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Top 12 2009 Tutorials About Music Theory

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We've had a lot of requests for music theory tutorials this year. You're more likely to make good music if you understand how it all works. Here are the Top 12 music theory tutorials of 2009.

  • The Basic Functions of Harmony

    The Basic Functions of Harmony

    “All you need is three chords and the truth.” At it’s core, all music can be considered an interplay of tension and release. The degree of tension can come from dissonance vs. consonance, orchestration, dynamics, or a hundred other musical elements. The key to using tension and release is balance. With too much tension and no release the tension can become unbearable and the music unlistenable. On the reverse side, if the music is too neutral with little to no amount of tension it can be dull and lifeless. One reason great chord progressions sound good is because they are well balanced in their use of tension and release. In this tutorial we’ll examine the very basic steps of harmonic progressions to understand how this balance works.

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  • Secondary Dominants and How to Use Them

    Secondary Dominants and How to Use Them

    In the previous harmony tutorial, The Basic Functions of Harmony, we introduced the idea that harmony is about a balance between tension and release. If you haven’t yet read that tutorial I suggest you do before moving on to this one. For this tutorial we’re going to explore the idea of Secondary Dominants and how they can be used to create tension and release in more harmonically complex and interesting ways. We’ll discuss what they are, some of the different ways they can be used, and then show some examples from real music.

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  • A Beginner’s Guide To Songwriting – Part 1

    A Beginner’s Guide To Songwriting – Part 1

    This tutorial is the first in a series focused on showing complete beginners how to write a simple song. This series will focus predominantly on the process of writing a song, rather than the specific software and hardware techniques, skills and applications you might need in the recording, mixing, and mastering of that song.

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  • An Introduction to Cadences

    An Introduction to Cadences

    The cadence is a critical element in any harmonic progression. Cadences will often come to you naturally without you being aware of them, but understanding how and why you are using them (and how you can avoid using them) will give you more sophisticated control over the dramatic shape and direction of your music.

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  • Introduction to Polyrhythms

    Introduction to Polyrhythms

    The usage of simple, common time (4/4 time signature, where there are four beats to a measure, and each quarter note gets one beat) is pervasive in Western popular music, including rock, blues, country, folk, pop, and various forms of electronic music including many sub-genres of house and trance music. The four-on-the-floor mindset can be difficult to escape, but every musician and composer can benefit from a study of rhythm that includes a wider variety of time signatures and rhythms.

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  • The Rule of Three and Music

    The Rule of Three and Music

    The Rule of Three is a popular concept used in many art forms such as writing and photography to achieve a balance of elements and structure. There is little discussion of The Rule of Three being applied to music, however, though the same concept can be applied to just about every aspect of our craft. From the first sketches of a composition to the production of a final mix, we can use this simple device to achieve a balance of interest and clarity so that our ideas are clearly expressed and heard.

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  • Improvization Basics: The Pentatonic Scale

    Improvization Basics: The Pentatonic Scale

    When I was thirteen years old, I decided to teach myself guitar because I loved the way that modern-day guitar heroes (by which I do not mean your chubby ten year old playing with a fake guitar and an Xbox) improvised what seemed like complicated lead pieces on the spot. After hearing the guitar solo Slash played in Sweet Child O’ Mine, I all but forgot to practice chords in search of the ability to play like that.

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  • How to Create a Song Sheet in Logic’s Score Editor

    How to Create a Song Sheet in Logic’s Score Editor

    Logic Pro has some very advanced tools when it comes to scoring. In this tutorial I’m going to show you the basics of getting started with the Score Editor by building a basic song sheet. Don’t worry, you don’t even need to be able to read music!

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  • The Process of Score Composition, Pt 1

    The Process of Score Composition, Pt 1

    This tutorial marks the first in a series of tutorials on composition – specifically composition that might be appropriate for film and television. In this piece, we’ll talk a bit about the philosophy behind this particular series of tutorials, and get into the process of composition itself.

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  • The Process of Score Composition, Pt 2

    The Process of Score Composition, Pt 2

    This tutorial is the second in a series of tutorials on composition – specifically composition that might be appropriate for film, television, etc. The intention with this series of tutorials is to walk you through the process of one of my compositions. It is intended to offer some new ideas and perspectives and hopefully give a bit of creative inspiration, but by no means should it be considered definitive – even for my own personal compositional process.

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  • The Process of Score Composition, Pt 3

    The Process of Score Composition, Pt 3

    This tutorial is the third in a series of tutorials on composition – specifically composition that might be appropriate for film, television, etc. The intention with this series of tutorials is to walk you through the process of one of my compositions. It is intended to offer some new ideas and perspectives and hopefully give a bit of creative inspiration, but by no means should it be considered definitive – even for my own personal compositional process.

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  • The Process of Score Composition, Pt 4

    The Process of Score Composition, Pt 4

    This tutorial is the fourth and final installment in a series of tutorials on composition – specifically composition that might be appropriate for film, television, etc. The intention with this series of tutorials is to walk you through the process of one of my compositions. It is intended to offer some new ideas and perspectives and hopefully give a bit of creative inspiration, but by no means should it be considered definitive – even for my own personal compositional process.

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