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#1958678 - 09/14/12 03:35 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: keystring]
dire tonic Offline
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Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1049
Loc: uk south
Originally Posted By: keystring


The challenge is not for a teacher to know what it's about, because most teachers do (should). The challenge is to gradually bring all this together in a way where it will still make sense to the student and it won't lead to musical geekdom (a bunch of facts not connected to music.)



Yes, keystring, I think this is spot-on and sums up what has taken me a couple of pages to express (sorry I missed your post before adding mine).

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#1958687 - 09/14/12 04:32 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: dire tonic]
keystring Online   content
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Originally Posted By: dire tonic
Originally Posted By: keystring


The challenge is not for a teacher to know what it's about, because most teachers do (should). The challenge is to gradually bring all this together in a way where it will still make sense to the student and it won't lead to musical geekdom (a bunch of facts not connected to music.)



Yes, keystring, I think this is spot-on and sums up what has taken me a couple of pages to express (sorry I missed your post before adding mine).

Ha! It took me several years to get it out sensibly. laugh

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#1958691 - 09/14/12 04:57 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]
ROMagister Offline
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Registered: 04/26/08
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In addition to current practice in pop that "dire tonic" described, there also is the older set of conventions of General Bass. An organist sees 1 note written, sometimes a number too and plays 5-6 or even 10-12 (some 2-phase transitions are implied).

A lot of conventions are implied in General Bass - one sees 6+, that also implies 4+ and 2+ - and that's really a 7th chord with the 7th in the bass !

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#1958695 - 09/14/12 05:34 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: dire tonic]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
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Originally Posted By: dire tonic

I hope this will be treated as an alternative perspective, not as a correction to anyone’s thinking on the subject. In the light of Virginia’s initial post however, I think it’s fair to ask if the sort of issues being addressed in the latter part of this thread could possibly be relevant to the nature of the initial enquiry and if perhaps they might sometimes run the risk of wilting curiosity’s tender bud.

Very fine post, all of it. Breath of fresh air!

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#1958810 - 09/14/12 11:14 AM How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: dire tonic]
LoPresti Offline
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Registered: 12/07/10
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Loc: New York
Dire Tonic,

Like others, I enjoyed your comprehensive and well-thought-out post. While I do not concur with every detail, I enjoyed reading one person’s extensive experience in the pop industry. Here is one part with which I have the most difficulty:
Originally Posted By: dire tonic
Spelling: My tutor never mentioned it and in the 50+ years that have followed neither have I nor have any of the hundreds of musicians I’ve worked with. I apologise if this seems too outspoken but I think such concerns are a complete waste of time and ultimately non-musical. An hour spent ruminating on such issues would be so much better spent pulling out a reference chart and painstakingly working out some basic, arguably less controversial chords with the aim of locking them into memory. I urge any keen student to not get hung up on spelling.

How does one TEACH the universal construction of, say, diminished seventh chords, without dealing with the underlying architecture of that chord, and therefore its spelling? Let us say we are working with a clarinetist.

Ed
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#1958994 - 09/14/12 06:42 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: LoPresti]
keystring Online   content
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Originally Posted By: LoPresti

How does one TEACH the universal construction of, say, diminished seventh chords, without dealing with the underlying architecture of that chord, and therefore its spelling? Let us say we are working with a clarinetist.

I have a feeling that players of each instrument group relate to music from a different perspective. The keyboard player, strings player, percussionist, brass & woodwind player, are each relating to different angles as they produce the notes. The player of a bass instrument will have a different role in the music than one whose instrument typically plays the soprano that often holds the melody, or an instrument that balances the harmony because typically it plays in the middle. So I think, assuming a good teacher, that this answer comes from teachers of these various instruments.

This piano forum deals with keyboard instruments. When I joined, it struck me that several senior teachers were stressing that theory be learned first as a physical experience on the piano, via piano keys, and in some instances, via sound. I've been told "If a good teacher stresses something, explore it. Find out why." In regards to that particular chord, one instrument teacher has already answered this. I have proposed the same idea, namely that you begin with the nature of the chord physically in piano keys, "intervals" in the sense of half steps i.e. minus names, get an understanding that spellings will vary for grammar reasons, and build from there.

Now how is that carried out? I think that you would have to observe an individual instrument teacher to see how he or she meshes the concrete and physical with the theoretical, and makes them real and making sense. A forum like this can only hint. A profession cannot be explained in a few paragraphs; that's why they're professions and take years of study and honing.
------
I cannot answer about clarinetists. I took violin lessons. I experienced the broken chords that we played. Our considerations involved fifths because of the tuning of the strings, and we were very involved in temperament. When you play a scale in thirds, fifths etc. then you tune your top melody note along one system, but you harmonize the lower note to the top along another system. Only geeks concern themselves with calculations of mHz - we use our ear, sense of where the music is going. I.e. I think that players of different instruments will have different theory concerns.

However, every musician going on to college or conservatory has to also play piano. Why is that? Why not just any two instruments? Why not cello, piccolo, horn? Why does the composer writing music for voice sit down at the piano? Is it not because the piano allows us to experience theory (harmony) in action?

If this is so, then maybe the piano approach to theory, holds an answer to the clarinetist question too.

Quote:
....the underlying architecture of that chord, and therefore its spelling?

I'd say that spelling, letters, the written form, are one side to that underlying architecture. The other side is the notes themselves as pitches with intervals between them. Both those sides are needed.

I had a period early in my study of formal theory that I became capable of moving notes around on the page and getting correct answer, with hardly a link left to music or sound. It was becoming a cross between advanced geometry and algebra minus physics or applied science. This is why I'm convinced that the connection to the real thing that is being represented is majorly important.


Edited by keystring (09/15/12 01:42 AM)

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#1959114 - 09/15/12 03:28 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: LoPresti]
dire tonic Offline
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Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1049
Loc: uk south
Originally Posted By: LoPresti

How does one TEACH the universal construction of, say, diminished seventh chords, without dealing with the underlying architecture of that chord, and therefore its spelling? Let us say we are working with a clarinetist.

Ed


Ed, I don’t know how ‘stacked minor thirds’ together with something like the reference chart posted up earlier can fall short of providing a complete description of the diminished (aka diminished seventh). I do appreciate there is the potential for frustration where enharmonic ambiguity raises its ugly head but frankly I refuse to suffer it, and I don’t allow myself to get fussy about naming constituent notes until I need to commit to paper whereupon I rely entirely on the harmonic context of the chord to chose a ‘best' solution based on ease of writing. That in turn is almost certainly going to correspond with ease of reading.

Regarding teaching (I’ve some experience though not in music unfortunately) I would, above all, want a student to get used to the chord, to be playing it a LOT. The key to all this and far more important than the notation (I suspect we’re polar opposites on all this) is the sense-experience of the chord. One needs ultimately to be able to hear a diminished and know what it is without reference to anything else. In an ideal world, all the chords, the common ones at the very least, should be known this way. For me, notation – apart from its vital and full-time service as a means of communication - should be, for the individual, like a self-dissolving suture, a temporary tool whose function should fade away once it has served its purpose.

I can see that the clarinetist is a quite different teaching hurdle. The pianist has the advantage of the spatial representation on the keyboard and of course the simultaneity of the chord rather than the arpeggio. I haven’t thought about that so I wouldn’t know where to start or even what my or my student's goal should be.

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#1959184 - 09/15/12 09:55 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: LoPresti]
JamesPlaysPiano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 104
Originally Posted By: LoPresti

How does one TEACH the universal construction of, say, diminished seventh chords, without dealing with the underlying architecture of that chord, and therefore its spelling? Let us say we are working with a clarinetist.

Ed



To sort of generalize what others have already implied, I think the best explanation for any student is one that takes into account not only the instrument but also the level of the student. So, with this clarinetist, I'd consider not only the instrument and its peculiarities, but also the level of the student. I suppose the biggest question would be "does the student understand intervals?" If so, you could explain it as a stack of minor thirds and that might be enough. But with different students and differing levels, a teacher should be prepared to explain it in different ways.

If the student happens to be weak on intervals but very attuned to the construction of major scales in all keys, for example, then it might be helpful (at least for diminished triads) to point out that they can be built off of any note as the 7th, 2nd, and 4th notes of a major scale. ("Want to play C diminished? Pretend C is the seventh of a major scale, which means you're in the key of Db. Now, play 'up the scale' from this seventh, but play every other note, so that you're playing 7, 2, and 4 from the Db major scale.") Granted, I wouldn't do this for everyone because this would be a nightmare for some students, but for the right person, this could be the most logical "first step" into constructing the chord. Interestingly, this would also result in correct spelling (again, only of the triad). A similar (generic) idea for a singer could be to use solfege, assuming he/she understands solfege. ("I'll play a note. Now, call it "Ti" and then sing "Ti, Re, Fa.")

For beginners, though, I've often used the chromatic scale as a "way in." That is, if the student can establish how to play up and down the instrument chromatically, this can make it easy to point out all sorts of relationships without getting too heavily into theory at first, if that is your intent. They may not call it the chromatic scale, but many people are aware that a "full spectrum" of notes lies on their instrument, covering all possible pitches from bottom to top. IF the student is aware of this, then a quick way to teach something like diminished seventh chords could be to simply count skips along the series. In this case, "note, skip two, note, skip two, note, skip two, note").

I use O's and X's for this, which makes it easy to get the point across and which seems to do a good job of removing the physical peculiarities of any individual key from the discussion. This can be especially helpful at the piano, too, because it removes the ever-present differences between shapes in various keys at the piano. Granted, this does NOT address even the notion of what a third, fifth, or seventh is, or even note names! However, as everyone's been saying, it's a matter of balancing out how much info is too much, at what point things become too bogged down with theory, what it is you are trying to teach, and so on. If you feel it is appropriate to the situation and you want to include it, you can explain scale degrees, interval names, spelling, and so on. If not, you could use something like O's and X's.

James
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#1959243 - 09/15/12 01:10 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: JamesPlaysPiano]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
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Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: JamesPlaysPiano

To sort of generalize what others have already implied, I think the best explanation for any student is one that takes into account not only the instrument but also the level of the student. So, with this clarinetist, I'd consider not only the instrument and its peculiarities, but also the level of the student. I suppose the biggest question would be "does the student understand intervals?" If so, you could explain it as a stack of minor thirds and that might be enough. But with different students and differing levels, a teacher should be prepared to explain it in different ways.

The biggest question to me is: can the student PLAY a dim7 chord? And learning to play dim7 chords can happen by rote or strictly through music, and absolutely no knowledge of intervals is necessary to do this. I taught brass for many years, so an example would be, trumpet:

0 23 2 12, 0 2 2 12 0, two octaves from low C to high C. There you have C/B# D#/Eb F#/Gb etc., and the pitches for 4 different fully diminished chords are there, potentially ready to be notated in stacked thirds.

If the same set of pitches occurs in notation, then most likely it will be something like C Eb Gb A or C Eb F# A. That can be played perfectly without understanding the theory, so at that point you could write out the stacked chords, to introduce the concept:

A C Eb Gb
F# A C Eb
Quote:

If the student happens to be weak on intervals but very attuned to the construction of major scales in all keys, for example, then it might be helpful (at least for diminished triads) to point out that they can be built off of any note as the 7th, 2nd, and 4th notes of a major scale. ("Want to play C diminished? Pretend C is the seventh of a major scale, which means you're in the key of Db. Now, play 'up the scale' from this seventh, but play every other note, so that you're playing 7, 2, and 4 from the Db major scale.") Granted, I wouldn't do this for everyone because this would be a nightmare for some students, but for the right person, this could be the most logical "first step" into constructing the chord. Interestingly, this would also result in correct spelling (again, only of the triad). A similar (generic) idea for a singer could be to use solfege, assuming he/she understands solfege. ("I'll play a note. Now, call it "Ti" and then sing "Ti, Re, Fa.")

That would totally confuse my students. I got confused reading your explanation. Ti re fa is linked to movable do. For those who use that system, it could work. But it is function related, building on the idea of a vii chord. I would prefer to use a six chord as a way in, C6, then lower the middle two notes, just to get the sound, feel, pattern. Once that is in the fingers, it’s easy to talk about various spellings and how only one of them gives us the textbook, stacked answer (C Eb Gb Bbb)
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#1959278 - 09/15/12 03:16 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Gary D.]
JamesPlaysPiano Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/16/11
Posts: 104
Originally Posted By: Gary D.

That would totally confuse my students. I got confused reading your explanation. Ti re fa is linked to movable do. For those who use that system, it could work. But it is function related, building on the idea of a vii chord. I would prefer to use a six chord as a way in, C6, then lower the middle two notes, just to get the sound, feel, pattern. Once that is in the fingers, it’s easy to talk about various spellings and how only one of them gives us the textbook, stacked answer (C Eb Gb Bbb)


It's true that ti re fa (used in this way) is linked to moveable do, which is related to function. Nonetheless, what I was saying is that this could be an effective "way in," for some singers- say, a college voice major at a particular level. I wouldn't explain it this way to someone who didn't understand or use moveable-do solfege. So I think we agree: for those who use that system, it could work.

I'd say the same thing about using numbers (another relative pitch-naming system like moveable-do solfege) from a major scale. It could work for someone attuned to seeing scales in this way. For others, it wouldn't be a good approach, and I wouldn't use it. My students generally know much more about chord construction by the time we get to diminished chords, and so I've not needed to avoid referencing intervals, spelling, and construction of other chords when explaining diminished chords, in the way this hypothetical situation has been sort of set up. However, it certainly works well with many of my students when explaining, say, major triads (pointing out that a major triad can be thought of as the first, third, and fifth notes of a major scale, as many teachers do).

I'd also say something similar about your preference of using a C6 chord as a "way in": perfect for many people, but not for others. It would be especially good for a beginner/intermediate player with a rock/jazz type background. On the other hand, a classical piano student in the first year of college could require extra explanation, because he/she has presumably been given a heavy dose of strict tertian harmony, in which chords are conceived as stacks of thirds.

Anyway, no need to beat this to death- I think we're both agreeing to the same thing, that a good teacher has many approaches and attempts to present the information that he/she (the teacher) feels is appropriate to teach, but in a way that the student can best understand and relate to. You seem very capable of doing this. smile

James

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#1959292 - 09/15/12 03:56 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]
keystring Online   content
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James, movable do to me is linked to function within a certain kind of music (you'll know which I mean). That's what it was designed for and where it works. It is NOT about intervals per se. For example, So Do is a P4, but so is Do Fa. But if I sing the latter a number of times, after a while it sounds like another So Do because I start hearing V-I and not I-IV. I hear function as well as interval as a singer who started with that system.

Ti Re Fa sounds good until you want to add the next note. And if I am singing a fully diminished chord where the bottom note is not the seventh of the music, my head would go up in smoke. I think that singing in intervals of generic thirds (nameless) or visualizing them aurally as semitones, is a lot safer.

But this begs the question: are fully diminished chords usually played as an exercise divorced from music in the study of any instrument? I have a feeling that they aren't. If it isn't done, then why worry about how to do it?

In the way LoPresti worded his question, I don't think it was a question. It sounds rhetorical, with a foregone conclusion, because of how it ended.

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#1959465 - 09/16/12 02:43 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: JamesPlaysPiano]
Gary D. Offline
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Registered: 08/30/08
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Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: JamesPlaysPiano

I'd say the same thing about using numbers (another relative pitch-naming system like moveable-do solfege) from a major scale. It could work for someone attuned to seeing scales in this way. For others, it wouldn't be a good approach, and I wouldn't use it. My students generally know much more about chord construction by the time we get to diminished chords, and so I've not needed to avoid referencing intervals, spelling, and construction of other chords when explaining diminished chords, in the way this hypothetical situation has been sort of set up. However, it certainly works well with many of my students when explaining, say, major triads (pointing out that a major triad can be thought of as the first, third, and fifth notes of a major scale, as many teachers do).

I find that explaining major chords, for instance, as the 1st 3rd 5th of a scale is useless unless all major scales are learned first. I would explain that information AFTER students have already learned chord chord. I used to teach scales first, or always use scales to teach chords. I switched because the other way is faster for me, but I still teach major scales. The timing is just a bit different, the order in which I present things.
Quote:

I'd also say something similar about your preference of using a C6 chord as a "way in": perfect for many people, but not for others. It would be especially good for a beginner/intermediate player with a rock/jazz type background. On the other hand, a classical piano student in the first year of college could require extra explanation, because he/she has presumably been given a heavy dose of strict tertian harmony, in which chords are conceived as stacks of thirds.

Good grief, I am not talking about college students majoring in music! I’m talking about BEGINNERS. I teach this by year two, and I get to it in only a few months with really quick minds, and very young ones. The 6 chord idea is a way to get the chords PLAYED, quickly. I think I have not explained that I cover these things very early. It’s not a classical vs non-classical thing. A kid who fully feels an Edim7 chord, without spelling, will get that same chord in Fuer Elise in seconds because he (or she) already has it in his hands. For him it’s a matter of suddenly realizing that this “chord” is right in his music, and at that point I can just say it’s Edim7, or I can go into the C#dim7/E concept if it is appropriate.
Quote:

Anyway, no need to beat this to death- I think we're both agreeing to the same thing, that a good teacher has many approaches and attempts to present the information that he/she (the teacher) feels is appropriate to teach, but in a way that the student can best understand and relate to. You seem very capable of doing this. smile

Full agreement. A good teacher will have many different approaches and will find the one most appropriate to the student – which takes into consideration age, talent, natural ability for theory, ear, goals, etc. smile
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#1960290 - 09/17/12 04:46 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: LoPresti]
LoPresti Offline
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Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: LoPresti
How does one TEACH the universal construction of, say, diminished seventh chords, without dealing with the underlying architecture of that chord, and therefore its spelling? Let us say we are working with a clarinetist.

Well, since I did not get a direct answer (except perhaps from Gary and his trumpet (Baritone Horn, Tuba), let me ask it a different way:

Instead of dancing around the real issue, which is learning the foundation of how these chords are constructed, WHY WOULDN'T a teacher teach this SIMPLE, UNIVERSAL RULE:
>> ANY diminished triad can be constructed with a root, a minor third, and a diminished fifth << ?

Notice that it works for zither, hum-strum, and ooude, as well as the more popular instruments.

Ed
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#1960488 - 09/18/12 02:59 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: LoPresti]
dire tonic Offline
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Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1049
Loc: uk south
Here:-

Originally Posted By: LoPresti
How does one TEACH the universal construction of, say, diminished seventh chords, without dealing with the underlying architecture of that chord, and therefore its spelling?

- you insist that construction (architecture?) cannot be taught without recourse to spelling.


And yet, in your very next post you posit (a formula which, incidentally, has already been touted in various guises in this thread around a half a dozen times) -

Originally Posted By: LoPresti

WHY WOULDN'T a teacher teach this SIMPLE, UNIVERSAL RULE:
>> ANY diminished triad can be constructed with a root, a minor third, and a diminished fifth << ?


Do you not see that this approach needs no recourse to spelling whatsoever?



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#1960490 - 09/18/12 03:25 AM How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: dire tonic]
LoPresti Offline
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Registered: 12/07/10
Posts: 1304
Loc: New York
OK, Dire Tonic, one more time -

I am imagining myself trying to teach my theoretical clarinet player how to play a diminished triad built upon any root that she chooses or encounters.

We can assume that the player understands scales and intervals. I picture saying something like this: "You can build a diminished chord on any note, by playing the root, and then a minor third above it, and then a diminished fifth above the root. Let's try it starting with G."

Without referring to letter names and symbols (without spelling), how will this student proceed?

(In other words, No, I still do not understand.)
Ed
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#1960491 - 09/18/12 03:27 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: LoPresti]
dire tonic Offline
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Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1049
Loc: uk south
By counting intervals and then by rote.

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#1960497 - 09/18/12 04:02 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]
keystring Online   content
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In the playing of a diminished chord from any given note, you play the note, then the sound which is three semitones above that, then the sound which is three semitones above that, then the sound that is three semitones above that. By the fifth note you'll be an octave above your starting note. You don't need note names or fifths for that. To understand written music that you are playing, it's a good idea to know it.

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#1960580 - 09/18/12 09:42 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: LoPresti]
LoPresti Offline
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Registered: 12/07/10
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Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: LoPresti
Without referring to letter names and symbols (without spelling), how will this student proceed?


Originally Posted By: dire tonic
By counting intervals and then by rote.


I think it is coming into focus slowly - let me see if I understand your method:
[1] Clara the Clarinetist plays a G (which is sort of "spelling" because we have named the note.)
[2] She next THINKS up a minor third, and plays a second note (hopefully it is something like Bb, but we are not naming it.)
[3] She next THINKS up a diminished fifth from the root, and plays a third (unnamed) note.
[4] Clara repeats this group until she has them memorized, and calls them "a G diminished triad".

Now do I have it about right?
Ed


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#1960613 - 09/18/12 10:58 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: LoPresti]
dire tonic Offline
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Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1049
Loc: uk south
“Ok, Clarence. Today, we’re going to learn about the diminished chord and we’re going to learn to play it as an arpeggio because clarinetists can’t play chords”.

Clarence’s teacher then proceeds to lay out the lesson as follows.

Play any note.
Play another note, 3 semitones higher (he knows his scales).
Play those two notes in a repeating pattern until memorized.
Climb an additional 3 semitones from the higher of the memorized notes.
Play the accumulated sequence of three notes up and down until well under the fingers.

Then, teacher sets him some homework.

“Clarence, for next week, I’d like you to practise what we’ve learnt today. Then I’d like you to add two more additional intervals of 3 semitones to round off the full octave arpeggio and practise that too”.

When next he visits his teacher, he’s beside himself with excitement.

“Wow, that diminished thing you taught me was amazing!” says Clarence. “I couldn’t stop myself! I’ve been able to extend the arpeggio to cover the full range of the instrument. What’s more, I found there are two other arpeggios just like the one you taught me but with different notes. But what’s really weird is, there aren’t any more!! There’s only three different ones! What a fascinating construction, such sublime architecture. I was thinking of naming each of the three of them but I’m a bit spoilt for choice….in fact…do you know…..I don’t think I’ll bother!”

They both smile.

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#1961255 - 09/19/12 07:06 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: dire tonic]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: dire tonic
“Ok, Clarence. Today, we’re going to learn about the diminished chord and we’re going to learn to play it as an arpeggio because clarinetists can’t play chords”.

Clarence’s teacher then proceeds to lay out the lesson as follows.

Play any note.
Play another note, 3 semitones higher (he knows his scales).
Play those two notes in a repeating pattern until memorized.
Climb an additional 3 semitones from the higher of the memorized notes.
Play the accumulated sequence of three notes up and down until well under the fingers.

And since for brass players ultimately the chromatic scale may be the most important scale of all, I would assume the same is true for woodwinds. We get students to absorb the sound and fingering, independent of notation. It is a rudiment, a foundation step. So this is one way in. Since each “chord” will have to be played in arpeggiated form, obviously it is easier to teach such a concept on the piano. And of course this is why all serious students are at least encouraged to study some kind of keyboard instrument – and why some piano proficiency is always a requirement at musical schools.
Quote:

“Clarence, for next week, I’d like you to practise what we’ve learnt today. Then I’d like you to add two more additional intervals of 3 semitones to round off the full octave arpeggio and practise that too”.

Exactly, because this completes the mathematical series and shows that this endlessly repeating sequence always lands us on the octave.

When next he visits his teacher, he’s beside himself with excitement.
Quote:

“Wow, that diminished thing you taught me was amazing!” says Clarence. “I couldn’t stop myself! I’ve been able to extend the arpeggio to cover the full range of the instrument. What’s more, I found there are two other arpeggios just like the one you taught me but with different notes. But what’s really weird is, there aren’t any more!! There’s only three different ones! What a fascinating construction, such sublime architecture. I was thinking of naming each of the three of them but I’m a bit spoilt for choice….in fact…do you know…..I don’t think I’ll bother!”

They both smile.

This is EXACTLY how I teach. First you get the concepts through sound, through feel, through remembering the patterns.

Then we talk about such chords whenever they appear in music.

Finally, we talk about how to notate these chords, what rules exist, how context determines spelling, and so on.
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#1961409 - 09/20/12 05:14 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Gary D.]
dire tonic Offline
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Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1049
Loc: uk south
Originally Posted By: Gary D.

Finally, we talk about how to notate these chords, what rules exist, how context determines spelling, and so on.


- Yes!

I think earlier, talking about Cdim (Cdim7), you laid out something like:-

C, <D# or Eb>, <F# or Gb>, <A or Bbb>

..and as so much has been said about the diminished's multiple personality I thought it might be timely to jot this out for an illustration and direct comparison of two typical alternatives...




To answer LoPresti’s earlier exception to my apparent snub at spelling, I certainly don’t eschew notation, far from it. We use it to communicate with each other, for some of us to write and others to play wonderful (and not so wonderful) music and I’ve had considerable reliance on it as a memory and writing aid. Others have learned to be great musicians without it, but that is an aside.

In counseling against getting hung up on spelling I meant in particular to avoid obsessing over exactitudes of grammar and enharmonic niceties. It can only make for a dry and dusty academic wrangle. In practice as can be seen above - and to echo what you say in your conclusion, Gary - when taken in context, in a specific key, the movement of neighbouring voices has a habit of regulating the spelling as a matter of routine.


In the course of this thread, I remembered a line which made me hoot. It’s from Alan Bennett’s screenplay about the english playwright Joe Orton…

Kenneth Halliwell: Can you spell?
Joe Orton: Yes, but not accurately.

We know why this is funny in relation to the written word and we should know why, in relation to written music, the joke would fall flat.


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#1961773 - 09/20/12 08:05 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]
Tech 5 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/27/12
Posts: 194
Loc: South Carolina
You guys lost me a long time ago, but I think its cool...the can of worms that has been opened from my simple little post on how to read chord charts.
_________________________
Virginia

"Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
J.Wooden

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#1961791 - 09/20/12 08:43 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11183
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By: Tech 5
You guys lost me a long time ago, but I think its cool...the can of worms that has been opened from my simple little post on how to read chord charts.


Virginia, to get up to speed on the essential. You don't need to be a genius or advanced, and that is the most important point - how to get people to learn in a real way. Here's the deal.

A while back I wrote a set of ideas which I hoped might help if you worked through them, and you found them helpful and printed them out. The most important idea was to get familiar with chords by playing with them at the piano, seeing what's happening with the piano keys, and what you hear.

The crucial thing is that when you press down a key you will always get the same pitch. When you press down two keys at the same time, you will always get a certain quality of sound. For example, if you play CD together, you get a grating ugly kind of sound. If you play CG together, you get a smooth, easy sound.

Meanwhile these things have been written into notation. A few hundred years ago a system was invented to put it into code, like spelling and grammar. If we're going to read and understand music, we need to have a handle on both of these worlds. I tend to think that the first one is the most important. The notation symbolizes the sounds and how they work.

So at the level that I suggested, you play three white keys: CEG. then you play the same thing, moving the middle note down by a half step to the next black key. You will hear a major chord the first time, and a minor chord the second time. This gives you a feel for the role of this middle note. Some people cannot hear the difference between major and minor in the beginning, or they can't recognize them to name them. But they still feel "something different", maybe a mood, quality, or colour. These are the essential things. When you get a feeling for these things through experimentation, and then study theory as well, then the theory will make more sense, because it will link to something concrete and real. In language, grammar and spelling work that way.

Back to our CEG (major) and CEbG (minor). Recently I came across a chord in Mozart that was written as CD#G. Take a moment to locate Eb, and then D#, on the piano. You will see and hear that this will be the same piano key. So when I played this "CD#G" chord, I heard the "C minor" sound, and so would any listener, which is the important point. Mozart had some reason for choosing D# instead of Eb. It had something to do with what notes were before and after, or what other notes were in the other voices. The important thing is that as an amateur pianist, I could play those three notes together, and that both my audience and I can hear that "minor third chord" sound --- the real thing that you get by playing at the piano.

If you stay as simple and real as possible, then the complicated things you encounter in music tend to work themselves out.

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#1961794 - 09/20/12 08:51 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: dire tonic]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: dire tonic
[quote=Gary D.]
Finally, we talk about how to notate these chords, what rules exist, how context determines spelling, and so on.

We are on exactly the same wave-length. You’ve used a key signature, but I don’t think we need one.

In your first example, we have what would be notated as a Cdim7 because of the bass note – C

But if we look at your chord vertically:
A-->>>Bb
Gb-->>>Gb
Eb-->>>Eb
C-->>>Bb

A-->>>Bb
F#-->>>G
Eb-->>>Eb
C-->>>Bb

It’s common sense that our destination chord is either Eb or Ebm here. When ascending, whenever possible notation prefers a letter change. So if it is going to Eb, there will be an F# to move to G. But to Ebm, Gb will be the “common tone”, and so F# would be wrong.

BUT: If we have a B7/Cb7 instead (using the chord symbol for the SOUND), we run into a “German 6th situation”, and traditional rules would recommend this:

A-->>>Bb
Gb-->>>Gb
Eb-->>>Eb
Cb-->>>Bb

A-->>>Bb
Gb-->>>G
Eb-->>>Eb
Cb-->>>Bb

Our generic 7 chord will take on the aug6th spelling (A instead of Bbb) but we will want to keep the Gb simply because that is a standard spelling. Cb Eb F# A is of course possible, and I’m sure it shows up somewhere, but it is not the “default”.

For me these are not THEORETICAL problems. They are real-life, practical notational decisions. Recently I was notating Death of Love and Trust, Grusin, and I did not have the music. By the way, when I finally DID see the music, it was not really what he played.

So right in the middle, in this sophisticated blues tune, he moves from Ab something to Db something (these are open-voiced 9 chords), and he slides down to C7#9 to E6/B to B7 add 13 to Bbsus9. All the theory books in the UNIVERSE are not going to show how to notate that. When you do it, and see it, it is just logical and readable. In the classical world E major would be Fb major, and it would be a “Neopolitan” kind of thing, and then the C7 chord leading into it would be bVI7 in that key and would turn out to be Dbb7, spelled:

Dbb Fb Abb Bb

And that would be utterly INSANE!!!!
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#1961796 - 09/20/12 08:57 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: Tech 5
You guys lost me a long time ago, but I think its cool...the can of worms that has been opened from my simple little post on how to read chord charts.

Virginia,

Let me boil it down for you. In the end, all the rules in the world are just handy-dandy guidelines for people who are learning. When you have learned all the rules, the last rule is: there ARE no rules.

You have to think of English to understand. We can talk about all the spelling rules in the universe, but in the end there are countless words that are unique. Not only would we have to learn the rules for every language we have borrowed words from in order to apply logic, sometimes we borrow words from languages when THOSE words are also borrowed and do not obey spelling rules in THAT language.

So think of phonetics vs standard English. In a perfect world, everyone would pronounce words the same way, so all we would have to do to invent a phonetic system is to stop arguing about symbols. But we have the additional problem of an incredible range of pronunciation for the same words.

So there are two extremes:

1) There are rules for everything, and if you just learn them all, you will be ready to read and write anything in music.

2) Just ignore all the rules and do whatever works.

One is a lie. Rules are not enough.
Two is usually disastrous because it results in chaos.

Some kind of happy-medium is where we all end up. Rules when they work, figuring out solutions by intuition when the rules just don't work.
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#1961810 - 09/20/12 09:36 PM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11183
Loc: Canada
I still think the same as in my previous post. If you start with simple chords by themselves on the piano, observing and exploring, and stay simple, then these things will not be overwhelming. I can argue that in learning spelling and grammar, we also start out by speaking and hearing. We pick up the patterns of language, and this goes hand in hand with the written language. Music is not exactly the same as spoken language, but there are some similarities.

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#1961907 - 09/21/12 02:19 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Gary D.]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1049
Loc: uk south
Originally Posted By: Gary D.

You’ve used a key signature, but I don’t think we need one.


there are two simple transitions:-

Cdim to Eb
Cdim to E

they have a lot in common with fragments of a score I had to prepare involving a key change from Eb to E so I wouldn't (couldn't!) have scored those without the key sigs.


Originally Posted By: Gary D.

For me these are not THEORETICAL problems. They are real-life, practical notational decisions. Recently I was notating Death of Love and Trust, Grusin, and I did not have the music. By the way, when I finally DID see the music, it was not really what he played.

So right in the middle, in this sophisticated blues tune, he moves from Ab something to Db something (these are open-voiced 9 chords), and he slides down to C7#9 to E6/B to B7 add 13 to Bbsus9. All the theory books in the UNIVERSE are not going to show how to notate that. When you do it, and see it, it is just logical and readable. In the classical world E major would be Fb major, and it would be a “Neopolitan” kind of thing, and then the C7 chord leading into it would be bVI7 in that key and would turn out to be Dbb7, spelled:

Dbb Fb Abb Bb

And that would be utterly INSANE!!!!


Yes it would.

I know the Grusin piece fairly well and sketched it out some years ago. I saw no problems but that may be because I cast all caution to the wind. It's no surprise that the sheet music isn't a faithful copy - I mentioned before what a travesty the piano-copy industry is. Occasionally an accurate transcription pops up but that's pretty rare.


Other than where he adds upper register RH flourishes to a sustained chord underneath, I don't recall any 9* note chords.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syObAJjtPdk

Which part are you talking about?

(*edit for senior moment! - sorry I read 9-note, I guess you meant 9ths?)


Edited by dire tonic (09/21/12 02:41 AM)

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#1961908 - 09/21/12 02:20 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1049
Loc: uk south
Originally Posted By: Tech 5
You guys lost me a long time ago, but I think its cool...the can of worms that has been opened from my simple little post on how to read chord charts.


- it's just everyday thread drift. Ignore it!

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#1961930 - 09/21/12 03:29 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: dire tonic]
Tech 5 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/27/12
Posts: 194
Loc: South Carolina
Originally Posted By: dire tonic
Originally Posted By: Tech 5
You guys lost me a long time ago, but I think its cool...the can of worms that has been opened from my simple little post on how to read chord charts.


- it's just everyday thread drift. Ignore it!


This I have done, for the most part.:)
_________________________
Virginia

"Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."
J.Wooden

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#1961939 - 09/21/12 03:49 AM Re: How to read chords on sheet music? [Re: Tech 5]
Gary D. Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4649
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: dire tonic

I know the Grusin piece fairly well and sketched it out some years ago. I saw no problems but that may be because I cast all caution to the wind. It's no surprise that the sheet music isn't a faithful copy - I mentioned before what a travesty the piano-copy industry is. Occasionally an accurate transcription pops up but that's pretty rare.

First of all, I also had no trouble. My one dilemma was time signature. I was rather shocked to find out that Grusin wrote it in ¾, because the bass notes consistently come on 1 3 and 5 in 6/4 time. But that makes it cool, in a way, because TECHNICALLY it is a waltz, ambiguous, sort of ONE two THREE one TWO three. And when we have notation in mind, we can never be sure that what we hear, in our imagination, is actually what anyone else will hear, just from the sound.

The spelling? Clear-cut. I was just pointing out that IF I followed rules, instead of pure instinct, I would have been in trouble. wink

I do a lot of realizations of this sort for students. I make them buy the sheet music – my support for the music industry – but will give them my view as a supplement, since it is not available, and not all can simply listen and play.
Quote:

Other than where he adds upper register RH flourishes to a sustained chord underneath, I don't recall any 9* note chords.

My writing was probably clear as mud. A typical measure starts with Db Ab Eb in the LH, Bb in the RH melody quickly followed by Gb Ab Db. You put it altogether and you have Db Gb Ab Bb Eb, but voiced Db Ab Eb Gb Ab Db Bb. That’s the kind of chord that I just process as a very tasteful, spacious voicing. The crux of it is a Dbsus(4), and moving from one sus to another, without every having a qualifying major or minor 3rd is a “feel”, and very effective. There is no 7, so if I HAD to give it a name, I would say Dbsus add 9 and 13, but that is a mess. Some chords either have to be written out or listened to an played as they are. You can give the root and a function, but the real deal is just too hard for a symbol. So for that chord I might simply write Dbsus add9 and figure that Bb in the melody, top note, will be heard as what it is. Or figure out that lots of 5ths and 4ths get put in those chords, for atmosphere.
Quote:

Which part are you talking about?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syObAJjtPdk

1:24, Db something to C7#9 but almost certainly written C E G Bb Eb, to E6/B, etc.
Quote:

It's no surprise that the sheet music isn't a faithful copy - I mentioned before what a travesty the piano-copy industry is. Occasionally an accurate transcription pops up but that's pretty rare.

Rant coming:

LAZY LAZY LAZY LAZY. It is the fault of the COMPOSERS. They need to get OFF their butts and WRITE their own music correctly. Grusin is no more improvising in this piece than Chopin was when writing down his nocturnes. What he plays CAN be written down very accurately. It is elegant, beautifully constructed. He has the skills to write out his stuff. But he doesn’t care to. He leaves it to other people.

So almost always these guys leave their music in the hands of HACKS, and in defense of those hacks, they are probably paid very little. In the long run it is really stupid. It won’t decrease the amount of money they make, but they will leave no permanent record, and that makes their music unplayable for those who do not have the listening skills to reconstruct it purely through ear work.

Granted, things that are largely improv, created on the spot, are not meant to be permanently written down. In that case reproducing exactly what is played only creates very inferior copies of something original. But back in the time of Tchaikosky composers took the time to take things written for full orchestra and make their own transcriptions for piano. To the best of my knowledge there is no piano transcription of Princess Lea’s Theme. In defense of Williams, the amount of music the man has composed is frightening, but it would have been nice if he had taken that piece, which really is as much a tone poem as anything written in the 1800s, and had made a fine transcription. wink
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