Friday, December 11, 2015

The Dynamic World Of Articulations

Hi! This week we covered dynamics and articulations. Exercises for this are hard because it's basically just memorizing a couple things. So let's try some listening. The best way to learn this stuff is to apply it to music you already like.

1) Pick a song you know. Try to pick one that isn't just one dynamic throughout. Listen to the whole thing and make note of where the dynamics change. What dynamic does it start in? What does it go to? Is it a gradual change? Sudden? If you were writing a chart, how would you notate it? The better you understand what you're hearing, the better you can apply those ideas.

2) Now let's try articulations. Our three forms of articulation are tenuto, staccato, and legato. Listen to some songs you like and try to identify examples of all three. It can be hard sometimes to tell the difference between tenuto and legato, but really try to hear if there are multiple attacks being played at once.

3) Experiment with these on your own. If you have an instrument, try playing with different dynamics. Try moving back and forth between them, and try articulating differently as you do. If you don't have an instrument, try drumming on a surface, or singing to yourself. (If you're not confident in your singing voice, humming works too!) Just try to make something musical with dynamics and articulations.

And that's it! Put your answers in the comments below or on the video, and we'll see you next week!

Friday, December 4, 2015

Cadences: The End Is Nigh

Hi! Cadences! Phrases! Endings! Exercises! Put your answers in the comments below or on the video!

1) Identify the following cadences. Remember to look at the key signature. (I gave you the first couple keys. And I was nice and made them all major, but these are equally valid in minor.)

2) Let's look at perfect authentic cadences. Below are some 4-part examples of authentic cadences, Tell me if they're perfect. If you can't read music that may be tricky, but there should still be some hints you can grab on to. Give it a shot!

3) Finally, let's cover phrases. What are your thoughts on the antecedent/consequent model? What are some ways you can think of besides harmony to create that effect? Listen to some songs you enjoy and see if they follow that dynamic. If so, how? If not, why not?

And that's cadences! We'll see you next time!

Friday, November 27, 2015

How Do You Figure? A Guide To Figured Bass

This week we talked about Figured Bass, so let's dive right in! As always, put your answers in the comments below or on the video.

1) Here's some bass notes. See if you can figure out which inversion they're in, then see if you can figure out which chord they are. Remember to use the key signature!

2) This is a full figured bass example. Start by identifying the inversions. If you want, try to analyze the chords. If you really want, maybe try realizing it in four parts. Don't worry if it's not perfect, this stuff takes practice and the voiceleading on this one is a challenge at times.

3) What do you think about figured bass? Does it seems like a better or worse system than chord symbols? Why? What benefits does it have over chord symbols, and what drawbacks? Why might you want to use one or the other? There are no wrong answers here, and I'd love to hear what you think.

And that's that! we'll see you next week!

Friday, November 20, 2015

More Scales!

This week we looked at a bunch of new scales, so let's see what you've learned!

1) Let's start with pentatonics. Each of the following is either major or minor pentatonic. All you need to do is tell me which one. Simple!

2) Now let's move to Blues. the Blues scale is largely a melodic thing, so let's try writing a melody with it. Interestingly, in 12-bar blues, you usually use the same scale for the whole thing, even as the chords change. So here's a simple blues backing track in A: Listen to it and try to write some melodies with the blues scale over it. See what you like: The Blues is all about what you feel and what sounds good to you in the moment.

3) Finally, let's look at the uniform and altered scales. All of these are scales built on a rule. For the uniform scales, it's a set interval, and for altered it's a consistent alteration to the major scale. What would happen if, instead of flatting every note in major, you sharped them all? How do you think that might sound? What are some other rules you could build a scale with? Get creative!

And that's it! Put your answers in the comments below or on the video, and we'll see you next week!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Escapes, Neighbors, and Other Non-Harmonic Tones

Welcome back! As always, put your answers in the comments below or on the video. Let's get to it!

1) Identify the type of non-harmonic tone in each example below:

2) Here's a melody with all chord tones. Spice it up by adding a few non-harmonic tones. You can add a lot or a little, it's up to you. Try to play it, or if you can't, send it to me and I'll make you a track of it. Here's what they base melody sounds like. I also added the note names below to help for those of you who can't read sheet music yet.

3) Let's talk about Appoggiaturas, because like I said it's a controversial definition. I've seen people use it to mean any non-harmonic tone, and on the other end of the spectrum I've seen people argue that it only counts if it's both unprepared and exactly the same length as the chord tone that follows it. I'm gonna try something new here: A research assignment. Go read up on the term. See what you can find and report back. Keep in mind that academic sources will skew towards a more classical definition, so if you have any friends who play contemporary music, as them about it. See what you can find on your own and let us know so we can all learn together.

And that's that! See you next week!

Friday, November 6, 2015


Alright, let's get right to it. Modulation is a really complicated subject that honestly we shouldn't be covering yet but I think you people are pretty smart so it should be ok. As always, put your answers in the comments below or comment with them on the video, and if you're confused about anything, ASK. Let's get started!

1) Let's start with differentiation. The following examples contain either parallel or direct modulation. Just tell me which one it is, and where the modulation occurs. I added the starting key signatures so you know what key we begin in.

2) Now let's look at pivot chord modulation. For each of the following pairs of keys, see if you can figure out all the available diatonic triad pivot chords between them. See if you can figure out the available seventh chords too. And if you're feeling really adventurous, see if you can write a progression that transitions from one to the other through those pivot chords. Play it if you can, or send it to me and I'll make you a quick recording of it.

  • F major to Bb major
  • E minor to D minor
  • Ab major to G minor
  • And for extra fun let's try modes: F# mixolydian to A lydian
3) There's another type of modulation I didn't mention in the video: Relative modulation. This is where you change the tonic, but you simultaneously change the scale so that all the notes remain the same. For instance, you could move from C major to A minor, of F lydian. What do you think of this type of modulation? Does it make sense to you? When might you use it? Heck, when might you use any type of modulation?

And that's it! See you next week!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Writing For Bass

This week is gonna be a little different. There's no real way to practice this stuff without just writing, so instead of asking questions, I'll just give you three chord progressions that you can write basslines for. I'll also include links to recordings of the progressions being played without bass, so you can try your compositions out if you know how to play. if not, try to write them from what you know, send me the written version, and I'll try to make you a recording of what it would sound like.

(The winged brackets are repeat brackets, they indicate that the passage is played twice. The first two examples resolve back to the first chord at the end. The third has an extra figure.)







And that's that!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Modal Interchange

Hi! As always, put your answers below or as comments on the video. Let's get started!

1) Identify the borrowed chord in each of these examples:

2) Here are some progressions with no modal interchange. Try to spice them up by exchanging one chord with a borrowed chord from a parallel mode. There are no wrong answers here, but try playing them for yourself if you can to see if your additions sound good to you.

3) Discuss how modal interchange sounds to you. Do you like the idea? Do you like the sound? Experiment with it on an instrument if you can. Are there specific chords you really like borrowing? Specific progressions that sound especially cool to you? There are no wrong answers, just play around with it and see what works for you.

And that's that! Write your answers in the comments below or on the video, and we'll see you next week!

Friday, October 16, 2015


This one seems hard to do practice exercises for since the concept is so simple, so let's just do some discussion questions.

1) What are some songs you like that use triplets? Try to find a few that use them as brief incursions and a few that are in triple meter the whole time. Are there any artists or styles you find these in more frequently? How are they used in the music you enjoy?

2) How do triplets make you feel? Again, think about both the incursion-style triplets and the full triple meter versions. Do they feel different to you? How would you describe that difference?

3) What about shuffle and swing? Have you encountered those terms before? Do those terms seem synonymous to you? Do they carry any different connotations? What would make you more likely to describe a piece as "shuffle" instead of "swing" or vice versa?

And that's it! post your answers below or on the video, and we'll see you next time!

Friday, October 9, 2015


Modes! Seriously one of my favorite topics in music theory, but admittedly a slightly complicated one, so let's make sure we understand what's going on.

1) Let's start by making sure you get the concept. Can you name all the relative modes of E major? For instance, C# Aeolian is the 6th mode. What are the others?

2) Now let's look at a single mode. Can you tell me the notes in each mode when the tonic is F?

3) Finally, let's identify some modes. Each of these is in one of the modes, with a random tonic. can you tell me which mode it is?

That's it! See you next week!

Friday, October 2, 2015


Well, this is complicated... Normally the best way to practice this would be to just write a bunch in different textures, but some of you probably aren't at that stage yet, so let's keep things simpler. If you can, though, definitely try writing in the various different textures. You can also switch back and forth between them during a song, so keep that in mind.

1) The following are all the same melody with different textured accompaniments. Which is which? Remember, the 5 textures are Monophonic, Heterophonic, Homophonic, Homorhythmic, and Polyphonic.

2) Try to find examples of the different textures. See if you can find one for each: Monophonic, Heterophonic, Homophonic, Homorhythmic, and Polyphonic. Some of those will be harder than others, but they're all out there! Try to find a bunch of examples: Is there one texture that you find you like more than the others? If so, why do you think that is?

3) Aw, heck, let's write some stuff. Here's a melody, give me a countermelody that compliments it. A good rule of thumb is that when one is busy the other should be more calm. That doesn't mean resting, of course, but less active. If you don't feel up to counterpoint, maybe try a homophonic or homorhythmic accompaniment instead?

And that's textures! Thanks for trying the exercises, and we'll see you next week!

Friday, September 25, 2015

All About Minor

This time we took a look at all the various sorts of minor. It was a lot of information, so let's take a second to review!

1) We discussed relative and parallel modes. These are relationships between major and minor keys that make them sound similar. For each of the following keys, give me its relative major or minor and its parallel major or minor:

  1. F# major
  2. Ab minor
  3. C# major
  4. G minor
  5. A major
  6. E minor
2) We also talked about harmonic and melodic minor. We briefly mentioned some harmonizing, but we didn't really go into it much. Using what you know about harmonizing, can you give me all the diatonic triads in C harmonic minor and C melodic minor? Remember that chords are built in stacks of thirds. If you feel like you've got it, how about all the diatonic seventh chords as well?

3) What do you think of the harmonic and melodic minor solutions? Do they address the problem well? Are there better ways to handle those concerns?

And that's it! See you next week!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Twelve-Tone Composition

So... This one was pretty intense, huh? But you got through it! And now it's time to hone your skills with it. Let's go!

1) Let's start with the transformations. Below is a randomly generated row. It sounds... actually pretty good for a random sequence. But don't worry about that. Just find the retrograde, the inversion, and the retrograde inversion. And while you're at it, maybe try transposing it up a whole step as well? Why not, you're already here.

2) Make your own row! A good technique is to pick an interval and try to work that in a bunch. Not every leap of course, but you can fit it in 5 or 6 times without problems. The row in the episode had five minor thirds in it. You don't have to use that technique, though: Just make one that you think sounds good and see what happens. Maybe try the transformations on it too!

3) Try writing a piece, with either the row from the first exercise or the one you made in the second. It can be short, maybe four or eight bars, and it can just be one hand. Try the transformations, play with rhythms, transpose to your heart's content... Just make something you enjoy. If you don't have the resources or expertise to play it, send it to me and I'll try to get you a recording so you can hear what it sounds like.

And that's it! See you next week!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Harmonizing a Melody

Alright! Let's practice harmonizing. This will be a little different than past examples.

1) Well, the best way to practice harmonizing is to practice harmonizing, so here's another melody. First try it with one chord per bar, then try two. If you want you can even try 4, or do a hit-for-hit harmony with the chord changing every note. See what you can do!

2) In harmonizing like this, it can be very tempting to use 7th chords, because they give you access to more notes, so now seems like as good a time as any to ask: What do you think about 7th chords? Do you notice any difference in how they sound compared to triads? How about when the melody is on the seventh: Does that sound different to you than lower chord tones? If you can, try playing some of both and seeing whether they make you feel any different.

3) Does this method of harmonizing feel comfortable to you? Is there another way that you find more effective or more natural? Or do you feel like starting from the harmony and adding a melody on top works better for you? Discuss your methods!

Friday, September 4, 2015


Hi! We covered the basics of guitar this week, so let's get to the exercises!

1) What's a good voicing for each of these chords? Keep in mind that a voicing doesn't have to use all 6 strings. If you want, try to come up with a couple good voicings for each chord, it's good practice. If you can get your hands on a guitar, try fingering those voicings, see if they're actually comfortable.

i) Ema
ii) Dmi
iii) F#o
iv) Gma7
v) Cmi7
vi) Eb7

2) One thing we didn't cover in the video is guitar tab. This is an alternate notation system guitarists use where they just mark which fret on which string you're supposed to play. they're notated highest string on top, and make it really easy for guitarists to quickly pick up new songs. for instance, the arpeggiation Milo played in the video might look like this:

E - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
B - - 1 - - - - - - - 0 - - - 1 -
G - - - 0 - - 2 - - - - 0 - - - 0
D - 2 - - - - - 3 - 3 - - - 2 - -
A 3 - - - - 3 - - - - - - 3 - - -
E - - - - 1 - - - 3 - - - - - - -

Now, looking at that and using what you know about guitar tuning and intervals, what are the notes Milo played? If you can, turn this into standard notation. If you want to try more, look up the tab to any song you like and try to figure out what's actually going on.

3) Try writing some stuff for (Or even better, on) guitar! There's really no better way to practice instrumentation than just doing it. If you can't play, that's totally fine. See if you can find a friend who can and ask them if they can play things for you. It really is the best practice. Even if you're just spelling voicings and seeing if they're playable, there's no substitute for real experimentation with the instrument.

So that's that! Post your answers (To the first two, at least...) below or in the comments on the video, and we'll see you next week!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Harmonic Rhythm

Welcome back! Harmonic Rhythm is a little more nebulous than some of the stuff we've looked at before, but it still always helps to practice! Let's get to it!

1) We saw this example before in the Tonic Function exercises, but now that we know all about all three functions, let's revisit it. Identify the chord function of each chord in this progression. How do they do on harmonic rhythm? Are there any surprises? If so, why do you think they work? Try playing it if you can, see if it sounds okay.

2) Let's look at the progressions we learned today. The Doo-Wop progression goes I-VImi-IV-V, while the 4-Chord progression goes I-V-VImi-IV. Can you think of any songs you know that might contain those progressions? Look up the chords: Were you right? If you can't think of any, try looking up chords to some of your favorite songs and seeing if they match.

3) Try writing some progressions of your own! Harmonic Rhythm is one of those areas in music where there are no wrong answers as long as you're aware of the issues, so try making something that sounds good to you. If you can't play an instrument, just try writing some out from your theoretical understanding, send them in, and I'll make you a quick recording of it so you can see what it sounds like.

And that's harmonic rhythm! Post your answers below or on the video, and we'll see you next week!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Four Part Writing

We've had our first look at four-part writing, so let's take a second to review it before moving on because this stuff can get a bit complicated.

1) Identify the type of motion between each pair of voices in each of the following examples. Remember, there are 6 pairs of voices, so make sure you get them all!

2) What's wrong with each of these voice-leading examples? Are there multiple problems with either one?

3) Write your own short 4-part piece! It can be as short as a single bar, just try to practice some voice-leading. If you need a progression, try F-Ami-B-C-F. Feel free to add more chords, or if you want just use your own progression.

And that's it! Post your answers below or comment on the main video, and we'll see you next week!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Subdominant Function

Another set of exercises! This week we rounded out our look at the primary chord functions with subdominant function, so I think it probably makes the most sense to do exercises about that, right? Sure!

1) Identify all subdominant chords in each of the following major keys:

2) Which major key is each of these chords subdominant in?

3) What do you think about the more broad interpretation of subdominant function in regards to minor keys? Is the given answer satisfying to you? Why or why not, and if not do you have a better system? Music theory is as much about opinion as it is fact, so please let us know your thoughts.

And that's that! Leave your answers in the comments below or on youtube, and we'll see you next week!

Friday, August 7, 2015


More practice! More exercises! This episode discussed arpeggios, so let's look at those.

1) Identify the chords being arpeggiated in the following example. (Hint: The chord changes every other beat.) While you're at it, why not apply what we've covered earlier and figure out which chords are tonic and which are dominant?

2) Identify the following chords, then write an Alberti Bass pattern to play underneath it. You can use the given voicings as a guideline if you want, or try different shapes.

 3) Write your own arpeggiated piece! Try the chord progression below, or one of your own composition. Remember to try some of the variations we discussed in the video, like different accents, rhythms, and passing tones.

And that's it! See you next week!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Dominant Function

More practice exercises! Dominant function is one of the most important concepts in the study of harmony, so it's important to make sure you understand it before continuing onward. So let's get started!

1) Identify all the dominant function chords in the following major keys:

2) Which major key does each of these chords have dominant function in?

3) Can you think of any ways to solve the problem of not having any dominant function in natural minor? What can we do to get that important dominant sound without losing our minor tonality?

Post your answers in the comments below or on the videos. See you next time!

Friday, July 24, 2015


More practice exercises! This time we'll test your understanding of syncopation. Post your answers in the comments below or on the video.

1) Are the following bass lines syncopated? Why or why not, and where does the syncopation occur? Some of these may be ambiguous, so it's more important to have a good reason for your answer than to get it exactly "right".

2) Let's look at anticipation and suspension. For each of the following progressions, do they feature anticipation, suspension, both, or neither? If they feature either, where does it occur? How can you tell if a syncopated attack is anticipated or suspended?

3) Write a syncopated rhythm of your own! If you play a pitched instrument, try putting a melody or harmony to your rhythm. If you have notation software you can write it out there and share it, but if not just tap it out on whatever surface is available. Try to get a feel for where your rhythm deviates from expected placement.

And that's it for syncopation! We'll see you next week!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Tonic Function

Hey guys! This is the accompanying practice exercise section for 12Tone. Totally optional, but it gives you a chance to try out some of these things for real, so give it a shot!

Today we're looking at Tonic Function. If you haven't seen the video yet, you can find it here. If you have, dive in to these questions! You can answer in the comments here or on youtube.

1) Identify the tonic function chords in each of these major keys:

2) Name the key in which the following chords have tonic function. Are there any chords that are tonic in more than one key? What do those chords have in common?

3) Identify the tonic function chords in the following progression. Do you notice anything about where those chords are placed in the progression? If you can, play through the progression on an instrument and listen for the tonic chords.

And that's it! Comment below and we'll see you next week!