Music Literacy
Basic Music Theory
The Basics
The Major Scale
Key Signature
Minor Keys

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No matter what instrument or type of music you play, the preceding material should help you better understand the structure of that music.  In addition, this material has some very useful practical applications.

Scales and Arpeggios

For every instrument, including the voice, daily practice of scales and arpeggios can greatly improve your techinical agility.  Begin by playing the C Major scale, ascending and descending, across one or more octaves, depending on the range of your instrument.  Follow this with arpeggios on each of the chords in the key of C, as in the following example:

As you become comfortable with the exercise, add scales of increasing sharps and flats — G Major, F Major, D Major, etc., until you are practicing all 12 keys.  When you have the major keys down, add minor scales as well.

For the voice, your progression will be slightly different:  begin with a key at the bottom of your range, and sing scales and arpeggios for successively higher keys until you reach the top of your range.

Lead Sheets

The chords that we've covered in this course will enable you to start playing from lead sheets.  Lead sheets contain chord symbols with either notated melodic lines or song lyrics.  How you interpret a lead sheet depends in part on what instrument you are playing, and whether or not you are playing with an ensemble.  If you're playing an accompaniment instrument, such as keyboard, guitar, harp, etc., you can play the chords indicated on the lead sheet, and sing the melody or allow another instrument to carry the melody.  Depending on the instrument, you might play the melody with one hand while playing the chords with the other.  If you play a melody instrument, knowing the chords that go with a song will help you to improvise appropriately over the harmonic structure.  Knowing your scales and arpeggios will also help you to improvise.


Finally, if you like to compose, having a good grasp of music theory will greatly assist you in building a strong harmonic structure for your composition.  Furthermore, mastering all the major and minor scales, together with a knowledge of what chords go with each scale will expand your musical vocabulary and hopefully lead you to create better and more sophisticated compositions.

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