church limited the musical teachings to clerical orders only.

However, those clerical orders observed some acoustic phenomena that were the Beauty Canon back then. Certain intervals were considered ‘good’ due to their acoustic properties: the perfect fifth, the octave and the perfect fourth, because of their overtones, (i.e. sounds so high in pitch that we are unable to hear clearly) produced a distinguishable stable sensation – this stability sensation is what we call consonance, a key concept for a ‘good sounding’ music.

Later on, in a period we know as Renaissance, as the Church became more open and tried to get closer to their congregation (i.e. all the people), some clerics started to pass on the musical knowledge to the nobility and their families. This brought an enhancement in what would be considered consonance, adding up the major third, the minor third, the major sixth and the minor sixth intervals.

In the 1600s we already have the basis of our modern tonal system, consisting in the following intervals: major 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 7th; minor 2nd, 3rd, 6th and 7th; perfect 4th, 5th and 8th. Some musical theorists had the idea of combining sounds by overlaying consecutive 3rds of a major or minor scale: C – E – G for C major scale, C – Eb – G for C minor scale. And that’s how the chord theory (i.e. harmony) was born!

The ‘Good’ in music

All this chord system was entirely based on the combination of consonances starting from the note that gives name to a chord (i.e. the tonic); let me give you an example:

  • C major chord is formed by C – E – G. The tonic of the chord would be C, since the chord is called ‘C’ major
  • From C to E there’s a major third: a consonance
  • From C to G there’s a perfect fifth: another consonance
  • Consonance + Consonance = Consonance

This consonance combination is what defines what sounds ‘Good’ in any musical context, and all their theoretical aspects are condensed in what we call Harmony.

What makes a Good Chord Progression?

When you take any major scale in any key, and you analyze it note by note, you get a series of tonal degrees, which we number using roman numbers:

C    D     E     F    G     A       B    C 
I -  II – III – IV –  V –   VI –   VII - I

Now we overlay third by third in each degree to get the chords for every degree, you must look at each degree vertically:

G       A       B        C      D     E           F            G
E       F       G        A      B     C           D            E
C       D       E        F      G     A           B            C 
I       IIm    IIIm      IV     V    VIm        VIIdim         I 

Chords for I, IV and V are considered major chords since there’s no letter in them.

Since the IV degree is placed a half step away from the III degree, and the same occurs from VII to I, we are going to call IV (F note) and VII (B note) our leading tones for C major scale. If you want to find the leading tones for any other key just look at their IV and VII degrees. For example, in G major scale would be C (IV) and F# (VII).

Here comes the nice part: every time you put a chord after another you create a chord progression, but anytime you put a chord after another chord that shares one or more notes with the first one you create a Good Chord Progression! Let’s see some examples:

  • Moving from I to III there are two common notes: G and E
  • Moving from V to I there is one common note: G
  • Moving from II to V there is one common note: D
  • Moving from VI to IV there are two common notes: A and C

This way you can make a good chord progression following this simple tip:

And if you repeat it over and over, you will find it very pleasing to the ear!

Of course, you can combine chords with no common notes between them to achieve a musical effect called contrast:

Explore multiple combinations with Songtive so you can find many chord progressions that fit your songs!

How can I use it?