Condensed Theory Reminders
copyright Julianne Ensley 2009
The names of scales containing flats are determined by observing the NEXT TO
LAST flat in the key signature. The exception is F Major, which contains
only one flat: Bb.
The C scale has no flats or sharps.
The names of scales containing sharps are determined by observing the letter name
of the place to the right of the LAST SHARP in the key signature. If that
space is the name of a note previously "sharped" in the key signature, then
the name "sharp" is part of the scale name, e.g. F sharp Major.
All but one scale containing flats (F major/d minor) have the word "flat" in them.
Sharp scales may or may not have the word "sharp" in them.
RELATIVE or COMPANION minor scales are determined by counting down
TWO LETTER NAMES from their relative majors.
First find the number of the interval, then determine its quality
(Major "M", minor "m", Augmented "+" or diminished "o")
Determine the key of the bottom note. Is the upper note within that scale?
If it is, the interval is either major or perfect (only for 4ths and 5ths).
If it is raised 1 half step, it is an augmented interval.
If it is lowered 1 half step, it is a minor interval (or dim. for 4ths & 5ths).
If it is lowered 2 half steps, it is a diminished interval.
If the bottom note is in an unfamiliar key, first determine the number of the
interval without the accidental, then decide if the interval is smaller or larger
because of the accidental.
*REMEMBER--Perfect 4ths and 5ths are never major or minor. If the 4th or 5th
is larger or smaller than perfect, it is augmented or diminished.
A major 3rd consists of 2 whole steps--that is, 4 half steps.
A minor 3rd consists of 1 1/2 steps--that is, 3 half steps. THUS:
A major triad is a major 3rd on the bottom and a minor 3rd on the top.
A minor triad is a minor 3rd on the bottom and a major 3rd on the top.
A diminished triad is 2 minor 3rds stacked on top of each other-6 half steps.
An augmented triad is 2 major 3rds stacked on top of each other-8 half steps.
A "I" chord is a snowman chord built on the 1st degree of the scale.
A "IV" chord is a snowman chord built on the 4th degree of the scale.
A"V" chord is a snowman chord built on the 5th degree of the scale.
Lower case Roman chord symbols indicate minor chords.
First, determine the key signature in the example given. Pay close attention to
whether it is indicated as major or minor.
Know that the "I" chord will be built on the tonic, that is the key note of the
key signature. Go ahead and figure out what the "IV" or 4th degree of that
scale, and also the "V" or 5th degree. That will give you the root of the
chords you are likely to see.
Observe the two or three chords at the end of a phrase or song. Keep in mind
that a beat from one chord may carry over into the next chord.
Determine the letter name of each note in the chord. Arrange them to form a triad.
(You may have 2 of one kind of note--it may be a clue to the "root").
Now assign a chord name to each set of chords to see the pattern of the cadence.
Authentic Cadence: ends in V - I
Plagal Cadence: ends in IV - I
Half Cadence: ends in 1 6/4 - V
Deceptive Cadence: ends in VI or vii (the 6th degree of the scale is the root).
The NATURAL minor contains the same notes as its relative major; it just starts on
a different note. It is the easiest to remember, but is rarely used in music. It goes up and comes down in the same way.
The HARMONIC minor is the scale from which chords of traditional harmony are
formed. Its 7th degree is raised 1 half step, creating 1 1/2 steps between the
6ths and 7th degrees, while allowing only 1 half step between the 7th degree
and octave. It also ascends and descends the same way.
The MELODIC minor is the scale from which chords of melody are formed. Both its
6th and 7th degrees are raised on the ascending scale BUT are lowered back
on the descent. It is the only scale that ascends one way and descends another.
(The descending scales sounds just like the natural minor.)
Just make sure you adjust the exact number of lines or spaces for each note. If an
accidental raises or lowers a pitch in the original example, raise it or lower
it accordingly in the new key signature. You don't have to do anything fancy,
like count half steps or anything. If it's A Major and starts on A, and you have
to transpose to F Major, start it on F and go from there. From A down to F is
a 3rd interval, so every other note in the transposition will be one 3rd lower
than the original.