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#2266243 - 04/24/14 03:11 AM Spelling chords and using correct accidentals
JoelW Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4763
Loc: USA
I compose music regularly, but I don't know enough about theory to determine whether to use, say, a D-sharp as apposed to an E-flat, etc. People correct my accidentals all the time.

I've tried to find information on this, but I'm not quite sure where to look. I've tried YouTube. Nothing but basic accidentals tutorials (definition of sharps, flats, naturals, etc), but nothing beyond that. I've tried searching for chord spelling too. No dice.

What do I have to do to have a well-rounded understanding of this? Formal theory classes are not an option right now. Any good theory books that you'd recommend?

Thanks.

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#2266244 - 04/24/14 03:14 AM Re: Spelling chords and using correct accidentals [Re: JoelW]
Nikolas Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5240
Loc: Europe
I would imagine that basic harmony books would do the job, but it would be preferable if we knew what kind of problems you're experiencing (with a score, image, etc, if possible).

Perhaps we can be of aid?
_________________________
http://www.musica-ferrum.com

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#2266248 - 04/24/14 03:18 AM Re: Spelling chords and using correct accidentals [Re: Nikolas]
JoelW Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4763
Loc: USA
Hi, Nikolas.

I edited my post while you were making yours. Check the first paragraph.

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#2266252 - 04/24/14 03:27 AM Re: Spelling chords and using correct accidentals [Re: JoelW]
Nikolas Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5240
Loc: Europe
In this case you actually need to learn harmony (and counterpoint later on), rather than music theory. Think of it this way: Theory is spelling and harmony is grammar. I'd say that composition is creative writing then! laugh

So...

Some general rules that perhaps you can use:

1. When you're working on tonal music (diatonic music), or even modal music, you are bound to be "stuck" in a specific tonal centre. In a... scale. And each scale has its own key signature. A major has 3 sharps (FCG), etc... So depending on where you are and where you're moving, you'll be using the accidentals of the key signatures (scale) you're in.

Keep in mind that exactly because you may be modulating (moving from scale to scale a lot) you won't exactly have all your accidentals in your key signature and be done with it!

2. In case of modulating, you need to remember the sequence of major and minor chords and the relationship of the key signatures: Generally speaking (but not 100%) you don't move from a scale with 3 sharps to one with 5 flats straight away. So chances are that you might mean that the one with 5 flats, is actually spelled with 7 sharps (check the circle of 5ths to understand why (I'm talking about Gb or F#).

3. Further reasons to go from one key signature to the next: The kind of modulation that you're using. If you are in A major chord and make the A into an A# (and then move to B) you're doing a chromatic modulation. etc...

4. Other more light reasons to use a flat or a sharp.

Some chords in my head are pinned down as they are. For me the "primary" (FOR ME) sharps and flats are F#, C#, Ab, Bb, Eb!

Yes there's A#, but A# major chord is spelled with a double sharp, so it's not handy AT ALL! But still, if you're playing around in that area of the diatonic music, then you're bound to use that!

In any other case go for the simplest solution!

5. The remaining reasons have to do about melodic writing rather than harmonic. As Polyphonist once said, if you're going up chromatically you use sharps, if down you use flats.

None of the above "rules" are 100% correct, but they may be helpful...
_________________________
http://www.musica-ferrum.com

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#2266260 - 04/24/14 03:40 AM Re: Spelling chords and using correct accidentals [Re: Nikolas]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5454
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Nikolas
Yes there's A#, but A# major chord is spelled with a double sharp, so it's not handy AT ALL! But still, if you're playing around in that area of the diatonic music, then you're bound to use that!

If Joel struggles to tell the difference between a D-sharp and an E-flat, then whatever you wrote about A-sharp major chord will fly right over his head.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2266263 - 04/24/14 03:43 AM Re: Spelling chords and using correct accidentals [Re: JoelW]
Nikolas Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5240
Loc: Europe
True... but entering the formation of triadic diatonic chords is a theory subject, which CAN easily be learned and found on the net...
_________________________
http://www.musica-ferrum.com

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#2266266 - 04/24/14 03:49 AM Re: Spelling chords and using correct accidentals [Re: JoelW]
JoelW Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4763
Loc: USA
And what about double accidentals and naturals? I have had my naturals corrected before.

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#2266268 - 04/24/14 03:53 AM Re: Spelling chords and using correct accidentals [Re: JoelW]
Nikolas Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5240
Loc: Europe
A double accidental is a result from a scale that's got too many sharps/flats in its key signature!

In order for a major chord (for example) to be formed you need to have the root note, and then one third above and one fifth above. So A C and E (this btw, is a minor chord, because A - C is a minor third).

If you want to make it into a major chord you'll need to augment the middle note: A C# A.

But what if you had A# as the root note? Then you'd have A# C# E# (which is also a minor chord). Augmenting the middle note gives you A# C## (or Cx) and E#. This a double sharp. If you mispell your C## (or Cx) to D then you'll get A# D E# which is bizarre for any sane mind that knows music.

And so on...
_________________________
http://www.musica-ferrum.com

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#2266269 - 04/24/14 03:54 AM Re: Spelling chords and using correct accidentals [Re: JoelW]
JoelW Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4763
Loc: USA
I see. It's becoming a bit more clear. Bottom line: I need to pick up some harmony books?

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#2266270 - 04/24/14 03:56 AM Re: Spelling chords and using correct accidentals [Re: JoelW]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5454
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: JoelW
And what about double accidentals and naturals? I have had my naturals corrected before.

Your piano teachers never taught you this?

This is what happens when you don't learn theory.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2266271 - 04/24/14 03:58 AM Re: Spelling chords and using correct accidentals [Re: JoelW]
JoelW Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4763
Loc: USA
I don't have a teacher yet.

Yes, thank you for that insightful comment.

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#2266273 - 04/24/14 04:01 AM Re: Spelling chords and using correct accidentals [Re: JoelW]
Nikolas Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5240
Loc: Europe
Bottom line: For music theory you can learn it on your own, since it's rather factual (basic rules).

For harmony and anything further than that you need a teacher, unless you are able to correct yourself (which is dead difficult to do... Personally I can't do it (and thus I need proof readers)). :-/
_________________________
http://www.musica-ferrum.com

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#2266276 - 04/24/14 04:02 AM Re: Spelling chords and using correct accidentals [Re: JoelW]
JoelW Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 4763
Loc: USA
I see. Thanks for your help. smile

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#2266392 - 04/24/14 12:00 PM Re: Spelling chords and using correct accidentals [Re: JoelW]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11644
Loc: Canada
JoelW, you should be able to work your way through basic theory using the site below. It is very thorough. Also have a visit to the ABF - while it is called the "adult beginner forum" it is actually a catch-all phrase for anyone studying music. Some of the folks there are quite knowledgeable and many have made your journey of learning as adults.

Here's the resource:
https://www.teoria.com/

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#2267617 - 04/27/14 05:54 AM Re: Spelling chords and using correct accidentals [Re: JoelW]
HaraldC Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 03/24/14
Posts: 8
Andrew Furmanczyk music theory course

Very good for beginners, watch as much as you like ...

Cheers.

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