Chords And Scales

Written by Patricia Tunstall
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Music of the Spheres

Chords and scales are the foundation of music even yet, but Pythagoras began the discovery of their secrets in the Sixth Century B.C.! Each of the seven known planets, he believed, produced a different musical note as it orbited on gigantic crystal spheres. The harmonious sound was so exquisite and sublime that human beings could not hear it, but the music was a part of everything and everyone.

This synchronized universe thus produced the music of the spheres, a concept of a mathematical and musical world that held sway in intellectual circles for the next 2,000 years, until Sir Isaac Newton established modern science. Specifically, Pythagoras ascertained the ratios (1:2, 2:3, 3:4) that define the harmonic intervals of the scale--the octave, major fifth, the fourth, and so on. An imaginative scientist, musician, and mathematician, Pythagoras saw these three disciplines as unified and indicative of cosmic harmonies.

Got Those Major and Minor Feelings

To bring celestial harmonies down to earth for a moment--human beings write music to express emotion; they listen to music to evoke emotion. Chords and scales are the mundane tools that create such feelings. Pythagoras was quite aware of the effect music had on people--he once cured a young man of his drunkenness with a melody in the Hypophrygian mode in spondaic rhythm! Everyone knows a rainy day and a tear-jerker song in a melancholy minor key will wring that sadness out of you.

Music is a universal language, and it is built on mathematics, as any music student can tell you. Thirds, fifths, sevenths; ratios; triads; harmonics--these mathematics-based features in the hands of a knowledgeable composer or songwriter create powerful music, happy music, elegant music. A zippy little tune with catchy chord progressions and modulations in a major key might become that song you just can't get out of your mind as you go cheerfully about your daily routine.

Learn the Building Blocks: Chords and Scales

The transformation of the foundation of music--chords and scales--into evocative songs and arrangements that become classics can be managed without being able to read music. Many great songwriters, singers, and instrumentalists have not been able to decipher those little black notes on paper. John Lennon and Paul McCartney didn't read music, but they created some of the most memorable songs in pop music because of their knowledge of such musical tools as tonality, chord progressions, and modulation.

Few of us have the innate talent of the top songwriters and instrumentalists, but every human being reacts emotionally to a simple chord. A masterpiece such as Beethoven's Fifth Symphony evokes a passionate response, even if we know nothing of the symphonic form. Despite our lack of technical knowledge, the urge to express our feelings through music is a universal yearning.

Start Playing Now!

Lots of people really would like to play the guitar or piano, two of the most popular instruments. They don't know one note from another, much less the pentatonic scales! They do know they love music and want to learn how to use chords and scales to produce wild rock and roll, or the lovely preludes of Chopin.

Many, many music lessons, charts, books, and explanations are available on Web sites and in book stores. Which to choose? With books, you have to stop, turn the page, go back to another page, and try to keep the pages from flipping if the book doesn't lie flat. However, the internet will give you practical information about music-making and playing, as well as detailed material on the most convenient charts and posters so you, too, can create your own music of the spheres!

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