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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Music theory

Music theory
Music theory is the field of study that deals of a tone typically rises as frequency in-
with how music works. It examines the lan- creases. At and below 1,000 Hz, the pitch of
guage and notation of music. It identifies pat- a tone gets lower as sound pressure in-
terns that govern composers’ techniques. In creases. Above approximately 2,000 Hz, the
a grand sense, music theory distills and ana- pitch increases as the sound gets louder.[2]
lyzes the parameters or elements of music – The process of assigning note names to
rhythm, harmony (harmonic function), pitches is called tuning. Historically in
melody, structure, form, and texture. Western music, a number of competing pitch
Broadly, music theory may include any state- standards have existed to define the tuning of
ment, belief, or conception of or about music an orchestra. "Concert A" was set at 435 Hz
[1]. People who study these properties are by France in 1859[3] while in England, con-
known as music theorists. Some have applied cert A varied between 452 and 439 Hz. A fre-
acoustics, human physiology, and psychology quency of 440 Hz was recommended as the
to the explanation of how and why music is new standard in 1939 and in 1955 the Inter-
perceived. national Organization for Standardization af-
firmed the choice.[4] A440 is now widely,
Elements of music though not exclusively, used as the A above
middle C.
Music has many different elements. The main The difference in frequency between two
elements are: rhythm, melody, harmony, pitches is called an interval. The most basic
structure, timbre, dynamics, and texture. interval is the octave, which indicates either
Each element—and each of its sub-elements, a doubling or halving of the base frequency.
if any—is discussed below.
Scales and modes
Melody Notes can be arranged into different scales
A melody is a series of notes sounding in suc- and modes. Western music theory generally
cession. The notes of a melody are typically divides the octave into a series of 12 notes
created with respect to pitch systems such as that might be included in a piece of music.
scales or modes. The rhythm of a melody is This series of twelve notes is called a chro-
often based on the inflections of language, matic scale. In the chromatic scale, each note
the physical rhythms of dance, or simply peri- is called a half-step or semitone. Patterns of
odic pulsation. Melody is typically divided in- half and whole steps (2 half steps, or a tone)
to phrases within a larger overarching struc- can make up a scale in that octave. The
ture. The elements of a melody are pitch, scales most commonly encountered are the
duration, dynamics, and timbre. seven toned major, the harmonic minor, the
In the context of theory, a piece of music melodic minor, and the natural minor. Other
may be melodically based. In this instance, a examples of scales used are the octatonic
composer will first take a melody, and use scale, and the pentatonic or five-toned scale
that to create his work. A harmonically based which is common in but not limited to folk
piece, on the contrary, will focus on a chord musics. There are scales that do not follow
progression, with the melody as a secondary the chromatic 12-note pattern, for example in
or incidental factor of composition. classical Persian, Indian and Arabic music.
These cultures often make use of quarter-
Pitch tones, half the size of a semitone, as the
Pitch is a subjective sensation in which a name suggests.
listener assigns perceived tones to notes on a In music written using the system of
musical scale based mainly on the frequency major-minor tonality, the key of a piece de-
of vibration, with a lesser relation to sound termines the scale used. Transposing a piece
pressure level (loudness, volume). The pitch from C major to D major will make all the

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Music theory

notes two semitones (or one full step) higher. means that the interval of which the chords
Even in modern equal temperament, chan- are composed is a third. Therefore, a root-po-
ging the key can change the feel of a piece of sition triad (with the root note in the lowest
music, because it changes the relationship of voice) consists of the root note, a note a third
the composition’s pitches to the pitch range above, and a note a third above that (a fifth
of the instruments on which the piece is be- above the root). Seventh chords add a third
ing performed. This often affects the music’s above the top note of a triad (a seventh above
timbre, as well as having technical implica- the root). There are some notable exceptions.
tions for the performers. However, perform- In 20th century classical music, many altern-
ing a piece in one key rather than another ative types of harmonic structure were ex-
may go unrecognized by the casual listener, plored. One way to analyze harmony in Com-
since changing the key does not change the mon practice music is through a roman nu-
relationship of the individual pitches to each meral system; in Popular Music and Jazz a
other. A key change, or modulation, may oc- system of chord symbols is used; and in post-
cur during a piece, which is more easily tonal music, a variety of approaches are
heard as a difference of intervals in sound. used, most frequently set theory.
The perception of pitch within harmony
Rhythm depends on a number of factors including the
Rhythm is the arrangement of sounds in time. interaction of frequencies within the har-
Meter animates time in regular pulse group- mony and the roughness produced by the fast
ings, called measures or bars. The time sig- beating of nearby partials. Pitch perception is
nature or meter signature specifies how also affected by familiarity of the listener
many beats are in a measure, and which with the music, and cultural associations.
value of written note is counted and felt as a
single beat. Through increased stress and at- Consonance and dissonance
tack (and subtle variations in duration), par- Consonance can be roughly defined as har-
ticular tones may be accented. There are con- monies whose tones complement and in-
ventions in most musical traditions for a reg- crease each others’ resonance, and disson-
ular and hierarchical accentuation of beats to ance as those which create more complex
reinforce the meter. Syncopated rhythms are acoustical interactions (called ’beats’). A
rhythms that accent unexpected parts of the simplistic example is that of "pleasant"
beat. Playing simultaneous rhythms in more sounds versus "unpleasant" ones. Another
than one time signature is called polymeter. manner of thinking about the relationship re-
See also polyrhythm. gards stability; dissonant harmonies are
In recent years, rhythm and meter have sometimes considered to be unstable and to
become an important area of research among "want to move" or "resolve" toward conson-
music scholars. Recent work in these areas ance. However, this is not to say that disson-
includes books by Bengt-Olov Palmqvist, ance is undesirable. A composition made en-
Fred Lerdahl and Ray Jackendoff, Jonathan tirely of consonant harmonies may be pleas-
Kramer, Christopher Hasty, William Roth- ing to the ear and yet boring because there
stein, and Joel Lester. are no instabilities to be resolved.
Melody is often organized so as to interact
Harmony with changing harmonies (sometimes called a
Harmony is the study of vertical sonorities in chord progression) that accompany it, setting
music. Vertical sonority refers to considering up consonance and dissonance. The art of
the relationships between pitches that occur melody writing depends heavily upon the
together; usually this means at the same choices of tones for their nonharmonic or
time, although harmony can also be implied harmonic character.
by a melody that outlines a harmonic "Harmony" as used by music theorists can
structure. refer to any kind of simultaneity without a
The vertical relationship between two value judgement, in contrast with a more
pitches is referred to as an interval. A larger common usage of "in harmony" or "harmoni-
structure involving multiple pitches is called ous", which in technical language might be
a chord. In Common practice and Popular described as consonance.
music, harmonies are generally tertian. This

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Music theory

Dynamics functional harmony. Johann Sebastian Bach’s

four voice chorales written for liturgial pur-
In music, dynamics normally refers to the
poses serve as a model for students. These
softness or loudness of a sound or note, e.g.
chorales exhibit a fusion of linear and vertical
pianissimo or fortissimo. Until recently, most
thinking. In analysis, the harmonic function
of these dynamics and signs were written in
and rhythm are analyzed as well as the shape
Italian, but recently are becoming written or
and implications of each of the four lines.
translated into English. However, to every as-
Students are then instructed to compose
pect of the execution of a given piece, either
chorales, often using given melodies (as Bach
stylistic (staccato, legato etc.) or functional
would have done), over a given bass line, or
(velocity) are also known as dynamics. The
to compose within a chord progression, fol-
term is also applied to the written or printed
lowing rules of voice leading. Though tradi-
musical notation used to indicate dynamics.
tionally conceived as a vocal exercise for Sop-
rano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass, other common
Texture four-part writings could consist of a brass
Musical texture is the overall sound of a quartet (two Trumpets, French Horn, and
piece of music commonly described accord- Trombone) or a string quartet (including viol-
ing to the number of and relationship in I, violin II, viola and cello).
between parts or lines of music: monophony, There are seven chords used in four-part
heterophony, polyphony, homophony, or writing that are based upon each note of the
monody. The perceived texture of a piece scale. The chords are usually given Roman
may also be affected by the timbre of the in- Numerals I, II, III, IV, V, VI and VII to refer to
struments, the number of instruments used, triadic (three-note) chords which are based
and the interval between each musical line, upon each successive note of the major or
among other things. minor scale which the piece is in. Chords
Monophony is the texture of a melody may be analyzed in two ways. Case-sensitive
heard only by itself. If a melody is accompan- harmonic analysis would state that major-
ied by chords, the texture is homophony. In mode chords (I, IV, V7, etc.), including aug-
homophony, the melody is usually but not al- mented (for example, VII+), would be notated
ways voiced in the highest notes. A third tex- with upper-case Roman numerals, and minor-
ture, called polyphony, consists of several mode chords, including diminished (ii, iii, vi,
simultaneous melodies of equal importance. and the diminished vii chord, viio), would be
notated with lower-case Roman numerals.
Form or structure Schenkerian harmonic analysis, patterned
Form is a facet of music theory that explores after the theories of Heinrich Schenker,
the concept of musical syntax, on a local and would state that the mode does not matter in
global level. The syntax is often explained in the final analysis, and thus all harmonies are
terms of phrases and periods (for the local notated in upper-case.
level) or sections or genre (for the global The skill in harmonising a Bach chorale
scale). Examples of common forms of lies in being able to begin a phrase in one key
Western music include the fugue, the inven- and to modulate to another key either at the
tion, sonata-allegro, canon, strophic, theme end of the first phrase, the beginning of the
and variations, and rondo. Popular Music of- next one, or perhaps by the end of the second
ten makes use of strophic form often in con- phrase. Each chorale often has the ability to
junction with Twelve bar blues. modulate to various tonally related areas: the
relative major (III) or minor (vi), the Domin-

Theories of ant (V) or its relative minor (iii), the Sub-

Dominant (IV) or its relative minor (ii). Other
harmonization chromatic chords may be used, like the di-
minished seventh (made up of minor thirds
Four-part writing piled on top of each other) or the Secondary
dominant (the Dominant’s Dominant — a kind
Four part chorale writing is used to teach
of major version of chord II). Certain stand-
and analyze the basic conventions of
ard cadences are observed, most notably IIb7
Common-Practice Period music. In the Ger-
– V7 – I. The standard collection of J. S.
man musicology tradition referred to as
Bach’s chorales were edited by Albert

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Music theory

Riemenschneider and this collection is read- transformations are explored. The analytic
ily available, e.g. here; the student is greatly techniques involve writing a 12x12 matrix of
rewarded by playing them at the piano, the tone row, and all of its forms (Transposi-
singing the lines by themselves, singing them tion, Inversion, Retrograde, Retrograde In-
in groups, analyzing them by writing the Key version) This technique is strongly related to
and the Chords employed and by taking the the composers of the Second Viennese
melody and bass line from any chorale and School, but also has been incorporated into
trying to fill in the inner alto and tenor parts. the languages of many other composers.
Once this has been accomplished the student Serialism does not always appear in the strict
can then begin to complete their own bass 12-note form; many composers have explored
lines —whilst carefully watching for modula- with serialism using fewer than 12 notes, re-
tions— and then they can fill in the inner alto peating tones inside of the row, serialism of
and tenor parts. Parallel octave and fifth mo- microtonal scales. Also, composers such as
tion is forbidden, and this often proves to be Pierre Boulez and his teacher Oliver Messi-
the pons asinorum of the average music aen explored integral serialism, or the serial-
student. ization of all possible musical parameters
(pitch, rhythm, dynamics, etc.). Composers
Music perception and cognition such as Igor Stravinsky and Milton Babbitt
Further information: Music cognition, Fred developed personal approaches to Serialism;
Lerdahl, and Ray Jackendoff Stravinsky using a method of Rotational Ar-
Jackendoff and Lerdahl attempt to develop a rays, and Babbitt using Combinatoriality of
"musical grammar." Using Jackendoff’s back- the rows. Set Theory is another approach to
ground as a linguist and Lerdahl’s composi- understanding atonal music that may or may
tional and theoretical background, a series of not be serial. Although more akin to the
generative rules are defined to explain the mathematical field of Group Theory than
hierarchical structure of tonal music. The mathematical Set Theory, the nomenclature
rules focus on musical grouping, or methods has become standard inside the musical com-
in which rhythmic groups of notes, as well as munity. Set theory represents the pitch
formal hierarchies, are perceived by listen- classes as numbers to allow a methodology of
ers. Three sets of rules are given: "Grouping examining music without tonic or triadic
Well-Formedness Rules," "Grouping Prefer- functional harmony. This technique allows for
ence Rules," and "Transformational Rules." exploration of the construction of a serial
These rules are designed to interpret how tone row as well as less strict atonal works.
listeners group structures in tonal music. This technique has been extended with a
These groupings then play into the segmenta- great deal of mathematical rigor to both ton-
tion of events by listeners, which in turn de- al and atonal systems by David Lewin in his
termine the hierarchical structure perceived transformational approach utilizing networks
by the listener. Although this theory is well of related sets.
developed and complete, it is by far not the
only system designed to discuss music in this Musical semiotics
manner, and there is no acceptance of this Further information: music semi-
theory as being the sole theory by which to ology and Jean-Jacques Nattiez
discuss perception of music (see Jonathan
Music subjects
Serial composition and set
Musical notation is the symbolic representa-
Further information: serialism, set theory tion of music (not to be confused with audio
(music), Arnold Schoenberg, Milton Bab- recording). Historically, and in the narrow
bitt, David Lewin, and Allen Forte sense, this is achieved with graphic symbols.
Twelve Tone Serialism is a technique de- Computer file formats have become import-
veloped by Arnold Schoenberg to order and ant as well [1]. Spoken language and hand
repeat all the 12 pitches of the Chromatic signs are also used to symbolically represent
Scale with specific order. An ordered row of music, primarily in teaching.
the 12 pitches is created, then all possible

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Music theory

In standard Western music notation, mu- tonal music, both have been extended to use
sic is represented graphically by notes placed in non-tonal music as well.
on a staff or staves with the vertical axis
roughly corresponding to pitch and the hori- Ear training
zontal axis roughly corresponding to time. Aural skills — the ability to identify musical
Note head shapes, stems, flags, and ties are patterns by ear, as opposed to by the reading
used to indicate duration. Additional symbols of notation — form a key part of a musician’s
represent key, tempo, dynamics, accents, craft and are usually taught alongside music
rests, etc. theory. Most aural skills courses train the
perception of relative pitch (the ability to de-
Mathematics termine pitch in an established context) and
Music and mathematics are strongly inter- rhythm. Sight-singing — the ability to sing
twined. As noted above, the concept of pitch unfamiliar music without assistance — is gen-
and temperament are both strongly tied to erally an important component of aural skills
mathematics, and acoustics in particular. courses.
Analysis often takes a mathematical route;
musical set theory and Transformational the-
ory are both steeped in mathematics.
See also
Some methods of composition are math- • Pitch (psychophysics)
ematically based. Iannis Xenakis developed
several methods using stochastic methods.
The French school of spectral music uses
mathematical analysis of sounds to develop [1] Boretz, Benjamin (1995). Meta-
compositional materials. Variations: studies in the foundations of
musical thought…. Open Space.
Analysis [2] Olson, Harry F. (1967). Music, Physics
and Engineering. Dover Publications.
Analysis is the effort to describe and explain
pp. 248–251. ISBN 0486217698.
music using only the music as a starting
point. Analysis at once is a catch-all term de-
scribing the process of describing any por-
[3] "Revolution in Music: A Brief History of
tion of the music, as well as a specific field of
formal analysis or the field of stylistic analys-
music/rev_tuning_hist.html. Retrieved on
is. Formal analysis attempts to answer ques-
9 January 2009.
tions of hierarchy and form, and stylistic ana-
[4] Lynn Cavanagh. "A brief history of the
lysis attempts to describe the style of the
establishment of international standard
piece. These two distinct sub-fields often
pitch a=440 hertz" (PDF).
Analysis of harmonic structures is typic-
ally presented through a roman numeral ana-
lysis. However, over the years, as music and
the theory of music have both grown, a multi- Sources
tude of methods of analyzing music have
• Boretz, Benjamin (1995) Meta-Variations:
presented themselves. Two very popular
Studies in the Foundations of Musical
methods Shenkerian analysis and Neo-
Thought. Red Hook, New York: Open
Riemannian analysis have dominated much of
the field. Shenkerian analysis attempts to "re-
• Bent, Ian D. and Anthony Pople.
duce" music through layers of foreground,
"Analysis." Grove Dictionary of Music and
middleground, and, eventually and import-
Musicians. London: Oxford University
antly, the background. Neo-Riemannian (or
Transformational) analysis began as an ex-
• Jackendoff, Ray and Fred Lerdahl.
tension of Hugo Riemann’s theories of music,
"Generative Music Theory and its relation
and then expanding Riemann’s concepts of
to Psychology." Journal of Music Theory,
pitch and transformation into a mathematic-
1981. New Haven, Yale University Press.
ally rich language of analysis. While both the-
• Kramer, Jonathan. The Time of Music.
ories originated as methods of analysis for
New York: Schirmer Books, 1988.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Music theory

• Lerdahl, Fred. Tonal Pitch Space. Oxford: Cengage Learning, 2008. ISBN
Oxford University Press, 2001. 13-978-1-59863-503-4
• Lewin, David. Generalized Musical • Lawn, Richard J. & Hellmer, Jeffrey L. Jazz
Intervals and Transformations. New Theory and Practice. Alfred Publishing Co.
Haven: Yale University Press, 1987. 1996. ISBN 0-882-84722-8
• Seashore, Carl, Approaches to the Science
Further reading of Music and Speech, Iowa City, The
University, 1933
• Apel, Willi & Daniel, Ralph T. The Harvard • Seashore, Carl, Psychology of Music, New
Brief Dictionary of Music. New York, NY. York, London, McGraw-Hill Book
Simon & Schuster Inc, 1960. ISBN Company, Inc., 1938
0-671-73747-3 • Sorce, Richard. Music Theory for the
• Benward, Bruce; Jackson, Barbara Garvey; Music Professional. Ardsley House, 1995.
Jackson, Bruce R. Practical beginning ISBN 1-880-15720-9
theory : a fundamentals worktext, 8th • Taylor, Eric. AB Guide to Music. Vol 1.
edition (originally published 1963), England. Associated Board of the Royal
Boston : McGraw-Hill, 2000. ISBN Schools of Music, 1989. ISBN
0697343979 1-854-72446-0
• Chase, Wayne. How Music REALLY • Taylor, Eric. AB Guide to Music. Vol 2.
Works!. 2nd Ed. Vancouver, Canada. England. Associated Board of the Royal
Roedy Black Publishing, 2006. ISBN Schools of Music, 1991. ISBN
1-897311-55-9 (book) 1-854-72447-9
• Hewitt, Michael. Music Theory for
Computer Musicians. 1st Ed. USA.

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